If you’ve spent any time online in the past several years, you know that the internet is a vast space where you can learn everything about anything you can imagine. You probably also know that while there is a lot of interesting, hilarious, and heartwarming stuff on the web, that there is also a darker side to all this information and this “stuff” being available, and that anyone with a computer and an opinion can potentially make their voice heard.
One of the mantras for anyone who reads news, magazines, blogs, anything online is “Do not read the comments.” In fact, since news outlets and online magazines, blogs and other sources of information have started allowing comments in order to encourage dialogue and discussion among readers and visitors to their sites, the “do not read the comments” rule has been in play. So many times an innocent, innocuous story about a panda or an ice cream shop or what have you can turn into a cesspool of ignorance and outrage. Long story short? People love to complain, to find fault. And given the anonymity of the web, it’s easier than ever to do so.
So while the whole “do not read the comments” guideline is a good one for the general public, for the individual who reads the news or gets their information online, it is not one that a business owner can follow. When you own a business or run an organization, reading the comments or not isn’t an option – it’s truly a necessity. In order to improve, in order to ensure standards and expectations are being met, we are required to read them. And, not only to read them, but also to respond to them. And if necessary, to address them, with an offer to make a bad situation right.
Willow Salon has been around for just over ten years, and we are not naive or new enough to think that a complaint or two won’t come our way. A negative review on social media, a phone call to the front desk about an issue, an emailed complaint…it happens! Owning it is part of who we are. There is always room for improvement, and if a client isn’t completely happy with a service or another detail surrounding their experience at Willow, we definitely want to hear about it, and we will always follow up to try to make it right. That is who we are and what we are all about.
Last week, a local paper ran an article by one of their staff who had a terrible experience at a unnamed salon. You may have read it. If you had, you might have been horrified to read the writer’s story about just how awful the appointment was, how badly the writer was treated, how flabbergasted she was that anyone could deliver such poor service. You might have agreed with the writer that yes, customer service is going the way of the dinosaur, and isn’t that a sad state of affairs. You might also be horrified to know that the salon she was writing about was Willow.
The incident happened back in July, a complaint was emailed to Kim, who responded with an apology and an offer to make it right. The complainant did not respond to the email or to the offer, choosing instead to publish an article about her horrible experience, and linking it to the larger issue that is the demise of decent customer service in the world today.
Were we disappointed to read the article? Absolutely. Our whole goal at Willow is to provide the best possible service we can, and to learn that we dropped the ball is devastating. But what we can do is learn from this, and we have. Willow is taking this opportunity to be more transparent with the expectations we have for customer service from our team, and to ensure that our entire team is on board with this vision.
But, even with all the training, retraining, transparency of expectations, guidance from senior stylists and more, the reality is that customer and public service can never be perfect. We can get as close as humanly possible, but note that “humanly” is the important word, here. We are all human, and we all mess up. Apologizing and offering to make the situation right is really our only option at times like this, but unfortunately in this situation we weren’t allowed the opportunity to try to make things better. And that, to us, is the most disappointing part.
And here’s why: the writer omitted some details surrounding the appointment, and some statements weren’t entirely true, were perhaps even embellished for effect. And of course she is well within her rights to write such a story, to criticize, to complain, but to do so in a forum that doesn’t allow us to respond is unfair. Particularly when an effort was made to make the situation right, to reschedule the service, to offer a second chance.
Do we think impeccable customer service is on its way out? Absolutely not. What might be on its way out is a reasonable level of expectation, based on online and other reviews. We’ve all been there. Friends and family rave about a new restaurant, you read dozens of great reviews, then you go and you’re…disappointed. Or are you? Is it the influence of the reviews that make you think “meh” or was it actually a disappointing experience? Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two when something is really built up for you. The opposite holds true as well, of course. Again, perception and expectation – these are everything. Your fantastic service might be someone else’s mediocre service, and vice versa. Perception, timing, and in the end of course, the fallibility of human beings, all contribute to the experience and how you perceive that experience.
Were mistakes made? Definitely. Were they as dire as the writer made them out to be? Well, that isn’t for us to say, as we explained, it’s all about personal perception. Is there room for improvement? Always. And, most importantly, did we own it? Are we owning up to it? You better believe we are, and we always will. No negative review, angry online comment, or threat of social media bullying will ever change that. We will always continue to learn – from our clients, from each other, and from our mistakes. So much opportunity for growth can come out of a negative situation, and in the end we all benefit.
Finally, our offer to the writer of the article still stands, just as it would for any of our clients. We will always welcome the opportunity to make it right, and we are committed to ensuring everyone has the best Willow Salon experience possible.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Enjoy the rest of your week, and see you back here on Friday.