The problem with hair
Hell’s teeth! I’ve had it with hairdressers. Admittedly today has been a weird day all round. There’s been stuff happening that just doesn’t happen on a regular basis. You know the sort of thing – an email comes in that elicits a WTAF, a phonecall leaves you making fish faces. So an unscheduled head-to-head with yet another hairdresser really does finish the day.
Summed up I need to change my appointment. Appreciate it’s last minute, I appreciate other bookings, but the thing that sent me from sighing heavily to frothing at the mouth was being told off – not once, but three times – by the salon staff for not being available and not putting them at the top of my priority list above everything else.
By her own admission the salon owner is finding things tough financially. Apparently people don’t do hair when money’s tight – especially colour. She needs people through the door that have colour treatments. I have colour. I am no longer her client.
The whole experience has left me feeling sour and it makes me think of fundraising (like everything does) and how we treat supporters once we’ve snared them…although I’m thinking this is not an issue specific to fundraising.
A case in point; if you have Sky, have you ever tried to get a new box or one of the sweet deals they are offering new customers? Exactly! The only way you can do this is by threatening to leave. When you phone them up you should be given options “If you want the full threatening to leave experience press 1. For the abridged 2 minute version where we cut straight to offering you what you want, press 2.”
They aren’t the only ones. The RAC and AA, any kind of insurance (let’s not forget that prior to comparison sites, the whole industry used price points that had customer inertia factored in), most household , personal and business service providers are the same. The focus is all on selling to people they don’t have rather than paying the barest flicker of attention to those that they do.
And that brings me to us. Yes, charities. We spend millions trying to entice people to support us. We tell them woeful tales of our service users and how only you, yes you Joan Smith from Darlington, can save them. And once we’ve got them…well, we do communicate with them, but only to ask them for more.
The problem is we are driven by numbers – income to be more precise. We want to bring it in but are hard pushed to give any of it back. Now, if I was over in the commercial sector, I can sort of understand it. They have something we want, and we can make a choice on whether we want it enough to pay for it, or not. They don’t want to spend more than they have to in securing that sale, and accountancy practices are aligned with this way of thinking, further enforcing the need to reduce – to the barest minimum – the cost of sales.
Charities are governed by other factors though. We have to be accountable to the people who give us the money in the first place. They don’t want us to spend the money they donate, telling them the great things we’re doing. This is a humdinger of a catch 22 situation: you stop giving because you feel unloved, but you don’t want us to do anything to make you feel loved!
And therein lies the difference between charities and the commercial sector. A service provider has plenty to give away as tokens of their affection. They can give you discounts for paying by Direct Debit, they can give you special offers if you’ve been a customer for a long period of time, they can offer you payment holidays. They have a lot more ammunition in their customer care armoury than a charity does. A charity has no more than updates, merchandise or the comfort of knowing that should you need them, they’ll be there. This is all good stuff, but just not as attractive as a digi-box upgrade or a no claims bonus.
All of this raises the question of what stewardship actually means. It seems that, like our commercial cousins, personal benefit is the most attractive thing you can give, but we just don’t have that. I think more needs to be done to understand what supporters think stewardship means and what they would value. And once we know that, it’s going to need a charity or two to stick their necks out and provide it – because, we can blame circumstance and constraints, but we’re as guilty as the next person at not wanting to give anything away. Apparently, altruism is a way street.