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 percent.

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!"

First-timer 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 envelopes.

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 partnership.

"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)

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.