~Beauty consultants’ struggle through the COVID-19 crisis~
The spread of COVID-19 has significantly changed our lives. Beauty consultants in stores (BCs) are continuing a process of trial and error dealing with situations they had never faced before. When they had to stop in-store activities, they improved their skills at home—for example, by learning through training videos—and looked forward to resuming their work and welcoming customers back.
Shiseido believes in the power of cosmetics and beauty in all circumstances, and aims to touch every customer’s heart and fulfill their needs. In this article, we interviewed two Shiseido Japan BCs, Nanako Kasai and Kaori Tashiro, about their new activities in Japan—for example, how they are disseminating information and making proposals suitable for individual customers through web counselling from department store counters. We also interviewed Zhu Jing about BC activities for deepening communication with customers by utilizing WeChat and live streaming in China.
―How did BCs’ activities change following the COVID-19 outbreak?
Kasai We were no longer able to engage in “activities involving touch,” such as selecting beauty regimen by feeling the customer’s skin, or conducting skin measurement. In the beginning, I was unsure how to communicate with customers, and I spent days reviewing and revising what we had been doing.
For example, after our in-store counters closed for the first state of emergency, I worked on improving my skills by trying to deepen my knowledge by watching training videos at home and learning about makeup for masks to respond to our customers’ changing needs.
―Can you tell us in detail about the kind of considerations you take in your activities?
Tashiro We ensure thorough sanitization in our store and try to create an environment where our customers can feel safe and comfortable. Refraining from activities involving touch, we try to find new ways to communicate from behind the mask—for example, communicating more with our eyes and nodding than before.
―Web counselling started in department stores all over Japan from March 2021; how are you promoting this?
Kasai In February 2021, I was informed that Shiseido planned to implement web counselling from department store counters across Japan. I was unsure what to do as I myself had never experienced it before. However, after the training provided by the company, I gathered more information and made efforts to acquire web counselling techniques in a short period of time.
In stores, customers cannot take off their masks, but online, I can see their full face and am able to provide more detailed counselling. I actually noticed that many customers seem relaxed online and participate with greater ease when they receive counselling while sitting at home. They have also said to me that they enjoyed it (web counselling), and that it took their mind off things.
One time, I watched a customer visibly relax as the web counselling progressed. When the customer asked me if they could come and see me at the store too, I felt encouraged that I am able to reach out to them and demonstrate my passion to convey the power of cosmetics.
Tashiro At first, I was quite anxious about this new challenge of web counselling. However, as I went through a process of trial and error I gained new insight about certain things. During in-store consultation, I had a habit of saying many things even if unrelated; online, however, I have to focus on the customer’s needs and concerns and provide in-depth advice. This has made me realize that it is better to stick to providing specific advice in the store too. I would like to provide counselling and proposals better suited to each customer’s needs by utilizing my experiences and findings of both in-store and online activities.
―What were your thoughts during the COVID-19 crisis, and what would you like to offer customers and achieve in the future?
Kasai I thought about how important it is to connect with people. Conversations calm us down and cheer us up. Web counselling is an important tool through which I can connect with customers openly. Putting on makeup enhances our physical appearance and makes us feel good, but it is the conversations that give us joy and bring out each individual’s inner beauty. It is our job as BCs to help bring out that inner beauty. Through conversations, I would like to develop a close bond with customers and always be available to resolve their concerns.
Tashiro With the change in environment and times, customers’ beauty-related desires have become more diverse. I would like to be a BC who always thinks about customers’ skin-related needs by providing personalized information based on their purchase history and requirements both at the store and online to achieve diverse beauty ideals. I aim to immerse myself in activities to be able to bring Shiseido even just a little closer to customers’ hearts.
Expansion of “Web Counselling” to department store counters across Japan
―In-store counters closed in China as well in 2020. What were your feelings?
Zhu It happened suddenly, and I felt quite anxious then, not knowing what was going to happen next. I was only thinking about what we could do to not cause any trouble to our customers—for example, what to do if our customers, who always come to the store to purchase the products, want to buy something, and how to provide services to them.
―Can you tell us in detail about your activities during the COVID-19 crisis?
Zhu With our customers being unable to visit the store, I communicated with them through our corporate WeChat*. I shared product information and skincare how-to, and also answered their questions. I did not focus on cosmetics alone; during the remote working period I also gave lifestyle tips and shared easy recipes.
I started to create images and videos to share with them—focusing on knowing, creating, and delivering the information they need now.
Furthermore, I also took up the challenge of live chat. I introduced skincare how-to and products—the two-way communication with multiple customers online was a novel experience. At first, I did not feel confident, but over time, I have been able to find joy in reaching out and demonstrating our passion to customers after receiving their positive feedback.
―What things did you consider for online communication?
Zhu I was unsure whether our customers would accept this format, but gradually, I learnt the differences between in-store and online communication. Online, I keep my responses simple and clear based on our customers’ needs; I also try to disseminate information in unique ways such as through videos and animation wherever possible.
Customers’ needs at the store are different from those shared online, and accordingly, so are our communication methods—we as BCs always think about how we can satisfy their needs by deepening trust.
―What kind of services would you like to offer customers?
Zhu As customers’ preferences and shopping behavior change, I would like to try to detect changes in the market and customers’ needs in a timely manner to provide services that exceed expectations. I am also determined to keep engaging in activities that give hope and happiness to as many people as possible through the power of beauty.