This lesson is one I learned by watching the owner of the shop, and doing the opposite of what he did. Customer service will make or break your business. I can’t say that enough. I’ve watched fantastic ideas and businesses fail because of poor customer service and ego.
Let’s look at a few examples of the good, and the bad when it comes to customer service.
Being so excited about my apprenticeship that I told everyone that would listen about it. I was proud of what I was learning and the opportunity that was given to me. I would hear one of two responses to my news.
I would hear, “That’s great man, good luck. I’ll come check out the shop.” from folks who had never been inside the studio.
Often hearing, “Isn’t that the shop with the big, mean guy with the beard? He’s mean.” from folks who had visited the shop.
You see, the owner had a bad reputation around town. Not for doing bad tattoos, but because he was mean to people when they would call the shop. For example, he was tired of answering questions about tattoos from potential customers.
If you called and tried to ask how much a tattoo would cost. You would get a random snarky answer. “How much would it cost to get my kids names tattooed on my arm?” would be a common question. My boss would literally answer, “about this much.” when you asked.
Instead of taking time to find out more about the tattoo and educating potential customers on the process and price structure for a tattoo, he would give you a condescending answer. This made the caller feel embarrassed for having a question, and it would guarantee that the customer would never call back or set foot in our shop. I can’t blame them either.
Knowing his personal brand was a problem when I would schedule appointments for my clients, they would specifically request time slots that landed when the boss wouldn’t be in the shop. I was building an impressive client list, but they only wanted to come down when the boss was gone.
The owner of the shop was OK with his reputation because he was one of two tattoo studios. He knew that if he charged just a little less than the other shop, he would still get business even with a poor attitude.
What worked in the past was still working, barely.
I made it my mission to change the reputation of the shop. I would rush to answer the phone when it rang so I could engage with potential clients myself. I was happy to spend some extra time educating customers on the pricing structure most tattoo shops used. I would share with them what my personal checklist was for picking a tattoo artist. I would educate callers on health and safety first, before we ever discussed the tattoo they wanted.
Our shop was regularly checked by an independent testing lab. Our sterilizers would get tested monthly. I would share that with callers and tell them regardless of who does their next tattoo, they should ask the shop if they can see their latest test results.
I would explain the difference between tattoo flash you see on the walls in tattoo studios vs custom designs. I wanted them to know about the tattoo process if this was their first time. I would wrap up the call with an invitation to come down and have a free consultation.
I was comfortable doing this because it saved me time in the future if the client picked our shop for their next tattoo. The clients were better educated and appreciated the efforts we took to keep a clean and sterile shop. When it came time to discuss pricing, they understood where the cost was calculated and why.
As a business owner, you need to respect your customers. You need to show you how much you value and appreciate them. A happy customer will tell their friends about their experience, and an upset customer will tell their friends all about their experience and you’ll never hear from their friends.
Educate your customers on what makes your business unique. Share with them the why behind your business. If they feel like they have a personal connection to your business, they’ll be your best advocates.