What A High-End NYC Salon Can Teach Product Managers

by drjim on February 7, 2011

Your Customers Want Your Product To Make Them Look Beautiful

Your Customers Want Your Product To Make Them Look Beautiful

Just imagine the perfect world for a product manager: you have you choice of high end customers, they really don’t care just how expensive your product is – they feel that they must have it at any price, and your sales are virtually global recession-proof. Sound impossible? Well it’s not for one high-end New York City salon and although you might not be in the business of making women look beautiful, I’m willing to bet that you could learn a thing or two from this place…

Welcome To The Pierre Michel Salon

Right off the bat, let’s all admit something here: going to a salon is never a required part of anyone’s day. However, there sure seem to be a lot of people who truly feel as though they couldn’t live without this little indulgence.

The Pierre Michel Salon in New York City is one such salon. It is in such high demand that it is easily able to fill a large location in one of the most expensive cities in the world all the while becoming more and more successful.

Wendy Lee from the New York Times recently spent some time looking into what makes the Pierre Michel salon so successful. What she found is valuable information for every product manager.

This salon employs 75 beauticians. This is important because each of these beauticians has their own client base who adores them and keeps coming back time after time. While in the salon, the clients visit one of the 61 workstations (no, not like the kind of workstations that you are thinking about) where they can have work done on their hair, face, and hands.

The relationship between the salon and its customers is so close that when customers show up, they almost never bother to sign in. Instead, they head back to the workstation where they’ll be worked on without stopping. The salon classifies its customers according to if they are new, regulars, or VERY regulars.

In order for any salon to stay in business, they need to have a steady stream of customers. At the Pierre Michel salon on a summer day they service an average of about 245 clients. During their busy season, they can service up to 400 clients per day!

What Makes This Salon So Special?

So what makes this Pierre Michel salon any different from that SuperCuts down the corner from where you live? It starts with the folks who own and run the place: Pierre Ouaknine and Michel Obadia. They immigrated from Morocco back in the 1970’s and have been hard at work making people look good ever since.

In Pierre’s office he has a bank of close circuit television screens that allow him to keep close tabs on each of the workstations in the salon. He spends his time watching them in order to make sure that his staff is not just doing their jobs, but rather taking the time to actually pamper their clients.

We all know that in order for a product to be successful you need to make money selling it. This is yet another area where the Pierre Michel salon does a fantastic job. A basic women’s haircut will run you $175 (a man’s haircut costs $115 but includes nose, ears, and brows trimming). Hair coloring costs about $300. You get the point. Oh, and don’t forget the 20% tip for your beautician and of course some sort of tip for everyone who assisted them.

Why do so many New Yorkers come to this salon? According to Sue Ellen Gifford (an eyebrow guru) they realize that it takes three things to look good in New York: eyes, teeth, and hair.

Pierre Michel succeeds because they’ve expanded their client base to also include men. They get haircuts, etc. at the salon because just like the ladies they want to look their best.

The salon realizes that the most precious resource that their customers have is time. That’s why they’ve installed wireless Internet access. Amazingly enough this allows their clients to keep working even while they are being treated.

Finally, the success of the Pierre Michel salon comes down to one thing: relationships. Unlike at that SuperCuts that you may go to, at this salon you’ll see your favorite stylist over and over again. In fact, many customers have been seeing the same stylist for decades – how’s that for customer loyalty?

What All Of This Means For You

Every product manager can learn from the Pierre Michel Salon’s success. Clearly they are a runaway success and there are several things that they can teach every product manager.

We all like to pay lip service to the idea of customer service, but the Pierre Michel salon lives and dies by how good of a job they do on this. Oh, and they do a really good job. Instead of creating a service that they require their customers to conform to, instead they’ve made the services that they offer bend and fit their customer’s busy lives.

By doing this they’ve created a product that not only sells well in good times, but also sells well during global recessions. Product managers who spend too much time focusing on how a web site looks or producing even more product brochures and not enough time on customer service, need to pay attention. Spending time to make your customer feel beautiful about using your product can pay handsome rewards…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it would be worth it to pamper all of your customers or just a subset of them?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Gone in 48 days. Ouch – that’s got to be some sort of record. As product managers we try to do all of the right things when we’re handed the responsibility of birthing a new product: determine what our customer’s needs are, understand the competition, calculate costs and price points, and create clever tag lines and flashy graphics to capture our customer’s imagination. Microsoft’s product managers did all of this (and more), and yet the Kin One and Kin Two mobile phones from Microsoft got yanked off the market after a life of only 48 days. What happened here?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Meta Brown February 7, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Salons – such complex social dynamics going on there. Sydney Biddle Barrows talks about salon experiences at length in Uncensored Sales Strategies, which is devoted to discussion of how to charge more than the competition and thrive.

Uncensored Sales Strategies is a good read for those who are interested in appealing to high-end buyers.
Ms. Barrows is an expert on this – she became famous in the eighties when she was arrested for running an ultra-expensive prostitution business in New York City. Now she consults for luxury businesses such as plastic surgeons.

PS. Despite the title, the book is no spicier than PG.

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson February 10, 2011 at 9:21 am

Meta: Thanks for the book reference — I’m going to read this. You are correct that this type of market is a great market to go after (high margins!); however, it is very, very difficult to do it well…!

Reply

Meta Brown February 10, 2011 at 9:52 am

Yes, it certainly is difficult to do well! Most of the salon stories in the book center on examples of what not to do, and the author names names.

Reply

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