Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dazzle Me, Dah-ling

When I was a child, I remember my mother and grandmothers buying their make-up from department stores - notably, Merle Norman and Clinique, normally purchased at Strawbridge & Clothier, if memory serves.  So, when I was a teenager (or darn close) and decided - with a best friend's help - that it was high time I start wearing make-up, neither of us knew any better than to go to a department store and find the Clinique counter.

We left the store $21 poorer (which is kind of a lot when you're 13 or 14 and don't have a job), each of us quite proud of our silver tubes of lipstick and mascara.  Unfortunately, after a few months of sneaking our make-up on, the parents caught us and turned things around.  When I finally was allowed to start wearing make-up, I discovered that other people go to places we called "drug stores" and bought much cheaper versions of our fancy old-women make-up.  Wet 'n' Wild, anyone?  There's nothing quite like the quality of $1 eyeliner.  I still remember a seasoned eyeliner-wearing friend showing me a trick where you run the tip through the flame of a lighter to make it easier to apply.  Yup, that's quality.

Believe it or not, this is actually going to develop into a post about not only World Class Customer Service, but also about Stellar Sales Skills.  Why don't we get started?

In the years since my early adventures with make-up, I found MAC.  Professional quality at consumer pricing?  Sign me up.  While it is definitely higher pricing than what you'd find in your local "drug store," you're paying for quality and you get it.  In my younger, crazier years, there were at least a few [dozen] times I found myself spending the night at a friend's house because it would be stupid to drive home at that hour/level of sobriety.  My friends were always amazed that my make-up didn't "melt" throughout our exploits or even as I slept.  It would still look fabulous in the morning, as long as I didn't swipe my hand across my face in my sleep.

Nevertheless, I just love cosmetics, so when a friend introduced me to the wonder of Sephora, I didn't mind signing up for a Beauty Insider card and spending some of my hard-earned bucks there, too.  If you are unacquainted with Sephora, just imagine a really big room with about 20-30 high-quality cosmetic brands spread throughout, as well as brilliantly placed trial sizes and upsells all along the serpentine route to the registers, for which there is always a line.  With my Beauty Insider card, I earn points toward little gifts - for example, when my sister and I stopped into a store in San Francisco to get her some bronzer, my card earned me a free, trial-sized Miracle eye cream.

Ironically, on my way home from San Francisco, Delta helped me break up what was left of the MAC Tenderling blush I'd been using, so today I set out to replace it.  However, I had already decided I wanted to replace it with something a tiny tad bit more colorful - Tenderling did a great job of merely highlighting that there was a change in the structure of my face and it helped ease a I-Love-Being-Pale gal from no-blush to some-color, but I was ready for graduation.  I figured I'd stop into Sephora first, since obviously, there would be a bigger selection.  Thus begins the tale of how too many choices is not always the best choice.

I wandered aimlessly around Sephora looking for my favored brand, Urban Decay, without much luck.  Eventually, a nice lady asked me if I needed help and I told her what I was looking for - she pointed me in the right direction, but I couldn't help but feel it might have been better to walk a little way with me.  Not finding what I wanted with the 6 blushes they offered, I wandered around the store a bit and was greeted with row after row of lovely blushes...with glitter.  Shimmer, I guess, is the cosmetic world term but the point is it was sparkly.  After nearly giving up, I made eye contact with an unoccupied employee who offered her assistance.  I told her I was looking for blush but I didn't want glitter - "too much sparkle in my hair to have sparkle on my face" - which earned me a "this lady's a little loco" look.  She showed me a couple of blushes with a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for boiled vegetables and again, pointed in the direction of more make-up.  Humoring her, I looked at the other kiosk before showing myself the door and heading to my faithful stand-by, MAC.

By the time I left the store, that bag carried nearly $100-worth of make-up.  Let me tell you why.

First of all, I'll grant that one advantage MAC had in this particular encounter is that it only sells its own make-up.  So, if I was hanging out at the blush table, I probably wanted blush.  Nevertheless, I was standing in front of the blush display only long enough to recognize that I was standing in front of blush before a smiling lady (looked to be about my age) asked me if I needed anything specific.  If I could take a brief aside, that is another terrific quality about MAC stores - because they are actually designed for make-up artists and staffed by make-up artists, most of the time I go in there, when someone asks me that I can give them my "order" like I'm at a make-up deli and be in and out in about 3 minutes.  Today was not one of those days, though.  Today I explained [again] that I was looking for a blush to replace what I was currently wearing and then told her I was wearing Tenderling.  She immediately found the right blush for me (all of them were matte, so I didn't have to worry about "shimmer.") and put it on my face.

Is that the end of the happy story?  Hell, no!

As she led me to the chair, she verbally assumed I was a make-up artist, based on the way I had my eyes painted up (also with MAC colors - Passionate, Carbon, and Crystal Avalanche).  I told her I was not; I just like to paint my face.  She looked me dead in the eyes and said, "You are a make-up artist."  I laughed and a little awkwardly pointed out that I had no credentials, to which she replied, with the same conviction and certainty, "You have credentials."

That made me feel really good.

So there you have it - World Class Service - because that's what it's about: making the consumer of your possibly over-priced goods feel like a really awesome person.  She made me feel beautiful and confident and competent.  She could have left off the Blushbaby blush she was flawlessly applying to my cheeks during this conversation because I was glowing.  Fortunately, she did apply it, and when I saw myself in the mirror she handed me, I said, "yes, this is it; I'll take it."  Now we'll start the story on what a stellar sales person she is.

A brief background story: I am presently a corporate trainer for the sales department of a national weight loss company.  Recently, my boss and I read through a book on what is virtually a no-fail sales model called Silver Bullet Selling.  One of the points the authors make is that you should always continue to ask if there are any other concerns/needs before "closing" the sale.  Because this young lady was so good at asking, "Do you need anything else?" I went in there solely to replace my blush and left with:

  • blush
  • 2 eyeshadows
  • lipstick
  • lip liner
  • a lighter wallet
  • a big smile

Also, as she was ringing me up she threw in a free sample of their mascara: 

That's what I call great customer service, which is why I've already spent hundreds, possible over $1K in there over the years and why I will continue to bring them my business.  Hopefully, you will bring them yours as well.


  1. I also love MAC! The eyeshadow has strong pigmentation (is that the right word?)--so I don't have to use tons to get some color on my eyelid.

    And I agree that they have fantastic customer service.

  2. Hey Jackie! That is definitely the right word and the bold colors and high pigment is the reason I love their make-up. Interestingly, there was a time I decided to stay out of MAC due to a terrible CS experience I had at one of their stores in a rich, snooty area. Glad I gave them a second chance, though (which was largely based on the number of good experiences I'd had at other stores).