…it’s not about me winning — it is about the customer winning.
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 Karen Anne Jacks.
Karen Anne Jacks is the founder of Della Ricca Hair Color, the only DIY hair color product on the market to offer custom blended shades tailored to the strength and application method needed by the client, all as if they were in a salon. A consultation is required for all first-time customers, ensuring the client is matched with the perfectly mixed shade just for them and their hair type.
Unlike most DIY at-home hair coloring products, Della Ricca clients are supported along the way by professionals. Hair dying is only damaging and dangerous when done without the guidance that only Della Ricca provides. This provides clients with a unique customer experience so they are destined to love their hair.
With so many salons closed due to COVID-19, beauty has become a black market. No longer does your color job need to be a sketchy, back-alley experience. Della Ricca brings salon-quality hair color to your doorstep, safely and securely. Once salons do open up again, partnered salon colorists whom we call Hair Heroes, are able to capture 100% of their customer’s color business by pivoting their approach and tapping into the box color market. Della Ricca puts beauty back in the hands of men and women everywhere and anywhere.
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’ve been a hair colorist for many years. Over the years, many of my clients were unable to visit the salon because they couldn’t afford it, didn’t have the time, or perhaps were on the road. They wanted salon quality, and not the inferior product on drugstore shelves. They asked if I could sell them some of the “good stuff,” implying some of the color I had in the back of the salon. Unfortunately, I could not: salon color only comes in large bulk tubes and once the color is dispensed, it loses its strength.
So I thought about how I could solve this problem. The devil is in the details, and many years of research and development were required to get it all right. But the concept, the eureka moment, was recognizing the solution lies in tiny tubes.
I created a salon-quality at-home, DIY hair coloring system that offered the same guidance and professionalism that salons offered, but at a more affordable cost available at the comfort of the customer’s own home.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take always’ you learned from that?
As part of my overall marketing and branding strategy, I gave my custom shades fun names: Hero, Strong, Loyal, Lucky, Daring, Authentic, and Kind. A customer was about to go on a first date, and she was anxious to make a good first impression. I suggested that she needed to get “Lucky.” She said, “Hopefully, but first I need my hair colored!” We both had a good laugh.
I learned to be more clear and explicit when describing the product to people, and also to not take life too seriously all of the time. There are too many missed opportunities for a good laugh in this life.
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?
My husband! He’s an engineer. I relied on a design company to build my website; after many months and running out of funds, it looked great but could not function. (I have since come to appreciate the difference between a web designer and a web developer.)
I pulled the plug with the design company and with my husband’s help, we slowly taught ourselves to piece it together until we could find the right company to build our website. We were at such a loss. It was the equivalent of asking me to build a car — I did not know where to begin! But together, my husband and I can do anything!
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?
It’s all about the connection that builds trust. With hair color, each customer needs to trust that they will get exactly what is promised. Hair is something we wear every day, and if it is not right, we feel it.
For something as personal and intimate as one’s appearance, and especially one’s hair, customers also need to be made to feel special, uniquely special, to feel pampered and to feel paid attention to. It’s not all about getting the right look. This personal attention, an intimate connection, is why people go to salons.
We want the DIY user to have that same experience: a high quality color and high quality, authentic, and personal attention. To accomplish this is precisely why our business model connects all customers with a professional Hair Hero, rather than just having them select their color from an online menu. With the guidance of their Hair Hero, the perfect shade will be achieved for the client’s specific hair type. This ensures those personal connections are made, building trust in the outcome, removing the anxiety of “Did I pick the right one?!”, and leaving every customer with a positive, glowing experience to match their positive, glowing hair.
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?
A lot of companies make assumptions that the employee interacting with the customer cares about the customer. This is not always the case, especially in more heavily commoditized product and service businesses. It is often too easy to just let it all become a numbers game: how much I can sell, how fast I can hire help, how quickly I can train the help, how much stuff I can cram on the shelves.
Hair color is a very personal and intimate part of an individual. It is their personal branding, the first flag they wave to the world that says, “this is me!”
Hair color is not a commodity, or at least it shouldn’t be and it certainly shouldn’t be treated as such. The cheap drugstore brands try to make it a “one size fits all experience,” but what sets us apart is human interaction, individualized treatment, familiar and comfortable connections with a professional Hair Hero. Our Hair Heroes have each made a career delivering both great color and great service at a very personal level — they are credible and trustworthy and deliver superior service and confidence to the client.
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?
I love competition. Competition makes us all better. But for me, it’s not about me winning — it is about the customer winning. Every win for the customer is a win for Della Ricca Hair Color.
After all, the external pressures should come from the customer’s needs and desires, putting pressure on all of us to deliver. Sometimes these pressures require us to improve incrementally, to react and adapt to marketplace evolution or a desire to be just a little bit better than the last time. But sometimes, the pressures cannot be overcome with evolution and continuous improvement. Sometimes, the pressures demand revolution, a disruptive way of solving the problem. The pressure to deliver salon quality to the DIY user, not just with a quality product but a quality product coupled with a quality customer experience and the personal connection and trust that comes with that, required a whole new way of looking at the problem. The revolution was tiny tubes of color and Hair Heros.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
We strive to make every customer experience a Wow! That is the goal each and every time. It is always gratifying to know that a customer was thrilled with the outcome, whether it is the color, the experience, the interpersonal bond, or some other aspect of what we strive to provide.
But Della Ricca also has another constituency that may not seem immediately obvious. Besides our end users, a big part of the hair color community that we strive to support are the hairdressers and salon owners. Our business model is not about taking their customers; it is about partnering with them to grow their customer base, to deliver to them some piece of the DIY market in addition to their current salon customers. The Hair Hero model is a win-win model. Thus, the most gratifying Wow! experiences come when it is recognized during the consultation that the customer’s needs are beyond the scope of our product, and that they need professional, in-salon attention to meet their hair color needs. We feel that it is unethical to prescribe a DIY solution that requires a skillset or a multi-level change above what a DIY customer can handle. Simply put, not all people should color their hair at home, and we will not compromise our standards just to make a sale. If I don’t think we can meet the customer’s expectations, I will give them a referral to visit a salon that we know, trust and have vetted because our product is simply not right for them based on their specific needs. We operate in their best interest instead of just selling them a product. That is a Wow! moment. Being honest with a customer will always build trust, appreciation, and loyalty. The word will spread, and the sales will follow.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Yes! The ripples come quickly, spreading across the pond. The hairdresser or salon owner who has gained a new client often becomes a Della Ricca Hair Hero, a partner and a believer. They see that by helping the DIY market, they build their salon market too. They gain a client. They refer DIY friends and family of their clients to Della Ricca. Everyone wins.
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.
First, don’t be swayed by hype! You have to have a great product. When I was developing my colors with the manufacturer in Italy, the term “ammonia free” was popular. It is still a buzzword that some folks are drawn to like a moth to flame. But understanding the science of hair color, I know better — ammonia swells open the cuticles to allow the color in. Ammonia-free products use MEAs to do that, which are worse than Ammonia! While Ammonia dissipates, MEAs stay in the hair and continue to cause damage. I asked the manufacturer for their thoughts on this. They said, “If you want great marketing, go with an Ammonia-free product, but if you want great hair color, go with Ammonia.” So I did, and my customers can rely on consistently great results.
Second, hire and train people who have the ability to listen and connect with customers. I recently went to a local business for some computer accessories. The exterior of their building was not very pretty or inviting but the reviews were great. The moment I walked in I felt very comfortable because the receptionist smiled warmly and sincerely greeted me right away, even though she was busy. She treated me like I was the most important person she had to deal with that day, even though I wasn’t buying any big ticket items. She listened to me describe what I needed the best I could — I don’t speak computer — and went straight to exactly what I needed. This is how I train and expect my Hair Heros to connect with our customers.
Third, keep your promises. This is huge. People are very forgiving of a lot of things, but breaking promises is not one of them. If you want to wow your customers, you don’t get a lot of mulligans on promises.
Next, always follow through with your customers. Reach out: How did the customer like their color? How did the customer like their experience? Does your customer feel valued and important? You need to know. Unlike box hair color, where one picks a shade and gets what they get, we can tweak and adjust your personalized color formulation until it is perfect for you. In order to do that, we need to know where the customer stands. To know where the customer stands, we follow through with them. Don’t ship off the product and forget about the customer.
Finally, you have to deliver. It’s all connected to the end result. Healthy Shiny Happy Wow Hair is always the best customer 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?
I call this The Girlfriend Effect: hair color is such a personal thing, many do not want to broadcast that they color their hair. However, girlfriends will be the first to say, “Girl, your roots are showing!” Girlfriends are honest about those things. And when they find what works, they will share that too.
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’m passionate about stopping human trafficking. I believe it is one of the most horrid things going on around us, often hidden in plain sight. I’ve had opportunities to do volunteer work in this area. One thing we did was to place hand painted “Love” signs all over town, in public areas to raise awareness about human trafficking and to give victims a beacon that let’s them know they aren’t forgotten. I’d love to do more of that.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!