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Behind the Review | Creating a truly inclusive customer experience

“Time is the most valuable kind of currency, so when people are giving you theirs, it’s important that you think about all of the details they may consider,” said Alex Bradberry, owner and founder of The Sparkle Bar, a full-service makeup studio. Anticipating customer needs can be tricky, but with thought, intention, and mindfulness, a truly inclusive experience is born. In this week’s deep dive, Alex lends her expertise on the matter.

“I had been to places that didn’t have a [makeup] shade that matched me, so when it came to our business, we wanted to make sure that we had a shade for every single person—that no one would have an experience when there wasn’t something for them.” Alex runs her business in a way that ensures every single customer feels good about the choice they made to patronize her business. 

The key is recognizing that people have different needs and then taking the time to learn what those needs are for each individual. For Alex, it’s about studying those moments she has with her customers, along with a devotion to further education and learning. She recommends “staying aware and learning about your clients—taking part in the conversations, reading different publications, and listening to different podcasts all to stay culturally informed and aware of what’s going on in the world.”

It’s that attitude that makes Alex an exemplary business owner and The Sparkle Bar a successful business. She and her staff enter every situation reminding themselves that “we set the temperature, we don’t adjust to it.” Rather than being reactive to an issue, Alex works tirelessly to anticipate her customer’s needs and be proactive with the solution.

Here’s a quick look at some of this episode’s learnings:

  • Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is always good advice, especially when it comes to their experience with your business. For example at The Sparkle Bar, Alex spent significant time thinking about the chairs she selected, ensuring that no matter who you were, you would feel comfortable.
  • Listen and always be learning. With every new piece of information you come across, endless growth is possible. Take the time to listen to your customers and understand what they’re looking for. Dedicating yourself to this practice can in turn reward you with business growth and a loyal following.
  • Look at each person as an individual. Each person experiences your business differently, so try to take a customized approach with every customer. As Alex says, “keeping your client at the forefront and thinking about how you can continue to serve them is the formula for success.”

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


Behind the Review, episode 20 transcript
We set the temperature, we don’t adjust to it

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

For this week’s deep dive episode, I’m bringing back former guest Alex Bradberry, owner of makeup studio, The Sparkle Bar, to talk about the topic of anticipating diverse customer needs. We’ll discuss the proactive measures Alex takes to address and meet a wide range of customers, how incorporating this level of intentionality can positively impact your business and brand’s reputation, and how you as a business owner can do the same. Let’s dive right in. 

EMILY: Alex, I’m happy to have you back with us today for a deep dive discussion on anticipating diverse needs, as well as how to be intentional and inclusive in your business. You and I both know that in 2020, this issue was brought to the forefront of discussions as it pertained to big corporations as well as independent businesses like yourself. But you’ve been doing this for quite some time, anticipating the diversity in your clients, particularly in who they are and what products they’ll need. Can you walk me through why this is such an important part of your business? 

ALEX: Yes. Yes. So, so much of what we get to do at the Sparkle Bar is about an experience and creating something that’s memorable. People are giving us their time—the most valuable kind of currency. And so when we think about that, it’s super, super important that we think about the details that they might consider. Even if it’s not something that we face. 

Our chairs are a good example of this, because you know, we are very intentional about the chairs we selected. So that no matter who you were, you would feel comfortable, feeling supported in the seat that you were sitting in. So that the application and experience that you had with us while at the Sparkle Bar was pleasant. Whether you were a child’s size or you were larger, it was very important for us to make sure that everyone felt comfortable in our space. And so things like that. Just that little extra touch. 

EMILY:  I know you opened with the intention to be inclusive and you’ve also made changes along the way to meet client needs. Talk to me about how you as a business owner identify client needs and then make decisions regarding your business to address this? 

ALEX: Yes, anticipating client needs is important. 

You know, it shows up in so many ways. From the foundations that we curate in studio to ensure that we have range not just for the darkest shades that we can find but also the fairest as well, because our clients, they represent the rainbow. To the brands that we pick from Indie to larger brands, ensuring that our clients have choice and that we are always selecting the creme de la creme to create the most amazing luxurious experience for all. 

It does help you to plan and prepare so that you can continue to create amazing experiences.

You know, even right now, I guess COVID is a great example. Making sure that we made the appropriate changes within the space by adding additional air purifiers. Going above and beyond to ensure that our clients knew that there were options. Offering early and late appointments so that we have the ability to allow our clients, if they wanted to or needed, to have the studio to themselves, if it was necessary in certain situations. 

So, you know, really recognizing what might be important, given a situation, and being flexible to some degree when you need to be has really helped us to maintain this positive relationship, where we understand that our clients are going through things like us, and that we want to make sure that we’re always sensitive to that as well.

EMILY: Yeah. And you know, I think something that you and I have talked about in the past is just identifying body language. When we’re talking about any type of in-person interaction with your customers, being aware of signals they might be giving you physically as opposed to just verbally. 

Tell me about some of those visual cues that people can identify. 

ALEX: Yeah, I think that being able to read those nonverbal cues, body language, is super important. You know, noticing if somebody’s fidgeting or looking uncomfortable. And there’s lots of things that you can do to help ensure that you’re able to create the most positive experience. And having those tools that you can reach to, maybe even just talking through things in more detail as sometimes what a client needs, that they can feel more comfortable with the situation.

Our team is really good about creating a positive experience where someone walks away feeling really good. And we understand that coming into a place like ours, you can feel vulnerable without makeup, or maybe feeling like, whatever the case might be. And so it is important for us to speak to that and remind you to feel good and that, you know, celebrate your uniqueness and love those unique characteristics that are what make you who you are, what is so special about you.

So for us, it’s something that we are aware of, especially when it comes to feeling vulnerable, when society can oftentimes have a way of playing on your insecurities. That we really work hard to look at people and remind them that they’re beautiful. And to counteract that with positivity.

EMILY: We were talking about making your customer feel positive. And you know, in some industries you’re going to have a set demographic of customers, right? And in an industry like yours, your demographic is a variety of customers. You were sharing with me how you have different life events that your customers typically come to you before. And those might vary based on the cultures of your clients. Talk to me about how you and your staff work to serve those diverse cultural needs and be a part of that experience for your client.

ALEX: Yes, I mean, it’s so great. We have the pleasure of getting to meet so many different types of women from all kinds of backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures who celebrate differently, within those cultures. So one of the really great ways that we get to play a consistent role in the lives of our clients is, oftentimes people come for a wedding, something like a job interview, or a graduation.

And the weddings can look different across cultures, you know, in some cultures, weddings take place over a number of days, it’s a huge celebration. And for those events make up might be required for multiple days. So even taking into consideration your client, your customer, your audience, and what their unique individual needs helps you to better position yourself as an expert so that you can speak to that person because each person is an individual.

When we have the opportunity to meet different types of clients, who, whatever the case may be, we’re able to be a part of all of those moments because we learn. And so, staying aware and learning about your clients and taking part in conversations and reading different publications, listening to different podcasts helps us to just stay culturally aware of what’s going on in the world.

And that just gives us more to talk about, more to share, and continue to make the world a beautiful place. 

EMILY: It’s awesome to see you take such an active role in that as a business owner. And it’s really a great way to learn and connect to your community. At Yelp, we’ve seen that missed expectations often result in negative reviews, and in the case of Sparkle Bar, you’re actively anticipating and adjusting to meet or even exceed expectations. How has this intentionality helped curate your reputation, both online as well as the reputation of your brand? 

ALEX: I think that right now is a really great example.

I think part of what has been really impactful about the way that The Sparkle Bar, like our business, is we super serve our client. Understand what she’s going through right now, too, you know? A year ago, the reason for makeup might have been different than it is today. So the client we get to see today is coming back after a long, long time of having been at home. Maybe she’s been working remotely, she had a baby recently and is just getting back out there, like needs to feel pretty and good again. We have the pleasure right now of reminding women every single day, like bringing them back to life, literally with each stroke of blush, every wand of mascara, every shade of lip gloss, and reminding them that they’re beautiful, and that they can feel pretty in that self care is important, and to love the skin that they’re in. And you literally get to see people come back to life. 

So, even over the last several months, the needs of our clients have looked a lot more like, you got this girl, into, you’re looking great, feel good, look good. Like, yes, now’s the time to spend more time with yourself. And getting excited about that and moving forward. So, humanizing the business, like just remaining in touch, this is a community that we get to build. And so that’s the most amazing part of understanding your needs, because then you can speak authentically to them when you’re a part of that community with them. 

EMILY: Is there anything else you’d like to share about diversity in clients or anticipating needs to be inclusive when you consider how to engage with your customers?

ALEX: I think that the most powerful thing for us has really been looking at each person as an individual and remembering that this is an important experience for them. 

I know for me, that was truly the motivation and building Sparkle is to ensure that I’ve had that experience. I think we talked about this, where I’ve been at places where they didn’t have a shade that matched me. And so when it came to creating space at the Sparkle Bar, ensuring that we were able to have a shade for every single person, was critical so that they never had to have an experience where there wasn’t something for them. It’s very intentionally done, so. 

We always enter every situation, reminding ourselves that we set the temperature, that we don’t adjust to it. And that our job is to be the light and to literally spread sparkle. So it is amazing that we get to create space for women all to come and feel good. And yeah, be positive, and do great things. And I feel really honored that we still get to do this and carry on our mission moving forward. And I think that as long as you continue to keep your client at the forefront and how you can continue to serve, that is a formula for success.

EMILY: Anticipating the needs of your customers is an important role in creating a connection with them. And anticipating diverse needs of customers is something you will constantly be doing if you’re open to getting feedback from consumers.

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