Cutting Communications Costs at the Hair Salon

Three Business Customer
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On: 20 Jul 2017
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For Ireland’s largest hairdressing group, Peter Mark, Unified Communications (UC) has meant the ability to maintain personalised, seamless customer contact at an ever growing scale, while making savings of 30% and preparing to meet future technology developments.

What do small businesses have in common? Apart from their size! Arguably, it’s the need to compete with the bigger players. They need to maintain a distinct offering and competitive edge in the face of rivals with more resources. Small businesses often differentiate themselves and gain an edge by offering the kind of personalised customer service that the larger businesses struggle to match. However, what happens when they grow and their success has been partly built on personalised service?

One industry where the personal touch is not only expected but also an indispensable part of the process is hairdressing. Although hairstyles come and go, some things in hairdressing never change. Peter Mark opened its first salon over 50 years ago and it is now Ireland’s largest hairdressing group, with 71 salons and 1,600 staff. Yet in the words of Shane Keaveney of Peter Mark, “it’s still a people business and because of that, in many ways, we run things just as we did when we first started. People still ring for an appointment, and when they do they don’t want to ‘Press button 1 for this’ or ‘Press button 2 for that’.” Keaveney uses communications technology to maintain personalised customer contact at a large scale.

“We take a forward-looking approach, which means not only is the operation growing but the way we use communications technology is also constantly developing.”

Efficient yet personal communications

Experiencing rapid growth, the group needed data to make sure calls were still being quickly answered. With the introduction of UC, that information became available and it was positive to learn that 90% of calls to salons were answered in 10 seconds or less.

The capabilities delivered by UC have allowed the business to become more efficient without losing the personal touch their customers expect, and it’s not just customers’ needs that need to be met. Both customers and employees across all industries have constantly increasing expectations. Digital communications are a part of everyone’s everyday lives, so customers and employees expect a high standard from the businesses they deal with and work in – especially the ‘digital natives’ who are becoming an important demographic in the customer base and workforce. Even people-based industries like hairdressing need digital solutions to support operations and customer service.

From piecemeal to integrated

As far back as 2015, a PWC White Paper on Unified Communications* was reporting that the most commonly cited reason to adopt UC was productivity gains (52% of buyers). After UC is deployed, “soft” benefits such as employee demand (57%) and morale (54%) figure larger. Since 2015, we believe those “soft” benefits have become even more important.

By Shane’s own admission, the communications system they had before was like the Johnny Cash song: built “one piece at a time”. “There was no way it would have been able to meet our future requirements. We needed something which was fully integrated to offer unified communications across the whole business. So we went for a UC solution that would save us trouble now and in the future, and save us money too.”

The group’s old system meant calls from landline to mobiles were continually crossing networks, whereas a fully integrated UC system enables all internal landline calls to be automatically transferred onto the mobile network. For Peter Mark this reduced their call charges by 80% and realised savings of 30% on ongoing infrastructure costs, while still delivering new features all within a single platform. Even allowing for the infrastructure cost, the business has realised a net saving of a third.

Three C’s of customer service

In any service industry, in any size of business, customer service is crucial and can be defined as the three C’s: Communication, Collaboration and Convenience. A UC system can improve all three. It helps businesses derive more value from existing communication processes, and increases employee productivity without driving out the personal touch.

For Peter Mark, the UC system also proved its value in an unexpected way. A recent fire alarm in a shopping centre in Blackrock forced the evacuation of the salon, along with all the other businesses in the building. Evacuated customers were quickly accommodated in nearby salons, while any customers that called to make an appointment during the evacuation had no idea there was a problem. All unanswered calls to the salon were automatically diverted to head office. The staff at the Peter Mark head office has access to the group’s digital appointments system and could identify vacant appointment slots at the Blackrock salon and book customers in accordingly. To the customer the process was seamless.

The fire may have been a false alarm but thanks to the UC system, no customers were left fuming and the business didn’t get its fingers burnt.

 

*Unified communications. Collaboration simplified PwC, March 2015