Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Management from our barber's?


I like my hair short… cut really short… the liking may be deep rooted, arising from the fact of my laziness to comb… having short hair has soo many advantages such as less “maintenance” time, looks more tidy, lesser “round trip” time to the barber’s shop, etc. (meet me and I can tell you at least a 100 more reasons!)

For the past couple of month’s I have been regularizing on a barber near my place. Due to my fantasy to cut my hair short, not many barbers come forward with enthusiasm, for they are unable to try out their “fantasies/creativity”. Of the three barbers available in the nearby shop, I usually end up with the youngest… probably around 16 yrs (talk about encouraging child labor)… by my deduction, this happens due to the simple fact, that, my hair requires not much creativity!!!

As many other businesses, this shop also does not run just on the “main line” of hair stylist but has other premium services such as hair massaging, anti dandruff treatment, removing black spots, etc

Coming back to my story, for the last three months, as mentioned, I always happened to end up with the youngest barber… he is very quick at his job, should I say, a petite hair mower… the only problem with our young hero is that, he has a mind of his own, of course nothing wrong with that, but it hurts when our preferences crosses… after all its my hair, not his!

Our young hero is usually more interested in wooing me to take up his premium “services”. During my hair cut, every 5 minutes or so, he would say “Sir, I’ll do hair massage, it’ll be nice” and with my broken kannada, I say “That’s ok, some other time” and our hero proceeds to pester “Sir it’ll be very nice, soothing and relaxing” and I say “No time” and he says “It won’t take long, I’ll do it real quick” (and I think, if its that quick, then why go for a short lived happiness, eh!). After couple of cross rebuttals, he quickly completes my hair cut, unties the cloth wrapped around me and ushers the next person in line (probably in the hope that, that guy will go for his premium services).

I put on my glasses; see myself in the mirror and voice out my opinion, that, he can still trim my hair. Our young hero replies “Sir, it’s correct, else you will not have any hair to comb”. Being a gentleman I am (at least I like to think that way), I feel too rude to continue the argument, especially since the next Customer has got up and is waiting for me to embark the “priced” chair, so I silently accept defeat.

This happened to me for around three times and my dissatisfaction became stronger each time… I had mentally made a note to try out a different barber, the following month…

The following month (two weeks back), as luck would have it, I get up at 10 and am rushed for time, so I end up in the same shop.

Our young hero was busy with another Customer, so I forcibly enthroned myself on the oldest barber’s (possible the owner) chair. He listened to my simple specification (had our young hero ever listened to my specification?!) and he started his work. Towards the end, he hinted to me about the other available “premium” services and even before I could decline, he said that I could have those things done whenever I wished to (he probably noticed my body language and knew my answer).

I was quite relieved at the way he had handled the selling of “premium” services, instead of pestering me. To add the icing to the cake, after he had done with my hair, he handed me my spectacles (which is usually placed on the table during the hair cut) and asked me if I was satisfied. This was the first time a barber had the “thoughtfulness” to have handed my spectacles and then, asked if I was satisfied. Usually almost everywhere, my barbers used to ask me, somewhere towards the fag end of the hair cut, if I was satisfied and I used to think, doesn’t this guy understand that I can only give a better judgment if I wear my specs and should I go through the embarrassment of picking up and wearing my spectacles???

But here was a barber,
1. Who knew exactly how much to push his Customer and
2. Could literally put himself in his Customer’s shoes and offer me my spectacles (he doesn’t wear one, so it was his thoughtfulness)

I was more than happy with the services that he had offered and needless to say, he had listened to my “specifications” and had done just what I wanted (no unnecessary improvations!)

This reminded me of the Kano model. The young boy could not even meet up to the basic needs of meeting the Implied and Expected Needs, not to say about the Delighting Needs! The old man had met all the three… to me “no pushy sale” was the Implied Need, “hair cut to my expectation” was the Expected Need and the final show of “thoughtfulness” met the Delighting Need!

How are we, as individuals, meeting the Implied, Expected and the Delighting needs of our Customer’s? This is a worthy point for each of us to ponder over, whatever be our role...

My next line of thought was, if I ran this business, how would I assess the performance of these three barbers? Would it be by

1. Who does the most number of hair cuts?
2. Whose conversion rate of ordinary to premium customer was the highest?

If I have just these as my parameters to assess their performance, I would have been sending a wrong message to the three barbers! You can see how misleading the above two measurements by themselves would have been. They almost lost a Customer and we do not know how many others have already left! Focusing on these measurements may have brought in short term profits but would have failed in Customer Retention and Long Term Sustainability.

The question that struck me was: which would be the most appropriate way to assess their performance??? A Customer Satisfaction Survey? But how many Customer’s will have the patience to provide such a feedback? Well that’s a separate topic by itself, so I leave that as “Food for thought” for all the readers to contemplate… Bon thinking…

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