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Look Who’s Talking

Have you ever wondered who the person is attached to the voice on the other end of the telephone when you call a manufacturer for technical support? Meet four manufacturer’s educators and learn what a typical day is like.

Help Wanted: A person who is part psychologist, part chemist, part nail technician, part angel for full-time job answering technical support hotline for beauty product manufacturer. Must calmly listen to lost, loony, grumpy, even angry callers, respond pleasantly and somehow create a happy ending for their stories. Must become familiar with a sometimes-dizzying array of products and explain application step-by-step to a person you will never see. Major perk: making people happy.

Sound like a tough job? Working on a technical support hotline for any of the top manufacturers in the nail industry is exciting and challenging. Questions from nail technicians and consumers keep hotline responders on their toes and learning new things all the time. In addition, some also support their sales and marketing departments, handle telephone and Internet orders, send out samples and educational literature, test new products, and give demonstrations.

Four such people share the frustrations, satisfactions, and tips that are a part of their often-hectic daily routine.

Editor’s note: We have also included information from a sample of manufacturer’s hotlines. If you do not see the manufacturer of the products you use, call to find out if they have a hotline.

Solving Lifting Woes at Backscratchers

Even before Melissa Gonzales arrives at her desk at Backscratchers Salon Systems in Elk Grove, Calif., callers from the East Coast have already left messages with tales of woe. The nails won’t stay down! I need an instruction sheet! Where’s my order?

Soon, the customer service supervisor is plowing through the messages along with two other employees and juggling the live calls already trickling in.

Gonzales started with Backscratchers three years ago and has been answering customer calls for two-and-a-half years. Though not a nail technician herself, she has been trained in the company’s products and can take a nail tech through the application process step-by-step. The company is looking to hire a licensed nail technician to work with the department, but for now, tough questions that Gonzales cannot answer get referred to a regional manager or a company educator in the caller’s area.

The job can be frustrating when, despite her best efforts, Gonzales cannot find a solution to the caller’s question.

“Sometimes a tech might be doing all the right things. There isn’t any problem with the product, but one client is still having a problem. This is a chemical system and 100% of the people cannot wear one type of product,” Gonzales says.

“They have to try another system, either one of ours or another company’s,” she says. “I often recommend they try our fiberglass wrap system.”

Then there’s the satisfaction of helping a tech achieve a better outcome for her clients.

“When they get the answer, they’re usually happy and their clients are happy,” she adds. “They realize what they were doing wrong or what needed improvement.”

Top Question: “Why am I getting lifting around the cuticle edges?”

“That’s 90% of the calls,” Gonzales says. “It’s usually because they’re not following the directions correctly — either not using the prepping wash that pH-balances the nail and helps the acrylic stay on the nail bed, or the resin is touching the cuticle. If the resin touches the cuticle, they’ll probably get lifting in a day or two because the natural oils in the skin will repel the product.”

Sometimes, the problem is caused by the Extreme acrylic being applied too thickly. “It leaks down into the cuticle area,” says Gonzales. “It’s not like traditional liquid and powder where you put it on thick. You have to make sure you don’t have too much resin on your brush.”

Craziest Question: “We get a lot of calls where people are using someone else’s product and they want us to give advice, or they use other products with our products,” Gonzales laughs. “They say, ‘Oh, I just thought I’d get a live person when I called!’ I tell them they have to call the other company. If I have the number handy, I give it to them.”

Juggling at Creative

Jeteca Overman took cosmetology classes through her high school’s vocational training program and earned her cosmetology license in 1992. For nine years, she mostly cut hair in San Diego area salons, but did some nails as well.

When a rotator cuff injury kept her from cutting hair, Overman took other jobs in the industry. She worked her way into a position with Creative Nail Design on the customer service hotline, where she has been for almost three years.

“Everyone who works the hotline has to have a nail technician or cosmetology license, customer service knowledge, and computer knowledge,” Overman says. “If they’re not already a master technician, then we will send them to our Master’s Academy.”

Overman is the lead person working with three other master techs. They field 60 to 120 calls each day, plus 20 to 80 e-mails. “It comes in spurts,” Overman says. “Monday is busy because of weekend messages, then Tuesdays are busy because the techs are in the salon for the first day of the week.”

When a technician reports a problem, Overman first goes through the application procedures step-by-step. If that doesn’t reveal the cause, she’ll check with the quality assurance people to see whether there may be a problem with that batch or if the product is old. The client is having an allergic reaction? Overman will enlist the company’s scientists for more information.

“If it’s something that is a tech issue, I would refer them to one of our educators so they can see them hands-on. Over the telephone, it’s difficult to know what procedures they’re doing, and you can only guide them so much,” Overman says.

Dealing with angry customers can be frustrating, Overman says. “Sometimes you get somebody who is so irate that they don’t want to listen to anything you have to say,” she explains. “You have to hear them out, tell them you realize where they’re coming from. It’s really rewarding when you can turn that call around and by the end of the conversation they’re thanking you.”

Those difficult calls are balanced by talking to people new to the industry. “They’re like little sponges and they soak up every bit of information. You get off the phone and you feel like you have affected the course of their career,” Overman says.

Top Question: Techs generally are looking for a distributor, MSDS, or asking for informational material.

Craziest Question: “We used to have a class that was advertised as Dial 911 Nails. A nail tech called us and said, ‘Every time I dial 911 Nails, the fire department answers.’ One time the fire department came to her house and asked her why she kept calling, and she said she was trying to get into this nail class,” Overman says. Creative changed the wording of the ad.

Prepping at OPI

Eleanor Victor is a licensed nail tech who brings 30 years experience to her job at OPI’s Help Desk. She was renting a booth in a large full-service salon in Southern California when she met an OPI manager at a seminar who asked her to become an educator. When a management position came up, she grabbed it. That was seven years ago.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” she says.

Now, Victor is technical support supervisor, handling calls and e-mails with two other techs (OPI is currently looking for another). Every day is different, she says. In addition to the calls, they also test products with the research and development people and offer mini-manicures at charitable events for sick children and their parents.

At the Help Desk, she spends a lot of time going over basic procedures.

“The most common problem area is prepping the nail,” Victor says. She’ll review the steps, and may offer to mail written instructions. “Either a step was missed or it was not done properly.”

When a client is having trouble with her nails such as thinness, splitting, or cracking despite using an OPI product for the problem, Victor adds, “We try to troubleshoot with them to find out why the product is not working … and to find which product will help the client.”

Angry callers can be frustrating because they don’t want to accept her advice, Victor says. “When you’re angry, you don’t listen to what the other person is saying. It gets to the bottom line: What would you like us to do for you?”

But then she’ll hear back from someone she has helped. “I love it when somebody calls you back and says, ‘Thank you so much for helping me because that works!’”

Top Question: “The most common question we get is for discontinued colors. We have 467 colors,” Victor says.

Craziest Question: “We get all kinds of things. We even get things like somebody got glue in their eye. Why wouldn’t they call the doctor immediately? Our first reaction is, ‘Hang up and call the doctor, and we’ll send you MSDS and anything else you need.’ To me, that’s a crazy phone call.”

Working the Net at Star Nail

Christine Dugan earned her nail technician license 20 years ago in California. She moved to Arizona, worked in advertising, and then moved back to Southern California four years ago. Tony Cuccio hired her two years ago to work with him at Star Nail International. She has helped to expand the international Internet-based customer service, and handles about 100 e-mails daily. “Most staff members can answer any question,” Dugan says of the three techs in her group who handle about 25 calls a day — part of a 10-person customer service department. “If it’s more in-depth, it will go to some of the management people. If no one else can handle it, we’ll call one of our top educators and have them call the person right back.”

When a technician is having a problem with something like lifting, Dugan starts investigating. “If the problem is happening with more than one customer, I look for the common denominator. Once we rule out the prep work, then we see what else it could be. Maybe they’re leaving their gel jar open and it’s drying out. One nail tehnician called and the problem turned out to be the bulb in her lamp. It had been in there for a year and the heat wasn’t right, so she changed the bulb.”

Dugan says she answers a lot of questions about gels. “That’s because most schools don’t teach gels and now many spas are going to gels because there’s no odor. I do a lot of step-by-step instructions, fax them instructions, or send them a video demo. Nine times out of 10, they’ll e-mail me back saying ‘Thank you.’”

Dugan also monitors the bulletin boards on and to learn about products released in Europe, answer questions, and offer Star Nail products.

Dugan gets frustrated when she can’t help people in person, because callers sometimes don’t understand the verbal instructions. That’s when she’ll call in an educator to make a visit.

But she sometimes gets a lift from reading the questionnaires on the company’s website. “Here’s a message from Oregon,” Dugan says. “She writes, ‘Thank you for listening and caring about others’ input.’”

Top Question: “The most common thing is the techs are not sure of their ratios because they’re using different products. The liquid-to-powder ratios for every acrylic nail system are different.”

Craziest Question: “To me, there are really no crazy questions,” Dugan says. “I’ve had nail technicians ask how to put gels on, or find out they’re using the wrong brush. But I’d rather have them ask than have them not completely understand the products.”

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