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What’s So Special About You?

(Excerpt, October chapter of 12 Months of Marketing for Salon and Spa)

We all know the economy is tight; in fact, we have grown tired of hearing about it.  Even writing it feels cliché. Fewer customers are coming through the door, and many others are coming back less frequently. Business is slow and tips per client are down no matter what gratuity-dependent profession you are in. And it’s not about greedy or mean-spirited customers, either. As you know from daily interactions with clients, they are hurting too. You would probably prefer that your clients continue to come in to you for services even if they don’t have the extra money to tip you at the end of their appointment, than to stay away. 
As stylists, estheticians and therapists you may be continuing to put your heart and creativity into your work, delivering professional, caring, thoughtful service to each client who comes in the door; and while your efforts may be consistent, they may no longer be as consistently rewarded. The good news is that the same principles that work to build business, referrals, retail sales and client loyalty help to build compensation – and tips, as well.
The phrase ‘exceptional customer service’ has been overused to the point that it no longer carries weight. ‘Exceptional customer service’ is supposed to be the norm at so many businesses that what is supposed to be ‘exceptional’ is now the norm – get it? The irony is that while many owners and managers confidently assert that their business provides exceptional customer service, very few actually do. Many people, when asked, state that “the difference” in their business is the people; but how can it be proved? The truth is that for better or for worse, one of the differences in any business is the unique blend of individuals who provide services and products to customers.
So what is so special about you, and how do you use your unique blend to really make a difference in your business?
By simple definition, what is “exceptional” is beyond the norm.  If the accepted standard is meeting client expectations in a courteous, personable way, in a clean, welcoming environment, providing them with the desired results for hair, skin, nails, etc., then you have to know what it takes to exceed expectations in a way that is exceptional.
This hit home to me recently in a powerful way.  My mom is considering switching dentists, and I made a  recommendation. She didn’t ask me if the dentist had a soft touch. She didn’t ask if his staff was nice. She didn’t ask about the quality of his work. She asked me if the dentist I am recommending does ‘paraffin dips.’  When I asked what she meant, she told me that her current dentist dips her hands in a paraffin dip and then wraps them in plastic at the beginning of her appointment.  She says she is more relaxed and stays warm all during the procedure; plus, days later, she still has baby-soft hands. At her last visit, to top things off, she was awarded the daily flower bouquet from the staff.
This, my friends, is exceptional!
Can you imagine a scenario where your client recommended that their friends come to you for service, and they were asked whether you provided teeth whitening services? Or had a gift shop? Or served lunch? Or had boutique clothing or accessories for sale? Or provided other non-salon-traditional services or products? 
Salons and stylists who truly want to set themselves apart simply have to go beyond the norm in order to do so. Whether it is in add-on services, samples, or the environment and “extras” available to clients within the salon itself, something that the client experiences as a regular part of their appointment needs to be surprisingly, uniquely more than what is expected.

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