Is the Customer still KING? |

4 mins

Is the Customer still KING?

In an increasingly faceless corporate world, Hellen Ward asks, is beauty the last industry that truly cares about customer service?

I think I can safely say that everyone working at grassroots level in our sector has one thing in common; we excel in people skills. We know just how to put every kind of person we meet and treat at ease. We can talk to our clients on every level, whether they are a young student or a member of the aristocracy. We place the client relationship at the heart of everything we do.

There are thousands of amazing therapists and nail technicians working in our industry in the UK. Clients can choose from a wealth of expertise. They have a huge variety of salons and nail bars to pick from, most of which are offering great services from mainly skilled, qualified team members.

Yet, when it comes to it, most clients are hugely loyal to their particular choice of operator. The client/therapist relationship is cemented by…who knows what? Customers just “click” with someone and when they do, they just do. It’s a muchvalued currency, treasured by every shrewd operator with a loyal and devoted following – and is to be protected at all levels.

So, understanding just how vital and critical this relationship is, it’s hard for us as an industry to fathom how we don’t garner the same attitude when it’s our turn to be the customer. Anyone working in a service industry is going to have a damning critique of service they experience themselves, whether it’s hospitality (going to a hotel, bar or restaurant) or being a customer of another service-related industry like banking, as well as being loyal to a supplier or manufacturer.

It’s easy to appreciate that because we often don’t get the same level of respect in return, so we may feel particularly undervalued as a result.

Service failure

We’ve just spent eight critical days without phone lines. Critical, because at the time of writing, people are calling to book their appointments for the festive season. At least, they would be if they could. We offer online booking but many people want to speak to one of our longstanding customer service team who truly know the foibles of their booking needs.

Most clients see multiple operators so trying to book online can be a faff. BT cancelled our maintenance agreement by accident (not our fault) and, of course, then had to reinstate it, which took five working days. It took us three days to figure out what had happened, being passed from pillar to post before we even realised.

BT wouldn’t send an engineer or divert the lines until the new agreement was live. Now it’s up to us to prove our losses and damage to the business. More faff. More headache. And at no point did we get a “sorry” because there is no properly managed relationship. Nobody cares, and that culture is rife because it comes from the top down. If the people running the business don’t care about their clients, how can their employees ever be blamed for their lack of service?

BT is a large corporation so it may be that this is just what we’ve come to expect these days, but my second experience of feeling undervalued is a bit closer to home and involves a business partnership that actually has the customer relationship at its core.

I felt the need to bring something to the attention of the most senior person in a company we spend a lot of money with and their attitude was, quite frankly, astonishing. First, they ignored my email, then when I did try to illicit a response by sounding off about their silence to the less senior people also on copy, I received a dismissive text. I’m sure they honestly believed that it was best to let the people further down the “food chain” deal with the issue, but the fact is, as the customer, I wanted to sound off to someone who I thought should know how I felt.

To be shut down in this manner made me feel irrelevant, unwanted, undervalued and unappreciated; like we didn’t matter. And perhaps worse, like the company just didn’t have an ethos to care. All I wanted was to be heard; to be treated like I, and the feedback I wanted to give, mattered. I wasn’t expecting the issue to be resolved immediately, just a message to say that what I was saying was relevant, important, and being considered. That’s all. I couldn’t help but think that my company would never treat a customer like that. That’s not the culture we have bred, thank heavens.

Upholding standards

It’s been said many times, but I will say it again because it cannot be said often enough. Our profession is the last bastion of great customer service. We are the standard bearer for the client relationship in an age when consumers have faceless relationships at every level – the bank manager who used to approve your mortgage, the GP who knew you and your health inside out, the sales rep who managed your relationship to ensure it was fruitful for both parties.

In lockdown, we knew just how important we’d become. Every article was talking about the emotional wellbeing our sector delivered, how greatly missed we were and not just for our services, but for our client care. How sad that others don’t blaze our trail.

So, with the busy Christmas season upon us, how wonderful for us to revel in our own customer loyalty and enjoy the rewards that seriously valuing the client/operator relationship brings. If only others repaid us the compliment.

This article appears in December 2022

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This article appears in...
December 2022
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