The Secret to Being in Business for 60 Years: Patience, openness and warmth (Sanders Barbershop in Broken Arrow, OK)

A few weeks ago my daughter and I went on a photography walk in downtown Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, where we live. We saw many interesting sites, many familiar, but some new finds as well.

Just as we were heading back to our car, I spotted Commercial Street. I couldn’t recall ever walking down Commercial Street. My daughter, 14 and easily aggravated when she has to be away from her iPhone for more than a few minutes, said, “No, let’s go to the car.” I had encouraged her to keep her phone tucked away so we could focus on conversation and street art.

So, we turned onto Commercial Street and started walking, the setting sun at our backs and deep shadows marking our path. The shadows seemed to be pointing to a barbershop pole. My eyes lit up and I pulled my camera to my left eye and focused on the pole. My daughter sighed. She probably rolled her eyes too, but I chose to not look close enough to see.

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Sanders Barbershop, Broken Arrow, OK

You just don’t see barbershop poles much these days. I began taking photos of the pole and through the windows into the shop. The Sorry, we’re closed sign was up. But to my surprise, a man with a broom filled the frame. He startled me and I was suddenly embarrassed to be snooping through his shop with my camera. I saw cut hair in a pile near the back. Ah, they’re closed, but he is still here cleaning up. I was sure the man was going to come out and tell me to scramble away from his shop.

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Original sinks and cabinetry in Sanders Barbershop 

I took my hands off of my camera and let the camera hang from its strap around my neck, as if that gesture would make my curious lens invisible. My daughter had a look that said I told you we should have just gone to the car.

He opened the door, smiled and said, “Why don’t you come in? You’ll get much better pictures from inside.” I nearly leaped off of the sidewalk! My daughter looked at me and tried desperately to speak to me with her eyes. She was probably saying, “Really mom!” But in I walked.

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Mr. Sanders is his name and he owns the shop. He told me his family has run his barbershop in downtown Broken Arrow for more than 60 years. Mr. Sanders took the time to give me a tour of the vintage shop. We talked about the furniture, fixtures, antique cash register and his years of service with the US Navy. As we talked, my camera shutter fluttered.

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Each of the barber chairs looked like this. My jaw dropped as I ran my hands across the soft leather and took in the sturdy antiques.

My daughter and I stayed a good little while and then I realized Mr. Sanders must have someplace to be this beautiful Saturday afternoon. I knew my daughter was past bored. I thanked Mr. Sanders and we said goodbye.

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Mr. Sanders told me this cash register is 100 years old.

When I walked into Sanders Barbershop, I felt like I was being welcomed by an old friend. He smiled as we talked and I felt good, excited and at ease. He was open with me. My many questions, my large lens and my moving about his place of business didn’t make him impatient. He seemed glad I was there. I imagine Mr. Sanders treats his customers with the same warmth, openness and patience. Perhaps this is his secret to being in business for more than 60 years.

Myra Golden is a customer experience keynote speaker and trainer who travels North America looking for great stories to share, and new ways to help her clients deliver the best possible customer experience.

Myra has worked for 14 years delivering riveting keynotes and behavior-changing customer service workshops. Her clients include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, Ally, Lincoln Financial, Montage Furniture Services and Proctor & Gamble among others.

4 Best Practices to Handle a Wait at Your Spa or Salon – So your clients still get a great customer experience

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I spent my Friday evening at a spa. My experience didn’t start out luxurious or relaxing like a spa experience should. But I did enjoy a glass of red wine while there.

I had a 5:30 pm appointment. Downtown no less. I left my office 50 minutes before my appointment to ensure I was on time. I very much wanted to respect the spa staff and other customers by making my appointment time. I’m glad I left early because I encountered not one, but 3 car accidents that brought traffic to a halt on the expressway.

But I made it to my appointment just fine and in fact, I was a couple minutes early. Whew!

I walk into the spa and…I see no one! I stood at the front counter for what felt like several minutes, though it was probably less than a minute. What I recall clearly is that no one was there to welcome me into the spa.

Momentarily, the spa owner appeared and greeted me enthusiastically. She told me she’d let my guy know I had arrived. And then she led me to a dark room illuminated only by candles and invited me to have a seat. And she offered me wine, which I accepted gladly.

There I sat in the candlelit room for nearly 30 minutes sipping my wine. No one checked on me. There were no updates on my estimated wait. Because the room was so dark, I couldn’t even while away the time with a book. If only I had brought my Kindle. Then I could read in the dark.

I just sat there sipping my wine. In the dark. And thinking about how I took such care to arrive on time….I carefully allowed plenty of time for the drive. And I recalled how I stressed about arriving on time when I encountered heavy traffic and traffic accidents. I wished the spa took as much care in getting me serviced on time. I continued to sip my wine.

My guy appeared in the dark waiting area just shy of 30 minutes past my scheduled appointment time. He was apologetic and gracious.

I was pleased with the service experience from that point on. But my overall experience was negative, based on my first impression.

Customers will have to wait from time to time. The wait doesn’t have to ruin the customer’s spa experience. All you have to do is follow a few simple tips to turn lemons into lemonade when clients have to wait.

The basics are:

1. Greet clients immediately

First impressions are the most impacting in the overall customer experience. When clients walk into your spa or salon, make sure they are greeted within 10 seconds of entering the salon or within 10 feet of entering. This is known as the rule of 10-10 and if you’re one of my retail, spa, restaurant or library clients, you’ve heard me preach about this.

2. Provide a comfortable waiting area

There will be times when clients have to wait and that is really okay. Provide a waiting area that is comfortable, exquisitely designed and well lit. While spas tend to be dimly lit, the waiting areas need to be well lit. Clients need light in order to interact with each other and the light gives them the opportunity to read or work comfortably on phones or tablets. If you serve a drink to clients, make sure they have a table to place their drinks on.

3. Check-in on waiting guests

After about 10 minutes, waiting clients begin to feel frustrated. Check in to give clients updates and to see if you can offer them water, tea, wine or whatever. Checking in puts clients at ease and keeps them from wondering if you’ve forgotten about them.

4. Apologize genuinely for the wait – and explain why the wait occurred

Welcome the waiting clients with enthusiasm, like my guy did. Then, offer a sincere apology with an explanation of why the wait occurred. For example, “Good evening. How are you? I’m really sorry about the wait. My last client arrived half an hour late and that threw my schedule off.”

Greet clients immediately, make their wait comfortable, provide updates and genuinely apologize for the delay. When you do, you’ll make the wait more pleasant and you won’t leave clients with a negative impression. 

What would it be like to sit down in a cafe and talk over a latte with a trusted colleague, who knew enough to help you position your employees to deliver the best possible customer experience, and who could help you relieve stress on your employees as they deal with challenging customers and tough situations?

It would look a LOT like my newsletter.

Every week, I give you ideas that in one way or another are actionable towards improving your customer experience.

The goal, every week, is to give you something of value that you can consider and take action upon.

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How to Ruin the Salon Customer Experience with Tasteless First Impressions

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Before coming into my office this morning, I went to a nail salon for a pedicure. I have a weeklong business trip in Orlando next week, so I get to kick off my boots and slide into sandals. Nice, I know. Hence, the urgent need for a pretty pedicure. I had an interesting service experience at the salon and I want to talk to you about it.

It was early when I entered the salon. I was clearly the first customer of the day. The only employee I spotted was sitting in a massage chair and she was watching a movie on her iPad. How do I know she was watching a movie? I heard the action music. It was that loud. She didn’t seem to notice me. If she did, her movie was more intriguing than the first customer of the day.

“What do you need?” The voice coming from my lower right startled me. It was another employee, sitting in the lobby with earphones from her iPhone in her ears. I told her I needed a pedicure and she told me to “Pick a color and sit over there.” She gestured for me to sit next to the lady who was watching a flick on her iPad.

I ended up getting a pretty amazing foot massage and gorgeous French pedicure. My goal was a pedicure, so all was good I suppose, in spite of the odd first impression. But, I couldn’t get over how the second customer of the day was treated.

The lady who entered after I did, received the same un-welcoming greeting from the employee adorned in earphones as I did. But that wasn’t the shocking part. This employee wasn’t listening to music on her earphones, which would have been bad enough. She was on the phone in a conversation. The entire time she serviced the customer who came in for a manicure, she was on the phone! I literally mean she was on the phone through her earphones the entire time she did her customer’s nails. Wow. Just wow.

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The service left me speechless. So much so, that I won’t even share my thoughts about this experience. Because, again, I am speechless. But, I’d like to hear your thoughts. What went wrong here? How should the salon owner address these service practices?

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What You Can Learn About Customer Service From My Nail Tech at Xtreme Nails

So I got a manicure yesterday. It was pouring rain and late and I didn’t want to drive out to my usual salon. So I stopped at a little place a couple of blocks from my office called Xtreme Nails. I arrived right around 6:45pm. I was surprised to not see any customers in the salon. But then, it was raining cats and dogs. Since there was no wait I got both a pedicure and a manicure.

I was greeted with a smile and my pedicure was underway within 3 minutes of my arrival. After a great relaxing pedicure, I was ushered over to the nail area. After the nail technician had been working on my nails for a few minutes, I asked what time they closed. She said, “We close at 7pm.” I was so embarrassed! They closed at 7pm and I arrived 15 minutes before closing and ordered the Ultimate (amazing, but lengthy) pedicure and a deluxe Shellac manicure. My usual salon closes at 9pm and I assumed Xtreme Nails had similar hours. It was now 7:25 and my nails weren’t even halfway done.

I apologized profusely to the nail technician and she was so pleasant about things. “This is no problem at all. I’m glad you’re here and your nails are going to look so pretty.” I could have hugged her (but of course, my nails were wet and all). She took her time with my nails just as if it was 4pm. That’s great customer service!

Want to create an amazing customer experience like my nail tech? Make customers feel good and comfortable, even when they are wrong (like I was). Be willing to take a customer phone call even if it’s 3 minutes before closing. Give your customers the same warm, attentive service at closing as you would at high noon. After all, your customers deserve it. You better believe I tipped my super awesome nail technician abundantly…and I’ll be going back.

If you’re a woman in the Tulsa area who loves amazing manicures and pedicures, try Xtreme Nails.