Brilliant businesses are built on brilliant reputations, with few exceptions. A growing base of raving fans and satisfied customers spreading the word negates the need for overspending on marketing. It also serves to increase revenue, profit and all other metrics and means your business easily outperforms competitors along the way. If every satisfied customer counts for another 100, you don’t need that many to build an empire.
But what about when it’s the other way around? How do you salvage a sinking ship that has been making customers unhappy for years? It’s a daunting task for any entrepreneur, and that’s exactly the challenge Aleksandra Waibel and Kat Sallam faced when they took over a failed business with a terrible reputation. By the time they gained control of Skinovatio Medical Spa in Illinois, it was bringing in $16,000 a month in revenue, with an average Google and Yelp rating of one star, with many people commenting that they wished they had rated zero.
Within two years, they had transformed the business and converted it to a franchise model, now with eight locations, many of which came in as inbound leads. The duo’s top franchises earn between $70,000 and $120 a month, with an average Google rating of 4.7 stars, with Yelp and Groupon at 4.5. After learning from the trenches, Waibel and Sallam share their seven steps to regaining a reputation and customer base.
start from scratch
Without a solid foundation to build on, Waibel and Sallam affectionately called the first step the “dishwashing operation” and went back to basics. “First of all, we had to keep the remaining customers and prevent them from wanting to go elsewhere. Then we had to regain the trust of customers who left and didn’t want to come back. In addition, we were working to attract new customers.”
That’s no easy feat when the critics are stacked against you. “We started from the ground up, focusing on quality.” They focused on hiring more qualified and experienced professionals before going through the entire CRM, personally calling each patient, offering them free or deeply discounted treatments in exchange for another chance.
Being humble paid dividends when customers returned, not knowing what to expect, and were pleasantly surprised by the improved quality of service. Is your main offering worthy of 5 stars, and how can you go about doing that?
Create new processes
Making forays into turning their brand haters into loyal fans, owners have turned their focus to process. The staff were trained in the friendliest hospitality customs and ensured every step was followed every time.
“We made sure every member of staff greeted each patient by name and created a professional yet warm and welcoming atmosphere.” Waibel and Sallam “would shake customers’ hands, introduce themselves in person, and explain all the changes that happened after we took over, before asking for their feedback,” Waibel said. They added processes previously missing from the business, including follow-up surveys, reminder automations, and courtesy calls.
There’s merit in admitting you’ve made mistakes in the past, but you’re changing that for your customers going forward. Give a warm welcome and keep in touch to show you care; customer service basics they never forget.
update the technology
Improving the quality of your core offering and processes is key, but it’s crucial to remove as much friction for customers as possible. Waibel and Sallam inherited a website and a database that would not be useful for the trip, not least because the reservation system was not integrated.
“We’ve made major upgrades,” explained Waibel. “We built a new user-friendly website and hired a marketing team to focus on social media. We updated all of our technology and added new equipment that enabled new services.” They’ve also made it easier for their customers to book, buy and refer with a new customer portal and have started offering financing options and a membership program through which they offer promotions.
Once people want to buy, make it easy for them to do so. Removing friction for your customers means they slide to purchase more easily than ever before. An elegant experience assures customers that you are on top of all your business processes.
Collect new testimonials
The first three steps allow your business to provide much better service to customers. By now, sentiment towards your business should be improving. Now is the time to start correcting those bad reviews putting potential new customers off.
Waibel and Sallam capitalized on the positive feedback they now received from their customer base. They ensured that every testimonial served to win new customers. A simple but effective strategy that should not be overlooked, especially during a stop trade.
“Our social media team asked satisfied customers for video testimonials which were later posted to our social media. They also took professional photos of our location, treatments and client results to share on our website and booking channels.” Doing this in 2015 put the company at the forefront of aesthetics, which they know was a good move.
Share the good news to attract new customers. Social proof is a powerful influencer, so don’t miss reviews distributed online by having a team on hand to capture them.
focus on relationships
Customer relationships are 80% of the puzzle in building a successful business, but supplier and partner relationships form a large part of the rest. Once satisfied with the quality of their service and the way customers were served by the system, Waibel and Sallam looked at their other key relationships. They thought that by partnering with other trusted companies, potential customers would also see their brand as trusted.
In addition to benefiting from their partners’ reputations, Waibel and Sallam had early access to new products. “By placing larger orders, we would receive complementary or discounted products, the savings of which we pass on to our customers.” With confidence in our providers, “we held events at the clinic to allow our clients to try out new services for free.”
How can you partner with companies your dream customers already trust? Social proof is important and having a strong referral network helps potential customers understand that you are the real deal. Start looking for opportunities to do the same.
To keep the positive reviews coming, it’s critical to stay ahead of the curve in providing genuinely great service. Continuing to tweak and improve your product or service is one way to keep happy and returning customers.
Waibel and Sallam see this as crucial to any recovery operation. In their case, the beauty industry was advancing and they didn’t want to be left behind. Instead of resting, the team pushed to make more improvements. “We attended several seminars to ensure we were learning from the best in the industry,” said Waibel. They also met more professionals who could refer and recommend them to continue expanding their network.
Never stop learning. Taking a turnaround business to new heights involves putting yourself out there, trying new things, and not being afraid to fail.
Even when you think you’ve done all you can, going the extra mile will ensure benefits your competitors just aren’t seeing. In Waibel’s case, that came in the form of inquiries from aspiring franchisees so impressed with the business that they wanted to start their own.
“We went the extra mile by treating strangers like family. We made homemade muffins and didn’t let anyone leave training hungry; it’s all part of our Polish hospitality!” Over freshly brewed coffee and a gooey chocolate chip cookie, Waibel’s team members engaged in deeper conversations with patients, understanding more about their lives and becoming an essential part of their week. Especially before invasive or needle-based treatments, these little touches would soothe nerves and allow your clients to relax.
Creating a friendly atmosphere is often more than just smiles. Going the extra mile means taking extra steps to ensure your customers have a relaxing time.
From Zero to Hero: Not a Short-Term Solution
Waibel and Sallam know this is not an easy journey, and those hoping for short-term wins need not apply. “Many of these changes required investment. For many years, we invested money back into the business rather than paying ourselves, a sacrifice we were prepared to make because we were able to take the long view.” Put the work at the beginning, build from there, and come to a position where you thank your old self for doing what was needed.