I was at the barber shop yesterday morning getting my hair done, a place I visit every other month or so. As is the trend nowadays, besides hair care, every salon/barber shop has on the menu an array of beauty services on offer including nail care, eye care, massages and the works. As my hair was getting done, the beautician enquired if I would have my nails done too. I think she’d looked at the sorry state my hands and feet were in and proffered a solution. This would ordinarily be a simple question that would generate a yes or no answer right?
Well, in my case, this was something to think deeply and reflect about. You see, the lovely lady who does my nails, feet and eyebrows (what’s the correct name for this profession? Is it beautician?)Valerie is stationed at a beauty parlour on Argwings Kodhek Road about some 15 odd kilometers away from the barbershop that is a stone throw away from my house on Mombasa Road. The facility where she works is also so busy, one must book an appointment to get service. The offer therefore to have my nails done concurrently with my hair would provide a time saving solution that would also eliminate the hassle of booking and travel. I’m sure many ladies (oh and nowadays even gentlemen) can relate to the convenience of doing all the hair and beauty stuff in one spot.
So as I considered this offer, and weighed the pros and cons of where to do my nails, all rational thought pointed at doing my nails at the barber shop. However, irrational thought, bore down heavily, with thoughts such as how I would be betraying Val creeping up and whispering furtively in my left ear. As ridiculous as it sounds, somehow the thought of having someone else do my nails was producing a strong  feeling tantamount to committing grand larceny by taking what was rightfully hers and giving it away to another. Too dramatic right? Indeed it is, but that’s exactly how I felt.
So in the midst of this tempest, I reached for my phone and called Val, hoping somehow that on the off chance she may have a free slot sometime soon, so that I could assess how many more days I’d need to walk around with my ragged look.  So Val, who as usual was delighted to hear from me, let me know that she’d had a cancellation and could take me in if I could get there within the hour as her next appointment was in the afternoon. The relief was overwhelming. I very happily declined the nail care offer and I’m sure the beautician must have wondered what my delight was about, hurried the barber up to finish his business, got into my car and drove like a Matatu driver to Val’s place, using all manner of short cuts and back routes to avoid what has now become a common place occurrence of Saturday mid morning traffic.
Even Val was pretty surprised at how quickly I’d gotten there. As she ministered to my hands and feet, and we caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives and other stories of mutual interest, I felt right at home. I wondered how I had even considered attempting anything else. This is the effect of making your customers your friends. They become fiercely loyal, emotionally attached and are ready to walk your journey with you as a supplier or service provider through thick and thin. How else can one explain leaving one facility with the exact same service offering, and making a mad dash across the city, braving traffic and driving in a manner that puts one at risk of being highlighted on a popular news segment ‘Road Hog’ that casts a spotlight on erratic and bad driving behaviour, to receive the same services elsewhere?

It’s the lesson that we all need to learn and continuously practise, to have our customers at the centre of our focus , have a genuine interest in them and make them feel individually special. So go out there and make your customers your friends, sisters, brothers and family, and like Oleta Adams so powerfully says  – how they get there, be it railway, trailway, airplane, caravan, sailboat or rope to rope, they will surely get to you whichever way they can.