Updated: Oct 31, 2022
About the author:
LeeAnn Miley is a salon owner based in Hastings, Nebraska, and the President and Executive Director of The Sovereign Stylist. Her personal experiences led her to advocate and educate stylists on proper worker classification. LeeAnn’s blogs are typically focused on tax compliance, worker classification, and general business practices. LeeAnn believes that laws and business are powerful entities when one has knowledge of them and has dedicated herself to spreading such knowledge to the industry she loves.
When working in a salon, your biggest challenge is creating a lifelong customer. Even if your guest leaves with a haircut they love, they’re unlikely to schedule another appointment if they didn’t enjoy their time in your salon. It’s no longer about simply satisfying your clients’ needs, in order to keep them coming back you must find new and innovative ways to really “wow” your guests and add value.
Think of your favorite restaurant to eat at. Why do you keep going back? What is your first impression when you first walk through the door? Is the staff happy? What makes it so special? Why does it stand out from all your other options?
These are things you need to consider for your business. Put yourself in the shoes of your clients, when they walk through the door, does your salon create a favorable impression? Details that might seem minor can have a make-or-break effect on client retention.
Creating a high-quality client experience isn’t rocket science. Today, I am going to give you tips & ideas on how you can rock the client experience. We will discuss the overall vibe of your salon environment & ways to really personalize your services.
It all starts from outside of your salon, 30% of clients go into salons because they like the window displays. Create inviting signage, promotional displays and branding that will make new clients want to step inside.
68% of clients feel anxious when they enter a salon for the first time. If you really want to impress your clients, you need to engage them as soon as they step foot in your salon. The general rule of thumb is that a client should be greeted within eight seconds of their arrival. Because this is such a short window, you must find the best way to welcome clients in without missing a beat.
This also goes for booth rent salons. It is important to know, the majority of the general public has no understanding of how booth rent salons operate. They don't know that you are independent businesses under the same roof. What they see is the salon as a whole & assume all of you work for the owner not yourself.
Even as a booth renter, you should be greeting every client who walks through the door whether they are there for you or someone else. How uncomfortable have you felt when walking into a business & were not greeted or acknowledged? I’m sure you don’t want others to feel that same way. Remember to always be perceiving things as a client.
Pampering guests includes serving refreshments. But instead of handing them a bottle of water, tempt them to browse beverage menus. Give them time to contemplate various offerings, and they’ll be more inclined to place orders and enjoy their salon experience.
Have you heard the term “hangry?” Maybe you’ve experienced it for yourself. Empty stomachs are uncomfortable & low blood sugar can totally change someone’s attitude. I know when my blood sugar is low I become a totally different person & it wouldn’t matter if I was receiving super star treatment, the only thing on my mind is food. Keep a variety of snacks on hand to offer clients during a color application or other timely service. I’m not talking about servicing them a 7 course meal but string cheese, nuts, dried fruits & protein bars are some great examples.
Personalization goes a long way in enriching your clients’ salon experience. Leaders like politicians, business executives, and teachers know addressing people by their names makes them feel special. So they remember others’ names and use them often. Something so simple is a great way to forge strong relationships. It reflects your comfortable, caring culture and inspires friendly exchanges.
Another way to add personal touch is to create name plates for each station that stylists can use to welcome their guests. Some department stores do something similar by writing names on dressing room doors.
It is important to have the whole team on board when introducing major changes like these in the stylists’ routine. With the name plates for example, your entire staff needs to be prepared to put in the extra effort to spell the client’s name correctly and have it written by the time they’re due to arrive at the salon. If you can get your team to buy in to these new techniques, you’ve already won half the battle.
Salon days are pampering breaks for patrons. So make them memorable treats by offering little extras. It is important to be forward thinking and to go from just services to providing experiences. Your attitude sets the tone for the experience.
It is pivotal that you are showing up for your clients every day and coming to work with good energy and enthusiasm. If you find that you are starting to crash or have lost that positive vibe try doing five jumping jacks just to get the blood flowing again. Please do these in the back room or bathroom unless you are down for adding a little entertainment for your clients, too.
The comments you make paint pictures in guests’ minds. Some enhance or detract from client experiences. Replace negative “I can’t,” “That’s not our policy,” and “I don’t” messages conveying what’s impossible with affirmative alternatives. Speaking positively is the key to making visitors happy. They’ll appreciate helpful professionalism.
REMEMBER! It’s all about the energy. You have to keep it flowing, and keep it positive. The leaders of the salon, owner/managers, need to set the tone for the rest of the staff, they’re the guardians of the company culture.
This also applies to salons with independent stylists like booth renters & those living the suite life. Even though the stylist, as small business owners, are ultimately responsible for how their clients are treated, the salon as a whole relies on the success of each individual business to keep the doors open.
Here’s a fun little fact: 97% of stylists say they give a consultation while 7% of clients say they’ve never had one. As we all know, consultations can be tricky, but they are so important for a successful appointment and something that we can all get better at. It is important to ALWAYS give a thorough consultation, be specific with your dialogue so that your client is fully aware of the consultation.
Personally, I feel that consultation is the most important thing a stylist needs to nail in order to win the client over. Early in my career I was lucky enough to attend a class that taught consulting using VAK, which blew my mind.
VAK stands for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. It is important to determine what type of learners your clients are? Here are some descriptions to help you better understand these ideas and identify your style.
Visual learners need to see to learn. These individuals learn through reading and writing activities. They feel comfortable with charts, demonstrations, videos, and other visual materials. They know exactly where on a page a specific sentence, phrase, or image is? Better yet- they know how to drive somewhere after only going there once? These are signs that you are a visual learner.
If your client is a visual learner, you will hear her say things like: “Could I see that?” Or, “I see what you mean.” For visual learners, you really want to use illustrations or images in your consultations. You should consider showing them pictures and saying things like “This is what I visualize for your hair color and cut today.” Pinterest & swatch books are going to be your best friends when you have a visual learner in your chair.
Auditory learners absorb information by hearing it. These type of people talk to themselves often! Do you have a coworker who you can hear mumbling alone at her station? This is the sign of an auditory learner. Additionally, these learners may move their lips when they read or even read aloud. You might also catch them mouthing words you say while having a conversation or repeat what you say.
If your client is an auditory learner, you will hear her say things like, “I hear what you’re saying” or, “I heard about this new technique.” For auditory learners, you want to teach them through talking. Try telling them exactly what you plan on accomplishing that day, and at the end of the appointment, recap the entire service. Even if you have a client who gets the same haircut every six weeks, walk her through the entire process from start to finish.
Kinesthetic, which is the type of learner I happen to be, they do best while touching and moving and will often lose concentration if there is little or no external stimulation. These individuals often use highlighters when they take notes, draw pictures, or doodle while they are learning.
If your client is a kinesthetic learner, you will hear her say things like “I feel like my hair is really dark.” Or, “Last time, I felt like my cut was too short” For kinesthetic learners, they want to be moving around or maybe listening to music. For their consultations, get out the color swatches and let them touch and pick out the colors they like. Try giving them the products to hold, feel, smell, and even apply to their own hair. They will appreciate having this control.
Matching your client’s learning style will go a long way to building her confidence in you and building your relationship together. Start with baby steps, and try this with just one or two consultations the next day you’re behind the chair. As you use this technique more, you will get better at hearing your clients’ cues, and your consultations will become more effective.
Aligning guests’ complexion and hair upkeep with their lifestyles are crucial for client satisfaction. Ask about their routines. Convey your reasoning with recommendations like: “Since your morning schedule doesn’t allow much skin care time, you’ll appreciate this quick regimen.” “Because you’re not a blow-dryer fan, I suggest this easy look.”
After you rock the consultation, make sure you take time to develop a plan of action. It is okay to step away for a few minutes & write down your course if action. Look for places you can ADD to the experience. Here are some ideas:
Clients find the backbar station the most relaxing part of their salon visit. Elevate this experience in any way possible—call it a treatment lounge instead of the backbar or shampoo area & offer killer scalp massages.
You can even go the extra mile by giving clients the option to tailor their scalp massage to their needs by incorporating essential oils in your routine. If your client is feeling stressed at work, go with a lavender scent. If they’re in need of a pick-me-up you might work in a bit of jasmine oil during the massage. This personalized experience is one way to make your clients feel important and appreciated before they even sit down in the chair.
Use heated towels as a small way to show your clients you care. Drying your client with a warm towel after treating them to a scalp massage and finishing their shampoo is the icing on the cake. It’s an unexpected surprise, but it’s these kinds of little things that clients reference in their reviews.
Here’s a quick tip: Customer reviews can be a great place to hunt for new ways to add value. When surfing through your online reviews, pay attention to those seemingly insignificant details that are repeatedly popping up and you might just stumble upon a new way to elevate your salon experience.
Giving printed service menus to customers encourages them to choose higher-priced options. Let hesitant patrons try out a few face-framing highlights or gold nail art on one finger. Those mini test drives boost ticket sales.
Clients often feel uncomfortable when getting a service for different reasons. Maybe they’re new to the salon or maybe they’re unsure of the end result—either way, it’s your job to ease that stress. Explain what you’re doing both before and while you are doing it and offer knowledge they can use at home (like suggesting retail products!).
Rather than complaining, most unhappy clients just don’t return. You can’t afford to forfeit salon sales. So guarantee all services and merchandise. Be sure that your patrons feel comfortable enough voicing their opinions. Otherwise, you could lose clients and never understand why. Approach any challenges calmly without being defensive. Listen to customers’ perspectives. Ask appropriate questions to address their issues, and offer empathetic solutions.
Recalling customers’ shared facts will impress them. To make them feel special, mention their new jobs, promotions, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and recent vacations. Connecting with guests on a personal level inspires repeat visits.
Hair salon guests’ top complaint is that they can’t recreate their stylists’ fabulous looks at home. So they’ll appreciate learning assorted blowout, curling iron, and finishing spray tricks.
Everyone loves receiving compliments. Praise makes patrons feel good while creating positive experiences. So admire their punctuality, clothes, personalities, or talents sincerely. After makeovers, rave about their new looks. Also, make it a habit to compliment the guests in your coworkers chair.
Retail is the No. 1 missed opportunity at the salon! ALWAYS recommend take-home products to your clients! Start this conversation during the service, then set your retail area up with cute signage to engage your client. Highlight best sellers, tips on how to use certain products or cute quotes/client testimonials!
Really wowing your clients is often more about the intangible aspects of the salon. Returning customers come back for the whole experience — the quality service, the friendly faces and the positive vibes. Don’t forget, though, the experience doesn’t end when the client walks out the door. Remember to stay in contact with your clients.
Follow up with them a few days after their appointment to ensure they are still satisfied. Ask them if they are liking the retail products they took home & slip in a reminder of when their next scheduled appointment is.
Automated appointment reminders via text and email, are another way to keep the experience alive outside of the salon. Turn no-shows into grateful regulars who enter when you expect them. Every client’s time is as precious as yours. Should unforeseen delays arise, contact patrons with a new arrival time. Something that I like to do is send a quick text message to my next appointment letting them know I am running about 15 minutes behind so they can adjust their arrival time & aren’t stuck chillin’ in the reception area. If that’s not possible, discount their visit 15 percent, or compensate their inconveniences with free hair or skin care products.
Gather information including email and home addresses, phone numbers, and birthdays. Then use your salon software or social media to send birthday promotions and bargain holiday facials.
When customers skip typical intervals, send “We miss you!” messages with retail discounts to lure them back.
Reward loyal regulars with gift cards for free services and products. Ongoing marketing communications helps solidify relationships and make your shop a standout.
Once you have created a kick ass salon experience for your clients, you should work on persuading those clients to leave you 5-star reviews & refer their friends & family.
Don’t forget that life is a lot easier when you make it about others. Most of you got into this business because you enjoy making other people look and feel good, on the inside and out. If you make each day about your clients, they will greet you with the same energy and enthusiasm — it all comes full circle. That is why it is important to create a memorable experience.