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Good Hair Day

by | Sep 20, 2017 | The Customer, The Hustle


Disclaimer: This week’s post is about hair appointments and upselling. If you don’t have hair, aren’t interested in hair, or are a man who can’t understand how women spend so long at the hairdresser then skip down to the end without loss of continuity.

I have problematic hair. On account of my mixed heritage, my hair in its natural state can never decide if it’s going to be an afro or not. So it sprouts out of my head in different directions, sometimes curly, sometimes straight and on any given day I just don’t know what it’s going to do. As someone who is in business, I confess that, ahead of some of the most important career defining meetings, my biggest source of anxiety has been the state of my hair. Yes, I know this sounds shallow, but trust me, if you had to live with my hair and wake up to it each day and invest a significant amount of time trying to tame it – you’d understand. So I have problematic hair.

After a decade-long expedition across the national landscape of hair salons in several countries, in 2010 I finally found a hairdresser who understood my hair. Admittedly, the first time we met, I sensed her trepidation and she since confessed the first few battles with my hair left her sweaty and exhausted and in need of a glass of wine. Nonetheless, in credit to her, she persevered. It’s fair to say that I love her. I really, really love her. I send her my blessings daily and when I see on Facebook she’s off on holiday, I break into a cold sweat and pray anxiously for her safe return.

I hadn’t seen her for almost a year. Unusually, this was fine with me since, over the years, her team had gotten to know me and I began to trust them with my hair. But the anxiety was creeping back in and I needed to see her. It took me a couple of weeks to find a compatible day, and when I did, the time slot I was given was obscure – 1235 – and limited. I was told that on account of her schedule she could consult with me at the start and then supervise the final cut. Someone else would be doing all the other bits. Despite my time ration, I felt enormously grateful and vowed to show up 20 minutes early just to be safe.

Upon arriving in the salon, I was warmly greeted like an old friend and presented with frothing coffee in a beautiful cup, accompanied by gourmet biscuits. I was told my stylist would be with me momentarily and then I waited ten minutes. Upon seeing my hair, she promptly – and correctly – told me that it was a complete shambles and for it to look even remotely presentable – for her to even consider working on it – I would need to invest in a much more intensive treatment. The word ‘emergency’ was whispered. As she knew I had an important meeting the following day, she would see if she could allocate team members to work on me right away – would I be free for the rest of that day if she was able to pull this off? Hypnotised, I nodded fiercely. As various team members were assembled to peer at my head, I mentally wrote off the rest of my day and quickly cancelled all my plans. On my banking app, I moved a chunk of cash into my Ladies Nice Things account in anticipation of the bill I knew I’d be getting. Smiling, she gently and pleasantly despatched me into the care of her waiting team, telling me she would be back at the end to finish things off, that I should use this unexpected couple of hours to relax as I worked so hard – and hey! – while I was there, did I fancy a glass of prosecco and some magazines?

Several hours later I marvelled at my glossy tresses in the mirror. I felt utterly splendid. In what ended up being a five-hour appointment, I’d spent a total of – at most – 16 minutes in the company of my stylist and still, I was enormously pleased and felt magnanimous in praise as I left.

I couldn’t help but wonder: how is it that I, a switched on and savvy business owner – ended up spending five times more money than anticipated, losing an entire working day, carting home a bag full of products that I wasn’t sure I needed? Not only this, but I felt lucky and grateful for the entire experience? Hell, I even left a tip! Am I a fool with an irrational vain fixation on my hair? Maybe! Or was this just  good business? Classy selling at it’s very finest?

Let’s look at the stages of this process.

I was framed

Before I even got to the appointment I was psychologically primed to pay more. My stylist was hard to get, expensive, and if you wanted to see her, you had to go at a time that suited her within 5-minute increments. Her team made sure I knew that. Her time was therefore billable at a premium.

Every detail about my arrival and welcome told me that I could expect a high quality, exclusive (and therefore expensive) experience. A lovely smell, expensive coffee, fancy cups, posh biscuits, fresh flowers – the level of detail was granular and each thing carefully considered, all designed to create a particular image, scene and justify the price point.

From the get go, I knew who was in charge. I was firmly placed in a beta position by the salon team and my stylist was the alpha. Her knowledge and experience was widely regarded and self evident by the display of awards and accolades at seated eye level around the salon. Totally in control, she commanded her domain and what she told me, I would listen to, pretty much without question.

I was understood.

My stylist and her team asked the right questions to gain context determine what I wanted. I didn’t care about colours, fancy cuts, or the newest hair trend. I didn’t want my nails done at the chair. I didn’t proactively tell anyone these details and yet they found them out.

By listening and tapping into my anxiety she was able to draw my attention to a problem I didn’t know I had, and then she was the provider of the solution. Rather than trying to sell me a product, she sold me the result. As that result directly addressed my pain point, the cost of it became irrelevant.

I was special

This wasn’t overt cold selling – I never once felt like a customer being sold to, but instead a guest. The entire team communicated discreetly and efficiently with each other: a slick, human, moving CRM in action, and in live time I knew they knew about me! For example, they all knew that by virtue of my unexpectedly long appointment I wouldn’t be home in time to make dinner for the kids. Would it help, they asked, if they had some healthy ready made meals sent down from the hotel restaurant that I could take home at simply heat up? Why, yes it would! (€26)

I was heard.

Upon mentioning I was tired from work and needed to relax, I was offered magazines (free) and a lovely glass of prosecco (€7). When I casually mentioned I found it difficult to style my hair in the mornings I was generously offered a sample of oil (free) but told that if I liked it, it was available to buy (€39) and would cut ten minutes off my morning routine daily.

They followed up

A week or so after the appointment, I had a courtesy call to ask me how my meeting went. A six minute casual conversation, and the receptionist asked me if I would like to pre-book in for my next appointment in 8 weeks to secure my stylist in time, and avoid a waiting list. Also, since the treatment I got was 12 weeks, I’d be due to get a top up – would I like to book and pre-pay that appointment today for a discount? Yes, and yes! For them it was a guaranteed sale as I called out my card details. Plus on the day, they knew they’d be upselling me products.

As someone who sells for a living I never fail to be impressed by the scientific and granular sale process embedded into this business. Each time I return, they’ve gotten better at it. Their balance sheet is solid and their profits going up annually. Their customers are increasingly happy and their reputation is going from strength to strength. By perfecting their sales process and replicating it across their entire workforce they guarantee their future and learn from their past. Better yet, they understand that their most valuable asset is their current customer, so not only do they upsell constantly and intelligently, they incrementally upgrade their customer experience to ensure repeat business, glowing praise and guaranteed business development.

It’s elegant selling at its best.