Is your brand having a bad hair day?

Your brand could be headed for the mother of all bad hair days and you might not even know it.

Let me explain. (Or you can jump straight to our video interviews if you’re pressed for time.)

I recently spoke at a marketing conference in Washington and had the pleasure of listening to Mary Lou Quinlan’s incredible presentation on what women aren’t telling you. Although her focus was the nuances of consumer research, it got me thinking about all the other ways women keep secrets. Or at least stay very selective about the folks they share them with.

When it comes to customer service, there’s a phenomena that I call the “Bad Hair Day.” And although our video interviews focus completely on how women deal with their hair stylists, there are correlations and lessons for all marketers.

1. Lack of complaints does not indicate a job well done. Women are genetically hard-wired to avoid confrontation. The best example of this is that as much as we spend on hair (up to $250 for cut and color every month) and as important as great hair is to us, women will never go back and tell their stylist when they’ve done a bad job.
2. Women vote with their purses. When a woman isn’t happy with your brand/service/product, she simply doesn’t buy it again.
3. She may not talk to you, but she will talk to her friends. All of them. Women spread the word about bad service. We may be a WOM dream, but we can just as easily become a nightmare. For instance, although none of the women we interviewed about bad haircuts had gone back to voice dismay with their stylists, they had immediately told their friends. All of them. Or, as one woman said, “As many as I could.”
4. Thanks to YELP and social media, her message of woe can quickly expand beyond her friend base.
5. She sees telling others of bad service as her way of performing a public service. Complaining directly to you is “rude” and “uncomfortable.” But “warning” others is a service. It’s the nice thing to do.

Next week we’ll talk about how you can turn these insights into actionable policy changes. For now, start asking yourself if you really know what she thinks about you. Her silence could be your golden opportunity.


  1. This is such a great video, which was just passed on to me by a friend. Really well done. We work with small business owners to help them understand the importance of soliciting feedback from every customer all the time. As you demonstrate so clearly, lack of feedback does not mean you have done a great job. In fact, it could me the opposite.

    1. Kim,
      Thanks for the comment and thanks for helping businesses understand this crucial part of their sales cycle. Women like to be able to give feedback anonymously and simply. Even if they’ve had a bad experience with you, you can turn it into a long, fruitful relationship if your respond the right way.

    1. Thanks for the shout out! The RISE presentation was well received and I hope that Austin soon leads the way in businesses that are EARNING the loyalty of the world’s most powerful consumer: women.

  2. Last week I had a bad experience with my hair stylist. The end result was that my hair style now matches that of Richie Sambora. You know Richie, the lead guitar player for Jon Bon Jovi. Now, he’s a good looking man. I just don’t want to look like him. However, I did tell my stylist but she didn’t offer an apology or a refund. She told me to wait a couple of weeks and check back with her when she returns from vacation! Well, I will be telling her again. Plus, I blogged about it today and then saw your site.

    1. Shelia, (or should I call you Richie?) So sorry to hear about the cut. But at least you spoke up. Hey, when I screw up I try to make amends — your stylist should too (in my humble opinion) Good luck!

  3. I went to this salon 17 Sep 2010, in Alexandria, Virginia called, “Image and Styles by Milan”, located at 5960 Kingstowne Towne Center, Alexandria, VA 22315. The woman who runs the salon is Korean and her name is Milan Duda. Although the website leads you to believe that there are several stylists in the salon, it turns out that she was the only stylist. She had 2 other women who were helping shampoo and cut men’s hair, but that was it. When I came in for my appointment, she had 2 other customers who she was already attending to. They both had color. When it was finally my turn, she started by coloring my hair and set the timer for 45 minutes (7 minutes had already passed when she set the timer and 5 more minutes passed after the timer went off before someone washed out the color. (The stain was all around my face and did not come out. After I got home I tried scrubbing with more soap and the stain was still there.) I asked her to cut off 2 inches from the back of my hair and do a very light layering. I asked her to leave my bangs alone I did not want them shortened. As stylists with a pair of scissors always do, she went chop happy and cut my hair to her liking not mine. My hair was down to my waist when I walked into the salon, and now is shoulder length. I absolutely hate it and she chopped up my bangs to suit what she liked. I am kicking myself for going there in the first place, and then not telling her before I left how much I hated the new do. Thought I would vent my frustration on this blog so other people won’t ever go to that salon. I spent $125 and am not happy. I hate hate hate my hair now and it looks worse than before. That salon is one I hope no one ever goes to.

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