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Take a Tour of the Salon of the Future

July 26, 2018 | 6:48 AM
A computer on the table in the color room encourages clients to try on their pick of 7,000 different colors, infusing some fun and excitement into the consultation.
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Art meets science with a mosaic wall of color created from color boxes.
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The reception and retail area at Rolfs.
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The beautiful retail area includes a play station encouraging guests to sit and sample.
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Rolfbot stands at attention in the reception area, ready to greet and check in the next guest.
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Wood from antique Greek ships is woven for a backdrop for the custom glass blown lighting from Czechoslovakia.
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Clients have the option to add chromo therapy to their shampoo experience.
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At America’s Beauty Show 2018, L’Oreal Professional Products Division introduced its Salon Emotion concept, a program to support the development, business growth and future success of the industry. Based on three key drivers—training and raising awareness of services, personalized advice and guidance to modernize salons to re-enchant the guests’ emotional journey of the salon experience—the program includes seven key steps: window displays, client reception, consultation, treatment lounge, client service, retail and checkout.

L’Oreal’s booth at ABS brought the concept to life, as top artists and influencers walked show attendees through each of the seven steps providing facts and offering strategies along the way. Once complete, the attendees were encouraged to don virtual reality goggles and enjoy a tour led by Tabatha Coffey of a salon that has the Salon Emotion tenets in place. While the show attendees were physically in Chicago, they were virtually touring a very real salon located in Scottsdale, Arizona—Rolfs, owned by business partners Rolf Lohse and Francis Tesmer.

Lohse and Tesmer have a friendship that spans decades but their professional partnership is relatively young. While Lohse built his career as a celebrated hair stylist and salons owner who focused on creating the ultimate experience for each client, Tesmer pursued a degree as a biochemical engineer and became a global business executive. Over the years, when they found themselves in the same city, they’d frequently dine together, discussing art, politics and their own charitable pursuits.

When Tesmer lost her mother to breast cancer 15 years ago, it put her life in a tailspin and she decided she wanted to do something impactful. With a goal of moving to Arizona and starting a business in transformative health, she knew she also was passionate about creating a business that empowered women. In discussing her plans with Lohse, they realized their visions were remarkably aligned.

Eventually they decided to partner on the latest Rolfs’ location, spending more than $5 million to create their vision of the Salon of the Future, with the hope of creating a beauty concept based on integrity and professionalism that was fully focused on the client experience. Tesmer describes the resulting salon as a marriage or art, beauty, intelligence, nature and technology.

“Rolfs combines cutting- edge technology with a global design concept that unleashes the imagination and completely transforms the salon industry into a whole new era,” says Tesmer. “It features the first of its kind features, including the power of augmented reality technology with the newest state-of-the-art diagnostic tools. Digital platforms are also displayed throughout the salon inviting clients to capture the keepsake of their transformation.”

The salon taps technology to begin educating clients before they walk in the doors. A digital curtain, or video wall, flashes live streams of fashion and beauty events and runway shows, L’Oreal advertisement and tutorials and coverage of the salon’s philanthropic efforts. The programing on the digital curtains is frequently changed so it’s always fresh at a client’s appointment.

While front desk team is trained to constantly watch the door with a mental listing of the next expected clients in mind so they can open the door and greet guests by name, they also have helping hand from a robot who is positioned in the reception area to welcome clients.

Affectionately known as Rolfbot, the robot is programmed each day with a list of expected guests and their appointment times, and when each one walks in, she will say something like, “Hi Sydney, you look beautiful today, I love your dress. You are scheduled for a color experience with Faye today, I know she’s looking forward to seeing you.” Then, Rolfbot, who can’t help but joke a bit, adds, “Should we take a selfie together?”

“Our guests love Rolfbot and always say they’d love to take him home,” Tesmer says. “I believe if there is anything technology or a robot can do so that our team has more time to form a human connection with the client—time to offer compassion, listen and better serve the guest, it’s worth it.”

The front desk team is trained to look the client in the eye, instead of focusing on the computer screen. Tesmer coaches them to offer each client a compliment on something she’s wearing so there is a human moment interchanged.

The service provider comes to the front and greets the guest, and then as Tesmer describes it, “They Tango their way to the consultation area, with the stylist holding the guest’s drink and bag and waiting outside the changing area as they guest gets into her smock for the appointment.”

At the consultation area, each new guest gets an extensive consultation between 15 to 20 minutes where the stylist diagnosis the health of the hair. The client sits in front of a computerize screen and through augmented reality she can virtually try on up to 7,000 shades of hair color, hundreds of hair styles and even play with makeup selections, see how contouring makes a difference and try on lashes.

The stylist will talk through the client’s wants and needs, carefully considering her lifestyle, her hair issues and the season. As the stylist and client arrive at a style plan for the day, many guests will take a shot of the augmented reality screen and text a picture of their planned style to a friend, husband or boyfriend for feedback before taking the plunge.

“Our clients love the digital consultation—it’s fun, exciting and there’s a certain energy to it. It changes the conversation,” Tesmer says.

The salon takes a team-based approached to servicing each client, encouraging her to feel free to visit different service providers. Each new client is assigned two colorists and two stylists, and each service provider is expected to be familiar with the client’s style and color formulation—with meticulous records kept in the computer—so the client has a number of staff members familiar with her needs.

After the consultation, the client is then Tangoed to the Aqualounge where she can enjoy a chromo therapy treatment while nestled into one of the custom Italian chairs for a relaxing shampoo or hair treatment. Team members are instructed not to talk in the Aqualounge, allowing the client to simply enjoy what many guests rank as their favorite salon experience. After the shampoo, the client’s head is wrapped in a hair turban, so the hair isn’t dripping or the towel falling down.

“Even our beverages are servred in decorated cups on a beautiful tray, using body language similar to the way the Japanese serve tea,” Tesmer says. “Everything has a purpose from the language we speak to the fact that we sit down with the client during the consultation so we are on the same eye level and not looking down at her.”

Tesmer adds, “Even when a client is receiving a color service, the colorist will excuse herself to go ‘customize’ the client’s color, instead of ‘mixing’ it.”

During the service, every conversation is an elevated conversation focused on the client. Lohse and Tesmer even host a book club, encouraging each service provider to read through a list of 10 to 15 personal development books, allowing them to dole out suggestions and advice along with style suggestions. “Frequently guests stop me to tell me her stylist introduced her to a book that’s changing her life,” Tesmer says.

The décor of the salon also elevates the overall experience. In the color room, the color boxes are arranged to create a mosaic. There are 38 different tiles used in the design of the salon, including custom-made glass tile from Australia with real flowers embedded in it. The stations are from a master designer in Germany and each one is signed. Other unique décor features include custom flooring made of paper, an indoor garden, crystal lights from a master glassblower in Czechoslovakia, and wood from antique Greek ships is woven into a piece of artwork for the walls.

At the end of the service, the service provider escorts the client back to the front pointing out the recommended products, hugging the client and turning her over to the front desk for the financial transaction. “Our front desk attendant asks, ‘How was your experience today?’ not ‘How do you like your haircut?’” Tesmer says. “After a positive response, they are encouraged to give the client a genuine compliment.”

While the Salon of the Future had a soft opening in January, the company is planning its grand opening celebration in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the salon company in October, with invitations sent to 500 national and international guests and celebrities. And, yes, Rolfbot is already planning her speech for her appearance on stage.

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