Lately, it seems like everywhere I go is staffed with incompetent, lazy people that just do not care about customer service or satisfaction. Yesterday, I had to run several errands. I came home aggravated, with a massive headache.

Every place I visited was staffed with terrible employees. Apathetic, lazy, inconsiderate, disrespectful, and rude. Somehow, these employees also carried with them an air of entitlement and superiority, as if they were better than the customers they are paid to service and the job they have chosen to perform. I was disgusted at how the employees at these businesses treated myself and the other customers as if they were trespassing or intruding. The customers were seen as an inconvenience.

I could go on about how our generation’s preference of virtual communication over physical communication has impacted our ability to humanely interface with one another in person, but I’m not writing this to explain why people are socially crippled. I’m here to say that it’s unacceptable in every business, especially service businesses.

Poor customer service will bring down a salon faster than any other type of establishment.

Rude doctors will retain patients if their skill level is superior. Stores staffed with nasty, incompetent cashiers will remain in business if their prices are reasonable and if they carry unique items. Unlike those businesses, in the beauty industry it does not matter how great or affordable your services are. If you have a terrible employees, you will go under. Period.

Customer service trumps skill level. You can have a salon full of technicians who don’t know their nail file from their cuticle nippers and still do a banging business if they have excellent attitudes. I doubt it’ll hold your business afloat forever, but it will certainly do so longer than if they had terrible attitudes.

When I first started in this business, I was fifteen years old. I was attending high school for half a day and cosmetology school during the other half. When I graduated and received my license, I began accepting clients.

I was terrible. Truly terrible. It took me four hours to do a full set of sculpted acrylics. They were thick as bricks and often ended up popping off within a day or two. My clients usually left with bloody cuticles from a multitude of file cuts and don’t even get me started on the e-file injuries I caused these poor women. Yet, my clients were fiercely loyal and several of them even drive two hours to get their services with me now that I’ve relocated to Tampa. Those clients stuck with me for over a decade now. They followed me wherever I went, sent my children Christmas gifts, and referred everyone they knew to me.

Why? I hurt them. I did a terrible job. I was slow as hell. So why did they stay and sing my praises?

…because I’m friendly, professional, and provide a level of customer service that was completely unheard of in my area. I gave discounts during my learning period, expressed remorse when I made mistakes, thanked them profusely for being patient with me while I learned, and focused on them alone during their appointments. When I needed help, I asked for it from my coworkers. I booked ample time for each service and never ran behind.

I have always been obsessed with sanitation and they appreciated that. I loved sharing what I learned with them, and they enjoyed being educated during their appointments. If they had concerns about their nails or feet, the first thing I would do when I got home was Google their symptoms, educate myself, and forward them the information. I would call to check up on them a few days after their services.

Two years ago, before I moved to Tampa, I used Blurb to create a hardcover portfolio (you should do it, I’m about to make another). I included pictures of my early work to show how much it has evolved over the years. While fingering through it during her pedicure, one of my favorite clients, Jan, said to me, “You have come such a long way and I am so proud of you.”

I asked her, “Why did you stick with me? You must be a glutton for punishment! I cut you half a hundred times, you were in twice a week for a new set because they all fell off, and I took half a day to put those new sets on.”

She smiled and said to me, “I came to you again and again because you’re a great person. You’re tenacious and passionate about what you do. You’re a pleasure to be around and good customer service is incredibly hard to find. I knew that over time your skills would evolve but that your great attitude wouldn’t change. When it came down to it, I would rather spend four hours with a pleasant person than spend one hour with an unfriendly tech that treats me like I’m on an assembly line. I always leave your desk with a smile and your acrylics were never as terrible as you believed. You have always been too hard on yourself. I like that too because that shows that you care and you want to be the best. You just have an excellent attitude and that’s very infectious.”

As the rest of the month progressed and as my clients saw pictures of their hands throughout the years, I asked the same question and got the same answer. (Except from my hilarious client Martha, who, at 82 years old, insists she doesn’t care about me or nails at all. “Like all seniors,” she said, “I can’t resist free coffee and donuts.”)

Attitude really is everything. To this day, I bend over backwards for my clients. Those with medical disorders that come to me for plantar fasciitis treatment or arthritis pain relief get follow up calls within three days. I’m always prompt. I’m always looking for new techniques and creating new services to fill their needs.

I still love my job. My full book and the sheer volume of glowing reviews and client referrals reflect that.

I firmly believe that there is no excuse to give less than 100%, regardless of what your job title is or what your duties entail. There’s no excuse for rudeness or apathy in any industry, especially ours.

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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.