At your service |

4 mins

At your service

The tricky thing about amazing service is that it means something different to every client. Hellen Ward explores how we can make it more personal and intuitive

You’re never too old to let a real-life experience change your perspective. I’ve recently returned from a dream holiday where I was lucky enough to stay in a fabulous hotel. I’m a creature of habit so it’s unusual for me to venture further than Ibiza; when I have time off, I tend to go back to my home from home.

It’s also a bit of a gamble to go by a word-of-mouth recommendation, and even riskier when you are travelling to the other side of the world. What if someone’s idea of perfect service isn’t yours? It’s so objective and personal.

I personally dislike overtly fussy service – you know the type, where the waiter hovers and refills your water glass before you have a chance to put it down on the table. I also detest anything scripted or insincere. Regular readers will know my hatred of the “that’s OK” response from the service giver instead of “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure” to the service receiver who says the obligatory “thank you”.

The trouble with service is that you simply can’t create a one-size-fits-all approach to it. One of the brands we are customers of once commissioned a survey letting us know (who’s the customer here?!) what they thought of our service on an anonymous feedback basis. They had the nerve to tell me we scored badly because we didn’t answer the phone within three rings. I couldn’t help but chuckle that they’d rather missed the point. “But did we answer it sincerely, and genuinely?”, I ventured. “Yes”, they said, but the person didn’t trot out a scripted response, so we scored badly on that too.

The hotel I stayed in was perfect. The service was understated, unobtrusive, natural and sincere… hiding discreetly in the background, always omnipresent, but never in your face. When I was chatting with the manager, he said that his aim was for the team to provide “emotive and intuitive” customer care. It hit me that this was what perfect service really means – pre-empting, empathy, matching speed and pace, and none of that can be written on a script. It has to come from the heart. Think of that scene in Love Actually where Alan Rickman is being driven mad by Rowan Atkinson, who’s wrapping a gift for him. He wants it done quickly, but the cashier is determined to go by the book and fill the jewellery bag with pot-pourri, ribbons and bows, much to his frustration.

Personal touch

Matching the customer’s speed and pace is critical. That’s why one size can never fit all, however much we try to standardise things. For every client that wants to chat and enjoy their personal experience, there’s another who wants to whizz in and out with minimal interaction and no fuss. Neither is right or wrong, it’s individual. Deciphering who wants what is the key.

My father was managing director of one of the country’s leading department stores in his prime, and responsible for introducing brands like Costa Coffee into the UK. He found Sergio Costa and his wife in a little coffee shop near Victoria station, where, upon missing his train home one night, he asked one of the guards where he could get a coffee. He pointed at a little coffee bar and told him he’d never get a better cup. The rest is history. My dad remained lifelong friends with Sergio and his family and read a eulogy at his funeral.

"FOR EVERY CLIENT that wants to chat and enjoy their PERSONAL EXPERIENCE there’s another who wants to whizz in and out with MINIMAL INTERACTION"

Dad had been to the US in the early ’70s and loved the concept of the mall, so he re-opened an old goods tunnel running through his store (Allders of Croydon) and introduced a dry cleaners, take-away coffee (Costa), a key cutters – all the things you might need as you were walking through on your way to or from work or on your lunchbreak. He also had a florist and a chocolatier (Leonidas – also its entry into the UK market). It was a phenomenal success and a trademark of the store at the height of its turnover.

Hands on

Recently, there was a post about my dad on Facebook from some of the team who worked under him. The comments had me welling up. Everyone said he was the best boss they ever had – “walked the floor every day”, “always said hello”, “never forgot anyone’s name”. It was so interesting to me that everyone said the same thing, remarking on how personable he was, and that his personal touch was remembered decades later. How you treat people matters – whether they are clients or team members – and it’s the little things people remember.

At the hotel, every breakfast, no matter who served me, they remembered how I liked my tea; at dinner, what wine I liked or what brand of gin I wanted. Those little details can’t be scripted and only come from a level of detail that someone at the helm is really focused on.

There was uproar recently when it emerged that the newly appointed manager of one of London’s largest railway stations was working from home… from Scotland. How can that possibly be OK? How can anything get noticed if you don’t meet and greet the passengers and staff? If you don’t walk the floor? Has the world gone even madder that someone can work from home running a customer-facing operation from a different devolved country? Miles away in the Indian ocean, I realised I need to make sure I walk the floor a little more and take a leaf out of what I learned in paradise – because it really does matter.

Hellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London, vice president of The Hair & Beauty Charity and co-founder of Salon Employers Association (SEA).

This article appears in May 2024

Go to Page View
This article appears in...
May 2024
Go to Page View
The issue of treatment pricing has been a
Beauty and nail salons among fastest-growing business types
The glass skin trend
Helping clients to achieve the trending flawless “glass” skin look is easier than you may think. The team at Zemits explains how
Let’s talk about pricing
National Nail Tech Price Increase Day saw the industry unite to up its prices to allow nail techs to earn more than minimum wage. Kezia Parkins speaks to some UK nail experts about its impact and the wider issues it has raised
Endermologie: Your wellness boost
A new clinical trial has shown the potential to boost vitality, reduce stress and enhance sleep with Endermologie
We take a look inside PB’s digital world
Let's talk about qualifications
Confused about which qualification is for you? You’re not the only one. The team at Skin Philosophy outlines the options
5 luxury manicurists to follow
From prescriptive treatments that take into account the health of the whole hand to adding designer scrubs and perfumes for extra value, these five techs take manicures to the next level
Get glowing
Adding advanced services to your menu is a great way to generate additional revenue and tackle complicated skin issues. Angela Taylor, Dermalogica’s director of education for the UK and Ireland, explains how
Insider beauty
Our exclusive monthly benchmarking stats for each sector of the market
Insider spa
March was a month of
Insider nails
Like in other sectors of
The right device
Investing in a new aesthetic device is a big decision. Roy Cowley, managing director of 3D Aesthetics, outlines the questions to ask to ensure return on investment
On the scene
Behind the scenes at the parties, launches and events in the world of beauty, aesthetics, spa and nails
At your service
The tricky thing about amazing service is that it means something different to every client. Hellen Ward explores how we can make it more personal and intuitive
Ask the experts
Our beauty experts answer your questions about every aspect of running a salon or spa business
Talking to… Dr Hayley Elsmore
The owner of Professional Beauty Awards Skin Clinic of the Kezia Parkins how she has built trust and created a unique wellness concept on the Isle of Wight
More in store
The Professional Beauty & Hair Glasgow show will make its debut in June. Here is just a taster of what the exhibitors have lined up
Reaching new heights
Check out the free live education on offer at Professional Beauty & Hair Glasgow event on June 9–10
Challenge time
Show off your skills in the Professional Beauty & Hair Glasgow 2024 nail and make-up competitions
10 tips for waxing men
While much of the prep and service may be gender-neutral, certain elements of male waxing require a specific approach. Eve Oxberry shares 10 expert tips
Smooth over
Some of the best professional products on the market for male waxing treatments
Spotlight on... Ectoin
With benefits including superpowered protection and hydration, ectoin is the latest trending skincare ingredient. Ellen Cummings gets the expert lowdown
Price it up
One of the toughest parts of running a salon is figuring out exactly what to charge for your treatments and when to put those prices up. Multi-site salon owner and coach Lilac Miller shares her advice on getting it right for your business
Pregnancy skincare swaps
Skincare educator Cigdem Kemal Yilmaz explains the considerations for recommending topical skincare to pregnant clients, ingredients to avoid and safe swaps
Studio style
Georgie Milton tells Ellen Cummings how she transformed an empty shell into her salon, Georgeous Beauty Studio
On point
A new device offers multiple treatments in one and we try out a semi-permanent make-up service
Get it bright
Launches this month include skincare and devices to brighten and repair, plus nail collections to add a splash of summer colour
VAT burn not sunburn
Kezia Parkins caught up with MP for East Dunbartonshire Amy Callaghan about her mission to get VAT removed from SPF products
Looking for back issues?
Browse the Archive >

Previous Article Next Article
May 2024
Page 46