I got a haircut yesterday. It cost me $35, plus tip – a price that, until recently, I would have never paid. But this time I paid it. And the next time I need a fresh trim, I’ll pay it again.
Don’t worry, you read the headline right. This IS a story about the value of the business experience. I’m getting there. But the result is no fun without the journey, so be patient.
I was running about 30 minutes late for a 6:45 appointment – the last appointment of the day – and I all but gave up on getting a haircut. I finally called to reschedule, but my hair stylist (who has asked to remain anonymous) said she would keep the shop open for me if I was close by. So I made it in time for my haircut, which took about 25 minutes and ran us right up against 8 o’clock. And while I was getting that haircut, we talked about recent developments in our lives, summer plans, our favorite kinds of beer. I even had a beer while she was cutting my hair (Apparently hair salons have a large beverage selection in their back rooms. I now know why sales people always tell me they’re going to grab something from the back).
When we were done I paid my $35 plus tip and started to walk home; about a four-block walk. But it was late and my hair stylist offered me a ride home, which, after a long day, I accepted. That night I thought about everything she had done to accommodate me, and why I was fine with paying a price I would not normally have paid. And I realized that I had just experienced everything we try to apply to our customer relationships every day.
Keeping the shop open for me: Customer-first focus.
Conversation during my haircut: taking an interest in your customers’ business and life.
Beer: Customer bonus.
Ride Home: Doing things outside of the scope of your job to ensure the customer is happy.
BOOM. It hit me like the Stella I knocked down during my haircut. I had just bought into a brand. If someone else had tried to charge me $35 for a haircut, I’d still be sporting a messy mop on my head. But I had just gotten an entire experience, and I paid a premium for it. And the experience was so good that already decided to pay that premium again.
Yes, the haircut was excellent. But I know I could have gone to several other places and gotten a decent haircut for a significantly lower price. And the people at this salon know that too, which is why they’re selling an entire experience along with their service. Directly or indirectly, we’re all selling something. And countless others are selling the exact same thing. So how do you position yourself above the noise? You start with the right premise and package together an entire experience – a little personality or extra service with your product – and sell something that people can’t find anywhere else. You tie a sales incentive to your product.
Transactions of today are much different than they were 20 or even 10 years ago. Fewer people are interested in buying just a product, and more people are interested in buying into a partnership; into finding someone they can trust and who they feel comfortable doing business with. This trend is especially prevalent in the world of technology, where businesses buying a solution also want character and values and brands. And they want those things so badly that they’re willing to pay more for them. At least I am. It’s something to think about each time you talk to a customer, and each time you are the customer.