Yeah that’s right…we’re talking about chatbot assistance for haircuts!
If you’re like me, you enjoy going to your favorite hair stylist to get that fresh and stunning cut just the way you like it. But at the same time, you absolutely hate the time and manual effort it takes to make an appointment, wait for your turn in line, ask for the same style preferences, and fumble with your cash to pay before heading out.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a haircut salon I frequent in Berkeley, CA. When I went inside, I followed the normal 10-step routine I had grown so accustomed to over the years:
My Typical Haircut Routine:
Step 1: Enter the salon
Step 2: Write down by hand your name and the time you arrived
Step 3: Wait near the entrance anywhere between 5-30 minutes
Step 4: Entertain yourself during your wait. Usually involves me fiddling with my phone, reading a worn down copy of Sports Illustrated magazine, or if I'm feeling adventurous, playing with the kids’ toys while waiting to be called
Step 5: Finally get called up for your haircut after your stylist butchers your name several times
Step 6: Describe for the zillionth time that fancy (or usually boring) haircut you like
Step 7: Be forced to decide whether you want a shampoo with your haircut
Step 8: Present the coupon you have been saving up for this very moment, only to be told it has expired or is only accepted in “select locations”
Step 9: Pay with cash or credit (while still deciding how much you’re willing to tip)
Step 10: Leave with a paper receipt you just crumple up and toss aside (only later realizing there are more coupons printed on those receipts)
This 10 step process consistently takes me between 45-60 minutes. And after another 1-2 months, I simply lather, rinse, and repeat it all over again. I know the drill. I know how long it takes. Yet it continues to frustrate me and makes me test how long I can go before needing to go through it again.
This routine experience has prompted me to ask myself...
“What if this whole process could be streamlined and started before I even enter the front door?”
How, you ask? Enter the role of chatbots - providing guided service to each individual customer! Chatbots are enhancing brand to consumer marketing to offer more personalized on-demand customer service to mobile consumers with very little human interaction. So, let’s now repeat this process with a handy chatbot at a customer’s side.
New Haircut Routine with Chatbot Assistance:
Step 2: Select your hairstyle
-Choose from several pictures matching your style
-Determine the size of clippers to use
-Decide if you want your hair dyed or sideburns trimmed
Plus you can decide in advance if you would like that shampoo, all via a quick chat!
Step 3: Get push notifications from your bot telling with real-time appointment reminders
Step 4: Enter the salon
Step 5: Select sponsored content to read or games to play on your phone. Your chatbotot can recommend specific articles and videos for you to engage with depending on your interests, turning those worn down paper magazines and toys into digital content.
Step 6: Receive coupons based on your specific haircut. Depending on your previous style choices, chatbotots can deliver relevant deals and coupons. Best of all, they are all valid and accepted by your location!
Step 7: Choose to pay via, cash, credit, or chatbot. Even purchases can be driven within a chatbot with the ability to store existing payment methods and to set a tip ammount.
Step 8: Obtain your receipt from the chatbot along with more coupons, loyalty points, or promotions
Get Receipt and Post Purchase Messages
"Cutting" to the Chase:
While my typical 10-step process required me to spend time waiting around and answering the same questions from my stylist, the chatbot allowed me to complete my routine in 2 fewer steps (half of which happen before stepping foot inside the salon). So if I had to choose between an ordinary vs a chatbot-assisted extraordinary haircut experience, the decision is a no-brainer.
And Why Should These Salons Care?
In addition to having satisfied customers, for the salon, the excitement continues even after their customers have left because the chatbot can send feedback surveys and schedule reminder notifications 1-2 months in the future to incentivize customers to return. And in doing so, they are able to collect valuable feedback and foster brand loyalty. Most importantly, any extra time saved booking appointments, asking repetitive questions, and completing transactions equals more time spent actually cutting hair and providing a high-quality service.
I can go on and on about the many use cases chatbots can play for both brands and consumers in the service space (i.e. choosing fitness classes, ordering food pickups, scheduling automotive services), but I think you get the picture. No matter how you look at it, chatbots are directly tackling all of these service challenges! They are also assisting brands in ways that are often more consistent, reliable, and intuitive to a younger and more digitally engaged consumer base.
What excites me the most is how brands and consumers can continue the conversation beyond the point of sale and focus on what matters most -- the customer experience.
Now if only chatbots could cut hair…