Your Expert Opinion vs. the Customer's Wants

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Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.

It’s okay to be particular about who’s touching your hair. For her first dye job, Yelp reviewer Jenn R. did extensive research on the best colorists and treatments in New York City. She knew she wanted to try balayage—a technique that involves hand-painting the hair for a more natural look—and came across Shear Bliss NYC Salon, which specializes in color and highlights.

Jenn R, Shear Bliss NYC Salon, board certified haircolorist
Shear Bliss NYC Salon

Owner Lana Kurayeva’s Yelp reviews stood out, both for her photo gallery of sun-kissed tresses as well as her friendly, attentive responses. “I had never colored my hair and was pretty nervous, but I reached out to Lana and she was so warm, knowledgeable, and willing to listen,” Jenn wrote in her review. “She’s an expert and an artist.”

A great cut or color requires a carefully curated blend of artistry, expertise, and customer service. Lana, a board certified haircolorist who’s studied chemistry and biology, has put in decades of work to provide the best service for her clients. But she’s just as intentional when it comes to the atmosphere of the salon, which customers describe as welcoming and electric. “The salon has an exciting, buzzy energy,” Jenn wrote. “I am so grateful that Lana and the team listened to what I wanted—and made it happen perfectly.”

Lana, who opened Shear Bliss in 2004 with her co-founder Christine, said curating this vibe starts with a positive work environment. “We consider each other family. To me, that is very, very important because what we do is very creative,” she said. “In order to be creative, you need to be comfortable. To be comfortable, you need to enjoy where you work and the environment. So I created a vibe where people can be very comfortable sharing their knowledge.”

The next ingredient in the mix? Communication. Sheer Bliss’ value of sharing knowledge extends to consultations with clients, who often come in with specific requests or inspiration drawn from social media. While social media allows customers to educate themselves and find the best stylist for their needs, it can also result in miscommunication. 

For example, some clients come into Shear Bliss with photos of styles that aren’t the right fit for their hair texture. Instead of correcting them, Lana encourages her stylists to draw out a client’s desires by asking follow-up questions—almost like they’re at a doctor’s visit. “I always tell my staff: ‘You can’t push your ideas. You have to hear them out.’ What they bring you is the idea of what they see on someone else.”

Of course, Lana’s team could reproduce a style from a photo, even if it wasn’t in the client’s best interest—but this could also lead to disappointment. “Just taking [their] money will bring that client only one time on a chair,” she said. Meanwhile, thoughtful conversations with customers foster loyalty and trust that can lead to repeat business. Taking their concerns seriously, listening to their requests, and politely sharing knowledge can help each client find a style tailor-made for them. 

Although Jenn came prepared—having done her own research of balayage—she too benefited from the informal education she received in Lana’s chair. “As someone that is curious and research-oriented, I was able to have a conversation about my hair and my hair care routine with Lana,” she said. 

The pair discussed Lana’s preferences, as well as the science and biology of her hair treatment and how to keep her color looking as natural as possible. That conversation proved almost as valuable as the balayage itself, Jenn said: “From that first visit with Lana, I have now fully transitioned my hair care routine, using all the flex products and a couple of other products. And I see a marked difference in my hair. My hair looks better and is healthier.”

If a stylist at Shear Bliss happens to miss the mark, they also offer free adjustments within two weeks of the service. While other businesses might view this as admitting fault, Lana believes that it’s another chance to prove the salon’s value and build strong relationships with clients: “We take it as [a point] pride. You came back. You trust us. That means we built that relationship for you to trust us enough to fix it.”

The same goes for customer reviews, which can be both inspirational and nerve-wracking for the business. The team regularly shares positive feedback as a way to motivate each other. But even when Shear Bliss receives a negative review, Lana takes it as an opportunity to reach out and see if she can improve the customer’s experience. The few moments it takes to make an adjustment—to hear them out and tweak a detail that bothered them—that’s what makes the cut. 

Lana and her team also curate a positive experience through these tips:

  • Scale down to what you’re best at. Instead of trying to do it all and cover every offering on the market, focus on elevating a few, key services in order to provide the highest quality for your customers.
  • Social media is a second full-time job. Maintaining your profiles across many online platforms—including monitoring reviews and uploading recent photos—helps you reach customers where they are.
  • Loyal client relationships are more valuable than a quick buck. Really helping and listening to your customers, even if they have a complaint, is what will keep them coming back and grow your business in the long-term.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Lana and Jenn, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Entrepreneur · Your Expert Opinion vs. the Customer’s Wants
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