Recently I wrote a less than flattering review of a new hair product called Living Proof Thickening Cream. Imagine my surprise when the company’s CEO, Rob Rob Robillard, immediately contacted me.
Impressed with that level of customer service, I agreed to give his product another try. I couldn’t lose since he promised to personally walk me through the process if need be. All in all, it was an offer I couldn’t turn down.
After reviewing Living Proof’s website, I was ready to try the cream again before cutting into Mr. Robillard’s busy schedule. With the instructions provided online, I was able to use the product the way it was designed. The end result was stunning!
My baby fine, thin hair suddenly had life, body and bounce. It looked and felt fuller to the touch. None of the dullness I had experienced in the beginning was present. In other words, once I knew what I was doing I got the results I wanted.
Living Proof’s level of customer service impressed me. So much so that I asked Mr. Robillard for an interview and he agreed. I hope you enjoy it.
Rob Robillard worked for L’Oreal for 10 years before he left to Living Proof with a group of others in November 2007. “We wanted to develop something different from the same old concept that has been around for years, he explained.”
He went on to explain that most hair thickeners contain something known as a PVP VA copolymer. It is a resin that coats the hair and essentially “glues” it into place.
“The problem with PVP VA is that it can be easily broken just by the wind, running your fingers through your hair or even in the styling process. Unfortunately, once the resin is broken, it ceases to work. Therefore, I felt the need to approach the issue from a different perspective.”
Instead, he an idea that would get a team of scientists involved to attack the issue from a scientific point of view. The problem as they identified it is that fine hair has a smooth cuticle, without texture. Because of that, it tends to lie flat on top of other hair strands.
They wanted to develop a mechanism that would allow fine hair to look and act like coarse, textured hair. As they saw it, that meant designing a way to give fine hair the surface properties of thick hair.
“We even partnered with MIT to make certain we were on the right track,” says Robillard. The end result was the development of a new molecule that could adhere to fine hair at microscopic thickening points. They coat the hair shaft, allowing it to become more voluminous and exhibit body and bounce.
“The molecule remains adhered to the hair shaft until it is washed away,” explains Robillard. That offers hours or even days of good hair.”
When I asked him about the obstacles he faced in rolling out a new product like this, he was candid. “When you are introducing something brand new into the marketplace, you have to throw out the standard rule book. It simply doesn’t apply.
There is an automatic learning curve for the users of the product that can’t be addressed by a mere set of instructions. It requires a more personalized touch; a willingness to provide the customer with whatever assistance they need. Sometimes you find you have to make adjustments. Other times it is simply a matter of education.”
Asked about his marketing and advertising approach, Robillard admits that at the moment it is mostly word of mouth. “We tested the product extensively before ever putting it into the marketplace. We needed to have proof to back up our claims. Once we did, we pitched the product to Sephora and QVC, both of which bought into it immediately.
From there it was a matter of satisfied customers keeping the ball rolling. Nothing beats a good testimonial. Our sales were 400% above our original estimate.”
He confirmed that the product is still available both at QVC and Sephora. It is also sold online at livingproof.com.
Because my first experience with the product was a failure, I asked Rob why he contacted me. Most of today’s companies simply don’t bother with that level of customer service.
“Customer service is a top priority at Living Proof. We really want to make women’s lives a little easier or better and nothing speaks to their raw emotions about beauty like their hair.”
He attributes his good customer service skills to his work at an L’Oreal subsidiary by the name of Kiehl’s. He says it is there that he learned about the power of good customer service.
“Kiehl’s was all about kindness and compassion when it came to their customers. I experienced first hand how powerful that can be. You can bind a customer to you for life just by solving their issues for them. It works 9 out of 10 times. In a recent customer survey 94 percent of our customers said they would recommend the product to others. That kind of figure is virtually unheard of.”
I pushed Rob to guess why more companies didn’t approach customer service from such a positive point of view. He responded, “I just don’t think they have any idea about the power of a satisfied customer. They see it as a nuisance, rather than as an opportunity.”
I explained to him that my major problem with the product initially was lack of sufficient instructions. I asked if the company planned to or had already addressed that issue.
“You know, it’s funny. When we first put the product out it came with a brochure that contained all kinds of information about the product and how to use it. We were flooded with complaints from customers that didn’t want to have to read through all of that. Plus they didn’t like all the extra paper.
Consequently, we scaled back the instructions, just putting essential information on the bottle. We did; however, put additional information on our website for those seeking the answers to questions about product use. It was a hard call, all in all. We just keep adjusting as needed.”
I asked Rob if he would be coming out with other products in support of the thickening cream. I also asked what they might be.
“We would love to control the entire experience. That would include the type of shampoo and conditioner used, root lifters and other styling products. So the short answer is “yes” we do see a possibility for other products in the future.”
I also asked how he measured the company’s success. In other words, what did he want women to think or feel about the product?
“Obviously I hope they will want to use it. I want them to see the difference for themselves and experience it through the eyes of others. Hair is an emotional issue for women and I want them to feel better about themselves because the product really works.
We get emails from women and I monitor the online sites and blogs for critiques. I take that information to heart and make contact with those women in hopes of actually helping them achieve their desires. That is how I measure success.”
Having worked in business development and taught business related classes and workshops for 10 years, I have to say I found Robillard’s approach refreshing and forward thinking.
Speaking on the behalf of women all over the world with issues about their hair, let me say thank you. I am now a confirmed believer and you definitely have another customer for life.