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A $10 Mistake and a Lesson in Getting Instant Customer Loyalty

I hate getting my hair cut. I don’t like having to set up an appointment or waiting at the salon. I also don’t like having my arms locked in place by that thin plastic cape and sitting still under the threat of losing a piece of helix by razor-sharp scissors. Something else I hate… having to think about which cut fits my thinning hair and, worst of all, realizing that my hair is thinning and there’s nothing I can do about it.

So when it’s time to trim the hedges, I try to find the most efficient way to get my lame business-man’s cut. This usually involves Googling for the salon closest to my office.

Google search results: Orquidia Salon

Orquidia Salon seemed to fit my needs, so I called to see if they would take me as a walk-in within the next 10 minutes. To my surprise, they did.

A typical salon with atypical service

Orquidia’s is your typical Miami-Cuban, old-lady salon. There’s nothing avant-garde here, no faux feng-shui décor, snooty model-like receptionist or tattooed-up stylists with names like Extephan or Eriko.

No, none of that. As a matter of fact it’s just the opposite. The owner, Orquidia, is cutting hair and chatting while the rest of the staff, mostly older elegant ladies, are primping, dyeing, plucking, blow drying or spraying earth-unfriendly amounts of hair spray on their customers. Everyone’s talking simultaneously with everyone else, while maintaining a sometimes different conversation with the customer in the chair.

I’m told that Ms. Blanca will cut my hair, but since I didn’t arrive in precisely 10 minutes she had left for coffee. The wait is well worth it though since “going for coffee” means getting Cuban coffee for everyone at the salon. A quick shot of black-gold and I’m in the chair smothered in the gown and wondering how I’ll be able to read emails. What if someone calls? But I get past my mobile phone separation anxiety and Ms. Blanca asks me how I would like my hair cut.

I’m starting to like the lady; she asks me if I have a preference instead of just starting to cut. This is a good idea when it comes to meeting customer expectations. I say “A little off the sides and back. I like the length on top.” To my surprise she does exactly that. I get off the chair with exactly the same look I had when I came in, just shorter. But I’m completely satisfied, heck even happy with my cut because it’s exactly what I asked for.

I complement Ms. Blanca on the cut and she says “If there is something I’ve learned in all my years, it is to listen to the customer. It will be $25 for the cut.” I pay, tip and go on my merry way, satisfied and thinking that I may even come back.

The next morning, I receive a call from Ms. Blanca. She says, “I’m sorry but I overcharged you for the cut. It was supposed to be $15 instead of $25. I pressed the wrong key on the register. Would you like to come by and pick up the difference?”

I couldn’t believe it. The salon is offering to give me money back, knowing full well that I didn’t notice, nor would have noticed. They could have kept the difference, figuring “mistakes happen.” But no, they made an effort to call me to admit the mistake and refund the money. How many businesses do you know would have done that? Really, how many?

This was a unique opportunity for Orquidia Salon to provide excellent service by simply recognizing a mistake and providing an honest resolution before I noticed it. This is better than customer service; it’s taking care of your customer.

How do you handle these opportunities?

Think about the opportunities to take care of your customers. Your service or post-sale process can have small, but significant chances to do the unexpected. And I’m not talking about buying your clients lunch. It can involve going above and beyond or helping your customer find a better solution, even if it’s not your own. My favorite is the simple act of honest feedback, with a genuine desire to help. A simple act of true concern may or may not lead to immediate business, but the customer will notice and remember.

Orquidia Salon and Ms. Blanca may never know what that act meant to me, but she’ll be seeing me once every other month and I’ll be happy to wait. Has this happened to you?