These days, it seems, you needn’t go far at all to find one -- a Drybar salon, “the premiere blow dry bar,” its presence announced cheerfully on busy thoroughfares and crowded promenades with the slate-gray awning that is its trademark. It isn’t a business you might pay much mind ordinarily (certainly, it’s not a business I myself knew too well until recently); but from the looks of things lately, it’s a business at the forefront of an entirely new kind of customer experience, and indeed, if this recent report in Buzzfeed is any indication, a business whose example we’d do well to follow.
At its core, Drybar really isn’t so different from the beauty parlors our grandmothers frequented: it’s a place like any other to get your hair set, dried and treated (“no cuts, no colors,” the company’s website stresses). It’s an update, essentially, on a decades-old service, and yet in recent years, it’s become to the blowout what Starbucks is now to coffee: indispensable to the lives its patrons lead, even as businesses with similar, competitively-priced offerings emerge, and singular in the experience it provides its clients.
Drybar has put the blowout on the map, much as Starbucks did to coffee at a different time, and has seen enormous dividends in the process, with 60-plus locations now crisscrossing the country and more than $100 million in revenues projected for the year ahead. So how, then, did Drybar succeed where countless others failed? The answers, I suspect, lies in these takeaways from the Buzzfeed article -- lessons for the rest of us in how to perfect and pioneer a forward-thinking customer experience:
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1. Delivering an experience.
It’s really about delivering an “experience.” Great customer experience (CX) should account for the journeys buyers travel. For Drybar, this has meant investing heavily in the ambience and accoutrements that attend their clients’ visits -- chandeliers fashioned from blow dryers, cookies, coffee and champagne on gratis -- as the average Drybar customer (a young professional, squeezing in appointments between meetings) doesn’t usually have much time to spare, and is understandably anxious to get the most they can for their 40 minutes. It’s a gamble that has paid off handsomely, particularly as young people’s spending priorities have shifted; reports youth researcher Cassandra, some 62 percent of people between 18 and 34 years of age would rather spend money on memorable experiences and entertainment (food, drinks, and yes, blowouts) than on one-off, luxury items.
As you set about delighting your own customers, think long and hard about who they are and how they come to find you -- if, for instance, they hail from specific industries, or wield specific titles, or keep to specific online patterns (in the content they download, pages and websites they visit, events they attend, and so forth). Audit the content you offer -- ebooks, whitepapers, webinars -- and see if you can’t map the various assets in your repository to the discrete stages of your buyers’ journeys. The more you can do to meet them where they are, and to satisfy their immediate needs at a given time (say, with a fast-facts datasheet on your product to help them get executive buy-in, or an on-demand demo if and when they’re in a position to close), the richer you’ll be for it.
2. Great customer experience.
Good CX should aspire to cultivate a higher caliber of customer. For all the Starbucks comparisons it garners, (in this piece’s preamble, for instance), the service Drybar offers is, as Sapna Maheshwari puts it, “vastly more complicated than making a Pumpkin Spice Latte taste the same across state lines.” It requires skill and care to execute, and has resulted over time in clients that are, well, picky to say the least. But they have their reasons. Pay more than $50 for something a few minutes’ rain can undo, and a half hour wait for a drink or an enthusiastic stylist can come as a crushing disappointment. And they may well be rewarded for their candor, ultimately; there are employees at Drybar headquarters solely in charge of “just because” touches, responsible for, say, sending nice letters to people that right good reviews, or “thank-you” flowers to top customers in different cities.
Guests of Drybar expect a great deal of the salon, and this, in turn, pushes salon staff to consistently improve upon past standards they’ve set. Businesses should aspire for similar in the customer experiences they provide -- customers so convinced of what the business can do well, and so certain of what they want from the business, that the business rises to meet the challenge. At a strategic level, this may mean doubling down on customer success initiatives (workshops and advisory days for power users of your product, training manuals and certification programs to maximize their investments). At a practical level, it may mean looking for ways to go above and beyond on customers’ behalf, and to showcase their strengths (pointing them in the direction of thought leadership or press opportunities, for instance, or calling them up to speak at events). Give them as good as you get, and the CX you offer can only get better.
Good CX should prioritize consistency above all else. Whatever the company’s faults, there’s simply no mistaking a Drybar when you see one; the touches to the place are just that deliberate. It no doubt helps, of course, that the architecture firm responsible for the company’s first location has seen to every new salon since (a total of 75 by this year’s end), all in tony destinations, and almost always in the vicinity of businesses targeting a similar demographic (Lululemon and Soulcycle, for instance). But it’s the details, really, that betray the business’ commitment to consistency: menus in every location that outline the hairstyles on offer as cocktail types (“the sleek and straight Manhattan,” the “loose and beachy Mai Tai”), to limit the room for error between stylists; mirrors placed behind stylists’ stations, rather than in front, so that the results of every blowout come as a surprise. It’s these details that convince Drybar clients that their experiences can’t easily be replicated elsewhere, and that one Drybar isn’t vastly different from another.
On this front, technologies like marketing automation can prove particularly useful -- enabling an organization’s various front-office departments (marketing, sales, support) to work together as one, all within an integrated workspace. With a platform like Act-On, for instance, businesses can address their every brand, demand and customer marketing need from an accessible and intuitive dashboard, to empower marketers to apply marketing automation functionalities (segmentation, scoring, and nurturing) to initiatives beyond acquisition marketing, including influencer relations, human resources, customer retention and brand advocacy.