Front Desk, Front Line
When it comes to creating a superior customer service, your front desk staff is your front line. Whether over the phone or in the reception area, your front desk team often makes the first impression on your client and set the tone for the rest of the service. Kristi Valenzuela, founder of Crystal Focus Coaching, not only specializes in helping salon owners and managers instill best customer service standards in their front desk teams, she shows owners how the front desk can become an invaluable asset in closing retail sales and boosting sales of add-on services.
First, a salon owner needs to understand the budget they have for the front desk, says Valenzuela, who recommends that 5 percent of a salon’s gross monthly sales (service sales + retail sales, but not gift card sales) be established as a budget for the total monthly salaries for the front desk staff. “Now that you know how much you have to spend, you need to determine an hourly rate and you can calculate how many people you can hire and how many hours you can give them.”
When it comes to hiring front desk team members who are equally comfortable hostessing as they are retailing, Valenzuela suggests going ‘shopping for staff’ in restaurants and stores in your neighborhood. “It could be that great waitress who tempted you to try the featured appetizer and convinces you that you to have dessert. Or the girl at Bath and Body Works who pulls lotions to go with the hand soap you picked out,” says Valenzuela. “Many of these people already have been trained in great customer service skills, and they are looking for a job change or to pick up additional hours. But don’t hire your babysitter, give her a first real job and expect her to deliver a great first impression.”
According to Valenzuela, the front desk is a revenue center, and finding a front desk team member who is willing to deliver a juicy salon tour, offer additional services over the phone, upsell to clients in the salon, talk up a featured items and open and close a retail sale is worth an additional $2,000 a month in revenue to a salon. So it’s important to prepare your interview with both customer service and sales questions.
“Consider an interactive exercise in the interview,” suggests Valenzuela. A salon owner in one of my sessions says he always conducts interviews at the local coffee shop and asks the candidate if they’d be willing to talk up the salon in the community. When they’d say yes, he’d tell them about a promotion the salon is doing, hand them three business cards and tell them to go talk to three customers in the coffee shop. It’s not important is how well they do, the point is to see if they are willing to do it.”
Valenzuela suggests you blend your training with equal parts customer service and sales. “Sit down and write an outline of what you perfect training would look like week by week,” says Valenzuela. “The more consistent your training is the more consistent your customer service will be.”
Valenzuela suggests developing scripts for your different processes and evaluating your new team member each week by rating their sales technique on a scale of 1 to 10, so they understand where you see them at all times.
“Form a training checklist that includes each of your services and at least the top 20 SKUs you carry, and make sure they understand the features and benefits of each. Big retail stores like Bath and Body Works and Victoria’s Secret have broad-based script and everyone on the floor knows it – shoppers at stores like those are used to this and are confused when they come in the salon and the front desk team don’t know the retail, because they see the salon as a store.”
Track and Coach
If you truly understand the value of a combined customer service/sales approach, you have to establish sales goals for your front desk team, stresses Valenzuela.
“Establish how many upsells you expect in a month and only track the ones they actually sell, such as when a client calls in for a pedicure and your team suggests a hand polish to go along with it,” says Valenzuela. “If you can get each front desk team member to sell an additional 40 services per month at an average of $20 per service, that’s an extra $800 per person. Put a goal in place and establish a reward for when they hit it—what gets rewarded gets repeated.”