Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Groupon Concerns

If I owned a small business or even a big business for that matter and I was trying to decide how to attract new clients and I have a small advertising or marketing budget, how would I do it?

Well, Groupon seems really cool to me, the consumer, so I would think that it would be pretty cool for the business too! It’s like a win-win! The client gets my services at a reduced rate and I have the chance to wow them into coming back and paying full price for another of my services.

This all sounds great, unless my business is full of employees who want to sabotage my success!

I bring all this up because over the last two weekends I had a Groupon experience that, while fine with me, would have really upset me had I been the owner of the business. The Groupon was for a salon called Plaza 101 for an airbrush tanning session.

I called them on August 1st, a Monday and explained that I had a Groupon and needed to make an appointment. The chick on the phone made my appointment for Saturday at 1pm and we got off the phone. It was nice and straightforward, nothing to write home about.

When I arrived for my appointment about 10 minutes early, I walked into the salon and up to the reception desk. The man behind the desk was putting a Netflix movie into its return envelope, so I just said "Hello, I have an appointment at 1 for an airbrush tan, my name is Smug Mama" He looked up at me with such irritation and condescension I almost took a step backward. He told me to have a seat and someone would be with me soon. I sat down and started flipping through a magazine.

About 10 minutes after 1, during which time, he had left and come back from Sonic with a milkshake, but never once told anyone I was there, a woman walked by and asked who I was waiting for. I explained that I had a Groupon for airbrush tanning and an appointment for 1pm. She said that "she" (whoever that was I never learned) was running late and was I in a hurry. Since I had already been there for 20 minutes, I simply asked how late was "she" going to be. The woman said she wasn't sure, but to come with her and she would get me started. As we walked back through the salon she asked me if I had exfoliated really well. "No" I replied, "No one mentioned that I needed to do anything special when I made the appointment, do I need to reschedule?" "No" She said, "normally you need to exfoliate beforehand or the tan will not adhere, but we will see what we can do for you today." Then she stopped and asked me if I had showered that morning and used lotion. "Yes, of course" I replied. She shook her head and told me that we would need to reschedule.

Then she made me a new appointment, gave me some free exfoliation stuff and a card for $10 off a pedicure. While I was irritated that I had wasted all this time, I felt like she handled it great! She was apologetic; she gave me something free, took care of the issue to the best of her ability and gave me something to get me back to spend more money.

So, the following weekend, I arrive with Groupon in hand and Mr. Personality again tells me to have a seat, when the women who helped me before noticed me, remembered me and the situation and took me back to the treatment. Now, a side note on the air brush tanning. The description of the service said that their certified tanning experts would mix the color to just the right blend for my skin and my desired results. That didn't really happen; she didn't ask me if I wanted to be really dark or just a light covering nothing. She just sprayed it on and to be honest, I am a little more orange than I would have liked, but overall it was fine. My clothes were horribly stained at the end of the day, but most of the stains came out in the wash.

Then I had to stay in the room for about 15 minutes with a hand-held fan drying myself. Then she came back and told me I was free to get dressed. She never checked to see if I was "dry" or check over the finished look to make sure nothing was missed or splotchy. When I got back up front she wasn't in sight. I went to the desk and pulled out my appointment book to make the appointment for pedicure and maybe even reschedule for another application of spray tan. Mr. Personality wandered over and I handed him my Groupon. He said "bye now" I said "I'm all done?"  He did a condescending smile and nodded so I put my appointment book away and walked out.

He was my first and last impression of the salon and he is the reason that I will probably not go back for my $10 off pedicure. He was snotty and condescending and rude. He had a perfect opportunity to offer me a menu of other services, offer to make me a follow up appointment and leave me feeling like I wanted to come back. He failed on all counts. I'm not sure what it is about salon reception staff, but I have found this treatment before, like they are so much better than I am. Why, because they work in a salon? I can't imagine answering the phone and telling clients to sit commands much of a paycheck, but I could be wrong.

So, if I were the owner of the salon, thinking about where to put my advertising dollars, I may think that Groupon wasn't very successful because the new clients hadn't re-booked for full price services. However, it wasn't Groupon's fault that the person making the first impression on clients wasn't the right person for the job.

I believe that you have to wow new clients when you are in the non-essential services business. I don't NEED a spray tan; it is a luxury purchase, a treat to myself. Also, I can get a spray tan at no less than a dozen other salons all over town, what is going to make me spend my hard earned, hard to come by, cash on your salon? Business owners have an opportunity to build their customer base and earn customer loyalty by treating them like they are special. Plaza 101 failed to do that, not so much by the service itself or the technician who preformed it, who were perfectly fine. It was that first impression and last impression as I headed out the door.

If I was the owner, I would be firing Mr. Personality and working extra hard to make sure that the new clients walking through the door stayed!!

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