Every salon professional knows there are many routes to bringing new guests into the salon—including referrals, local marketing, and active social media accounts.
But once you’ve brought in new guests, retaining them isn’t as black and white. While men are known to be loyal guests, women are more likely to leave for a variety of reasons—they got bored with their stylist, they weren’t happy with a service, they tried a new salon a friend recommended—the list goes on.
So how can an owner combat the unknown and keep guests coming back on a regular basis? And what about no-show clients who regularly book appointments, but fail to appear on time or at all?
Jessica Greene, owner of Elements Salon in Fernandina Beach, Florida, has owned three salons in her career and learned a lot about what it takes to keep clients coming back year after year.
THE “SECRET” TO CONSISTENCY
As one of the only Aveda salons in her community, Greene has found the Aveda points of difference like complimentary hand and scalp massages already set them apart as a luxury experience compared to other salons in the area. She also gives every new client a gift bag with discount cards for future services and Aveda sample products.
“It’s such a little, easy thing to do and it starts the relationship off right,” Greene says.
However, she’s also aware her clients count on these small luxuries as part of the experience at Elements, so she must make sure her stylists stay consistent.
“I once heard a story about a client watching the client in the chair next to her receive a complimentary Aveda ritual and have a totally different experience,” Greene says. “The client wanted to know why she wasn’t getting the same.
“This is why we need to make sure we do what we say we’re going to do,” she says.
This includes staying active on social media, but also hand-writing notes.’
“We’re in a small town and keeping the relationship one-on-one helps the client retention,” Greene explains.
Exceptional customer service from her manager, who is often at the front desk, also goes a long way, and it’s this consistency in service that keeps clients coming back.
Greene takes it another step further by enlisting secret shoppers to visit the salon once or twice a month, rotating through her 11 stylists.
“This gives you a big wake-up call,” Greene says. “But you have to send one to ALL of your stylists, because what happens in front of me and what happens when I’m not in the room can be very different.”
Not only will you find out who needs some extra coaching, you’ll find out which of your stylists are really doing well.
“I have a guy who nails it every time, which was a real eye-opener,” Greene says.
She also advises using a secret shopper you don’t know rather than a friend.
“I have literally walked into Target and asked someone if they want a free hair cut,” she says. “And sometimes, these people end up being new clients for us or buy retail out of their own pocket.”
Greene gives the “shopper” a gift certificate to use, so the front desk staff is also unaware — and she can get feedback on their performance as well.
Elements stylists know Greene sends secret shoppers in and that they’re held accountable, further ensuring consistency in service for every guest.
WORKING THE PHONES
But even with all her systems in place, Greene is aware a client may occasionally leave the salon less than satisfied.
To get to the bottom of any problems, the salon’s manager makes follow-up calls to all new clients and to any client who seemed lukewarm about her service at check out.
“Sometimes we can tell by the way a guest is leaving that there’s a bad vibe, so we flag them and do a follow-up call,” Greene says.
“We want everyone happy, and we do get a lot of good feedback from these calls—most of it is positive, but sometimes we get constructive criticism.”
Greene has even gone so far as to send out hand signed and addressed “we miss you letters” to clients who left the salon to solicit feedback.
“People actually called me back,” she says. “And we’ve gotten clients back because of the letters and follow-up calls—they see we want to fix the problems and make things better. They appreciate and recognize we care.”
NO-SHOWS: NO MORE SERVICE?
With a full book of clients every week, Greene doesn’t have time for no-shows. That’s why every client receives a reminder call the day before their appointment.
Now, guests expect and depend on the call. “We get so many people who don’t write it down,” Greene says. “They forget and are so grateful for the call and often, they call the salon themselves to ask when their appointment is.”
Greene experimented with texting reminders to clients as well, but the feedback was overwhelmingly in favor of calls, which continue to save the salon a ton of no-shows.
“Years ago, at a previous salon, we put up a sign that said, ‘You MAY be charged if you don’t show up for your appointment,’” Greene says. “Clients flipped out because they thought they’d be charged if they were unable to make it for some reason. We explained it was just for chronic no-shows and those people were charged $25 if they didn’t come in for their appointment—these were clients who hadn’t shown up for several appointments in a row.”
The result? The salon lost one or two clients, but didn’t mind, as those clients were not showing up anyway. But the majority of people stepped up and said, “Okay, I’ll pay. You got me.”
“It ended up being a positive thing because it made the clients aware,” Greene says.
At Elements, no-shows have not been a big problem—clients respect their stylists and understand the impact not showing up has on them.
“If a guest is fifteen minutes late, we call and offer to reschedule,” she says.
KNOWING THE NUMBERS
Retaining clients has become a numbers game for Elements stylists. Greene uses benchmarks that give them their individual retention numbers for both new and existing clients they track weekly.
“We use the SalonBiz app so they can keep up with it every day,” she says. “We also recently went through Qnity and use the Tuesday Tracker, too.”
Greene also shares feedback from phone calls with the staff in meetings. “Knowing the numbers and what everyone else is doing levels the playing field,” she says. “New and seasoned stylists are all on the same plane.”