Create a clear vision for who you are and what you provide. That sounds simple, but so many companies large and small do not have a clear vision and it all falls apart if you don’t. The clear vision should include standards on how people are treated, how customers need to feel when dealing with you and of course, the quality of the actual product and service you deliver.
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 Jennifer Trotter.
Jennifer is an award-winning pro makeup artist and owner of Dallas/Fort Worth bridal beauty team Lip Service Makeup. Her work has been featured in publications and news outlets such as Brides Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, The Today Show, Makeup.com, Bustle and more, in commercials for Omni Hotels, Tostitos, Wingstop, CycleBar, FedEx and more, and she’s also a published writer and speaks nationally.
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?
Yes! I’ve always been into makeup but never thought about doing it as a career. I started my corporate career very early, starting out as a restaurant manager, then shifting to marketing/PR, non-profit, etc. In my early 20’s, I had a full-time career but was working part-time doing modeling and serving as on-air talent for a local TV show, as well as doing local commercials and marketing videos and voiceovers. It was fun, but really just a side hustle! I often did my own on-camera makeup and really mastered it. One day, one of the production companies I had worked for often approached me to work on a commercial/marketing video as a makeup artist instead of talent, so I did! I flew to Arizona for the shoot, it went well, and I’ve been a pro makeup artist ever since. I did commercials for a few years, then shifted to bridal artistry. I now have one of the largest and most successful teams in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and will celebrate 25 years of brides (close to 1800 of them!) later this year. Through the years as I’ve gained experience in the corporate world and wedding industry, I’ve also formed a consulting arm of my business. I offer business consulting, write articles and give presentations all over the country to teach fellow wedding entrepreneurs how to navigate our unique industry, deal with difficult clients and learn techniques to connect with clients and other vendors and diffuse conflict.
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?
I can’t think of just one, but wow…so many mistakes! I was so excited to actually be working as a makeup artist, I was just eager and not at all focused on structure and running it as a business. I didn’t charge enough, I got myself into sticky situations where I agreed to work for free and regretted it, you name it! It wasn’t funny, but I remember the early days when I didn’t have a contract….a bride booked for herself and 7 other women. Right before the wedding approached, she told me that 5 of the bridesmaids had backed out. I had NO recourse to recoup those funds. Nowadays, I have a clear structure, firm policies, a contract, and many other processes in place that allow my business to run smoothly. Main takeaway? When I treated my business like a hobby, others did too…. when I started running it like a business, clients treated me differently.
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?
Yes, but it’s a group of people more than just one person! For many years I ran my business part-time while I worked full-time. I honestly lacked the vision I needed to upscale because I didn’t really know anyone who did makeup full-time. Then I was introduced to the Professional Wedding Guild (or PWG) of Fort Worth. There I met several successful wedding industry entrepreneurs who were indeed making a full time living in this unique market segment. Through their advice and insight, I slowly realized that my business background was actually the KEY to creating a full-time bridal beauty business, so when I meshed my business skillset with my artistry, it was magical! I have PWG to thank you for that. I’ve now been a member of the organization for about 10 years, and I’ve served on the board for the last 6.
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 great customer experience is essential for success in business?
This is something I literally live and breathe daily! So many business owners are overly focused on their “thing”, meaning their product or service….and not focused on the customer service experience. People buy from people and a loyal customer relationship is forged when your client knows that you “get” them, they feel understood and appreciated. In my business, there are many competitors who can offer gorgeous hair and makeup….my team and I are certainly not the only ones who can provide that! The difference in dealing with my company versus others is that we focus on service almost as much as the actual hair and makeup. Customers pay for beauty, but they choose us because of our experience, our willingness to share advice and wisdom as they navigate planning their wedding, flawlessly planned logistics and day of timing, and intentional creation of a mood and experience on wedding day…..fun, and stress-free. Service is what sets us apart, and it’s what has allowed me to be successful and relevant for such a long time, a rare thing in this industry.
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?
I think the main reason is that when they put on their “vendor hat” they completely forget what it’s like to be a consumer. Intuitive customer service relies on a degree of kindness and empathy that only comes from knowing how it feels to be on the other side of the fence and how frustrating it can be when you have paid thousands of dollars to someone who isn’t listening, isn’t solving your problem and doesn’t seem like they’re in your corner. The larger the company, the better chance that management is looking bottom line only, and are losing focus on the customer service experience, but the truth is that customer service experience is what LEADS to customer loyalty and a healthy revenue stream. As a smaller company, it’s easier for me to create a clear vision for the customer experience we offer, and to ensure that I can get my entire team on board so that each person has the same dedication to delivering it.
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?
Competition is GREAT and essential for ensuring excellent customer service. Losing business to other companies from time to time, along with the healthy FEAR of losing business to them, has kept me pushing forward every day for years and years. It’s taken me a long time to gain my place in the pecking order, but the competitors who are reaching and striving to take my spot really do help push me so that I’m never complacent. Beating out competitors keeps me grateful as well…. that also leads to a truer form of customer service with an undercurrent of kindness that clients can see and feel in every interaction. No matter what industry it is, it’s better for everyone to have competitors!
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided? Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
I’ll share a recent one! We recently had a bride who was very upset. She wanted to hire us because of our lovely work and reputation but had decided we were too expensive, so she went with a cheaper team. That team didn’t provide the service and “feeling” a happy bride-to-be was looking for….they were hard to get in touch with, lacked organization, and in the end, they wound up double-booking on her date, which meant my client’s large bridal party would’ve suffered because the original team didn’t have enough staff or time to adequately provide service. The bride reached back out to me hoping and praying we could accommodate her and magically, we had the date open! We quickly created a quote, got her booked, lined up a trial run session and created a plan for smooth and perfect service on the wedding day. Her words? “Now that I see how it’s supposed to be, I’m even more glad we switched to your company!” On the day of her trial run, we got to know one another, laughed and had a great time…..my client shared that for the first time in her wedding planning process, she felt relaxed and full of trust in regard to her bridal beauty services.
On the wedding day, I brought an entire team to manage her large group, which we did…. seamlessly. Each girl in our chair knew the story of the previous team and was so grateful we were there to save the day….they all loved their hair and makeup too! Our client hugged us and thanked us so many times, I lost count. She texted me a thank you during her honeymoon and promptly left us glowing reviews on all of our platforms as soon as she got back and now she’s sharing our info with anyone she knows who needs makeup or plans to get married. That type of organic marketing is PRICELESS and has long-reaching effects! Yes, we saved the day for her, but that will also lead to future revenue for us.
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.
As a CEO and company leader, these steps are crucial to ensure a WOW customer service experience:
– Create a clear vision for who you are and what you provide. That sounds simple, but so many companies large and small do not have a clear vision and it all falls apart if you don’t. The clear vision should include standards on how people are treated, how customers need to feel when dealing with you and of course, the quality of the actual product and service you deliver.
– SHARE that vision, with everyone at every level. Each assistant, leader, etc. need to understand what the vision is and why it’s important. If only higher-ups know it/get it, it won’t work. Buy-in from everyone only happens when you share it.
– When there are customer service glitches, don’t be reactive or just put a band-aid on it, find a long-term solution. If everyone complains your website is confusing, update it. If you’re constantly getting complaints on the person who answers the phone, replace them with someone more suited to the task. Knock customer service roadblocks out of the way so that there are fewer and fewer reasons for customers to be unhappy.
– Pay employees well and appreciate them! Remember the buy-in we talked about above? You won’t achieve buy-in or the results it delivers without decent pay and appreciation. Remember it’s not JUST PAY that motivates employees either! Acknowledging birthdays, company events, bonuses for above and beyond, etc.….loyal employees are motivated to create the experience your customers will rave about. You can’t afford not to do this! I know I can’t….I couldn’t have built the business I have without my team, and I try to remember to tell them how much I appreciate them as often as I can. And yes, I pay them a very competitive rate too, which doesn’t hurt.
– Lastly, continually share with your team what’s working and what’s not working. Talk to them about snags or problems and get their input on solutions. Don’t just focus on problems, however, but share successes too! Share reviews and customer feedback, celebrate wins in any way you can. If you don’t, it creates an “us vs. them” mentality in your company, which absolutely kills any chance of a magical customer service experience.
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?
All…..the….time! A good majority of our business comes from past clients raving to their friends and family, and from referral sources who know what we deliver is different. When people are wowed, they tell everyone!!!
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. 🙂
The way I run my business is with kind control…..meaning, you can’t be a pushover or not uphold your company policies and structure, that’s chaos and leads to ruin. But you CAN be kind while you run your business. It’s basic, but so forgotten by so many people. In my line of work, we are dealing with literally the biggest day of someone’s life outside of the birth of their children…there’s literally not a bigger occasion than marrying their one true love. That’s something we CANNOT ever forget as we serve our clients and it helps us provide an undercurrent of kindness and love (not the right word necessarily, but it’ll do) that shows we truly GET how important their day is, and how special it is that they trust us with that. Other businesses may not carry that same emotional element, but any business can find reasons to infuse kindness, which becomes an undercurrent of your company culture to provide the Wow factor. Kindness may not seem like the thing that’ll bring you all the awards and dollars, but it truly is a magical force if you can really harness it and infuse it into every package, every phone call, every interaction.
How can our readers follow you on social media? I have two social media platforms! You can follow along with my bridal beauty team at @LipServiceMakeup (Instagram) and Lip Service Makeup on Facebook, LipServiceJT on Twitter. I also have a business consulting company, and that’s where I promote speaking engagements, published articles, and other services I provide…you can follow me there at The Jen Trotter on Insta, Jen Trotter on Facebook and The Jen Trotter on Twitter.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!