Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Taking a stand or cutting off my nose?

Be patient, I promise this is a post about customer care.

I have been going to the same nail salon for over a decade, getting my nails done by the shop owner. For years it was just my fingernails every two weeks, and then a few years ago I started getting a pedicure every other visit. After 2 decades doing nails the owner got, understandably bored, and started branching out, learning how to facials, waxing and even permanent make-up (which makes me shudder to think of it.)

So eventually I also started to have her do my eyebrows every other visit.

Recapping: steady customer; years of patronage; growing revenue source as time goes by.

The truth is that around the same time the owner started learning new services she got less good at the nails part. She offloaded a bunch of her clients to other women in the shop, but kept my sister and me and a few others because we'd been going so long. Truth is though that she didn't do as good a job anymore. When she went on vacation, and we had our nails done by one of the others we noticed a difference. But after 10 years we weren't going to ask to switch.


Then earlier this year the shop owner decided to stop doing nails altogether, to work fewer hours and to just do the other stuff...including waxing.

Trouble is, my regular appointment has always been on a Saturday, and once the owner wasn't doing nails anymore she began to ask me fairly regularly to switch to another day because of this or that activity she had planned for Saturday.

And lately she just hasn't been there on a Saturday when I came in and was scheduled to have my brows done.

I'm no Frida Kahlo, so it was never a crisis or anything, but I started to feel a little put out.

And as my business has gotten busier and busier, going to get my nails done on a weekday has gotten less and less possible. I mean, running your own business provides flexibility, but there are limits.

So yesterday when I got a call from the salon, which I couldn't take, and saw they left a message, I just knew what the message would be. I called them back and sure enough my new (and better) manicurist said that the owner wouldn't be in to do my brows this Saturday, and could I switch?

And without even thinking I said:

"No. I think it's time for me to find someone else to do my brows. I am tired of constantly changing my appointment for her convenience. I am the customer here."

My manicurist was a little shocked, because I'm usually so accommodating, but I had reached my limit.

Of course now I'm thinking that it's not that much more convenient to find someone totally different in some different location and make a separate trip. So, I'm probably destined to go back to my own erratic and unskilled plucking. But if I'm going to pay $15 for a service I'd like to not be forgotten and shuffled around almost every single time.

So, standing on principle or cutting off my nose to spite my face. (Particularly apt given the whole eyebrow angle, huh?)

Lesson: you can't take even long-time customers for granted. Just like in relationships we don't like to be taken for granted.

Does an entrepreneur seek to create a job or to create a business?

Frankly, most business owners do not enter into business to become wage slaves. In fact, many people launch their own business with the idea that after the first few years, the business will start running itself.

Apparently, you have a problem with this business owner because she is ceasing to be a worker and transitioning into a real owner.

If she has better employees and if the better employees can produce quality results than the clients should be pleased with the results.

Were you going to this manicurist for a service or were you trying to create a social relationship?

I don't think that the quality of the manicure was what you were seeking or else you would have gotten the message long ago. Her life does not revolve around manicures but around owning a successful business!

Why not go to the best manicurist and quit seeking to chain the business owner to her chair?
You have completely missed the point.

I'm happy to go to the other woman in the shop for my nails. But only the owner can do the "advanced" services she continues to offer.

And when she transitioned to fewer hours she claimed she would come in to continue to do those services as scheduled.

If she wants to transition out then she needs to backfill the services only SHE is so far licensed to perform. And only SHE is promising to deliver.

She did that, the professional thing, with only half her service offering, and she has become completely unreliable about delivering the other half.

Not the best way to conduct your business.
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