I went to get my hair cut yesterday.
I normally go to a moderately upscale place that has staff who have mustered the art of cutting my slightly unruly hair short enough to look neat but not so short that I look like an elderly member of the mafia.
When I got there, half the staff were clustered round the reception desk staring at computer screens. It was clear that something was wrong, very wrong.
Their booking management system had crashed.
This had a whole range of implications. Not only did they not know who was booked to come in, the individual stylists who are mostly subcontractors rather than employees, didn’t know what work they had, or who they were having as customers.
But they covered it beautifully.
They asked me for my name, offered me a coffee, found me a stylist – rather than one of the two people who regularly cut my hair it was someone else – they’d resorted to a round robin system rather than trying to reinvent the booking schedule.
Ok, there was a bit more sitting about waiting than normal, and a bit of complete confusion at the start of the job, with someone mistaking me for another client, but they found me a gofer to shampoo my hair, and someone to cut it, the boss came round to apologise for the chaos and make sure I was happy, and I ended up with a good haircut.
And for those of us who just go and get our hair cut there was an insight into the backend of the business. Emma, the girl cutting my hair, broke off in the middle for a fast conversation with a colleague:
“No, it’s in my book, 10,12, 8”
“yep, just be sure to drag it through”
Obviously, someone else was colouring one of Emma’s regular’s hair and needed to check the details to get the same effect.
The reason why I was so struck by this experience was the way they handled what must have been a really bad day:
⇒ Keep cheerful
⇒ Tell the customers you’ve had a problem and that you’ve got a workaround
⇒ Involve them in the problem, and check they’re happy
⇒ Give the customers decent service
Sure, it probably cost them a few extra complimentary coffees, but they probably didn’t lose any customers as result of their little problem.