Follow the advice of these retention-focused salons and you just may have to install a revolving door.
Repeat Business (Part 1)
Repeat Business (Part 2)

First-Timer Challenge

Perhaps no return visit is as
elusive as the second; add the prebook goal and you have your work cut
out for you. “New guests want to go home and get their friends’
reactions before they commit to rebooking,” says Meas, whose salon
boasts an overall prebooking rate of 90 percent. “Often first-time
clients come from a salon with bad habits—they weren’t taught to think
about prebooking.”

Repeat Business (Part 2)

Our staff has become competitive with each other to see how many clients they have booking through the year.
—Kay Charron,
owner of Bien Soigne in Windham, New Hampshire

Another issue, comments Charron, is that
first-timer retention “is affected by the number of new clients who
come to ‘treat themselves’ or redeem gift certificates once or twice a
year.” While her salon’s overall retention rate is 80 percent at the
salon and 70 percent at the spa, new client retention dips to 30

Determined to tighten that gap at Chicago’s Red 7
Salon, owners David Kafer and Jason Hall have raised their new client
retention rate to 55 percent, just eight percentage points lower than
overall retention. “We’ve become more focused on the first visit,
because we’ve noticed that this retention figure reflects how things
are going generally,” say the owners.

“Basically, we want to see
that new clients come back again and become our regulars.” Toward that
end, Kafer and Hall coach and reward stylists on this goal. Red 7
carves out a three-month window for first-timers to take advantage of
discounts on any services they haven’t had before.

Keeping Track

Vasile and George Tsinokas feel they have an edge over their competition that has nothing to do with the hair they send out the door. It’s all about the point and click.

“Harms Millennium is used by many salons throughout the United States, but is not used as widely within Canada yet,” say the owners of Valentino’s Grande Salon in Whitby, Ontario, 26 miles east of Toronto. “Our system easily allows us to track retention and prebooking rates for each employee, with reports available in seconds at the click of a button.”

With hard, indisputable numbers in front of them, the Tsinokases can coach their team in a targeted way, with realistic goals broken down into the time frames they choose. Owners can ask the software to compare each stylist’s progress toward their goal to the reality at the same point in the preceding month, the same month in the preceding year and the average in the salon.

“We set weekly, monthly and yearly goals for our staff in order for us to be actively supportive while creating accountability,” add Hynette Grider and Christi Boothe, owners of Satori: A Salon/Spa/Shopping Experience in Ithaca, New York. “We require stylists and technicians to look at their weekly numbers to see what’s working and what isn’t.”

A simple Excel spreadsheet helps motivate the staff at Maximum FX SalonSpa in Austin, Texas, where every month owners Javier Herrera and Chris Murphy print out individual performance scores that include new and existing client retention figures, prebooking and  productivity percentages and details on product purchases.

“When I headed in a new direction as an owner, it became crucial not only for me to understand my salon’s numbers but for my team members to understand their individual numbers,” agrees C. Adrian Morris, owner of Lemon Lime in Cohasset, Massachusetts. Using SalonBiz software, Morris started issuing the staff weekly benchmark reports that break down retention rates into new guests, existing guests and total guests. Although she relies on the information to pinpoint trouble areas and showcase triumphs, Morris does not use the computer system to justify any sort of punitive action.

“I want my staff to find the numbers ‘magical,’ not scary!” Morris says. “I want them to embrace their benchmarks and find excitement in watching the numbers change like ‘magic.’ All it takes sometimes is a simple wave of the wand in a different direction!”

retention and prebooking are worthy aims, agree George and Vasile
Tsinokas, owners of Valentino’s Grande Salon in Whitby, Ontario, which
offers a 10-percent discount on the new client’s next color and $5 off
the next cut. The promotion is outlined for the new client in tandem
with an explanation of the benefits of prebooking. “Encouraging clients
to prebook at the end of their first visit has helped us to ensure that
new clients will use the coupons,” say the owners. “Acting immediately
after the client receives exceptional attention and service makes
prebooking even more likely to occur.”

This general approach
is repeated at many salons that roll out some sort of new client
welcome wagon. Ginger Bay’s thank-you notes to new clients include a
$10 voucher toward their next service. At the end of their first visit
to Appearances Hair Color and Design Studio in Westminster, Colorado,
clients receive three coupons: one for a discount on their next
service, another for 20-percent off a future product purchase and the
last for $10-off services for themselves and a friend they refer. “The
coupons must be used individually,” say owners Jim and Sondra Thrasher.
“This gives us the opportunity to get the guest back into the salon at
least three different times.”
To cross-promote services at
Westend Hair Co. and Day Spa in El Paso, Texas, first-time hair clients
receive a thank-you card along with a 20-percent discount on a spa
visit. Tucked into the New Guest Kit at Bell Tower Salon, MediSpa and
Store in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, are a coupon for a complimentary
ancillary service such as an eyebrow wax, as well as a $10 bounce-back
coupon for a primary service like hair color. In addition, stylists
send thank-you notes to their first-timers; Bell Tower’s guest services
department absorbs the stress by checking the grammar and addressing

The Hair Company hands new clients four bounce-back
coupons that must be used at separate visits. Buckler adds, “We also
have our guest services administrator call all new guests within a
couple of days after their initial visit just to follow up and make
sure they are thrilled with the services/products they received.”

Culture Karma

Stellar customer service will never go out of style as a way to
impress first-time guests and keep all clients eager to return.
Branding is also another way salons distinguish themselves in providing
an experience others can’t duplicate. When there’s a good salon/client
fit, retention occurs naturally. “Going Green” is one example of salons
connecting with their clients’ sensibilities to forge a loyal

“Having our clients brag to their family, friends
and coworkers about us is the best compliment we can receive,” say the
owners of Red 7. “We design monthly programs and promotions to thank
our clients and have their experience with us be more fun.”

Repeat Business (Part 1)
Repeat Business (Part 2)