Sincere Customer Service Will Always Pay off

Sincere Customer Service Will Always Pay off

Charleston’s Star Beauty Supply, David Kim

One of the most historic cities in South Carolina, Charleston is an Atlantic port city and a bustling hub of commerce and culture. It used to be home for luxurious mansions and plantations. The city with a rich history is where Mr. David Kim started his own beauty supply business. “Am I really being interviewed?’ Mr. Kim laughed as we warmly welcomed us to the store. He started the conversation with what he has learned from working in the beauty industry.

“The city has a strong conservative sentiment, and the racial tension is still pretty blatant. Because there is an army base within the vicinity, our store provides military personnel a discount. A local South American grocery also attracts Hispanic customers.”

Mr. Kim grew up helping out at his parent’s beauty supply store. “As soon as I got out of school, I hopped out of the bus and ran to my parent’s store. I ran errands, organized stocks, and did miscellaneous chores to help them out,” Mr. Kim recalls his childhood.

“My parents were hard workers, working from dawn to dusk. I would be depressed thinking about being stuck at the store when the school is out due to bad weather, and always wanted to go on a family trip during summer break. After serving in the military stationed in Korea and Colorado for some years, I had to come back to Charleston because my mother was ill. Once she recovered, I wanted to open my own business and found this city to be an ideal place for it.”

Mr. Kim oversaw the remodeling of the building that was vacant for over 10 years. He worked closely with the company to design the interior himself.

Not wasting energy on the uncontrollable
One thing that Mr. Kim learned after opening his own store is that confidence is not enough to run a successful business. Sales over the weekend often determine how he would pay the employees and wholesales, but things didn’t go as well as planned. When he returned home after a stressful day at work, his wife tried to encourage him. “There is nothing you can do about it and being depressed isn’t a way out. On days like this, try to forget about everything else and just try to help one more customer at the store.“ His wife taught him how to remain calm in uncontrollable circumstances and regained the courage to fight through difficult times. After emptyinghis mind of worries, he found peace at heart. He also closes on Sunday to spend quality time with his family and get ready for the week, which was a promise Mr. Kim made to his wife.

Store managed by the clerks
Mr. Kim did not want to be tied up at the store all day. He tried to avoid regretting the things he couldn’t do because of the time wasted at the store. Therefore, it was his goal to set up the system so that the business can be managed even without the physical presence of the owner.

1. All items have clearly marked price tag to avoid any dispute with customers. POS is also used, following the manual.
2. A long hallway runs down the center to divide up the interior so that the customers can more easily navigate the store without being helped.
3. There aren’t many items displayed behind the register. All items are available on the rack so that employees have to worry less about pulling out the product for customers.
4. No longer persisting on the product margin and willing to lower the price if needed.
5. Surveillance cameras are set up around the store to monitor any argument that may occur between the clerks and customers.

Employee Manual
There is a list of must to-do’s for the employees when they come to work in the morning. Mr. Kim felt the need for a manual after seeing the clerks just chatting away when there was nothing else to do in-store.
1. Always welcome guests with a bright smile.
2. Help customers find what they need.
3. Assist customers with correct information
4. Frequently visit each aisle, especially the wig section, to tidy up the displayed items.
5. Keep the conversation on the phone brief.
6. Do not use cell phones when customers are in the wig section
7. Do not lean on the register


Creative ideas only at Star Beauty
1. Beautiful music flows inside the store. Mr. Kim pays extra attention to the selection of radio stations. “We look for Pandora stations with a collection of popular and familiar genres like pop and gospel so that the customers can hum along and have a pleasurable shopping experience. Some customers even dance to music as they shop!”
2. A large-sized oil diffuser installed inside. “Some stores reek sour odor as you step in. I want my customers to feel refreshed and enjoy their shopping surrounded by the sweet aroma, so I’ve invested in some diffusers.”
3. The interior has the a/c running to keep the temperature at a comfortable level. “Saving on the bills may be helpful too, but I would rather keep the inside cool instead of seeing my customers feeling unpleasant.”
4. Cleanliness is always maintained. “We do our best to organize and display items with various sizes neatly. Satisfied customers will always willingly spend and return for more.”
5. Receive advice from a salesperson. “Because the salesman visits many other stores, we ask them to give a word of advice on what needs to be improved in the store. They also share thoughts and updated info on beauty trend and sales of other items.”

Tips on Product Display – Out of sight, out of mind
Hair chemical display racks have a variable height. Products are placed based on the size of the items so that the customers. “Stacking up the chemicals is not a bad idea, but cramming them into one space or overflowing a rack would intimidate customers. The spacious display will allow customers to more easily look through and pick out what they need.”

1. Keep the items with the faster turnover rate at the front.
2. Higher-end, expensive products are brought out to the aisle.
3. Display racks are self-made, with help from Mr. Kim’s father. When building the furniture, Mr. Kim tried to think in his customers’ shoes. ‘Where would be the ideal location for this specific item.’ He also was mindful of the customer behavior when putting the items for display.
4. Price tags are also made by Mr. Kim. Samples are available around the store so that the customers can see and feel the product up close before putting it in their cart.
5. Wigs are kept at a reachable height so that the customers can touch and try the product before making up their mind. These displays need to be regularly maintained by the clerks.
6. Furniture at the wig fitting room was specially designed by Mr. Kim as well. Mirrors on both sides and a small coffee table shows Mr. Kim’s attention to detail. Customers can keep the wigs they’ve picked out at the table while large mirrors allow the customers to check out the look from all angles. There is no limit to how many items a customer can try on before their purchase. Stocking cap is also available for free.

Customer service is the key
There is one thing that Mr. Kim always emphasizes to his employee: to smile as the customers leave the store. Leaving a positive impression will always encourage people to revisit the store. Building trust and an amicable relationship with the customers is vital.
“Giving honest opinion when asked about which of the two products is better, or about a brand with unsatisfactory product quality and recommending a different item instead. Customers will come to trust a store and its clerks, believing that at least they won’t sell what doesn’t meet their standard.”

Homeless who took shower
Door to the bathroom faces outward so the people enter from the outside of the building. The entry is kept locked, and the key is needed to enter, but one time, Mr. Kim found a puddle of water on the floor of the bathroom. He realized that someone took a quick shower even though there was only a small sink to wash hands. “Aside from that incident, there were no other issues. If space allows, I believe there should be an open bathroom for customers to use freely.”


Unforgettable encounter with a pregnant customer
Not too long ago, a young pregnant lady tried to take items without paying. She insisted that there was cash in her car and not to call the police. After hearing her story, Mr. Kim found out that the lady was planning on buying supplies for her baby with the leftover money. At the time, his wife was pregnant as well and feeling empathetic, Mr. Kim swapped the weaves to better quality ones and even gave away extra items. After about a month, the young lady returned to the store and thanked him. “I really appreciate your generosity and learned a valuable lesson that day. Thank you.” She bought a handful of items to show her gratitude.


Employee Benefit
“With a more improved business model, I want my parents and anyone to retire worry-free. Instead of single giant retail, I want the company to expand as a chain with a shared management system, with each store kept at a manageable size, so that the employees can enjoy better benefits.” Mr. Kim added as he shared his business goals, “I’m also eternally thankful for my parents who’ve worked hard all their lives. I want to ease the burden and enjoy their time, going on vacation.”
Mr. Kim recalled that if his mother wasn’t ill, he would probably still be serving in the army. He laughed as he shared that his hobby is to go fishing and mowing the lawn, how seeing a freshly cut grass makes him happy just as how satisfied he is when display racks at his store are neatly organized. Honoring his great-grandfather’s word, Mr. Kim was named ‘The great king’ in Korean and we wish everything ahead of his path is grandiose and shining just like his name.

Beauty Supply Interview Sunny Kim
BNB Magazine September 2019 ©