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ost entrepreneurs will agree that customer service is vital to the success of their business. This is something that Ashley Humphries, who

fell into barbering by chance at the age of 19, learnt early on. “In fact it was my customers who really

got me thinking about opening my own shop,” says Ashley, who'd done his GCSEs, tried college and worked in various sales jobs before volunteering in a local barbershop. It was more of a hobby at first,” he says, but before long his boss spotted that he had talent and encouraged him to take it on full time. Not only was he soon managing the shop

when his boss was away, he quickly built up loyal clientele. Some were even travelling a distance to see him because there wasn’t a great service in their local area. Spotting an opportunity, Ashley investigated the possibility of opening his own barbershop so these clients wouldn't have to travel so far. Knowing how important it was to keep these customers happy, he focused entirely on what they wanted and what would work for them.

A fresh approach

Thinking really carefully about the whole customer experience is one way to really differentiate your business. This is exactly what Ashley did when he decided to give his younger clientele the option of playing an Xbox or watching TV, while waiting for their haircut. For those with kids, he invested in a racing car chair to make the cut quick and fun. “We don’t doddle about – we’re quick and efficient and provide a great service. Lots of our customers are busy so we make sure we don’t

waste their time.” Some might

Ashley's service is original and efficient


think Ashley’s youth could work against him. In fact, many of his first clients were a similar age and enjoyed having a

✹ Providing full-time employment for people: “So many small businesses are responsible for


creating jobs – not the government.” ✹ Buying an Aston Martin and developing two properties

young barber taking care of them. Today the customer age is more balanced, but in the beginning, "being able to identify with younger blokes and talk about things they were

interested in

helped," he says. Breaking moulds

Many barbershops are pretty traditional and

have been around for years, operating in the same way as they did

25 years ago. Breaking out of the mould was was another way that Ashley was able to stand out. “I opened half an hour earlier and stayed open half an hour later than other shops,” he explains. He also took the decision not to close on Sunday or Monday as many traditional shops do. “People today expect service 24/7 and we have to cater for them,” he says.

Choose your battles Ashley is quick to admit, however, that you can’t please everyone. Sometimes a customer thinks they want something done a certain way, that won’t really work. Ashley is keen to point out that it’s important to be as clear as possible from the start to avoid misunderstandings – and to stay calm and focus on finding solutions if there are crossed wires. Is the customer always right? “Certainly

not!” Once a customer popped out to get cash to pay for her son’s haircut. She left her handbag on the counter, on returning couldn’t find her phone and then accused one of his staff of stealing it. She left in a rage only to return later, having found the phone, to apologise. “That was a case

fresh young millionaire

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