Customer Service

Smile When You Say That

Learn the basic building blocks of customer service to establish a lasting rapport and make clients feel like friends. Whether on the phone or in person, learn what to say and what to do to cast yourself and your business in a positive light.

People like to do business with people who are nice and who are, more important, friendly. It’s that simple. And the way you can be extra nice is to look people in the eye when you’re talking with them. SMILE, and make it meaningful. On the phone, give the caller your full attention. By taking responsibility for each client’s experience and for your own behavior, you can astound clients with the high level of care they receive. Remember: More businesses lose customers because of poor service and poor communication than because of poor product. Sound simple? Let’s go through the basics.

Telephone 101

Smile before you pick up the phone. It’s the way to make every phone call, or customer contact, a great one. Remember, it’s hard to be rude when you’re smiling.

If you’re tired of “have a nice day,” remember there are many other ways to end a conversation. Try out one of these: “Thanks for calling.” “I enjoyed talking with you.” “Good to hear from you.” “Enjoy your day.” “Have a beautiful day.”

When leaving a voicemail message, slowly leave your phone number twice. Give details and speak conversationally so the person receiving the message will enjoy it. Effective messages have concrete information — dates, times, names, situations.

If your answering machine or voicemail has an automated attendant, re-record the initial greeting that came with the machine. Have one of your bright, happy, friendly employees be your “voice of choice.” The recording should be as conversational and friendly sounding as possible — and yes, recorded with a big smile.

When your voicemail message greets the caller, you’re obviously away from your desk or tending to another client. So use those very precious moments to be creative and give the caller pertinent information. No one wants to hear where you’re not. They need to know where you are. Most important on a greeting is to let the callers know when you will return.

If you’re going to be away from the salon for longer than a day, we suggest you let your callers know that.

Customer Care

Handling irate customers is important because you get a second chance to make it right. And irate callers, while certainly not pleasant, can be the challenge of the day. And they can be satisfied.

Nametags are a credibility factor, even if your salon has a smaller staff. We also suggest the staff member’s title go under the name. These nametags help create a most needed rapport-building opportunity and also allow everyone to see who is on staff and what they do. And nametags are especially valuable to clients if your staff is not in uniform. The nametag distinguishes them and help clients know who to go to with a question should they have one.

Walk your client to the payment/outgoing area — especially first-timers. It’s a classy way to say, “Thanks, and I hope to see you again” or “Thanks, here’s where you can set up your next appointment” or “What products are you in need of?” It also allows them to hear about the other services your salon may offer.

It’s a good idea to double-check with your client, even if she is a regular, about her wants and needs for today. People change their minds and it’s a considerate thing to ask instead of assuming the same old, same old.

Have a first-time client at your salon? Make sure you give her a mini-tour before she gets services. This allows her to see where everything is without having to ask. And it also allows you to show off a little. It needn’t be a long tour. Hand the client a menu of services at the start of the tour. Show her the bathrooms, access to telephones, refreshments, and other areas of the salon she might not be using today — but may need in the future.

Personal Comportment

When having a bad day, keep it to yourself. We need to leave our troubles at the door. Arguments with a spouse or a bad hair day is your problem, not something your client needs to hear about.

No gum at work — ever. End of subject. If you have bad breath, brush your teeth or use mouthwash.

Internal customer service means treating our coworkers as well as we treat our external customers. Remember: We are customers to each other. We sure don’t need any internal conflicts between coworkers and departments.

Never, under any circumstances, roll your eyes at any customer. Ever. Customers do have eyes in the back of their heads. Frustrated with a client? Wait till you get home, then vent. But never roll your eyes or make a face behind the back of a client. Or talk about them — other clients may know her. Remember, when you’re on the floor, you’re on stage and the clients are your audience.

Communications Skills

With e-mail, you have relinquished interpretation of the tone of voice to the other person. What you write can be “heard” whatever way they want to hear it. Be careful in your e-mails. Many hurt feelings have come about due to insensitive writing. That’s a good place to practice all your “please and thank you’s.” While it needs to be short, sweet and to the point, terse, one-word answers in e-mail can be perceived as rude.

In face-to-face communications, maintaining eye contact is key. Those who will not make eye contact while communicating with us are sometimes judged “suspicious.” We suspect that they may be hiding something. Beware, too, in a face-to-face situation that your head doesn’t look as though it’s on a spindle. Focus on the person, or people, you’re talking with. They deserve your full attention.

Some clients love to talk. Some don’t. Some use the salon time to unwind, read, or just meditate without having to answer a barrage of questions. The easiest way to find out if your clients enjoy talking is to ask them. That’s right. Just ask them. Something like: “I’d like to get to know you better. Is this a good time to talk? Or would you rather just use this time to unwind?” Or just ask them: “Feel like talking?”

Avoid the five forbidden phrases: “I don’t know,” “I can’t,” “Hang on a second, I’ll be right back,” “You’ll have to …,” and “No.”

Excuses, Excuses or What Not to Say

The good news is, through our many Telephone Doctor surveys, we're able to bring to you the top-five customer service sabotage practices and show you how to neutralize the effects.

“It's not our policy.” This, unfortunately, is used more as an excuse than anything else. It's a sure sign that the employee has not been shown how to explain a policy to someone. When the customer hears, “It's not our policy,” she immediately responds (usually silently) with, “Who cares?” Here's a suggestion: Decide on your policy, then work as a team with your staff to find a positive way to explain it to the customer. Otherwise, it'll be the customer's policy not to do business with you!

“It's not my area.” Well, then whose is it? Tell the customer what you do, not what you don't do. If someone mistakenly asks you for something that you don't handle, the following is far more effective: “Hi, I work in the skin care department. Let me get you to someone in the area you need.” This is far more effective than telling someone it's not your area.

“My computer's down.” When your computer crashes, this sounds so much better: “I'll be delighted to help you. It may take a little longer as I'll need to do things by hand. Our computer is currently down.” This way you've still explained what happened and they'll have a little more compassion as you've offered assistance —and didn't simply blame the computer for your inability to help.

“I wasn't here that day” (or “I was on vacation when that happened”). Do you really think the customer cares if you weren't here when her problem happened? Just hit the problem head on — apologize without telling her where you were or weren't. Remember, you are the company whether you were at work or on vacation when the issue occurred.

“I'm new.” OK, you're new. Now what? Does being “new” allow you to be anything but super to the customer? You can tell the customer, “Please bear with me, I've only been here a few weeks.” That will buy you time. For whatever reason, hearing the short length of time you are with the company means more to the customer than, “I'm new.”

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