Sex, Success and Isopropyl Alcohol

If you had to pick a retail category that would deliver the highest level of service (consistently), what would you pick?

We have recently completed a massive project where we completed about 1600 mystery shops for a client. Retailers competed for an award in several categories in several regions and Moonyeen firmly believes that the category that consistently delivers the best service would be Hair & Beauty.

Having thought about that, we made the following key observations about the Beauty industry:

One: They work personally and physically with the customer on a very intimate level. They physically touch the customer and take great care in your physical and psychological comfort.

Two: Almost all of the staff chose ‘beauty’ as a profession (trade) so they are comfortable in this environment and really believe in the value they provide. They are also often their own best advertisement.

Three: They have to understand exactly what the customer wants before they start plying their trade

Four: Because they physically alter the customer’s appearance and it cannot really be easily undone, the consequences of a mistake are serious and very visible.

Five: And (in case you were wondering) Isopropyl Alcohol is a pretty toxic (pun intended) ingredient of many beauty products. This industry thrives on selling toxic substances to customers. The reality is they sell poison, but the perception is quite different – and beauticians really get that.

Six: Not only that, they also thrive on selling a promise – rather than something ‘real’. They truly ‘get’ it that people do not go to the restaurant for the steak, but for the sizzle. You don’t go to the beauty salon to become beautiful, because lets face it (pun intended) you need a scalpel for that.  (To understand this notion of core product, read this post on the topic.)

The truth is, they sell something that is unlikely to eventuate (ugly à pretty) and they promise to achieve that by applying poisonous substances to your skin and hair. In short, it is a tough sell. (I would rather sell shoes…)

  • The question is whether your employees in your business have the same beliefs, attitudes?
  • Do you apply the same principles and processes to your customer treatments?

Read that list again – and consider whether you could appropriate a few ideas to change something in your business?

Because the honest and inconvenient truth is that in our recent experience great service was very much the exception. And on a diverse sample like this, over several months, the validity of this conclusion cannot be questioned.

It seems great service remains the last differentiator for retailers to conquer.