Brilliant businesses are built on brilliant reputations, with few exceptions. A growing base of raving fans and happy customers who spread the word negate the need for excessive marketing spend. 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 says 100 more, you don’t need many to build an empire.
But what about when it’s the other way around? How do you reverse a sinking ship that has left customers unhappy for years? It’s a daunting task for any business owner, and that’s exactly the challenge Aleksandra Waibel and Kat Sallam faced when they took over a failing business with a terrible reputation. When they gained control of Skinovatio Medical Spa in Illinois, it was generating revenues of $16,000 a month, with an average Google and Yelp rating of one star, and many people commented that they wish they had rated zero.
Within two years, they turned the business around and converted to a franchise model, now with eight locations, many of which came as inbound leads. The duo’s top franchisees earn between $70,000 and $120 per 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 rebuilding a reputation and customer base.
Start from the beginning
Without a solid foundation to build on, Waibel and Sallam affectionately called the first step “dishwashing operation” and went back to basics. “First, we had to keep the remaining customers and prevent them from wanting to go elsewhere. Then you had to regain the trust of customers who left and did not want to return. On top of that, we were working to attract new customers.”
This is no small feat when the critics are against you. “We started from scratch, with a focus on quality.” They focused on hiring more skilled and experienced professionals before going through their entire CRM, personally calling each patient and offering them free or deeply discounted treatments in exchange for another opportunity.
Being humble paid dividends when customers returned, not knowing what to expect, and were pleasantly surprised by the increase in service quality. Is your main offer worthy of 5 stars and how could you achieve it?
Create new processes
Making strides to turn brand haters into loyal fans, the owners focused on the process. The team was trained in the friendliest of hospitality customs and made sure every step was followed at all times.
“We made sure each team member greeted each patient by name and created a professional yet warm and welcoming environment.” Waibel and Sallam would “shake hands with customers, introduce themselves and explain all the changes that happened after we took over, before asking for their feedback,” Waibel said. They added processes that weren’t in the business before, including follow-up surveys, reminder automations, and courtesy calls.
It’s worth admitting that you’ve made mistakes in the past, but you’re changing this for your customers in the future. Give a warm welcome and keep in touch to show you care; customer service basics they never forget.
Improving the quality of your core offering and processes is the foundation, but removing as much friction for customers as possible is crucial. Waibel and Sallam had inherited a website and database that would be useless for their next trip, especially since the reservation system was not integrated.
“We made big improvements,” Waibel explained. “We built a new user-friendly website and hired a marketing team to focus on social media. We upgraded all of our technology and added new equipment that enabled new services.” They also made it easier for their customers to book, buy and refer with a new customer portal, and began offering financing options and a membership program through which to offer special deals.
Once people want to buy, make it easy for them to do so. Eliminating friction for your customers means they slide to purchase easier than ever. Skilled expertise assures clients that you are on top of all your business processes.
Collect new testimonials
The first three steps allow your business to serve customers much better. By now, sentiment towards your business should be improving. Now is the time to start rectifying those negative reviews, discouraging potential new customers.
Waibel and Sallam capitalized on the positive feedback they were now receiving from their customer base. They made sure that each testimonial served to win new customers. A simple but effective strategy that should not be overlooked, especially during a recovery operation.
“Our social media team asked satisfied customers for testimonial videos which were then posted on 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 out on reviews being 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 relationships with suppliers and partners form a large part of the rest. Satisfied with the quality of their service and the way customers were served through the system, Waibel and Sallam looked at their other key relationships. They thought that by partnering with other trusted companies, potential customers would see their brand as trustworthy as well.
In addition to benefiting from the reputation of their partners, Waibel and Sallam gained early access to new products. “By placing larger orders, we would receive complimentary or discounted products, the savings from which we would pass on to our customers.” Trusting our providers, “we held events at the clinic so that our clients could try new services for free.”
How can you partner with companies that your dream clients 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 reviews positive, it’s key to stay ahead of the curve to deliver truly great service. Continuing to modify and improve your product or service is one way to keep customers happy and keep them coming back.
Waibel and Sallam consider this essential to any recovery operation. In their case, the beauty industry was advancing and they did not want to be left behind. Rather than rest, the team pressed on to make further improvements. “We attended various seminars to make sure we were learning from the best in this industry,” Waibel said. They also met more professionals who could refer and recommend them to continue expanding their network.
Never stop learning. Taking a recovery business to new heights means putting yourself out there, trying new things, and not being afraid of failure.
go the extra mile
Even when you think you’ve done all you can, going the extra mile will secure benefits your competitors just aren’t seeing. In Waibel’s case, this came in the form of inquiries from would-be franchise owners so impressed with their business that they wanted to open their own.
“We went the extra mile by treating strangers like family. We baked homemade muffins and didn’t let anyone leave our practice hungry; It’s all part of our Polish hospitality!” Over fresh coffee and a gooey chocolate chip cookie, Waibel team members would deepen the conversation with patients, understand more about their lives, and become an essential part of their week. Especially before invasive or needle treatments, these little touches would ease the nerves and allow your clients to relax.
Creating a friendly atmosphere is often about more than just smiles. Going the extra mile means taking extra steps to make sure your customers have fun.
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 gains need not apply. “Many of these changes required investment. For many years, we were paying money back directly to the business instead of paying ourselves, a sacrifice we were prepared to make because we could see the long-term view.” Put the work in the beginning, build from there, and get to a position where you thank your old self for doing what was asked of you.