Welcome to the Salon Owner’s Podcast, Phorest FM Episode 71. Co-hosted by Killian Vigna and Zoé Bélisle-Springer, Phorest FM is a weekly show that puts forth a mix of interviews with industry thought-leaders, salon/spa marketing tips, company insights and information on attending Phorest Academy webinars. Phorest FM is produced every Monday morning for your enjoyment with a cup of coffee on your day off.

Phorest FM Episode 71

In an ultra-competitive climate where 78% of customers don’t come back because they perceive an attitude of indifference in the service they receive within the salon, you need to consider that all the small things matter. This week on Phorest FM, Killian and Zoe are joined by Gavin Hoare, who many of you probably remember from his powerful talk at the Salon Owners Summit 2018. Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa’s salon Maître D’, Gavin is described as the ‘master of all salon managers“ with an “uncompromising aim remains to make every client’s visit an exceptional one.” This episode discusses staff empowerment and redefining how to meet and exceed customers’ expectations while also educating them, as any professional should.



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Killian Vigna: Welcome to the Phorest FM podcast, episode 71. I’m Killian Vigna.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And I’m Zoe Belisle-Springer. After delivering his Salon Owners Summit talk, “Act Like the Expert You Are,” last January, joining us for the third instalment of our 30 days to grow special interview series, is salon manager and Maître D’, Gavin Hoare. Today he’ll be sharing his tips for providing a client experience that’ll keep customers coming back time and time again.

Killian Vigna: So grab yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, relax, and join us weekly for all your salon’s business and marketing needs. Good morning, Zoe!

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Good morning, Killian. How are things?

Killian Vigna: I am good. So what are we now? We’ve just crossed off the halfway mark for #30Days2Grow, isn’t it?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: I know, it’s been amazing. I can’t believe we’re already halfway through it.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, week three. It’s gone so fast because like when you mention that it’s a month-long challenge, it sounds such a massive investment of time. But it’s only small little tasks every day. And again, the feedback has been brilliant. So I think last week’s challenges were focused around client experiences, so we had challenges that were just kind of small, simple challenges like sending messages out to thank loyal clients, encouraging your staff to offer a small service add-on free of charge. Just something small, now. Nothing too expensive or anything. Learning one new thing about your client that’s related to their treatment and their visit. Then we had the one that we love, and it was one from last year, the moment of magic. So what moment of magic are you offering your customer?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Now, in terms of that one, loads of people, there was one, as well, that you sent a personalized card to loyal clients. And that one, everyone just thought it was so great.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, it’s just so out of the ordinary. How many companies do you work with do something like that? When you go your shops or anything like that, do you get thank you messages? So yeah, and then the new one was the fresh-baked goods, to kinda pair up with someone in your local area. I thought it was really cool. So what have we got, then?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So today on Phorest FM, we wanted to continue on building up staff to becoming the best at providing client experience, of course. So without further ado, we have on the line with us the one and only Maître D’, Gavin Hoare. Hello, and welcome to the show.

Killian Vigna: Hi, Gavin.

Gavin Hoare: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Our pleasure.

Killian Vigna: So we had you at the Salon Owners Summit 2018, and you did a brilliant talk. And it was all about kind of being the expert that you are. So I suppose the whole focus is that you are an expert. People are coming to you for your professionalism and your services. Act like it, essentially. Wasn’t it?

Gavin Hoare: Indeed, I think that probably my greatest feeling about our industry is that our industry itself often doesn’t take itself as seriously as it should. And I think, really, times are changing. Clients are wanting more from what they get from a salon visit. So it’s time for our teams to start looking for other avenues how we can enhance the kind of experience while they’re with us.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, exactly. I mean like, the #30Days2Grow, it’s all around kind of, it kind of focuses on the back of that. Take yourself more seriously. You shouldn’t have to keep discounting your services. But at the same time, you can’t like increase your price without offering those client experiences that you need to back you up. So, Gavin, just as we jump into the show, for anyone that isn’t aware, do you wanna give a bit of a background about yourself. And especially, I’d say one thing people are dying to know is, what is a salon Maître D’?

Gavin Hoare: That’s probably one of the biggest questions I’m always asked. So I’ll start with giving, my name’s Gavin Hoare, I’m the manager of Richard Ward Metrospa. We’re based in the heart of London’s Chelsea. We’re currently in our 25th year of business. And I’ve been working close to Richard and Helen for the last 18 years. The first eight, I was on reception and eventually running reception. And then the last sort of few years, I’ve been basically acting as salon manager.

But that title really can kind of encompass the role that I do on a day-to-day. So, Helen kind of pinched the idea from restaurants and the like and gave me an industry first, I think, which is an in salon Maître D’. Cause I have so many roles that vary on a day-to-day basis. But ultimately, they always revolve around the smooth running of the salon. Looking after the staff and most importantly time to ensure that the clients have a consistency in the service offerings and the customer service experience they have while they’re with us.

Killian Vigna: I love the title cause like you said it comes from the restaurant industry. When you go to a nice restaurant, especially a restaurant that has a Maître D’, the higher ends ones, you notice that experience. You notice that service and the environment it’s just so much more, I don’t even know how to describe it but it’s just nice.

Gavin Hoare: I think it’s, it also comes… when we moved to our current location, that he have currently been in now for the last 12 years. Overnight we’ve literally doubled our salon size and usually for most London salons, our main reception area, front of the house, is located on the ground floor, where the rest of the salon, all the business side of the salon goes ahead on the first floor.

So I think that’s when Helen and Richard made that decision by that stage I was head receptionist. To bring me out from behind the desk and actually get me to kind of transfer that role into the center of salon life, into the center of the floor. For us, always the lynch pin of salon life has been our front of the house. Probably talk a bit about that later. But really it how can we bring the services that we’re offering on the desk and follow through with the consistency of the client care, while the client’s actually having their hair done or in the waiting area. And look after them while they’re in that big space. I think we’re always striving to create a small salon atmosphere that actually, when you visit us we’re like an airport hanger. So it’s a quite a hard job to maintain that kind of level of service when we’re doing, on a good week, upward of 1200 clients per week.

Killian Vigna: Wow-

Zoe Belisle-Springer: That’s a feat for sure. About your talk at the Summit, one of the big things that stuck to me was at some point you were talking about empowering staff and people to act like experts, obviously, to raise the bars in terms of customer service. And one thing that you said was that we had the power to change how customer service is delivered. I thought that was really brilliant. I was wondering if you could develop on this?

Gavin Hoare: I think I’m old enough, while I won’t tell you my age, but I’m old enough that I kind of grew up with those core service values. I grew up in a suburb of London, where he had a local high street. If our father wanted to go and buy, so you had butchers and bakers, a florist, a bit who knew you by name and you got that personalized one to one service. That kind of made you feel valued for your custom. And I think as I grew older and we kinda went through the 80s and 90s, that was lost a lot. We had that kind of sense where people get in their car and drive for 20 minutes to a big shopping precinct that was on the outskirts of town. And nameless people were employed that really didn’t feel invested in their role or in their job. And that kind of one-to-one customer service value was lost.

I just feel you’ll understand as I talk today I have a lot of personal beliefs, so forgive me. But I think as I get older, I think our industry has such an outreach and we’re unique in that we’hands-on on client facing. We do literally have the opportunity to change how customer service is delivered. Certainly within the UK. I think, one thing that I have to say is, offering good customer service costs our business nothing. Nothing to implement at all. Which is quite a rarity in this day and age when everything is snapping at your bank balance and wants the money of you.

And I think our businesses, our salons owners, our managers, our team, have to recognize that the customer service experience can never be a static one. Each delivery changes over time. Salons must always try and adapt to whatever change in client sensibilities there are. Or indeed different economic climates. And I think that’s the thing our industry we don’t have a set of rules. We don’t have a guide to guide us. It’s very much down to each individual. We have to work within our own kind of demographic, our own teams on how we deliver that customer service.

Killian Vigna: I couldn’t agree more, especially, when you were saying with the whole the towns are moving outside. Where I come from, there’s a town in Kildare and our town essentially just became a desert town because it had all these industrial estates built up and stuff like that outside, and like that you get a flood of, now I am going to say this cause I am my own person so I can say it, but a lot of young people are just going in and their like robots. What can you, as an actual manager, do to empower your staff then?

Gavin Hoare: Well, that’s kind of such an open ended question. We’re always trying to empower our staff. I think as a manager, I have to practice what I preach. I always try and lead by example. But, I think most importantly it’s really about making sure that our younger teams, all the people that coming up through the ranks, really understand the role that they play in salon life. You know, I’m firmly of the belief that competition is everywhere that you look. I no longer think it’s enough to be an amazing hairdresser, to do a great cut, color, or finish, or indeed a great therapist.

I kinda think that we have to be looking a bit more worldly wide. We have to be looking outside the box and thinking what else can we bring to this. I think it’s giving your team the empowerment to get professional. It’s time for our teams to start acting like the experts that we are. And talk the business of hair. Talk the business of beauty before we move on to anything else. You know, every time when they come through our doors, has a wishlist. And it’s really up to us to try and find out what that wishlist is and meet their expectation. But that varies with every person that comes through. It is very individual. And that’s what we need to take our time in trying to establish.

Killian Vigna: Just before we move on to the wishlist. I like what you’re saying there about the kind of young people coming through the ranks. They are hungry and they want to do more than just be the best stylist. To be the best therapist. They’re looking for someone to actually invest in them and give them that opportunity to do more. To be the overall.

Gavin Hoare: I agree to a point. But I think quite often, a lot of people that come in to our industry didn’t do too well at school. Most haven’t been to university, certainly in my own experience when I was at school, I didn’t really understand what I was doing there. That created they come from the creative background. And I think what so many of our hairdressers, especially the ones that practice being in the industry, for a few years, cause when you’re we’re talking about creating change when you say you’ve got #30Days2Grow, to grow, the hardest thing to change in an existing business, to bring in, is change.

Cause a lot of people are stuck in their ways. They think I’m doing a good job. Why do I need to do the change? And, I think they lose sight, as hairdressers we’ve trained for such a long time to master our skills. Our techniques. Grow on an ever expanding bank of product knowledge. Yet, time and time again, in businesses, I visit through consultation work or whatever. I see that this knowledge is not being shared with the client. Their not passing that down the line. They source that, they don’t, they forget the that authority and how long it’s taken them to get there.

I use this analogy a lot because I think it really kinda brings home my point. So forgive me for anyone that’s already heard it. A great example is, alright so when I go to my dentist, I’ve been seeing the same dentist for 12 years, I’m very loyal like most of us are. But every time I go to sit in his chair ever three months, and about five, six years ago, he recommended to me that I needed three different size brushes to clean in the gaps in between my teeth, to maintain a healthy mouth. Obviously, I can’t respond to because I’ve got two fists going down my throat. [crosstalk 00:13:02].

Ultimately, he is sharing his knowledge with me. He’s giving me educated, wedding form, professional advice. And because he’s a dentist, I accept that, I take that. So, when I finish the service with him, I go to his receptionist and I buy those three brushes. Because, he’s given me advice. He’s not done a hard sell on me. He’s not told me I must have this. He’s purely recommended for the well-being of my oral hygiene I should do this. So, I follow because of what I perceive as his professional attitude. Not only that but I also book my next appointment. Because he tells me that he needs to see me in three months. He’s specific and if I don’t book the appointment, I probably won’t get one.

So, from two fronts, he’s not doing a hard sell just purely acting as the professional he is. He’s got an extra sale on the brushes that I’m using to keep my oral hygiene. But he’s also ensuring he’s taking charge of promoting his business by getting me to book in again. And I think that’s the best analogy for our hairstylists, our therapists, for our colourists, and even our assistants. That’s why I always go back to the expression, to act like the expert that you are. It’s going back and just talk with that authority that you worked so long and hard to achieve. And I honestly believe that with that follows your retail sales, your loyalty of clients. And for me, that’s all part of the client experience.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, I was just about to say that is a perfect analogy that you were giving because we experience that and we see that in our day-to-day to do other professions we go to. But are we doing it ourselves?

Gavin Hoare: Not enough. And the thing is, I think you in a salon and after salon, you may have some people who do it, but for me it’s all about consistency. Because we have in our salon, we have 25 stylists, 14 colour technicians, and we have to have to offer the best service to our clients. We have a freedom to roam policy. So my clients can come in and see anyone that they want. I don’t really want to encourage them to be loyal to any one stylist. For obvious reasons. So if they see two, three stylists within salon the message has to remain consistent. It has to remain on point. And ultimately, we have to kind of create an ethos in the salon. So you have to get everyone on board with what you’re trying to achieve as a manager or as a business owner. And let them see the benefits to running their column on their takings and ultimately on salon profits.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So what exactly comes to mind to you when we mention client experience? Like from both a staff and a client point of view.

Gavin Hoare: God, you could keep here for days, talking. I will try and keep it narrowed down. It varies, it’s the honest truth. I mean. For instance, if you’re taking, for me, if it’s a new client that’s coming into the salon. The client experience starts at the very beginning. It starts with the website. You know, when we’ve done research into new business at Richard Ward, it’s telling us, our statistics tell us that 80 percent of new clients will go on the internet to do some research into our business before they even pick up the telephone. So your website really is the biggest window that you have to let them know what you’re all about.

And then really from them on it kinda comes down to the first point of contact to the last. Which is why I’m a great advocate for having someone on your front of the house, someone running reception, as a way it helps grow your business. And giving it some form of longevity. I put a lot of weight on their expertise in that particular area. And I believe if we get things right from the start then everything else starts to fall in place.

Today’s clients when they come in have a much greater expectation of what they want from the salon visit. They’re more well informed. They’re better educated and they really want to have to voice, feel valued and have their loyalty rewarded. So, there’s so much competition on our doorsteps if their not happy with the service that we’re giving and this can be something very minor, which is where the consistency comes in. They simply get on their feet and go elsewhere.

Killian Vigna: I’m gonna ask you another open-ended question because you seem to, we seem to love asking them and you’re doing good at answering them. I suppose what’s the first thing that you do when it comes to planning out your salon’s client experience? I’m wanting in particular is like how much do you get your staff involved, cause I know you already mentioned that you do have to respect the hierarchy, to seniority and how long staff members have been there. So, how much involvement do you give them in the initial planning stages?

Gavin Hoare: I mean. Ultimately, I think. Where possible, I always involve my staff. As I said earlier, the hardest thing to bring about in business is change. Whereas if you can get your staff on board. If you can get your staff to kinda understand what you’re trying to achieve and why you’re trying to achieve it, it’s gonna be a much easier right of passage. You know, obviously, we have thinking lists. I’m running a business. I want the most expense stylists in my business to be filled up before I want the list filled up. But ultimately, this is where I go back to the front of house. Whoever is answering your telephone, or it doesn’t matter if they’re 16, 17, or a qualified receptionist or whoever is your meeter and greeter has to be well informed about the members of staff that we have working for you and all the services that you have to offer.

For us, I know what’s key to our growth and longevity. Is my reception team managing to match make the right clients and the right stylists. For me that central so, obviously, a client phones up and you need to ask leading questions. What do they want from their visit today? How do they look after their hair between visits? Is it their first visit? Are they looking for something of a change? But all the time the receptionist has to be assessing the type of client that they’ve got on the phone. Are they nervous? Are they keen to get in? Are they gonna be short for time? Have they got to be out by 3:00 to come get the kids up from the school?

And all the time they are reassessing the staff that they match make the client to. Because if we can get that matchmaking done right in the very beginning, for me everything else grows from increase someone’s services, increase salon visits. From our retail sales, and ultimately, as manager, what I want to be happy about is an increase in turnover. That comes from getting the trust right from the very beginning. And getting your clients on board.

Killian Vigna: For when you’re looking for new innovative ways and trying to up the team, so you’re saying talking on the phone and actually being able to identify how the client sounds, what sort of mood and stuff their in. Do you look outside the salon industry for much inspiration here? Do you get your team as well to be more aware of services that they receive from everyone else?

Gavin Hoare: I think probably. We…. You know I talk and I talk with some, I presume, an air of authority and let me reassure you, we don’t get things right. We make mistakes every day, We make cacas. What I think it’s important is that you learn from that. I think the other big mistake, I know, we fall into and probably the vast majority of salons, we never, I kinda look at this as a goldfish bowl. I never step out of the Richard Ward goldfish bowl. Which is why when I’m doing education or some public speaking, it’s great for me to meet other people in the industry. And hear their ideas cause then I can bring, often those ideas back into the salon.

And that’s when so many things at Salon Summit is good cause it’s coming together of minds. We can have an exchange and think, “I’ll take that idea. That would work with me.” But I think the hardest thing is that we don’t step out. We don’t experience what other salons are doing, and the hardest thing, one of the most hardest things to evaluate, is also the most difficult to educate. Customer service means so many different things to different people. And my belief is that our industry is such a unique one, that I go back to where we need to tailor make our customer service experience, to meet individual needs, or the demographic of our client that is coming through the door.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, I mean like testing, like every company does it. How can you guess what people are going to receive unless you’ve tried it. You can spend days testing for the perfect recipe. But just testing, testing, testing, trying different options.

Gavin Hoare: Exactly. Sometimes you fall and you fail. Sometimes we’re bringing a package or we’re do something in the salon. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t work. You know, I think it’s giving something fresh to the client. Listening to the client’s voice. We’re quite up to surveying our clients and asking their opinion. So quite what happens certainly within the hair industry where people are going to do some consultation work and they’re thinking of introducing beauty. There’s no point of introducing beauty if next door to the salon is a beauty salon where everyone already visits.

But survey your clients. Ask them if they make use of this service. You know, we gonna kinda make it work for them. Ask the client what they want and ultimately try and give it to them.

Killian Vigna: So, that’s how you’re doing your measurement is essentially just ask them straight up.

Gavin Hoare: Totally. I mean there’s no real way for us to measure if customer service is working. The only, really for me, the only way I can ask on a day-to-day, we’re dealing with 1200 clients per week. So in the best win of the world, I don’t have time to go around every time. I don’t have time to sit and listen in on very consultation. I have to have faith that my team is following our company ethos to deliver. But also one of the simplest things, and again, this is really only happened recently is getting our reception team, or whoever is taking their money, to simply ask the client “How was your visit today? Is there anything we can do better next time?” Two simple statement, two questions, you’re giving your client a voice and your inviting direct feedback from them.

Killian Vigna: You’re also getting them there and then when the emotion is highest.

Gavin Hoare: 100 percent. And ultimately, you know, I teach my reception team to look for what I call that flicker of discontent. Their standing and if you see someone that’s a bit quiet or not really engaging with you, doesn’t want to make eye contact. That would be a flicker of discontent for me. And I wanna make sure that if the client is unhappy with any part of their visit, I want to know about it. I actively wanna invite negative feedback in. Because in good faith that then gives me the opportunity to make changes where necessary.

If I lose that client because no one asked the question, I may have lost that client for good. And that breaks my heart, you know. Cause it can be something from, something that their duty was talking over the head. Rather than about haircut, it could’ve been down to the shampoo or the section being dirty. Things that we can change. And for me all this client experience that comes down to the small detail. It’s about all the, some of the detail that makes up the whole experience.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Actually, on that back of that, like I love the way that you mention that you ask the question at the end but who should welcome clients at the beginning and what should be the first thing they do? Cause we all know that salons come in all shapes and sizes. So, some places don’t necessarily have a dedicated receptionist.

Gavin Hoare: I get that and you know, this is my Richard Ward bubble. I’m very lucky I have a great team. But ultimately, I don’t care who is meeting your clients, it can be anyone. But as long as they fully understand the importance of the role that they play. You know, as long as their greeting is warm and genuine. And as long as any information that they give or share is educated or informed. And if they don’t have that education, that’s fine. But they must settle the client in and get someone that does.

Killian Vigna: What about on a Saturday and we’ve all been there. Where you walked into a salon and just everyone is off their feet. But, there’s always that kind of feeling as a client where I walk in and I get no acknowledgement. Now I understand you’re busy, but I might be somebody that kinda might take heart and I have to kinda sit myself down. Is there anything in that situation that you could do? Like, if all you stylists or therapists are busy, maybe someone takes it upon themselves to turn around for like five seconds and I don’t know. Like what would you do in that situation?

Gavin Hoare: You know, it happens to us. I have eight receptionists. I have five working on any one day. But on my team, they’re dealing with up to 4000 calls a week. So quite often clients will come in, they’re on headsets booking appointments, they’re busy. And they can’t actually speak to a client but there’s ways you can communicate through body language. Making eye contact, a nod, a smile, a simple someone will be with you shortly, take a seat. And it sounds like it’s stating the obvious, but I’ve, one of my receptionist’s mother went into a local salon near to where I live and she literally – that happened. Four girls were doing blow drys on their clients, chatting away, and she sat waiting to be acknowledged for 20 minutes. To the point that she started to feel uncomfortable. Got up and left, never to return.

And ultimately, it’s just really people taking ownership. I don’t, you know, it’s really giving the autonomy to any member of your staff. Whether they be a first-year apprentice or the most senior member staff, that they have to take ownership of their part in the client journey. You know, someone comes in the door, that is stage one. And how we meet and greet them can leave a lasting impression. And I just think you have to give your team, the autonomy to deliver. It’s quite simple. But they have to know that they can do it.

Killian Vigna: That’s exactly the answer I’m looking for. Cause you said it sounds like common sense but the reason that we ask the question is because, there are times that I do walk in and you don’t receive any of that. All you’re looking for is a quick eye contact, a smile, even just a finger raise or something, I’ll be with you in a minute. Sometimes when they’re busy you don’t get that. And it just takes a couple of seconds. And you do feel uncomfortable sitting there.

Gavin Hoare: It’s so funny most of what I talk about is common sense. And it always astounds me that sometimes it’s like a big revelation. And what we’re trying to create is a consistent attitude of caring for the client, whoever they are, when their coming in the salon. Cause they may not be your client today, but they may be tomorrow. And it’s really, that’s why earlier on I said, it’s so important that as a business owner or manager, you can have ideas about how to make small changes in your business.

But unless you get the whole team involved. Unless the team really understand the roles that they play and that their role is more than just doing a great haircut or a great manicure or a great facial, or great set of highlights, then you’re almost fighting a losing battle. You kind of have to make sure that everyone understands the role that they play. And in that role, they are experts at that role.

Killian Vigna: On top of that then, as far as, for individual stylists and therapists but also on a whole front at the salon. Is there anything – fopr who finds themselves in that situation… Is there, if you can nail it down to three small things, is there any anything that a salon owner could implement now to try and improve that overall client experience, especially if that is one of their biggest issues?

Gavin Hoare: Well, sorry to sound like repeating myself, but I tend to. Number one is talk to your team and get them on board. You know, they’re gonna be essential to creating change. As I said earlier, I think one of the hardest things is often with established stylists that are very busy. In their heads they are like why do I need to change? Why do I need to talk about product? Why do I have to tell my clients when I need to see them back in the chair? And with those ones, I call them my breeders of discontent. There the ones to the owner or manager, they’ll be “I love those ideas” but then sit in the staff room and back chat you or undermine your decisions. Get those people involved. Ask their opinion. Cause it is very difficult for those breeders of discontent to go back on their word if something’s been their suggestion.

But they kind of get the whole team on board and it is difficult. You know, we employ people age 16 and our oldest member of the team is 85, Jean who works in our coat room. So you have to make it understandable whether you are a 16 year old, whose customer service experience is going into a chicken shop or your takeaway. To someone whose 85, who grew up in times when a man would hold a car door open for a lady. You have to make it appeal to them and understandable so they kind of understand what you’re trying to achieve.

Number two would be to trace the client journey from the first point of contact to the last. And always bear in mind that it’s the small details that can make such a positive change on the experience your client has when they’re with you. And whether that’s someone acknowledging on the door when someone walks in. You know, ever salon has its natural service giver. Whether, their a junior – has a warmth and kind of just comes out from the client. Appoint someone on a busy Saturday that you’re the meeter and greeter. You know, so that someone has a role but they understand why their trying to do it. But they’ve got to understand that the small details on that whole client journey can make up some of the experience.

And then thirdly, the most important one would be, whatever the role within the salon. So whether you’re the receptionist, junior, therapist, colorist, stylist, it’s taught the business of hair and beauty first and foremost. Our teams need to get professional. And then need to start acting like the experts that they truly are.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: On the back of that. What are your thoughts on mystery shoppers?

Gavin Hoare: Well the team hate this, but I love, love, love mystery shoppers. They’re my secret weapon. You know, it’s my job as Maître D’ is to be on the salon floor and try and make sure there’s a consistency in the service that we offer. We don’t always get it right. It’s not delivered all the time. Our team come in. They have good days, bad days. I try and fill the middle ground when that’s not happening. Or address it if I see something happening. But you know, if you’ve got someone. We’re very open at Richard Ward; we keep all our figures up in our staff room. We can tell, where people are doing with their retail. With their services. It acts as a good comparison and a benchmark for other people to follow. But it also starts to tell me a story.

So for instance, if I’ve got someone that’s not retailing on a regular basis or they’re not hitting, they’re not hitting the mark, its telling me that ultimately that when their doing their client consultation initially, they’re not talking about home care. They’re not making recommendations. Going back to my dentist analogy, about salon professional products that are going to be a benefit to them. I don’t ever want my team to do a hard sell, that would kill me. But want I do want them to do is just talk the business of hair first and foremost. And I honestly believe that those retail figures and things will follow, everything else follows. And I know the ones that do it cause their the ones that are busting targets. They’re the ones that are hitting targets week in and week out.

Mystery shoppers, for those people who aren’t performing are essential for a business in my opinion. Because they really can, they give you a background into what you’re doing right, what team members are doing right or wrong. Or maybe its something in the chair. Maybe it’s about consultation. But we’re getting scores from everything, from the reception, from the shampoo. When a shampoo was suggested, did the apprentice explain why they were using that shampoo and how they used it. And the benefits to you as a client. Again it’s going back to the little details.

That mystery shoppers are essential for us to maintain a certain standard. And also then if I have a member of staff that I’m concerned about, to have something in black and white, That someone whose unbiased, has actually written. And it’s not one, if we’ve got a problem, I’ll probably send in two, three, four, mystery shoppers. That will be able to tell me a story about that stylist. And hopefully we can then instigate change and we can work together. It’s never about getting rid of someone. But it’s about letting them know that you’re not living up to the ethos of the company.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, that is, that’s one thing that you actually mentioned in your talk about the Salon Summit, is whether one staff member is under performing or one is over performing. It’s not necessarily a negative because you should get the two of them to essentially shadow each other and bring that balance again, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing that you under performing this week because you’re gonna be mentored by someone who is doing it right and doing it well. And that feedback comes from mystery shopping as well.

Gavin Hoare: Indeed, I think it’s always [inaudible 00:34:33] my role is always about keeping my eye on the goal. You know, you can never sit back as an owner or manager and think that I’ve told them that now and they’ve got it. It’s always about, Helen would call it, spinning plates. So we’re going around and we’re spinning plates. One plate will drop and you’ll spinning two others and you go back to the one that’s dropped and you start again.

You know, our wonderful industry is an industry made up of individuals. That’s what makes it so special and that’s what we’re all doing here in it. That’s what we love. It would kill me to do an office job Monday to Friday, nine to five. But part of that is knowing that that comes with a plethora of outside influences and people have good days and bad days. And it’s really just trying to make sure that we can offer a consistency as much as possible in the customer service experience that we offer.

Killian Vigna: So, just one question I wanted to jump in there and just before we finish it off and I kind of realized this is probably poor placement because it is more of a negative and should’ve done that to start the show. But, sometimes you do get unhappy clients. Sometimes to get someone who is irate and that might not necessarily be something that’s happened in the salon. It could be a mood or an attitude they had before coming into the salon. Or maybe it was because of what happened in the salon. But do you actually have a process in place with your staff members with dealing with unhappy or irate customers. Cause it does happen.

Gavin Hoare: That’s another big open-ended question. You know, because every day is different. I would like to think I’m here to dive if there’s an issue with a client. You know, quite often I want my stylists, my therapists to be looking after the client they’re with. I want my receptionist to be booking new clients or taking phone calls. Juniors, in my opinion, aren’t qualified to deal with such a thing. You know, stuff happens. I think cause I’ve got older, you learn from experience. You learn how to read different situations. But another key thing Helen said to me when she made me manager was always remember the expression, “Do you wanna be right or do you wanna be happy?” And I think you’ve got a client that’s irate, quite often, it might be about your salon or as you say an outside influence, you feel that you wanna step in and fill the anger with your own voice or justify what’s happened.

When quite often all the client will want to do is rant and let off steam and get it off their chest. So, I’ve learned really, probably one of the biggest things I’ve learned is to be quiet and just let the client talk first. I probably, three things. I stop, I listen, and I assess. Assessing always [inaudible 00:37:12]. What ways it is gonna go. I’m looking if it’s something that’s happened in the salon. I’m making a judgment on the finished look of the hair. Or what the client say to me. But I’m always trying to keep control of that situation. I think as I’ve dealt with clients over the years, the minute the client sees that you’re not in control, or you’re not sure of the direction to go in, they almost, it gives them an energy and a power that then they can take control. So I always try and keep control of the situation. Most often you have to think on your feet.

But if it’s something that’s happened within the salon, you kinda have to know 99 percent of the stuff can be sorted. And all the client really wants is someone to take ownership. Someone to say “I’m really sorry, we got it wrong. But this is what we can do to sort it out.” And being reassured that this is an issue that we can deal with. Obviously, things do happen. If hair is cut too short or whatever. But as long as the client feels that they have a voice. As long as they feel that someone is looking after their needs, generally, you can diffuse any situation.

Killian Vigna: I really like that point that you’re saying that Helen mentioned and I think that it should be repeated, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”

Gavin Hoare: Most hairdressers in my period always want to be right. So something’s gone wrong with the colour, the coluorists will tell me that, that client was, was a mad woman. She, I knew she was a problem at the start. No, let’s sit back and let’s address, did you follow the complete policy on consultation. Did you set boundaries? Did you manage expectations? If they can say yes to all of that, then I’ll have their back. But if they haven’t, they’ve let me down on one of those areas, I will generally have to side with the client. Because then we haven’t lived up or tried to exceed the expectation of what the client experience or client visit can be.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: All and all from what I’m getting out of this, is that if there’s one thing you should remember, is that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So, essentially make sure that every single touch point within the salon, it needs to be on point.

Gavin Hoare: The thing is, all you can do is try. You know, I’ve, with the best will in the world, it doesn’t happen every day at Richard Ward. But that’s my aim. And if it doesn’t happen for any reason, then I have to address it and I have to make an amends to our client. Ultimately, all I want to do is keep that client’s business in our salon. Keep it in house. You know, a client would go out, a good experience, they tell about three or four people, a bad experience it happens to up to 15 to 20 people. When we’re a business that survives on word of mouth and reputation, I don’t want 15, 20 people hearing about that negative experience.

I want them to hear, they caulked up, they made a mistake. But listen to how they dealt with it. It was dealt within a professional manner. It was dealt with a level of expertise. And they’ve got me back on track. And so, yeah, I’ll hold my hands up when we don’t get it right and I’ll own it. But ultimately, we’re always striving to offer consistency. And when the team is behind you, then my job’s a little bit easier.

Killian Vigna: Well look life is a learning curve, and you’re always gonna have your ups and downs. But don’t be, don’t focus on the negatives. Don’t focus on the downs. Try and find a positive out of it. And like your saying, if something goes wrong, take ownership. How did you deal with it? Move on from there.

Gavin Hoare: That’s exactly it, you know, in a nut shell, so you can just save you that whole paragraph and that one statement.

Killian Vigna: I’ll cut that bit out. Don’t worry I’ll give you the credit. Well, listen, Gavin, its been absolutely fantastic having you on the show today. And I especially like the fact that I know when we introduced you as the salon Maître D’, people probably think, “Oh, he has a massive salon that he’s running. I’m only a small salon.” But you’ve managed to do it in a way that it covers everyone. It covers all shapes and sizes of salons. From two staff to 15 staff. From 30 bookings days a day to what, 5000 calls, did you say? 1200 clients.

Gavin Hoare: 4000, let’s not overdo it. My team would have a heart attack. They’re busy enough, let’s just say that.

Killian Vigna: But you’ve managed to get all areas of that into that today, that’s been brilliant. Fair play.

Gavin Hoare: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Killian Vigna: So that was Gavin Hoare with loads of great tips and advice for client experience. And like he said, he says that a lot of them are kind of like common sense. But there was definitely a few tips in there that you’ve never thought of. A few simple tips as well. So, definitely worth adding to your arsenal for the #30Days2Grow campaign.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Even more than just the#30Days2Grow campaign, to be honest. It’s something that has to, like he said at the beginning, we have the power to change how customer service is being delivered. And I think after this episode, I think you cannot, not agree with him, you know?

Killian Vigna: 100 percent. And I especially loved the whole thing of “Be the expert you are.” Again it comes back, we’ve mentioned it at the start of the show. We mentioned it a few times throughout the show actually, but it’s like you are the paid professional and people are coming to you for advice. They expect you to give that advice. Like his dentist. His dentist example at the start. He couldn’t be any more relatable.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Actually the fact that you’re reminding me of this, at the Summit, he had listed 7 universal needs that we need tfulfilll for clients. The first one was like the person has to feel welcome, needs to be listened and understood, being served by an expert, having multiple solutions to their needs, indulging themselves, being reassured on purchase decisions, and being shown out and getting a nice follow up. And that’s literally the key as well. The follow up is so important.

So that’s it for us today. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Next week we’re having a special guest who’s a repeat guest on this show, David Barnett. So, make sure you tune in next Monday. In the meantime, if you have any feedback, feel free to leave us a review on iTunes or on Stitcher. We’re always looking for suggestions on how to improve the show. Otherwise, have a wonderful week and we’ll catch you next Monday.

Killian Vigna: All the best.

Thanks for reading!


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