Grace Duerre owns an eight-station hair-styling salon and manicure salon. She's been in business for seven years, but recently she was struggling with scheduling and staffing problems.
"I have four commissioned cosmetologists and two independents who lease stations from me. After our receptionist went back to college, we really had problems. You see, everybody has different preferences for the time it takes to perform a service for a client. Some people like to have 45 minutes to do a cut and style and a full two hours for a colour. Other people need more time, some need less.
"What was happening was that when the phone would ring, everyone would wait for someone else to answer it so they wouldn't have to excuse themselves from their clients. If you want to make someone mad, leave her during her cut three or four times to answer the phone!
"Anyway, whoever answered the phone would schedule appointments for other stylists according to their own preferences. Unfortunately, that really didn’t work for us. The stylists were unhappy because their scheduled appointments gave them too much or too little time between customers. The clients were dissatisfied because the stylists were either on the phone or the stylists were obviously rushing to fit in their next appointment.
"You see, part of the appeal of coming to a salon like ours is that you can just let someone else do all the rushing, all the worrying—so you can just relax and enjoy the experience. Obviously, the largest portion of our clients are women. They have so little 'down time' as it is, they just want to be the center of attention once in a while.
"A salon depends on service. When the stylists are not paying attention to the customer and are worrying only about themselves, their schedule, the phone, and the next appointment, we don't make people happy."
Grace had two problems. She needed to improve customer service in her salon by improving the scheduling for each stylist. She also needed to cover the long hours her salon was open (10 am to 9 pm, Monday through Saturday) without adding significantly to her budget and overhead. Without doing something, she would have to hire one full-time receptionist and one part-timer to cover the evenings and weekends.
In order to overcome the shortage without adding additional staff, Grace rolled all incoming calls to our team. She helped us to develop a scheduling grid for each stylist in her salon, ensuring that every professional's preferences were met for every service. Within the week, the calls were handled by a professional agent, every time.
"I would never have believed that this decision would have meant so much," she says. "I think maybe you get a little 'numb' to the stress associated with being understaffed. It was only after our calls rolled over that I was really struck by the peace in the salon. Even our customers mentioned it. One went so far as to tell us how unhappy she had been the last time she'd been in.
What a difference a few days makes!"