Common business sense suggests that you should give the customer what they want. After all, they’re always right, and unless you’re a shrink, nobody is going to pay you for telling them they’re wrong.
So what happens when what the customer wants is bad for them? Well, you get smart.
Case in point. For quite a while now, I’ve wanted a haircut. Several hairdressers refused to oblige me, mostly because it is considered sacrilege to chop off such cultured hair; I’ve been growing my dreadlocks for years.
But I am quite stubborn, and each time the guy or girl in question denied me scissors, I started looking for someone else.
Yesterday, I finally found someone to cut my hair. She didn’t want to, and she whined the entire time, but she cut the hair.
It looks … well … I like it … but I’m definitely not doing it again.
In doing what I wanted, Fatuma earned herself – and her salon – a lifetime customer. It will be difficult to pry me away with Exposé.
That hairdressing session has taught me a few key lessons about business.
One, always give the customer what they want; but do it well. Cutting my hair was not the best idea, and Fatuma knew it. But she used her skill to make a bad idea look pretty. Fatuma is already established as an expert – I went to her on a direct commendation from another satisfied customer. She proved herself, and now she has one more client giving her free advertising.
Two, build your team. When I walked into the salon, I asked for Fatuma by name. But she was busy, so she politely offered to let someone else do my hair. I was quite happy with the person she gave me. She could have hogged the limelight, made me wait for her, and maybe earned a commission for having more clients. Instead, she boosted her workmate’s experience, earned her trust [and mine], and showed me that good as she is, her colleagues are equally skilled.
Three, know your specialties … and your limits. The lady who was assigned to do my hair was great at twisting – not so good at cutting, so she asked Fatuma to do the scissor-work while she handled the rest. Result being my hair was not messed, my hairdresser’s ego was not damaged, and everybody ended the day smiling.
Four, good work sells. Exposé is a new salon; so new that they don’t have the sign up yet. The person that sent me there asked me to “Go to the new Bishop Magua building and look for the salon on the ground floor. It doesn’t have a name.” A name is good, but a reputation is better.
Five, develop your brand. When I got to the building, I asked at the reception and was told there were two salons, but if I knew the hairdresser’s name, then they could show me where she worked. I knew the hairdresser’s name – and so did they. Make sure people know who you are.
Six, be damn good at what you do. There must be hundreds, thousands, [millions?] of hairdressers around. There are five in my building alone. But only one agreed to do what I wanted, and only one took a potentially distastrous idea and made it work. Anyone can wield a pair of scissors, but it took Fatuma to effortlessly give me the exact look I wanted. While I will certainly not be cutting the hair again, she has earned my respect and trust. I will let her work on my hair, swear by anyone she recommends, and next time she tells me it’s a bad idea, I’ll salute and say ‘Yes Ma’am, what works better? … surprise me.’
Seven, gimmick gimmick gimmick. I noticed something about the salon. I saw this lady there – she might be the owner; she had this air of authority about her. At first I wasn’t sure if she was white or just light, and I stared at her for a while trying to figure it out. She had her daughter with her, and the girl was even more interesting. She must have been five or six years old, very bubbly, and had the cutest way off tossing her hair.
I noticed two things about the little girl. One, her hair looked exactly like her mother’s – brown shoulder length, pretty and shiny. And two, she had no accent. Or rather, she had a Kenyan accent.
I later realised that while the girl was quite caucasian, her mum wasn’t any specific race, and had a beatifully planted weave on her head – more props to the salon. She’s also warm and friendly. This mum-and-baby are the perfect stage prop.
The final lesson I learnt is that all customers are equal and should be treated equal. Customer care goes a long, long way. I walked in with faded jeans, a scruffy look, and a pink acrylic handbag, but I was treated like a diva. I was received politely, offered coffee and a newspaper, and felt generally pampered. I don’t get that often.
Fatuma didn’t even ask who recommended me until after my hair was done. Her reaction suggested the recommender is VIP, but because the question came late, I felt special just for me.
Lessons worth noting if you want to make money in Kenya…
Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through www.threeceebee.com.