When you hand out referral cards to your guests, you don’t really know what happens next. Maybe those cards reach potential clients, or maybe they never leave your guests’ possession.
When Aveda previewed an idea for a digital referral program, one Aveda Lifestyle Salon didn’t want to wait. Avantgarde Salon, with locations in Destin and Niceville, FL, went ahead and launched a new Guest Referral Program.
“We created our own version that we thought would work,” explains Manager Sharon Thigpen. “Instead of passing out referral cards as we’d been doing for years and years, we had our social media company create a QR code that links to a coupon our guests can text to five of their friends.”
How It Works
The QR code is displayed as a mirror cling, and the linked coupon offers a $20 discount on a first service of $40 or more. Clicking on the coupon takes the person directly to the salon’s online booking page.
After texting the coupon to five friends, the guest shows the stylist the text record in order to receive a reward of $25 off retail. With the previous referral card system, the current guest received a reward for every referred client who walked in the door. Now the $25 is awarded immediately—for the intent rather than the outcome—but only one time.
Avantgarde’s stylists have been enthusiastic about the change. Anything new and digital is more exciting for the team to present to their clients, so they don’t have to be reminded—plus the cling is highly visible, right on the mirror.
Whereas tracking referral cards was, at best, cumbersome, digital referrals are easily tracked, and the new program is generating a 10% referral rate. Thigpen says owners Joseph Rogers and Deke Rogers are pleased with this rate and the way it shifts some booking to the online app.
“Online booking still is not our primary source of booking,” Thigpen says, “but the increase we’ve had is tremendous.”
Recruiting Stylists through Referral
If referrals work for attracting new, loyal clients, why not apply the same idea to hiring new staff? Friends are a trusted source for recommending a place of business whether it’s for someone to become a customer or to join as an employee. All Avantgarde did was sweeten the pot.
“Stylists know stylists,” Thigpen says. “So we introduced our Employee Referral Program, which pays team members for referring people. That got them thinking about someone they know or maybe a friend of a friend, and now they reach out. It’s always better when the person hears about us from a stylist who loves working here.”
For every referral that Avantgarde hires, the stylist who made the referral receives $250 cash on the new hire’s first day of employment and another $250 after the new employee has worked for the salon for six months. This has helped Avantgarde to fill most of the spots for the 13 chairs in one location and seven in the other.
“Staffing used to be a challenge, and now we have enough people,” Thigpen says. “And it’s always nice to be able to reward your team.”
The other strategy helping Avantgarde to stay fully staffed with new talent is getting more involved with a local cosmetology school.
Thigpen explains, “Aveda has career fairs and we’ve always recruited from Aveda Institutes, but we don’t have an Aveda Institute near our locations.” The nearest one is three hours away, so with Covid still around the leadership team decided to stay closer to home.
“We brought goodies and introduced ourselves to a local school,” Thigpen continues. “We’re one of the largest salons in the area, and we could talk directly to the students to tell them about our salon. They had a lot of questions; the conversation was really important.”
According to Thigpen, people attending school right in the area are more likely to want to work where they’re already living. It’s also paid off to establish a relationship with the instructor, who has sent in recent graduates she knows are not happy with the salon they initially joined.
“We’re excited!” Thigpen says. “We’ve talked about sending someone to do a demo class for the students. We can just pop in every now and then to engage with the instructor and remind the students that we’re here.”
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