Today, there is a great deal of competition for the same clients, and unfortunately, client loyalty is not what it used to be.
This isn’t always because salons were better back in the day, but more likely because there were simply fewer salons to choose from, and therefore, going somewhere else wasn’t always the best option when there was a small service hiccup.
People are now more informed and less tolerant of poor quality treatments and customer service, and they’re not shy about telling other people about their experiences via social media and the internet.
This is why it’s essential that you’re on top of your quality control and know how to be (or become) the go-to salon in your area.
In this article, I’ll pose 13 questions to help you discover how to keep your VIP clients returning to your salon and spending their money in the long-term.
1. Have you got your welcome right?
Believe it or not, getting new clients is the easy bit. The difficult part is getting them to return.
Statistics show us that in some salons as many as 3 out of 4 new clients visit just once, and never come back. Now some salons do better than this of course, but the fact is that once a prospective client arrives at your salon, your sole goal should be to get them to come back.
A new client’s first impression of your salon should be the best you can possibly deliver. If you don’t look, smell or feel professional, you’re already off to a bad start.
Clients will make assumptions about their forthcoming treatment based on their first impressions.
Don’t let yourself down before you even have the chance to prove how good you really are.
2. Does your new client leave with a thorough understanding of everything you offer?
In most instances, clients know very little about your salon by the end of their first visit. It’s your job to make sure your new client knows what you offer, and what makes you the best salon in the area.
And there’s never going to be a better time to do this than on the first visit.
Tell them about your services, your programs, and everything else that they’ll benefit from by being a client in your salon.
If you offer a Rewards Program, Referral Rewards, Special Birthday Offers, Monthly Promotions or anything else that makes you stand out from other salons, you need to make certain that your prospective client knows about it as soon as possible.
If you wait for the second visit, it may never happen.
3. Do you provide a financial incentive to return?
On the first visit, many clients leave unsure of whether they’ve found their perfect salon. You need to give these clients a worthwhile reason to return and give you another opportunity to shine.
Ensure your new client receives a voucher from your salon asap to entice them back. Most people will find a voucher irresistible unless they were really unhappy with your treatments or service. Once you get your new client back, the relationship phase is underway, and they’ll start to feel much more at home and comfortable in your salon.
This is then the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
4. Are you rewarding loyalty?
Clients are just like you and me. We all love to be rewarded!
By introducing a Loyalty Rewards Program you can reward your clients for spending their money with you, and they’ll love it.
If you’re computerised, it’s generally as easy as turning on the loyalty program option in your software and deciding how your reward points will be attained and spent. If you’re not yet computerised, the good old card system works just as well.
Just keep in mind that your reward must feel like a true reward. If it’s not meaningful to your clients, they won’t have any reason to return to your salon instead of trying the one around the corner.
5. Are you being consistent?
Your clients love to know exactly what they are going to receive when they visit your salon or spa. Change is not always your friend; even if it’s sometimes in the client’s favour.
Be consistent in all things that affect your clients, especially in the treatments that they receive. Even a missed cup of coffee on arrival can sometimes make a client antsy.
This also means you must be cautious when providing freebies (discretionary services) to your clients. While the clients do love getting that something extra on the day for no charge, it can backfire on you when those little extras are not provided at every visit. After all, if the client receives a little extra pampering once, she’s got every right to expect it’s a normal part of the treatment.
Create a protocol for all your services and ensure all team members stay rigidly within that protocol when delivering services. If you want to deliver a little extra pampering, add it to your protocol. Nothing more and nothing less is then the best policy.
6. What are your re-booking skills like?
How frustrating is it when a good client rings your salon for an appointment and you just don’t have a single spot available for them? Naturally, they become frustrated, and you’re left feeling stressed because you know that there’s a good chance your client might try another salon for an appointment at a time that suits her.
Getting your clients to re-book is a skill that needs to be perfected so this kind of scenario almost never happens to you. Once a client goes elsewhere, you run the risk of losing them permanently, and that can cost your business thousands of dollars in potential revenue.
Added to that is the massive impact regular appointments have on your profits. When a 4-weekly client is left to her own devices, she’ll often extend her booking interval out to 6 weeks. What this means for you is over 4 visits less per year from that 1 client.
Do the sums. For most salons, it can mean up to a $50,000 loss in revenue. Can you afford to lose this amount of money each and every year? Most likely not.
The only way to really make sure this doesn’t happen to you is to take control of the booking process and ensure every client is offered a re-booking for their next appointment (or several) before they leave your salon.
When you re-book a client, you’re actually helping her to get what she wants, when she wants it.
7. How are your communication skills?
Constant quality communication helps to build and maintain the rapport you have with your clients. If you’re not constantly top-of-mind, clients can be lured away quite easily.
Stay in touch with your clients regularly with informative newsletters that have content they want to read. Use SMS marketing to promote your special offers.
Don’t rely solely on Social Media to stay in touch unless you’re willing to use paid advertising. Without it, your message won’t reach many of your followers anymore (generally only around 12-18%).
8. Do you have a program for client referrals?
Did you know that if a client refers a friend to your salon, she’s far less likely to leave herself? Because she’s sung your praises to the person she’s referred, she’d feel a bit foolish going elsewhere without a very good reason.
Referrals are gold for your business and not just because they bring in new clients, but because they help to keep the ones you’ve already got.
9. Are you living up to your promises?
Think about it. Do you promote yourself as a serene salon where clients come to relax and pamper themselves, but you also have a kid’s corner in your waiting area? If this is the case then you’re not living up to the promises you’ve made in your marketing.
Get clear about what your salon personality really is. If you promise total pampering, get rid of the kid’s corner, and ask clients to have their children looked after while they enjoy their treatments.
If however, you want to be known as family-friendly, a kid’s corner is almost a must.
Whatever it is that you’re promising to be for your clients, don’t disappoint them if you want them to return.
10. Is it time to let go of the silly rules?
Make your salon client-centred and get rid of silly and often offensive rules and signage that make the clients feel uncomfortable (you know the ones I mean….’Turn off your mobile phone or you will be shot and fed to the crocodiles!‘)
Your goal should be to make each and every client feel like they’re being welcomed into a warm, friendly environment where they’re respected and valued for their patronage; not one step away from being in a prison camp.
Resist the temptation to punish every client for the sins of one or two who’ve done the wrong thing, and ditch the dictator-style signage that clients will find insulting.
Every salon needs to have some rules and policies, but learn how to phrase them in such a way that the clients feel like your rules and policies are there to make their life more enjoyable, not less.
11. What’s your Point of Difference?
Be unique. Stand out from the rest of the salons in your area by offering something that your clients simply can’t get somewhere else.
Many salon owners make the huge mistake of believing that being cheap is what their clients want. The truth is your clients want to receive value; not necessarily cheap services. I’ve experienced cheap and I’ve experienced value that isn’t cheap, and I can promise you that value will win out every time.
Every service you offer should stand out from what your competitors offer in some way. Given that you offer as good as your competitors do, then adding that something extra and unique will keep your clients returning to you, instead of meandering off to other salons.
12. Do you remember to celebrate your clients’ birthdays?
Birthdays are our special day (even if we share them with thousands of other strangers)!
Let me ask you how many service providers have ever acknowledged your birthday? If you’re like most, the answer is very few, if any at all.
If you’re lucky enough to have had your birthday acknowledged, you’ll already know how much it helps to develop a warmer relationship with the business that not only remembered your birthday but also acknowledged it with a small gift.
You can easily acknowledge your client’s birthday with a small salon gift certificate. It doesn’t have to cost you an arm or a leg, but your clients really do love to be remembered on their special day.
13. Are you really an expert?
Would you consider yourself and your team members to be experts in all services provided in your salon or spa?
Ongoing training and learning are a necessity in this ever-changing world of beauty. If you’re not the best at something, either stop doing it or become the best fast. Invest in training for your team and remember training isn’t a once-off activity. It needs to be ongoing. It’s pointless spending a small fortune on that new piece of equipment if your team members cannot deliver basic services expertly.
Focus on what you’re positive your clients want from your salon, and become the best provider of these services in your marketplace.
Now, while this is by no means an exhaustive list of how to improve your client retention, many of these simple and inexpensive tips will help you to keep your clients and therefore build your revenue.
And what’s even better is that you can start implementing these tried, tested and effective strategies immediately without spending a small fortune on expensive marketing programs.
Treat your clients like VIPs, reward their loyalty, invite them back, be consistent, and give them the very best service at every visit. After all, the cost to retain a client is only a tiny fraction of what it costs to gain a new one.
Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practised every day. Jim Rohn