Behind the Review | Being intentional in practice and presence – Yelp Blog

Shear Bliss header

It’s okay to be particular about who’s touching your hair. For her first dye job, Yelp reviewer Jenn R. did extensive research on the best colorists and treatments in New York City. She knew she wanted to try balayage—a technique that involves hand-painting the hair for a more natural look—and came across Shear Bliss NYC Salon, which specializes in color and highlights.

Owner Lana Kurayeva’s Yelp reviews stood out, both for her photo gallery of sun-kissed tresses as well as her friendly, attentive responses. “I had never colored my hair and was pretty nervous, but I reached out to Lana and she was so warm, knowledgeable, and willing to listen,” Jenn wrote in her review. “She’s an expert and an artist.”

A great cut or color requires a carefully curated blend of artistry, expertise, and customer service. Lana, a board certified haircolorist who’s studied chemistry and biology, has put in decades of work to provide the best service for her clients. But she’s just as intentional when it comes to the atmosphere of the salon, which customers describe as welcoming and electric. “The salon has an exciting, buzzy energy,” Jenn wrote. “I am so grateful that Lana and the team listened to what I wanted—and made it happen perfectly.”

Lana, who opened Shear Bliss in 2004 with her co-founder Christine, said curating this vibe starts with a positive work environment. “We consider each other family. To me, that is very, very important because what we do is very creative,” she said. “In order to be creative, you need to be comfortable. To be comfortable, you need to enjoy where you work and the environment. So I created a vibe where people can be very comfortable sharing their knowledge.”

The next ingredient in the mix? Communication. Sheer Bliss’ value of sharing knowledge extends to consultations with clients, who often come in with specific requests or inspiration drawn from social media. While social media allows customers to educate themselves and find the best stylist for their needs, it can also result in miscommunication. 

For example, some clients come into Shear Bliss with photos of styles that aren’t the right fit for their hair texture. Instead of correcting them, Lana encourages her stylists to draw out a client’s desires by asking follow-up questions—almost like they’re at a doctor’s visit. “I always tell my staff: ‘You can’t push your ideas. You have to hear them out.’ What they bring you is the idea of what they see on someone else.”

Of course, Lana’s team could reproduce a style from a photo, even if it wasn’t in the client’s best interest—but this could also lead to disappointment. “Just taking [their] money will bring that client only one time on a chair,” she said. Meanwhile, thoughtful conversations with customers foster loyalty and trust that can lead to repeat business. Taking their concerns seriously, listening to their requests, and politely sharing knowledge can help each client find a style tailor-made for them. 

Although Jenn came prepared—having done her own research of balayage—she too benefited from the informal education she received in Lana’s chair. “As someone that is curious and research-oriented, I was able to have a conversation about my hair and my hair care routine with Lana,” she said. 

The pair discussed Lana’s preferences, as well as the science and biology of her hair treatment and how to keep her color looking as natural as possible. That conversation proved almost as valuable as the balayage itself, Jenn said: “From that first visit with Lana, I have now fully transitioned my hair care routine, using all the flex products and a couple of other products. And I see a marked difference in my hair. My hair looks better and is healthier.”

If a stylist at Shear Bliss happens to miss the mark, they also offer free adjustments within two weeks of the service. While other businesses might view this as admitting fault, Lana believes that it’s another chance to prove the salon’s value and build strong relationships with clients: “We take it as [a point] pride. You came back. You trust us. That means we built that relationship for you to trust us enough to fix it.”

The same goes for customer reviews, which can be both inspirational and nerve-wracking for the business. The team regularly shares positive feedback as a way to motivate each other. But even when Shear Bliss receives a negative review, Lana takes it as an opportunity to reach out and see if she can improve the customer’s experience. The few moments it takes to make an adjustment—to hear them out and tweak a detail that bothered them—that’s what makes the cut. 

Lana and her team also curate a positive experience through these tips:

  • Scale down to what you’re best at. Instead of trying to do it all and cover every offering on the market, focus on elevating a few, key services in order to provide the highest quality for your customers.
  • Social media is a second full-time job. Maintaining your profiles across many online platforms—including monitoring reviews and uploading recent photos—helps you reach customers where they are.
  • Loyal client relationships are more valuable than a quick buck. Really helping and listening to your customers, even if they have a complaint, is what will keep them coming back and grow your business in the long-term.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Lana and Jenn, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Photos of Shear Bliss on Yelp

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Behind the Review, episode 52 transcript

Your expert opinion vs. the customer’s wants

EMILY: I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert. Every episode I pick one review on Yelp and talk to the entrepreneur and the reviewer about the story and business lessons behind it. Lets see what’s behind this week’s review.

JENN:  I was looking for a new hairdresser in New York City. I grew up on Long Island and so I was really keen on someone in the city who I could use as my go to, so I went on Yelp. And I was doing my little searching around and knew very specifically that I wanted olaplex as my balayage has treatment. And Lana had the best reviews. I should also say that I had actually never colored my hair before. So this was a whole new experience for me and I was super nervous about it. So I definitely did more research because it’s my hair on my head, then I would have had it been, you know, choosing a restaurant or looking for a nail salon or something. 

EMILY: That’s Jenn, a Yelp user who grew up on Long Island and was making the change to a salon in the city. Having done so much extensive research, Jenn went into her hair appointment with high expectations for her very first balayage. Let’s hear her review to find out how it went.

JENN: So the short, first time coloring my hair and so glad that I found Lana. She’s an expert and an artist. I had never colored my hair and was pretty nervous, but reached out to Lana and she was so warm, knowledgeable and willing to listen. The salon has an exciting buzzy energy. I am so grateful that Lana and the team listened to what I wanted and made it happen perfectly. Highly, highly recommend if you’re looking for a great balayage colorist.

EMILY: For Jenn, getting her hair dyed for the first time was a step into unknown territory. Luckily, the warm and attentive service she received at Shear Bliss NYC made the experience a memorable first. To Lana, Jenn’s hairstylist and the owner of Shear Bliss, there’s so much more that goes into delivering a consistent, high quality experience for guests than just knowing how to cut or color hair. Let’s hear what she has to say.

LANA 1: We’re located in the heart of Manhattan on Third avenue. Our salon exists for the past 17 years. I opened it up with my partner Christine, that actually I work with and she used to be my manager. 23 years ago, I immigrated from Russia to here. And I started with this big company and that’s how we bonded. And we’re thank God still busy.

EMILY: Lana is someone who values human connection above all else, and this is seen in the way she runs Shear Bliss. Something Jenn actually commented on in her review was the “exciting, buzzy energy” of the salon as soon as she walked in. Lana has intentionally curated that vibe and experience after realizing what she didn’t like about her previous salon experience.

LANA: Where I used to work at a company, everybody was in their own small kind of area where nobody spoke to each other and didn’t share things. So here what we created, I create a really close vibe with the staff and employees where we consider each other as a family. To me was very, very important because what we do is very creative. In order to be creative, you need to be comfortable. To be comfortable you need to enjoy where you work and the environment. So I created the vibe where people can be very comfortable sharing their knowledge. We’re constantly educating. 

The salon is about 900 square feet.  Originally we had about eight chairs and we decided to have full salon service. I was 18 – young. So we tried to have nails, pedicure, waxing.

But then that part kind of didn’t go because I’m a hairdresser and a colorist. So I couldn’t concentrate on both and we decided to actually use this space and maximize and have all the keratin and hair botox. And instead of eight chairs, now we have 14 chairs. So nails and kind of everything went for all the salons around because a huge competition around salons, nails all around. So we decided to do … What do we know? What are we good at? And do just hair.

EMILY: At first Lana cared about having it all. Offering it all. But after some time she realized it was spreading her too thin, and taking away from what she is truly good at. By getting serious about hair she could elevate her offering and appeal to more customers, while offering less services. As a professional in her field, Lana also brings years of experience and education to the table. This allows her to give customers the best quality of hair treatment, which is what they’re ultimately looking for.

LANA 3: I’m American board certified colorist. In New York city, that degree only has 14 stylists. All colorists and stylists has to be cosmetology license. Even shampoo girls, there must be cosmetology license. Even to wash the hair. They must be, but American board-certified colorist is a very limited edition of us. It’s a very high education to go. It’s chemistry, it’s biology. It’s a lot of tests taken. It’s two or three years of studying. And about 16 years ago, I got that degree. Somebody challenged me and it was very hard because to me, English is my fourth language, and it was very hard, but I did it.

EMILY: Lana clearly has lots of skills and qualifications under her belt. But being able to connect with customers is also a crucial part of the job, and she definitely knows it. Something Lana emphasized is the importance of listening to what clients actually want, and then helping guide them with her expertise. That way, she’s able to work with them to set accurate expectations and create their ideal hairstyle.

LANA: 20 years ago, clients would come and say, what do you think would look good on me? And they just go along. Now, people are so educated because everything on social media, you can see what can be used, how it can be done. So when client comes and they say, I want this. And you little look at the client, you like seriously? And you got to say it in a proper way, but in order to deliver it properly, you need to be educated enough to deliver it nicely. But at least the idea of what they bring gives you an idea. You know what they want. 

And I always tell my staff, you can’t push your ideas. You have to hear them out. But when they come and you understand the hair won’t handle, the texture is wrong, but what they bring you is the idea of what they seeing on someone.  And not necessarily it will fit the person, but then step-by-step you ask and you being a doctor, people say, oh, hair color, okay. This is the price done. No, it’s not about this. It’s about this. And when I say this, it’s very important to clarify during the consultation, what they want.

EMILY: I love this approach. No matter how much skill and expertise you have, the customer ultimately needs to leave feeling satisfied. By hearing them out while also providing expert advice, Lana is not only making customers happy, but also making sure they come back.

LANA: You want the clients to be back and you want to bond with them and build the loyalty. You need to explain the why that will not work, what needs to be done. 

So all that is the most important is the consultation, which a lot of stylists in our industry do not understand how important. Because miscommunication, misleading, wrong pictures. And just by taking money will bring that client only one time on a chair. You will never bring that client again. And important thing. I think we’re the only salon probably officially publishing on a website that we give two weeks absolutely free complimentary adjustment, because if you spend five, 600 dollars. And 90% of the job delivered, but there’s always some details, some details that bothers you. It takes 10, 15 minutes for me and my staff to fix. But you’re comfortable. You’re back. You adjust that, then you enjoying what you paid for.

EMILY: Lana and her team take no offense when customers come back for adjustments. In fact, they view the act of coming back as a sign of trust, and they want to offer that trust. But of course it could be considered a risk that customers might take advantage of you. Lana sees the value far outweigh the risk.

LANA: So if something bothers you – don’t hesitate. Reach out. We take it as a pride and not as a, oh my God. You came back. You trust us. Second time you trust us adjusting and fixing it, that means we build it, that relationship for you to trust us enough, to fix it and for you to stay with us. And that’s very important. That’s what made us stay in seventeen years in business and people come back to us and travel from all over the country, no matter where they are, because we take full responsibility on what we do.

EMILY: Loyal client relationships are established when business owners take the time to really help and listen to their customers. Lana’s friendly and informative service leaves a deep impression on customers like Jenn.

JENN: In my review I say that Lana is an artist and expert, and I didn’t really hone into this in my review, but what I meant when I said that she’s an expert is that, you know, as someone that is curious and research oriented, I was able to have a conversation about my hair and my hair care routine with Lana.

And she explained the science and the biology of hair, right? From that first visit with Lana, I have now fully transitioned my hair care routine, using all the flex products and a couple of other products. And I see a marked difference in my hair. My hair looks better and is healthier. And so having someone who not only has the artistry but has the kind of background and the experience working with hair. That can explain it from a different perspective and give you a little bit of an informal education. That was something that I really appreciated about working with Lana.

EMILY: We’re going to take a quick break, but when we come back we’ll hear from Lana about why social media is so important, and how she recommends approaching reviews.

And we’re back! Especially in recent years, more and more local businesses have taken to social media to grow their audiences.

LANA: Through Yelp I was actually promoting Instagram like here’s before and after please follow for videos and pictures from Instagram. So each platform really different and people asking me why you all over and you trying to be everywhere? Because you don’t know where people coming from. People are all over and you really cannot concentrate (on one place). My suggestion on one thing, you have to make sure you keep equally everywhere. Your response rate. Are your pictures up to date? 

It’s so important because that’s what keeps you relevant. I opened up a Tik ToK probably maybe seven months ago. I’ve been seeing a million, a million, 15 million, 20 million view. The platform is absolutely new but it just picked up. It’s new to me. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m trying, and you know what? It’s like hair and fashion. You have to keep up. It’s a two thing job. You can’t just concentrate on hair or fashion. Now it’s all about social media. You’ll have to work full-time on the floor and then you’ll have to come back home. Either pay someone or work full-time on social media to put all that work out there to sell yourself.

There’s no more word of mouth. I can live across the street from the place and I will never go there because I only watch what’s on social media. And it doesn’t matter where it is. I like it. If so, it’s great pictures. It has great reviews. I get an Uber and I’m there.

EMILY: Speaking of reviews, seeing what people have to say about your service can be daunting for any business owner.

LANA: It’s like getting a heart attack. Everybody in my family knows. And my husband prays. When we go on a trip, he prays that all the reviews are good because there’s always somebody who will write. It’s so hard to make people write good reviews, but there’s always somebody who will write an essay on a negative review – essay.

EMILY: From the moment someone enters the salon, it’s clear that Lana puts a lot of effort into building and sustaining genuine relationships with her customers. 

But personalized service doesn’t stop there. When someone takes to writing an online review that is less than stellar, how do you extend the same listening ear and reach a solution?

LANA: Every single one I take personal and I do reach out to them personally after. And I ask them because to me, it’s important to hear the negativity of what they went through, so I can fix it. Because negative reviews are something that they experienced and something forced them to write it, write that review. So I reach out to them because not all of them are fake and you don’t know who they are. And those might be competitive businesses or somebody who left the salon, so you really couldn’t do anything about that. They just sit there and you don’t even know who the person is. 

But if there is somebody that you know, and I can reach out, I always do. It’s still because to me to hear their exterior opinion of my stuff. Because it’s always two sides of the story and making conclusion, then we have always meetings based on a good on bad reviews and we’ll make conclusions about what can be done to be better and what can be done to avoid those things.

EMILY: It’s a wise move for business owners to reach out to customers, but Lana also encourages the same for customers.

LANA: I have a client who comes to us for 10, 12. years and there’s something would go, it’s impossible to always, for me to be on top of everything. People, new people come, something goes wrong and it’s an essay of a negative review. And I really want to reach out and say 12 years of you coming 15 years. Not even once one positive review, why one time doing something wrong and you have to go. 

You know, before, when there was no social media, people would call up the management and they will reach out to human and they would discuss. And my personal thing, you want to show your experience, great. But before you do it, do me a favor. Everyone out there – be human, stay human. Why has to go and just go to the whole world and throw all the negativity. Try to reach out to the management, try to see if somebody will be able to handle that for you. And only if that will not be handled. Yes, you have all the rights to put your anger and go further. 

EMILY: Especially now that more and more consumers are making buying decisions based on what they read online, reviews can be tough to navigate. Nevertheless, Lana and her team are grateful for those who take the time to share their experiences at Shear Bliss.

LANA: Sometimes I forget to look at the review and what surprises me is that I thought only me always on top of all those reviews and checking it out, but I would stay home in the morning and my staff would share and send me the picture of reviews from here or there.

That’s how much all of us care. Because they’re so happy somebody wrote about them. So that really inspires us a lot.

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