"Customer Service is the way you treat the customer, from the beginning of a transaction, to the end... not only when they come in but how you follow-up afterwards, it's a boiling pot of quite a few things..." Read More
September 1, 2018
In this episode, The Serve! Show ventures to I'm Perfection Junior Spa in Mount Pleasant, Canada to have a sit-down chat with Co-founder Jennifer Heath.
We talk a little about a lot, including customer service and children, the importance of being happy doing what you do and we even got a chance to discuss some tips for dealing with customers that may be in, let's say an "unhappy frame of mind" and also about maintaining customer service quality while scaling your business or start-up.
From the get-go we could tell that Jennifer was a genuine soul who really emphasizes customer care and happiness. There's so much more we could share about the setup and business philosophy...
Host: ...but right now we're just going to dive right in, welcome to the show.
JENNIFER: Thank you, thank you for having me.
Host: Okay so before I get into the meat of things, I always like to ask my guest right off the bat - what is your definition of customer service, like what does customer service mean to you from your perspective?
JENNIFER: Customer service goes a long way, it's behind the scenes work, it's the front men, it's the soul, it's many components.
Host: I like that.
JENNIFER: So it's not just one thing, you know, it's the way you treat the customer from the beginning of a transaction to the end, not only when they come in, but how you follow-up afterwards. So it's a big component of a lot, it's a mixture, it's a boiling pot of quite a few things.
Host: So it's a team, that's what I'm hearing you saying, and it's also how you make the customers feel?
Host: Okay, so at this point normally, I would let the users know a little about what you do, but your concept is, at least to me, so novel, so different that I'm going to let you better explain it. You're the founder of this wonderful spa that we're sitting in, hopefully one day we'll have a video podcast so users can see what it looks like, but it's I'm Perfection Junior Spa. Just tell us a little bit about what this is.
JENNIFER: So I'm Perfection Junior Spa, is a spa dedicated to children in between the ages of 4 to 14. Now if you put the word together, it actually says "Imperfection", we call ourselves "I'm perfection", but if you put the word together it spells "Imperfection".
So what we want every child to know is that pretty much there is beauty with their imperfection, so none of us is perfect, so it's how you embrace those flaws that you have, so glitz and glamour is fun, but it's also knowing who you are on the inside. So for us and what we do here, my sister is actually my business partner, that's right, and we carve out this vision where we wanted a special, safe place for children. I mean you have your regular spas that are dedicated for adults, I'm sure you can bring in your child to go, but it's not a space that's catered to them. Here, it's an atmosphere where they're safe. Everything we do is for the child.
Host: That's why it's a junior spa!
JENNIFER: It's a junior spa. It's not for adults, even though we get many requests, it's for children so it's how we cater to the young girls.
Host: Okay. Alright, so it's a spa... right now it's focusing on girls, young girls...
JENNIFER: Boys are welcome, all are welcome, but majority of our clients are girls.
Host: Okay, great and from what I'm seeing, it's about... maybe just like the special touch. It's the special treatment, birthday parties that kind of thing, which means that it's like, parents book these maybe surprise parties?
JENNIFER: You have surprise parties and then you have your regular parties, but it's a place where we take care of everything from the beginning to the end, so parents don't have to worry about planning the party. Just give us a call and we'll pretty much do everything for you, from the balloons, to the cakes, the cupcakes, parents just have to show up, the only request is that you show up on time. :)
Host: Okay that sounds awesome, and as a parent I would love to make use of something like this on a regular basis. So I know you've worked in lots of different areas and industries and you've dealt with customers from different angles, from Best Buy, to insurance. Is the customer service approach different when dealing with adults versus with children, and if you think so how have you found that to be different?
JENNIFER: You know what, I don't think it differs. I mean service is service. Even the children when they come in here, they too have a certain level of expectation. They want to be treated well.
Host: Even at that age?
JENNIFER: Even at that age, they notice, and the biggest thing for us is, when these kids come into these doors, we love to see the expression on their faces. That wow factor... and when they come in and it's like "Wow!" when they're blown away, you know we have a high level of expectation, so we have to follow through. So the moment you walk in you're already blown away by the appearance.
Host: I agree. I mean I'm looking at the décor, and I mean this is just when it's not in swing and I'm already blown away, so I can imagine when you add that personal touch. And at that age, I guess kids know what customer service is?
JENNIFER: Oh absolutely! So when they come in, it's all about the Royal Treatment. They come in, we cater to them you know. We have special flutes that they drink from, there are servers, it's the White Glove service. So they definitely recognize it and it's all about making them feel special. Not only the guest of honour... the birthday child... but every guest that comes in, because you know what, with every child that comes in as a guest that's an opportunity for another client, you know what I mean so we value each person that comes through that door.
Host: Okay, so it's treating them like little princesses, and they feel it but it seems like there would be a greater customer service challenge, because the same customer event or transaction or like a birthday party that you throw, you'll be dealing with two customers, you'll be dealing with the child and that child's parent, does that create an added measure of stress, in a situation where it's like for the service, you have to be doing it on two sides... making sure that child's happy, and catering to the parents' expectations?
JENNIFER: No, it's not difficult at all because you know what, the first thing is the parents will be happy that we've taken care of everything for them. That's the first thing... and they really enjoy the fact that they get the opportunity to sit back and relax, you know where they get to observe and take pictures, and you know if they're there with their friends they have an opportunity to have their own conversation while we take care of everything for them.
Host: So they're in a happy frame of mind?
JENNIFER: Oh they're in a happy frame of mind! At the same time while we're catering to our guests which are the children, we still take that opportunity to say "Hey mom, we remember you. Is everything okay?" "Can I offer you this?", "Can I offer you that?", so you know they really appreciate that. And as a parent, one of the things that make a parent really happy is the way you treat their children, now if you make a child very happy, you've made a parent very happy.
Host: Okay let's stick a pin there, a question just popped into my mind. So it is a junior spa. Do you do adult services at all?
JENNIFER: There're special times a year where we do offer that, and that would be more like Mother's Day where we'll offer like you know, a "Mommy and Me" special, and there're some times where we allow mothers and daughters, or aunts, or grandparents an opportunity to bond. You see, the whole concept here, is that it's a space dedicated to children. We need for everybody to understand that this is a place for them, not for mom, so we want our parents to know you're coming into her world she's not coming into yours.
Host: Which doesn't happen too often.
JENNIFER: Yes, your average spa, those are dedicated for adults, the conversation is not geared for them, the atmosphere is completely different you know, here is a safe place where you know it's 100% for her.
Host: That's awesome, so I'm curious do you get a lot of mommies that maybe come for services because of how they've seen the service that their child got, like maybe they got their nails done because they brought a daughter in or someone, and they're like "Wow! Can I come and get my nails done?"
JENNIFER: Oh we get that all the time, we get it a lot of times, where people offer suggestions about "Hey you know, how about putting an extra chair in here while moms are waiting, then we can do our nails too?" We get that all the time and you know, it's something, not that I don't want to do it, I just don't want to lose our niche, our specialty that's what sets us apart from everyone else. That is our brand, that's our specialty, we are dedicated to children. I feel that if we move into now servicing mom on a more regular basis we're kind of losing our foundation of who we really are.
Host: That sounds almost like maybe, it's a little bit of a secret sauce.
Host: Okay so it sounds like you have regular delightful customers, and it sounds like you have an approach. Is there like a particular creed, or something that is the secret sauce to just delighting customers all the time, is it the décor, is it music, is it like the way you think about the children, what is that secret sauce?
JENNIFER: It's a combination. So the first thing is, you take the decor, it's a happy place...
Host: It IS a happy place!
JENNIFER: You walk through the door and you're blown away, so that's the first thing that you have. The next thing is how you greet your customer. They can see that. What I always get from everyone is that they can tell that I genuinely love what I'm doing because I'm passionate about it.
Host: And that translates easily.
JENNIFER: Correct! Right... and the team that have worked here with us, the same thing goes for them, they're happy in what they're doing, and once you're happy doing what you do it translates into your work.
Host: Okay, another question that's popped into my mind, you founded this space it's fairly new and from what I understand it's growing, now let's just do like a vision shoot, and you know... maybe a couple years down the line it's really grown, do you think you'd be able to scale, how would you scale that kind of attitude that you have to the children when you have like 50 employees? Do you think it would be a problem to keep that passion that I hear in your voice with like 50 maybe a hundred employees, three branches, how would you get other people to care? What would be the secret to that?
JENNIFER: I think as long as you have a strong leader, and you screen your candidates properly you'd be okay. That's the biggest thing right? It's not about just finding a body, it's finding the right person, so you know, as much as I would like to expand I don't want to expand before the time is right.
Host: 'Cause you might lose the culture of what this is, and again that's your secret sauce and if I'm not mistaken you've had some recruiting experience, so you know what it's like to screen candidates. That's interesting, I want us to come back to that, I want us to take a real quick break and ask our readers to check out this advertisement below and when we come back we're going to look at that side of it. I'm going to ask you to switch hats a little bit, and we're going to look at the different side of the customer service angle. We'll be right back in one second.
Alright so we're back from the break, again with Jennifer Heath, founder of I'm Perfection Junior Spa and we're going to be switching gears a little bit now, I'm going to ask her to put on some of her different hats right now. I know you've worked in dealing with customers regarding insurance that kind of thing, and for me I've spent a considerable number of years as a consultant for a couple insurance companies, and from what I've observed over those years a lot of the times you're interacting with those customers on what might be the worst day of their life or at best a pretty bad day for them. Some stories are good, but a lot of times it's not great. What tips would you give to service workers on the front lines, those people in the trenches that have to deal with these kinds of tension-filled situations? Before, you were mentioning with the junior spa, that because you've taken care of everything the parents, the people, are already in a good frame of mind. Now this is the opposite situation. A lot of times when they come to you they're not in a great frame of mind how do you approach that, I mean there's a different approach there than with the Junior Spa.
JENNIFER: Well from a different approach, when you get a customer that's not exactly happy, the first thing, rule of thumb, you need to listen.
Host: Okay. "Listening?"
JENNIFER: Listen, listen, listen. Not hear, but listen. You need to digest everything that they're saying, and not be dismissive, and really genuinely show that you care. Even if you don't have an answer, say that you "don't have the answer, but here's what I'm going to do", you know what I mean? Always be straight with a customer. It may not be the right answer, it may not be the answer they want, but be honest. So I think with customers the biggest thing is that they want to know that you genuinely care, and that you're listening to what they're saying, even if they're venting.
Host: So, it sounds like, there may be some things to avoid saying. Like you mentioned, there may be something and you can't do anything about it, but what things are definite no no's would you say? Like somebody's overwhelmed they're upset how do you not further inflame that situation?
JENNIFER: Always be honest. Don't lie. If you don't know the answer, they'll appreciate that you'll say: "You know what Mr. Smith, here's the situation, I understand what you're going through, if I were you I'd probably be frustrated too, however I may not have the answer that you want, but here's what I'm going to do for you". You know, actively try to find a solution.
Host: And be genuine about it...
JENNIFER: You have to be genuine. If they're already upset, the worst thing you could do is send more smoke.
Host: It's just like pouring gasoline on a burning a fire... but that's difficult because in the world of customer service, it's always like there's a battle going on between accommodating the customers' demands and wants and standing your ground on policy. As you mentioned, there're some things that you just can't do, how do you walk that line, is it like a gut feeling? Are some people just cut out for figuring that out? How do you walk that line and just say "We can't do this."? Do you just give it to them straight and then try to console them, or do you make it feel like they're getting what?
JENNIFER: I mean some people say the customer is always right but at the same time there is the policy, every company has a policy and you have to follow a company's policy. Sometimes it can be broken and sometimes they can't. To me the most important thing like I said, is always listening to the customer, hearing what they're saying and basically trying to find a solution for it. I always say this at the same time: "It's not always about what you say but how you say it", it's your delivery, it's HOW you say the "No".
Host: CAN you say "no"?
JENNIFER: I believe you can have a hard "no", and sometimes you do. Sometimes you have to say no depending on the situation, and what the policy is. I mean, sometimes I know the rule of thumb says "the customer's always right", but there are situations where the customer's not right, but at the same time you don't want the customer leaving with a bad taste in their mouth, it's the way and how you handle the situation, how you defuse it.
Host: Have you ever encountered a no-win situation where it just became apparent that you're just going to have to write this situation off as a loss? The customer's going to be disgruntled, you're going to have to just go home and cry yourself to sleep with some ice cream. Do you just, while you're in the middle of dealing with the situation, and think "I can't win this", do you just write it off? Do you just say "Okay I'm not going to win this one, I'm just going to have to just lay down the law and just say we've just lost a customer"? Have you ever been in that situation, is this a real thing?
JENNIFER: Yes, it happens and unfortunately sometimes, depending on what the situation is, it's going to be a loss, but in business you have to understand not everything is always going to be a win, you can't please everybody. As much as you would like to, the reality is, you can't.
Host: That is true. When that happens, and things like that happen, should there always be, do you think, a recovery plan? Should businesses try to always maybe have a follow-up call? Should there always be some kind of plan to try to recover, or does that come across as just not genuine? What do you think, that there should always be an: "Okay, that was a disaster, let's try to fix it after the fact?".
JENNIFER: I think it's nice to reach out to the customer if you can, depending on what the situation is and to see what could we do to improve our services. Now it depends on how often this situation has occurred. Is it a one-off? Unfortunately I think that's something you're going to have to let slide. If it's something that's continuously happening then now you have to go back to the drawing board, and look at what you as a company might be doing wrong.
Host: So review policy, review those kinds of things?
Host: OK... and finally, well there's something I'm wondering, because you know we're all human beings, sometimes we don't wake up feeling all bubbly. Do you have like a secret sauce for your prep routine, you know when you wake up in a day or before an event or a birthday party that you have to throw, what do you do to get yourself in the frame of mind to deal with whomever? ...because you don't know who you're going to have to deal with until you have to deal with them. How do you prepare each day for dealing with customers that could be, you know, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?
JENNIFER: As the founder of this company, I try to be at every event we host, and I choose to be happy.
Host: Choose to be happy... I like that
JENNIFER: I choose to be happy. I choose to walk in with a smile and I know this is what I'm working really hard for, so it's up to me to really bring that happiness, that joy. I won't allow someone to bring me down.
Host: Well, I guess that's something that's going to be driving you as the founder. Do you have any tips for people thinking about going into something, maybe not a junior spa, but something where it's going to require for them to be pushing it at first, and you know there's going to be discouragement when you start any start-up, any entrepreneurial venture, you get discouragement. What do you do to pick yourself up when you've really messed up and you're at that crossroads: "Should I continue?" Is there something that when you feel like giving up... what motivates you to keep going?
JENNIFER: Well first thing is make sure you have that business plan, make sure your business plan is okay, have a vision. If you've done something wrong and if you're truly passionate about it and you know that it can succeed, you brush yourself off, and keep going. You pick yourself up, go back to the drawing board, and say "What can I do next?". Do your research, do your homework, but don't stop trying. Explore all avenues before you give up.
Host: That's awesome and that sounds like a great note to end on. We've been talking with Jennifer Heath. She is the owner, the runner, head cook, head bottle washer, from I'm Perfection Junior Spa. It's an awesome concept. I wouldn't be surprised to see that it comes in your area in a few years from now. It's been awesome talking with you. Thanks for sitting down with us. We like allow our listeners to learn some more about you and your business, or what you're doing. Where could they go if they want to hear some more about you, can we find you maybe on Facebook or social media where can we go?
JENNIFER: Well we have a website. It's ipjsparties.com that's one way that you can find us, we also have Instagram at "Im_perfectionjuniorspa".
Host: Awesome! Well we'll be looking out for that. I'm sure there are awesome pictures and the listeners can really get an idea for what I'm looking at. It's been awesome, thank you so much.
JENNIFER: Thank you.
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