fixing a bad customer experience

How to Remove a Bad Customer Service Tattoo

How can a business who has completely, though unintentionally, disappointed their customer, turn it around? It can happen.

A bad experience can be permanent mark on a customer’s perception of a brand. It’s not always easy and it’s not always obvious to fix things, but it is possible. And a popular tattoo parlour in Bali pulled it off.

First Contact

I’ve long wanted to get another tattoo. It took me eight years to finally get my first, a few years after that to get my second and then a long period of limbo. Which I’ve been in up until now. Ok, more of a “research-research-research-to-fill-the-time-while-I-am-not-getting-a-tattoo” period. Lots of ideas but no commitment.

That changed after my recent trip to Bali, and to Artful Ink Studio. My girlfriend was curious about getting her first tattoo to mark the trip and her experience there. She was inspired to take the plunge because a few of her friends already had. The front desk clerk at the studio was everything you’d want them to be for a first timer (or any timer, really). They were encouraging, not pushy, full of answers to every question (simple or complex), warm, helpful and funny. Hell, I wasn’t even planning on getting a new tattoo but they had me, just from their warmth and friendliness. Well played. I was now going to get a tattoo.

The Appointment

But, I procrastinated. I went snorkeling. I laid on the beach. I ate a lot of great food. Hey, it wasn’t a bad thing, it just wasn’t getting a tattoo. But I decided that right before I ended my vacation, I would make an appointment to get branded. Which works perfectly since you’re not supposed to expose a new tattoo to direct sunlight or go swimming. You know, all the things you do in Bali.
My tattoo was something simple, geometrically but spoke to me personally. I had to have it.
The appointment was made: Friday, 7pm. And it was with an artist whose style I really liked. (His portfolio was his Instagram page)

They closed an hour after my Friday appointment, at 8pm. I did consider making it the next day at 11am, right when they opened, but it would have cut too close to our “gotta get to the airport” time.

Where it Went Wrong

At about 6pm on that Friday, an hour before my scheduled appointment, I get a Facebook message asking me if I was still coming in. Weird, I hadn’t given them a reason to think I wasn’t. It went downhill from there.
  1. When they asked me last minute if I could move my time 30min later to 7:30pm to accommodate an emergency staff meeting, I accommodated.
  2. When they told me I was to change the artist I had been assigned, to one I actually didn’t like the style of, I accommodated.
  3. When I asked about the new artist and their experience doing geometric shapes, they talked down to me. Saying that  if it was still “just” the triangle design I had submitted, it would be fine. (translated to mean to me “it’s a simple tattoo, anyone can do it, why are you bothering asking?”)
  4. When I did arrive, for my changed appointment of 7:30pm, they weren’t ready and still conducting their staff meeting. 
  5. When I knocked on the door, they shooed me to a corner outside in the rain, telling me to “just stand over there” with no time line as to when they’d be done their meeting.
  6. When I ended up waiting 10 minutes, I gave up, messaged them and left.
Now, getting a tattoo for me, like for many people, is very personal. It’s going to be on my body for a while, so I’m very sensitive to the experience and the story that comes with it. At this point, even though the tattoo would be a symbol of my time in Bali, it would also carry this bad customer journey. No thanks. I’ll get it at home in Canada.

I don’t know why there was an emergency meeting or how that meeting would have an impact on the attitudes of its staff. Maybe they were more accommodating usually. Maybe they were stressed. Truthfully, as a customer, it shouldn’t overly impact my appointment or experience regardless. If it was something that just wasn’t avoidable, some communication, consideration and alternatives would have been nice.

Instead, in their reply to my Facebook message to them that I had left, I got a “Oh really. Sorry we had to have an urgent meeting. We’d love your feedback.” Followed by some sincere apologies and not the best excuses.
But I did share my feedback.

Where it Went Right

The next day was a completely different experience. With a surprising offer from the tattoo parlour.
Here’s how this tattoo studio made it right.
  • They sincerely apologized.
  • They owned the mistake.
  • They acknowledged their failure
  • They said they’d make it right.
Pretty good. But still only words. Good words, sure. But it’s actions that’ll turn this around.  So they did, offering:
  • To do the tattoo for free that day. (I like free)
  • Provide a different artist with geometric experience (the best of the three offered to date)
  • At 10am the next day (an hour before they typically open and plenty of time to still catch my flight)

Their words:

“What happened last night has never ever happened to us before and we have genuinely taken this as a lesson. For us to make amends is to give you the experience all of our customers receive everyday. You too deserve it so i hope you decide to complete your tattoo with us.”

I got the tattoo.

getting a tattoo
Though I was disappointed with my initial experience, I was impressed with the effort to make it right, value my time and keep my business. Especially considering I was flying out the next day. But, as they understood, a customer is a customer is a customer, regardless of where they live. (and I loved that quoted response from them.)
Thanks for not just leaving it at “we’re sorry,” Bali tattoo parlour. You really ended it on a great note to cap my trip.
Relationships are essential in customer service. And it’s customer friendships that businesses should strive for.  As a business, what lengths would you go to for a friend?

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