I’ve recently been a first-time client at two nail salons and in both cases I’ve been assigned to junior staff. Neither of these employees, unwitting ambassadors for their respective places of employment, left me with the impression that I should make a second appointment. In fact one complained that in the three months she had been working there, the salon had failed to live up to its reputation. Based on my experience there that day, she wasn’t wrong.
Now follow me. These visits weren’t cheap. The one with the disillusioned manicurist cost me almost $9,000. So my question is: if you have a new client, why not do your best to win her over and make her come back again and again? Why not assign her to one of your senior members of staff who will show and tell her why your salon is so great she should never do her nails anywhere else? Are you so oblivious to the fact that no business can thrive, not merely scrape by unless it keeps attracting new clients while holding on to the ones it already has?
I get it, most senior salon staff take years to build up their client base and they have certain customers that only they handle, maybe even some they’ve brought with them from previous salons. I’m not saying they should neglect these devoted clients; hell, I want to be one eventually. But there is a simple way to keep your existing following while adding new fans.
When a new customer makes a booking and will spend what, within the context of your business, is a nice piece of change, assign a senior member of your staff to engage with her at a critical stage of the process. So, staying with the nail salon example, maybe a junior member of staff does the basic manicure but a senior employee expertly applies the gel polish to finish the experience on a high note. And if you really want to score points, make sure everyone the client engages with calls her by name and she doesn’t have to wait for more than 10 minutes to be served. To get bonus points, the business owner should take a moment to say hi if he or she is there. Everyone likes to feel important. Use that to win over and hang onto new clients.
I learned this lesson— and many more — from a former boss, Professor John Quelch who is now the Dean at the University of Miami Business School. I worked with him when he was Dean of CEIBS, the business school where I worked in the marketing & communications department for almost 15 years. Perpetually competing with business schools across the globe to find the best faculty, Quelch would pull out all the stops when he set his sights on someone he wanted to add to his team. A visit would be arranged to the school’s flagship Shanghai campus, and the “wooing” would continue with an issue of the school magazine strategically placed in the luxury car sent to do the airport pickup. A line-up of staff and faculty would be briefed on the guest’s arrival, all on hand to provide stimulating intellectual discourse sprinkled with anecdotes about why working at CEIBS and living in Shanghai was just so darn great! But please note that what made many of these visits so successful was the fact that we all truly believed what we were saying.
So when you decide to wow your next new customer or remind those who have been with you for years why they need to remain loyal, choose your ambassadors wisely. Because the stench of insincerity cannot be disguised.
I’m a marketing and communications professional with almost a decade in journalism. After more than 14 years living and working in China, I happily came home to Jamaica in summer 2019. In this weekly column, I share snippets of what it’s like seeing Jamaica — and sometimes the rest of the world — through my eyes.
By Charmaine N. Clarke