I’m an online shopping junkie. Sites like Amazon.com know me (or at least my credit card number) by name. For me, the convenience of e-commerce plus the advantage of detailed consumer product reviews on websites too frequently trumps the experience of real-world shopping. In many stores, I get frustrated searching for a style or color I like, being unable to find a knowledgeable employee, and being greeted at the checkout with a cursory “how are you?” without any eye contact.
But several months ago, I sprained my right ankle so terribly that the inflammation looked like a tennis ball attached to my foot, and I discovered that there is something I will go to a bricks-and-mortar store for: amazing, off-the-charts customer service. The product I was purchasing — orthopedic shoes — is almost irrelevant. (Trust me, those are readily available online, and the same brands are generally priced less than the ones at this remarkable store.)
The shoe store owner has expertise beyond that of any consumer’s online review. A physical therapist personally referred Laura as someone with a specialty and a passion for problem feet. From my first visit, she spent 45 minutes educating me on why proper footwear will help, what to look for when buying shoes, and gave me her e-mail address for future concerns. For all subsequent visits, she knew my name, remembered exactly what my challenges were, and had recommendations at the ready. She doesn’t do a hard sell, but rather her latest e-mail said, “Here are my thoughts on the slippers you researched online. If you have time, come in and I’ll help you find the perfect pair.” And you know what? I will fight my online shopping instinct and drive to her.
As you’re entering this amazing industry, remember that even if your technical skills aren’t yet 100%, you can offer 100% in customer service. And I assure you that great customer service will go much farther in gaining and keeping nail clients than anything else you can do to build your book. Don’t worry or listen to those who tell you that women can do their nails at home. Sure, it’s easy for consumers to purchase polishes and other nail products online, and yes, some women are the DIY type (though I’d argue even those should come to the salon for special occasions like weddings). But there is a huge market — $7.47 billion in 2012 to be exact — of clients who visit nail salons every year. And the secret is: They are coming to you for the experience.
Your first clients will be coming to you because they want to feel pampered, taken care of, and beautiful. So set yourself apart by doing lengthy client consultations, giving personalized recommendations women can’t get anywhere else, and continuing to grow your knowledge base to become an expert in the nail industry. Those simple, but too frequently overlooked, aspects of the salon industry will take you far above any competition.
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