About four years ago, Jeff South, owner of Intrigue Salon in Atlanta, Georgia, was asked if he would like to upgrade to a corner room at the hotel where he was staying.
The cost was minimal, so he said “yes.” South also began noticing the upgrades he was offered on flights—everything from seat choice to boarding status.
The word “upgrade” had officially piqued his interest. South did some Googling and found there was no tie-in with “upgrade” and any hair company. And quite simply, a new culture emerged in his salon—the business of upgrades.
“It’s an easy message for the client and stylist to understand,” says South. “When we realized we were going to live in an ‘upgrade’ society, it became a piece of our culture.”
Now, everything pertaining to hair color at Intrigue Salon is an upgrade. For example, a service like partial highlights has a starting price. Then, a stylist does a consultation and suggests upgrades based on the client’s hair.
“Maybe we upgrade to a silk lift, for finer hair,” says South. “Or for thick hair we can use Elumen to smooth it out. Balayage is also an upgrade.”
Serum treatments are another upgrade currently offered and South is about to add a “training” upgrade to the menu.
“This will include an extra 15 minutes of hands-on time to teach the guest how to style her hair,” he says.
The conversation on upgrades takes place in the chair during the consultation and is designed to make the client feel more special.
“It’s part of our culture now,” says South. “Stylists will sell multiple upgrades per client—it gives them the ability to jump prices up. They can do a couple upgrades and add another $50 to their ticket.”
Here’s how it works: Base prices for hair cuts and color vary based on the level of the stylist—junior, senior, etc. But upgrade prices are always the same, keeping it simple for both the client and the stylist.
The upgrade menu is positioned at eye level on the mirror of a stylist’s station, encouraging the upgrade conversation between the stylist and client. The menu also acts as a point of difference from other salons.
Intrigue has been offering upgrades for three and a half years now, and they now represent 10 percent of revenue.
South maintains implementation of an upgrade program can be achieved in four simple steps: assess, market, involve and invite.
First, he says to do a product breakdown or assessment (cost, usage, etc). Next, market your message with print materials and promotions. Third, involve your stylists by educating them on the benefits of the upgrade program.
“Make sure they embrace the message of the upgrade,” says South. “At Intrigue, it’s part of our culture and in our curriculum.”
Lastly, he says you must invite your customers to be a part of the experience by educating them with key phrases. An uneducated client won’t upgrade.
“Tailor upgrading to your own salon,” South recommends. “There are so many ways to go—just embrace the message.”
As for Intrigue’s clients, they have adopted the upgrade culture. “As long as we give them the ‘why’ behind an upgrade, clients rarely decline,” says South.
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