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| October 23, 2020

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Sam Robinson

We catch up with Nergish Wadia-Austin, Founder of PHAB Service Stars to talk about her background and experience within the hair and beauty industry…

I have worked in the hair and beauty industry for some 40 years. I started out as a hairdresser and colourist at Vidal Sassoon in Hong Kong and also qualified as a beauty therapist from a French beauty Institute called Elysee. I have worked as a stylist and a colourist and I went on to managing salons that ranged from a small business to the largest hair and beauty salon in the world at Harrods. I’ve also worked in retail at the luxury and at a department store group in Canada called Holt Renfrew. My last job involved managing 24 West End London salons, spas and barbershops with a staff of over 450 professionals. Later, I set up a business management consultancy and travelled around the world teaching best business practice to some of the most respected brands of salons and spas. I am a keynote speaker at many industry trade shows in the hair, beauty, spa and wellness sectors. My experience of working in Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East has been incredibly helpful in seeing the bigger picture of what is required in the industry to future proof it.

How did PHAB Service Stars come about?

Having trained some of the best business owners and their teams in our industry to be highly productive, I found that measuring key performance indicators, teaching them how to improve in those areas of performance by raising their standards of service delivery was the key to growing a business quickly and safely. Over and over again I found these key performance areas to be the weak spots which limited how much professionals earned from their commission structures and it was also where businesses lost its revenue. Right then I knew that I had to develop a standard for the industry that was based on performance only! I was also very clear that any performance standard that I developed would have to protect and enhance the needs of consumers, salon professionals and business owners. Only then would it stand the chance of being as respected and revered as the coveted Michelin stars.

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What inspired you?

I have been very lucky to have worked with the best people in industry and I have learnt an awful lot from them. When I spoke to people whom I respect both within and outside our industry, everyone agreed that a performance-based standard was the only way to improve industry performance averages. Anyone who provides their performance results when applying that are above industry average and have exceptional customer and management testimonials upon verification, then they shall receive their PHAB Service Star!

Why did you decide to change PHAB Standard to PHAB Service Stars?

I first set up the PHAB Standard in 2011 and let’s say the template was set but the lack of social media and my own personal circumstances meant that it could not have been as successful as it can be now. The personal tragedy of losing my beloved husband to cancer, meant that I had to leave the industry for a while to settle my young family. That took me some six years to do. When I returned to the industry to train, a digital marketing expert from California’s Silicon Valley got in touch with me and we got speaking and when I explained what I was trying to achieve for the Hair and Beauty industry, they decided to guide my hand. Together with research done with young millennials and Gen Z consumers and industry professionals, the new PHAB Service Stars were born!

What have been your biggest challenges in launching PHAB Service Stars?

Getting heard over the noise and distraction of COVID-19 and the ‘new normal routines’ has been hard but once I explain how the PHAB Service Stars work for all involved, the buy-in and support has been tremendous from all sectors of our industry!

What’s your favourite thing about the hair and beauty industry?

The vibrancy of the characters in the industry, the dedication of our trade media, the creativity, the humour, the joy we bring to the public, the skills we have, the shows, the noise, the gratitude, the peace of the beauty and Spa sector, the music both pop and whale sounds, the fashion, the photography, the collaborations, the limitless imaginations, the brilliant business minds… Need I go on?

Why did you choose to work with the hair and beauty industry specifically?

I was in Hong Kong, waiting for admission into a music school in England and I had a few months to spare. My mother knew I was artistic and creative and felt that putting all of my eggs into one basket (of being an opera singer) was too risky. The Vidal Sassoon Academy had just opened in Hong Kong and was offering a six month course for Hairdressing and a further three month course to become a colourist. I was enrolled into those courses just in case, I wasn’t a successful opera singer and the rest is history

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Who inspires you within the industry and why?

This for me, would be an impossible question to answer as the list is so very, very long and the reasons are so varied that this article would be never ending!

What are your plans for PHAB Service Stars going forward? What do you wish to achieve?

Plans for the PHAB service stars are planned in phases starting with adding benchmarks for other professionals in the industry. Our goal is to get as many of the best professionals on our website in 3 months as we can, in order to go to the consumer press in January 2021.

How can PHAB Service Stars inspire salons to up their game and clients to come into the salon whilst we are in a pandemic?

In these times, when consumers are nervous for their health and well-being, the best thing that businesses can do to keep their customers trust is to uphold the highest levels of hygiene and social distancing practices. And to continuously reassure their customers via their social media platforms that every precaution is being taken to safeguard their health and well-being. The beauty about the PHAB Service Stars is that we report on all things that are important to the consumer, including best hygiene practices during Covid 19 and best environmental practices.

What’s the most important thing for you that a salon can be doing to ensure constantly improving and growing in terms of their standards and customer service?

The most important thing for salon professionals to do to improve their quality of service delivery to their customers is to ask all questions related to their job and listen to the responses their customers give them. Based on those responses resolve any and all of their customers concerns to do with their hair care, skincare and nail care needs. If they can do this while they deliver service in a timely, friendly and caring manner to every customer, at every visit, then businesses would secure long-term customer loyalty and tremendous business growth.

To apply for a PHAB Service Star visit the Phabservice website here.