14 Apr 2024

Why your time deserves more: customer experience lessons from a bad hair day

The other day, a visit to the hairdresser got me thinking about customer experience and the value of our time. It made me question:

How should companies handle situations where a customer is dissatisfied with their product or service? Is a refund or a redo enough to compensate for wasted time?

Let me share my recent hair-raising (sorry) experience.

I ventured into a fancy hair salon, where prices matched the promise of luxurious results. And you convince yourself that with a hefty price tag, a miracle will take place and you’ll walk out with celebrity-style bouffant.

Everything started out promisingly. The hairdresser appeared confident, even reassuringly slapdash in his approach. He must know what he’s doing to be this blasé surely?

Uh, no, turns out I was wrong.

The first warning sign was on returning home, when my husband (usually oblivious to any hair improvements I indulge in), pointed out that my hair looked uneven. I dashed to the mirror, and sure enough, yes, it was significantly lopsided.

My heart sank for two reasons: 1) I looked silly…and, even worse, 2) I had to endure the prospect of returning to the salon to repair the damage.

I dropped an email to the salon. This was met with a breezy response offering to “slot me in” at 2pm the next day. I then spent a rather restless 24 hours, slightly dreading the upcoming salon showdown.

Stepping back into the salon, I felt all eyes on me, silently branded as “the difficult one.”

The scissored offender sauntered over with a casual smile, asking, “So, what seems to be the problem?” I showed him the issue. He proceeded to explain that with my hair type being a bit ‘kinky’, it had been quite challenging to cut properly.

Ah, so it was my fault, was it?

After the redo, it looked fine. I didn’t miraculously have luscious locks, but at least it no longer looked like I’d cut it myself. When it was all finished, the receptionist made a big deal of saying “And nothing for you to pay today, that’s all part of the service.” Too bloody right.

What customer experience lessons can we learn? 

The whole debacle got me thinking about how companies should ‘fix’ mistakes for customers.

Let’s look at my example…I’d paid for the original cut, and while they graciously corrected their mistake, what about the time and distress I endured? I paid not just for a haircut but for an ordeal: a flawed service, anxiety-ridden hours, and additional travel and waiting time.

Surely, compensation and acknowledgment of the wasted time and anguish would have been appropriate?

In the end, it’s situations like these that make me believe companies need to go beyond just fixing the immediate problem. They should consider compensating customers for their wasted time and inconvenience.

And it’s not just about the money. Companies should at least acknowledge the value of a customer’s time and the impact of a poor experience. In addition to a goodwill gesture, genuine empathy is what customers are after.

After all, we pay not just for a product or service, but for the whole experience that comes with it. Time is precious, and when a company wastes it, a quick fix may not always be enough.