CONFESSION #1: I have cut my own hair for the last ten years.
CONFESSION #2: In 2000, I spent $15 on a hair trimmer kit at WalMart.
CONFESSION #3: If fashion sense was worth a million bucks I would be in a great amount of debt.
And so begins my tale. I travelled to three different hair joints. I call them joints because I don't like admitting that I visited a salon and none of the places I visited are traditional barbers. So here are three joints that vary widely in the quality and level of service offered and the lessons I learned as a result.
Joint #1 - At Home
In a tiny bathroom in a sleepy little village named Broad Ripple the first hairs were cut with a new hair trimming kit from WalMart. A decade of solace had begun.
My hair was as easy as a hair cut could get, aside from just trimming it with a single cut length. I used a size 6 for the top and a size 3 for the sides. Then I trimmed the edges.
Time: about 15-30 minutes
Price: For all purposes - $0 per hair cut. I could factor in the $15 trimmers and divide by use but seriously? That' ridiculous.
Quality: Just ok. The tops and sides were fine but I was never satisfied with the back.
Service: Attention to detail was never an issue but the conversation was often very boring and trivial.
OverallExperienceMeter: 6 out of 10. The cost was right but the outcome was never great.
Joint #2 - Great Clips
This was my "dipping-the-toe" into paid hair cuts. I set no expectations, other than a decent outcome. My stylist's name was Ebony, a very nice woman who made me feel welcome. We tried carrying conversation but I can only talk so much about the Kardashians and Jerseylicious (and that's very little). Not really my bag.
Time: 10 minutes (including wait)
Price: $18 = $13 cut + $5 tip
Quality: Good. Ebony cut my hair just like I asked and fixed the problem area I always had trouble with.
Service: Not bad. Just a normal hair cut. She threw on some talcum power without asking and then I smelled like that for the rest of the day. There was also very little cleanup so I had hair bits everywhere.
OverallExperienceMeeter: 5 out of 10. I'm giving this a lower grade for several reasons. I basically paid $18 for someone to fix the one area I couldn't do well myself. Ebony did a great job within her boundaries so this is not a knock against her at all.
Joint #3 - i.d.entity hair design
I was referred to i.d.entity by Adam Brand, our VP of Creative and Client Services. This is the place he goes. The only difference is that Adam has a lot of hair that you can do something with. I have pre-balding, "salvage what you can" hair. Nonetheless, I took him up on his referral and made an appointment with Laura.
I'll admit, I was a little nervous because I knew Laura was going to ask what I wanted. It's probably the same feeling I had when my wife drug me to Joann Fabrics and asked me what I thought about different fabrics. If there is a word for me it is "nonfashionable" or the phrase "unable to consider, qualify, create, analyze, comment, or otherwise provide any valuable input on anything related to fashion."
So, Laura asked, "What are you looking for?" Oh, boy. There it is. My response was simply, "This is what I've done for 10 years and I need you to tell me what to do to make it better." And then Laura took command. She explained a lot of different things to me that likely resulted in many blank stares. "Ok", I said.
Time: 45 minutes (including my 3.5 minute drive)
Price: $56 = $26 cut + $10 tip + $20 hair stuff (I guess she was a good salesperson)
Quality: Very good. Better hair style that resulted in at least a few comments of "That is much better"
Service: Excellent. It's hard to beat two shampoos, a scalp massage, and a straight razor shave. Plus she talked about baldness prevention (which in my family is a good thing). Great conversation and the fact she was able to quickly and easily take control and make recommendations was what I needed.
OverallExperienceMeter: 9 out of 10. I would give it a 10 but I'm still in shock on the price tag. Average cost going forward, though, will be about $36 (which includes free maintenance trims).
Insight Gained from Experiences
So, here's the lesson learned that you might be able to project into your own customer adventures. In my case, I already did an ok job with the hair cut myself. Great Clips was never going to win because I couldn't justify spending $18 on fixing only one problem area with a mediocre level of service. I was ok dealing with it for free. If I was going to make a change my experience had better improve dramatically. That is exactly what i.d.entity provided. I will adjust to the new budget over time and will probably grow accustomed to the service and not want to return to the days of do-it-yourself.
Solving big problems is easy but if you think about your own prospects and customers they might be in the same position as I was. They might have a few small problems and be doing something themselves that is good enough. Whatever service or product you are pitching to them must exceed their needs by not only solving the small problems but drastically improving their experience overall.
Convincing do-it-yourselfers to use your service or product requires a leap of faith. If you make the promise of exceptional quality and results you had better deliver.