Most owners of independent tanning businesses seem to pride themselves on customer service. But what does that really mean? If you think it’s all about being nice and knowledgeable, your salon is missing some of the components that will make your business shine above its competitors.
While bigger chains offer seemingly unbeatable prices, owner-operated outfits face a fork in the road: Do you try to match them, or go down a different road completely?
Even in an economy of tight purse strings, lowering prices is not always the answer – in fact, it’s never the answer when customer satisfaction is sacrificed as a result. Studies show that consumers are willing to spend an average of 13% more with retailers who provide superior customer service. Why cut your prices when you can raise your revenue another way?
Companies with the best customer service departments don’t just hire friendly people and hope it all works out. They hold employees to explicit standards. Instead of training your staff with suggestions and scenarios about how to treat customers, extend clear expectations for every form of communication. Let them know if they should answer the phone if they are helping a customer. Tell them how long they have to return a voicemail. They need to know when to follow up with a customer if an inquiry remains open.
You may need to establish additional requirements for managers or co-owners – everyone is responsible for providing excellent customer service. What are your guidelines for handling questions and comments on Facebook? Should your managers respond to certain emails with a standard message? All of these issues need to be addressed before you will see your staff achieve your idea of successful customer service.
Apologies are some of the most sensitive acts of customer service, so it’s important to get them right. Do yourself a favor and teach employees about the difference between an excuse and an apology. Too often, customer services are laced with blame, and it doesn’t make the consumer feel vindicated. If it’s appropriate, tell them what happened, but always take responsibility as a business or as a person.
It is also essential that each interaction results in as much satisfaction as possible. Sometimes, customer contentment isn’t possible, but your employees should do everything in their power to earn a customer’s business again. Unsatisfied clients get wandering eyes; if they go, your business ends up suffering for one bad experience.
Consider accepting a coupon the day after expiration for a loyal customer. Offer an alternative to make up for a mistake. Instead of giving a refund for an unsatisfactory spray tan, suggest that you fix it for them at no charge. By turning a negative experience into a positive, customers feel like they have won, but your business is the one that reaps the benefits.
Don’t forget to follow up on all of the standards you implement. If you don’t find a way to ensure that your staff is doing the right thing or that your customers are receptive to it, improvement will be hard road. Take note of where your business is at today. Measure how long it takes to get back to customers or how often you get complaints – the more you can measure, the better. As you collect tangible data over the months and years, it will become clear that your conscious effort is making a difference.