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Who’s next? A customer service lesson from your local barbershop

I grew up in a small town. A really small town where neighbors were friends, families were close-knit, and hugs were easy to come by. My dad owned a local barber shop, the kind you see in old movies – cash only, hot shaves, and men laughing heartily at jokes - and before that, my grandfather owned the shop. Same scene, different time. For generations, customers have jumped out of their seats when their barber yelled, “who’s next?” (no appointments here!). Many years have passed and the same families, the same loyal customers still visit my dad’s shop. Growing up in the family business, I learned a lot about customer service.

What makes my dad’s business so special?  Why are customers faithful for years on end?  Why do people stop in, even when they aren’t in need of a haircut?  What turns new customers into faithful customers so quickly? Exceptional customer service.

To my dad, his barbershop is more than a place for a good shave and a trim.  It’s about relationships.

  • He cares about his customers – where they’ve been, what they’re doing
  • He remembers their preferences – “tighter around the neck, leave more on top”
  • He knows how to add that special touch – a lollipop for kiddies, a practical joke for mischievous teenagers, a wise adage for grown-ups

Even though companies today cannot meet all of their customers in person, they can still build memorable relationships. Here are 3 lessons from the barbershop that can help you differentiate your business from the competition:

  • Provide a unique customer experience: Be it a wicked fast response or a personal note, a unique experience goes a long way in customer attraction and retention
  • Remember customer preferences: Offer a seamless experience by tracking past activity, what they like and what they don’t like so you can always personalize the experience you are providing
  • Cultivate the relationship: Support the customer through every phase of consumption. Get involved before the transaction, post sales, and be there to help with life-cycle maintenance

While you might not be able to replicate how a young boy feels the first time he gets that cool buzz cut or how a mom reacts when she watches her baby’s precious locks fall to the ground, you can still stand out in the minds of your customers with awesome service.  Focus on relationships and watch your loyal customer base grow with you. Before you know it, you’ll be asking, “who’s next?” as you welcome new customers.

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