On a daily basis, we strive in our businesses and in our salons to ensure we are anticipating, meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations – well we certainly should be! But how exactly do we know that what we are doing is really what our customers want? Clearly, if you are running a successful business, it is reasonable
to assume that your business model is working. If on the other hand you only take time to question or scrutinise your business model when things are not going according to plan, this could prove to be fatal. The reality is that if you wait until it’s to this point, you may very well have left it too late.
In the UK, the vast majority of tanning salons are single-site operations. The owners may have worked in a salon before setting up their own business, but a lot of them have little to no former practical experience in running an indoor tanning business. They enter the market because they have a passion for tanning and enjoy the prospect of earning a living doing something they love. Of course, there are equally as many who have plenty of retail business experience and see the many advantages of running a successful tanning salon.
Once they have set up shop, there’s actually very little opportunity to network with other operators, and if they are not part of a larger chain, operators can often feel isolated when it comes to making business decisions. Quite honestly, this is where great relationships can be forged between product suppliers and salon operators, filling a void and making a difference by advising on trends, sharing industry “gossip,” and even offering advice when it comes to expansion of their salon operation.
There’s no doubt that in a people-centric service business, it is essential for customers to feel welcomed every time they visit the salon and confident that you understand what they want and how to achieve it. I recently spoke to a man who had just opened his first salon, located in an area that already had a number of tanning facilities, but he very confidently claimed, “They are just not in my league.”
Incredibly proud of the whole offering at his salon, from the immaculately clean and well-planned layout, to the excellent tanning equipment and lotions on offer, complete with a fully-trained staff. Within a month of opening, his salon was targeted for inspection by the local authority to ensure everything was in order. Although quietly confident he would pass the inspection, he was still nervous and a little anxious. On the day of inspection, all the boxes were ticked and he passed with glowing colours. However, the one element that he was proudest of and that meant the most to him was the fact that during the inspection, two customers, completely unprovoked, told the inspector what a fabulous salon they thought it was, how special they felt when they came in as the staff called them by their names, and how they wouldn’t go anywhere else in town.
Whilst it was the nuts and bolts side of the business that the inspector was checking, it is fair to say that even if you have all these elements in place, it is often the complete customer experience that will ensure their retention and accrual of other new business via “word of mouth.”
I am delighted to say that after only nine months in operation, this particular customer (and of course, I do know his name!) is already planning his next salon opening.
In the tanning industry since 1982, Gary is Managing Director of the UK subsidiary of Ergoline, and runs Ergoline Plus, the exclusive distributor for a wide range of sunless products and spray systems. He is also Chairman of the Media Committee for the UK’s Sunbed Association & a European Sunlight Association member.
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