Chelle Neff of Urban Betty Salon: “Make sure the first person your customer sees is smiling and attentive”

Make sure the first person your customer sees is smiling and attentive. The service experience at Urban Betty Salon is designed to exceed expectations from the instant a guest walks in the door. Our front desk is just beyond the door, so it is clear to new guests where to meet and be greeted by […]

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Make sure the first person your customer sees is smiling and attentive. The service experience at Urban Betty Salon is designed to exceed expectations from the instant a guest walks in the door. Our front desk is just beyond the door, so it is clear to new guests where to meet and be greeted by our reception staff. We want guests to feel welcomed in the reception area. We train our front desk to smile and greet every person upon arrival.

As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chelle Neff. Chelle has been a leader in the U.S. salon industry since founding Urban Betty in 2005. As the CEO, Neff has successfully grown Urban Betty year after year and today has a salon company that houses more than 60 employees and 2 locations. No stranger to innovation, Neff designed and developed her own app, FyleStyle, which allows stylists to track client information and color formulas, and in 2017, she launched her own series of educational classes called Betty Bootcamp. In 2018 & 2019, Urban Betty was named as one of the fastest-growing privately held companies by Inc 5000.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I began my journey as an entrepreneur first by being an employee in the salon industry. I knew from a young age that I wanted to do hair. I jumped at the offer to enroll in cosmetology school while in high school at sixteen. This opportunity was unique because it meant directing my path toward exploring a real passion of mine. During my junior and senior years, I attended half days of regular classes and a half-day in cosmetology school.

When I received my license, I started working behind the chair at Supercuts. I slowly worked my way up the ladder to more high-end salons. Five years later, I got a small suite at the Gallery of Salons in Austin, Texas, and became an independent contractor. That was my first stepping stone towards running my own business. In 2005, Urban Betty opened and now has two locations and just over 60 employees.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

In 2002, I launched a website with a terrible logo. At the time, I thought my logo looked good. It was a lady with a city background, and she seemed very cartoonish. Think Sex and the City if it were a children’s book. Not good. We reworked it after a couple of years. I recently found an old scrapbook with my first brochure and the original logo. I showed it to my employees, and they couldn’t believe how bad it was. We all had a good laugh! I learned that you should always be re-evaluating your brand and evolving to stay current.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I would not be where I am today without my life coach/therapist, Rebecca Hamm. I met with her once a week for the first five years after I opened my business. I am down to every other week now. When you are an entrepreneur, you always need someone in your corner who can call you on your BS in a gentle way. She does that for me. She has helped me overcome my ego and become a boss in every sense of the word.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

Excellent customer service is essential for business because consumers don’t just want a good product anymore; they want a great experience. From check-in to check out and even before that (online presence) is a huge determining factor on whether or not a customer will choose to visit and buy from you. It’s all about the experience now. What does your website look like, how good are your online reviews, what is the first thing or person someone sees when they walk in your front door? All of those things have to be 1. ON POINT, and 2. COHESIVE with one another. If there’s a disconnect in that chain, customers will immediately lose trust and interest.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

Many companies focus purely on their product and not the experience or the people that they are hiring. If I just concentrated on our stylists, giving a great color or haircut, my salon company would have failed a long time ago. You have to go above and beyond with social media, reviews, and hiring your employees.

We hire people to fit our vibe; the employees at Urban Betty treat each other like family, being genuinely open, friendly, and helpful to each other at all times. We look for these qualities in the service providers, receptionists, and managers we hire. In addition to this, we have all new hires complete a DISC personality analysis. This protocol ensures their communication style fits into our salon’s DISC group culture; their personality fits the position they are applying for. Most importantly, they will be happy in our group culture. If your employees are happy, then your guests will be satisfied as well.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

Yes, I firmly believe that competition is a good thing! If you think about it, the minute you have an online presence with guest reviews is the minute you compete with every other business in your area. As much as a bad online review can hurt, it can also shine a light on where your weaknesses are. And yes, it can feel like pressure. You should ask for reviews and respond to all reviews, and DON’T obsess over bad reviews. The busier you get, the more online reviews you are going to receive.

We always write back to anyone who has had an issue with the salon. We love to thank them for their feedback and offer a solution. This system has often helped save a guest from leaving us, and we gain respect and a forever customer in that process!

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

Yes! We have learned that a bad review doesn’t have to mean you are losing a guest. Along with responding to a negative review, we also send that customer a direct message asking how we can help. Most people want to be seen and heard and feel safe. We had a customer who had written a review about an uneven haircut. We responded online and sent her a message asking if she could come in again and let us even out her cut. She was so incredibly happy that we had responded to her directly and wanted to fix it. We also went above and beyond when she came in again by adding a complimentary conditioning treatment to her service. If you address all concerns, ask how you can reduce them, and then add something extra for the guest, most of the time, it will heal the situation. She is now a lifelong guest and tells all her friends to visit us.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

Yes, many of the guests who find us from online reviews say that the main reason they chose us is how we respond to the reviews, not the reviews themselves. A guest once told me that because I had written and responded to each review, she felt safe to come in, and that’s what made her choose our salon company.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Make sure the first person your customer sees is smiling and attentive. The service experience at Urban Betty Salon is designed to exceed expectations from the instant a guest walks in the door. Our front desk is just beyond the door, so it is clear to new guests where to meet and be greeted by our reception staff. We want guests to feel welcomed in the reception area. We train our front desk to smile and greet every person upon arrival.
  2. Give new guests a gift! As a first-time guest, you will receive a new client packet, which includes three special offers for new guests. The first offer is 20% off all products on the day of their first appointment. The second offer is for their second visit; if they pre-book their second visit, they will receive 20 dollars off their pre-booked service. The third offer is for their third visit, and they can receive 20 dollars off a service they’ve never received before. The receptionist will offer them coffee, tea, sparkling or purified water, wine, beer, or soda as refreshments if they so desire. Our ambiance and energy are among the first things noted by guests as a standout attribute that makes us a favorite.
  3. Never leave your guests alone or confused about where they are supposed to go. Once the stylist is notified of the guest’s arrival, the guest is greeted and personally walked back to the stylist station. Our stylists also personally thank and walk each guest to the door as they leave.
  4. Train your staff to remain consistent with guests. We ensure that customer service is standard and consistent through training and orientation. We have created a specific PowerPoint presentation that directly states our codes for greetings and consultations. We have one for stylists and the front desk staff. When hiring new stylists, they are required to watch the service standards PowerPoint presentation. We also maintain a yearly class to refresh everyone’s memory on the proper protocol.
  5. Be a matchmaker for your guests! We brought on the “Meet Your Stylist” software in September of 2017. Through this software on our website, future guests are encouraged to take an easy and quick “matchmaking” survey online before their first appointment. It matches them with the best potential service provider based on personality traits and the five love languages. This questionnaire helps ensure a good match and guest retention.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

Yes, after each guest leaves, an email that is automatically sent to them the next day. We ask each guest to leave a Google review or a video testimonial with an easy link in the follow-up email. After initializing the follow-up email, we received many more positive reviews and an average of about one video testimonial per week. We then upload the videos to our YouTube channel and all of our social media outlets. You gain trust from guests through the experiences of other guests. I feel this is the digital way of person to person referrals.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to meet J.K. Rowling. I am a huge Harry Potter fan and I love her success story. She literally wrote an idea down on a napkin and turned it into an empire. I have a burning secret desire to write a book and I feel like she could really give me a few pointers.

How can our readers follow you on social media?




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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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