Coach’s Corner – It’s All About the Customer

13 May

howieBy Howard Feinstein, EWI Board Member

A weekly blog for EWI students and graduates, passing along news, events, articles of interest, and tips on growing your business.  We are all on this journey together, and no one – certainly not yours truly – has all the answers.  Accordingly, I hope you will periodically contribute your ideas and news to this forum, c/o

Monday, May 13 — Today I would like to focus once more on the overriding importance of customer service.  I was again reminded of how crucial this concept is to a growing, successful small business by a piece in last week’s Washington Post by Thomas Heath, entitled “Wash, rinse, ka-ching! Repeat.”  The article is on the Post’s weekly Washington Business page in the first section; this page appears every Monday.  Make this page a Monday morning habit, and you will regularly discover ideas and inspiration which you can use in your own business.

The piece tells the story of two sisters, both working mothers, who started a local hair salon – a highly competitive business to be sure, but one in which nurturing customer loyalty is the path to success.  Rather than paraphrase the story, here are some quotes from the owners, Stacy Dabney Ramirez and Lindsey Dabney Cabrera:

— “Presentation is your first impression.  I care about how the sugar is put in the jar.  I care about what the bathrooms look like.  I care about how things are placed on the shelves.  I try to remember people’s names when they come in.”

— “When asked why clients choose a certain salon, the top reasons have nothing to do with their haircut.  It is 90 percent customer service and 10 percent technical.  So we are invested in the customer service, although I don’t overlook the technical.”

— “We send clients handwritten thank-you notes, tossing in a $5 Starbucks gift card.”

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Now, let’s think about that:  the key to the success of this start-up business, by the owners’ own admission, is not that they are necessarily Nobel- Prize-winning beauticians, but rather that they bend over backwards to make every customer feel special and appreciated.  As I have been emphasizing in this blog from its beginning, you may develop the perfect product or service, but unless you treat your prospective and continuing customers like royalty, you are not going to succeed in the demanding Washington market.  Make people feel wanted, and they will eventually form that 20% of your clientele that brings in 80% of your business.

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Don’t take my word for it – ask some of our successful EWI graduates.  And the next time you are at the EWI office, ask Marga and Mary how they acknowledge our contributors, partners, teachers, trainers, hosts, etc.  Best of all, it takes very little in terms of time and cost.

Best wishes and keep in touch,


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