By Kizer & Bender
A successful retailer once told us to, “Listen to your customers because they’re smarter than you think.” He also pointed out that the letters that form the word LISTEN also spell SILENT – you can’t listen to a customer if your mouth is open.
So we listen, and we recommend that you listen, too. In a world of social networking, it’s dangerous to think you have all the answers. What if you’re – GASP – wrong? Here are some ideas to help you zero in on what your customers think:
- Focus Groups. Invite 15 customers to participate in your focus group, but set the room for 8-10. It’s always better to have to bring in extra chairs than to have empty seats – it makes your meeting seem even more important. You can hold your focus group in your store or off-site. Either way, you will need someone to mediate because it will be hard for you to be objective if someone says something less than stellar about your salon. Serve refreshments and have a list of questions ready to keep the conversation moving. You will need to give each person a gift of value for participating. We generally give $50 in cash (you could substitute a salon gift card), plus a jar candle valued at around $20.
- Customer Advisory Board. Similar to a corporate board of directors, your Customer Advisory Board will meet with you once a quarter to discuss the things you’ve done in your salon, and your future plans. For best results, choose people from different generations.
- Exit Interviews. Station yourself near the front door. When a customer is about to leave, politely stop her and ask if she found everything she was looking for. Exit interviews are great for identifying products customers wish you carried; you’ll be able to save the sale when customers find out you do carry whatever they wanted, but couldn’t find.
- Customer Comment Cards. Place “Tell Us What You Think” cards on your cash wrap, in tanning booths, and on your website for customers to fill out. These are great for time-starved customers who have something to say, but are short on time to stop and talk.
- Associate feedback. Ask salon associates to fill you in on what they’re hearing from customers. Place a notebook at the cash wrap so they can easily jot down customer comments. You can discuss these comments in detail during staff meetings.
- The BIG Question. You’ll get extremely useful information when you ask customers our BIG Question: “What ONE thing could we do to ___________?” You fill in the blank.
The customer has to put thought into her answer, so you’ll hear constructive things you’ll be able to easily implement. Don’t be surprised if you hear a variation on the same theme – that’s a good thing! If it’s positive then you have one more thing to brag about, and if it’s negative, then you know just what to fix.
These simple tools will help you uncover a great many things to help you grow your business, but you’re likely to hear things you didn’t want to hear as well. Your responsibility after asking customers for their input is to make sure you let them know what you plan to do with what they told you. When you implement their suggestions, and especially when you can’t, let them know. Post your responses on a “customer interaction” bulletin board in your salon, in your newsletter, on your website, and on your social media pages.
Let your competitors ignore what their customers think. Not you. The relationship you have with your customers is like any other relationship; it’s based on trust, coupled with your ability to interpret, meet and even exceed their changing needs. Knowing your customers, and what they want, will keep your merchandise fresh, your promotions fun, and your salon crackling with excitement!