Join the Customer Service Revolution

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A new stylist is hired in a salon. She goes through weeks of training before she’s allowed to interact with guests.

How much of that training is technical? How much is soft skills? How is her salon owner addressing customer service, specifically?

John DiJulius, author, speaker, educator and owner of John Robert’s Spas, with four locations in the Cleveland, Ohio-area, says a typical business is spending 98 percent of training time on technical skills, and when it comes to addressing customer service, they tell employees, “always exceed customer expectations,” without drilling down into what that really means.

“You must break it down for employees,” DiJulius says. “Teach them how to build relationships, create a bond, and how to recover when they drop the ball.”

"The Customer Service Revolution," by John DiJulius

In DiJulius’ newest educational offering, the Customer Experience Executive Academy, he does just that. The year-long course featuring quarterly two-day workshops is open to only 15 people and primarily targeted to those who are chief marketing officers in their companies.

“They don’t give degrees in customer service,” DiJulius says. “We teach customer experience executives how to create a training and certification for new employees in customer service. Just like we don’t put a hairdresser out without technical training or a front desk person trained in software, we shouldn’t be putting anyone with guests until they are trained in customer service.”

DiJulius also has a new book out, “The Customer Service Revolution,” where he details what it means to excel in service in today’s competitive market.

The Customer Service Vision

In the past, executives who oversaw the customer experience were focused on the call center or receptionist.

DiJulius says their new role should be looking at the company’s key performance indicators (like retention, referrals and average ticket) and telling their CEO or owner which employees are providing a great experience and who needs more training.

“They should also be able to compare locations,” he says. “This data will help roll out the customer service vision.”

Unlike a mission or purpose statement, a salon’s customer service vision statement is not meant to be put out to the public, and it has to be actionable.

“It must be something you can do every time with every guest,” DiJulius says.

To create a customer service vision statement, he advises using “MOAT” as a guideline: measurable, observable, actionable and trainable. He also says the goal should be to provide a unique, memorable moment in-person, on the phone, over e-mail or anywhere else in the business.

John Robert’s Spas service statement is, “Be the best part of the guest’s day.” To support this, DiJulius also has “pillars” to support it: mastery, emotional connection and give more. Employees have something to refer back to and words to help implement their actions every day with every client.

One of DiJulius’ corporate clients is Starbucks.

Inside the green apron of every Starbucks employee all over the world is the service statement he wrote: “We create inspired moments in each customer’s day.”

Underneath the statement are the supporting pillars: anticipate, connect, personalize, own.

Starbucks Apron

Just like John Robert’s employees, Starbucks employees understand what actions they should take every day to keep the business’ customer service statement intact.

“You have to Uber-proof your business,” DiJulius says. “There’s an Uber out there in every industry and you need to be in front of it. The one thing Uber can’t do though, is provide the same experience and duplicate your culture.”

While it’s a radical overthrow of conventional business mentality, DiJulius says you must transform the customer experience in order to create loyalty and make price irrelevant.

“That doesn’t mean we can double our prices and not lose customers,” he says. “It means because the customer is receiving outstanding service, they have no idea what the competition charges because they aren’t looking.”

Know Your Service Aptitude

Some people just seem to have a knack for customer service—it’s as if they’re born with an aptitude for it.

DiJulius says this isn’t so. In fact, he says service aptitude is often mistaken for common sense, when in reality it’s an acquired skill.

“None of us had service aptitude when we graduated,” he says. “It comes from three places: previous life experiences, previous work experiences and current work experiences.”

Often, managers and CEOs simply ask employees to treat customers the way they would want to be treated. But this is a mistake. A 22-year-old hairdresser’s life experiences may not include driving a Mercedes or staying at the Ritz. But her 40-year-old client may be used to these luxuries on a regular basis.

John DiJulius, author, speaker, educator and owner of John Robert’s Spas, with four locations in the Cleveland, Ohio-area.

John DiJulius, author, speaker, educator and owner of John Robert’s Spas, with four locations in the Cleveland, Ohio-area.

“I don’t want that hairdresser treating the client the same way she would expect to be treated,” DiJulius explains.

As for previous work experience, everyone has worked somewhere that probably wasn’t world-class.

“Many people are trained to be paranoid or suspicious of guests,” DiJulius says. “Then if they have a platinum-level guest come in 10 minutes late or forget a gift card, the employee doesn’t trust them and throws them out. We want our employees to be naïve, not paranoid.”

This is why the current work experience is so critical. DiJulius tells his audiences that to build a world-class company, they must focus on both hiring and the culture they are bringing employees into.

“Disney did not find 50,000 employees born to serve,” he says. “They don’t put their new people in Disney, they put Disney in their new people.”

As a salon owner, DiJulius says it’s your responsibility to give your employees a high service aptitude and make sure it starts with the owner.

“Every time I address my employees, I talk about customer service,” he says. “Annual customer service training is like deodorant. It’ll wear off and the odor will come back.

The best companies are talking about customer service every day. My employees can finish my sentences, and that’s what I want.

Instead of a different message every quarter, they know what I’m going to come in and talk about.”

Hone Your Salon’s Service Skills

One word DiJulius doesn’t use when addressing his employees is “policy.” He says this is a bad word for both the employee and the customer.

“As your customer, I know you made a policy to protect yourself from the masses, and I’m not the masses,” he says. “It’s even worse for employees, because they will never go against policy—it’s too black and white. I once had a guest buy $200 worth of Aveda makeup and then get home and break out because of it. A manager wouldn’t let her return it because it’s against policy to return opened makeup. Of course we ended up taking it back. But we don’t have policies anymore, we have guidelines.”

Of course, there will always be people who take advantage, but DiJulius says not to punish 98 percent of your customers for the 2 percent who are doing so.

“I’m ok with getting taken advantage of 2 percent of the time if it keeps the other 98 percent happy,” he says. “If a customer isn’t happy, she doesn’t have to pay.”

Last year was John Robert’s best year ever—just like every other year. The salon always beats the previous year because of their competitive advantage—customer service.

“We charge $60-$70 in a market that only bears $30 hair cuts,” DiJulius says. “And soon we’ll be opening our fifth salon in the area.”

Want to learn more about becoming the best? DiJulius’ annual Secret Service Summit is scheduled for September 29-30 in Cleveland, Ohio. It will feature 15 world-renowned speakers from top global brands.

For something more intimate, sign up for the two-day Secret Service workshop, which occurs twice a year and is open to 10 people each session.

To learn more about these classes, the Customer Experience Executive Academy and DiJulius’ books,  visit


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