When thinking about #BusinessGoals, every salon and spa should aim for a high client retention rate. Acquiring new clients is exciting, but repeat clients are better for your bottom line.
Multiple studies have shown that repeat or loyal clients not only spend more, they’re also easier to sell to. A report by Stitch Labs even found that repeat clients spend 120% more annually compared to new buyers, and according to Harvard Business School,
“Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.”
There’s also the fact that existing clients are easier to connect with and they’re more likely to send referrals.
We could go on about the value of repeat clients, but at this point, it’s evident that as a business owner, client retention should be a big focus for you. And if it isn’t, keep reading. This guide will shed light on the four pillars of client retention, which include: the client experience, your marketing strategy, your booking process, and your staff.
Below, we will look at each of these four pillars in detail and provide examples and pointers you can apply to your business.
Let’s dive in.
Pillar #1: The client experience
Your client’s experience is major aspect of client retention. The physical environment that you provide, along with how you communicate and come across, can make or break a client’s decision to book a second (and third, and fourth…) appointment.
Here’s how you can nail the client experience side of things.
Build client relationships by remembering styles and preferences
The feeling of being remembered is one of the biggest factors that improves client retention. So, strive to give that experience to every client by actively getting to know them.
If you have a new client, ask them what brought them to your business. Do they just need a cut or are they attending an event? Do they have any skin or hair concerns?
To make things easier, have them fill out a form with relevant questions. You can then use their answers to create client profiles that you could reference whenever they visit.
And never underestimate the power good old fashioned conversations. Make an effort to learn more about your clients. Talk to them. Discover their interests and preferences. In addition to building rapport, doing these things will help you figure out the best approach or service to offer.
Note: Not all clients are chatty, so get a proper read on each client to determine the right way to connect with them.
Celebrate what makes you unique
Looks aren’t everything, but they matter a great deal — particularly if you’re in the salon or spa business. The look and feel of your space directly affect the experience of your clients, and can ultimately influence to their decision to come back.
So, how can you create a delightfully unique space for your clients? You can start by identifying your unique story and voice. Figure out what sets you apart from other salons and spas, then communicate that through your location.
Nicky and Kelvin, the duo behind OFF Wax & Laser and ON Browhouse (aka OFF & ON), have done this really well. They wanted to make eyebrow services premium and enjoyable, and so they designed a vibrant store that’s full of energy — complete with upbeat music, framed humorous quotes, and cheerful employees.
The OFF & ON atmosphere is drastically different from similar establishments, which typically promote a quieter and toned down environment. But being different is exactly what makes OFF & ON so memorable, and it’s the reason why they have a lot of loyal clients.
“We know some people don’t like us. Some feel that it’s too loud and they don’t like that experience. But we just accept that. We’re like Marmite, we’re not for everybody.” – Nicky, OFF & ON
Aim for that level of brand commitment in your business. Embrace your distinct qualities and have them shine through in your location. Maybe you won’t appeal to everyone, but the clients you do attract will be much more loyal.
Small comforts like free WiFi, snacks, and drinks go a long way in enhancing the in-store experience. Salons and spas can provide a respite from people’s busy lives, so you want to make their time with you as pleasant as possible.
Check out what O Skin Care + Spa is doing. Their lounge is decked is comfy couches, pillows, and footstools, and they also offer snacks and several drink choices (water, juice, coffee, various teas) so clients can relax while waiting for their facial.
If you haven’t done so yet, start investing in these amenities. Your clients will love you even more.
Pillar #2: Your marketing strategy
While you may have some fiercely loyal clients who will happily come back on their own, many shoppers need nudges to do so. This is where retention marketing comes in. Every good salon or spa should have a strategy specifically designed to get previous customers to come back.
Your retention marketing strategy could include:
Rewards programs for client retention
Many businesses do a good job promoting their services to new clients using discounts. While this practice may be effective in acquiring new clients, it might make your current clients feel undervalued.
“It frosts me when I see my local salon offer a discount to new customers only. It seems to me that they should be offering me a discount for returning.” – Laurie Richards, organisational consultant and speaker.
“Give me an app or even a low-tech punch card that gives me every tenth mani or pedi free, and I’d make it a point to use the same salon every two weeks,” she adds.
If you don’t have a loyalty or client retention program in place, it’s high time set something up. The “right” type of program will depend on your business. For some establishments, a simple stamp or points system that rewards shoppers after a certain amount of purchases or visits works well.
Rekha’s Threading Salon in California, for example, has a loyalty system in which clients get a free threading service after nine visits.
Meanwhile, other businesses prefer to send exclusive offers to their existing clients. For instance, Polish Nail Spa often sends a follow-up text message with an offer after a client gets their nails done.
Retail sales initiatives that encourage clients to purchase your products
Are you actively selling your retail products? If not, you could be missing out on sales and repeat business. In an interview about client retention, Sean Larusso, owner of Madison Avenue Salon & Spa in Phoenix, AZ says that in the salon world, retail sales are directly tied to client retention
“The more commitment you get from a customer to purchase a product or retail products from you, the higher retention they have. It actually goes from one product, to two products, to three. And at three [products], the client retention is off the charts,” he explains.
Here’s the good news: selling salon or spa products doesn’t have to be sleazy or forced. In fact, the practice can be a natural extension of your services. For example, if you’re providing hair treatments, you could offer tips and best practices for how your clients can maintain their hair. Then while you’re at it, you can “prescribe” a product to help them care for their locks. Or, if you’re offering facials, you could suggest a specific moisturiser depending on your client’s skin type.
Digital marketing efforts
Staying top of mind is essential to keeping clients coming back. And since consumers are increasingly spending their time on their computers and mobile devices, you need to strengthen your presence on digital channels. Accomplishing that could include:
- Email marketing (collecting your clients’ email addresses and sending them company updates and offers)
- Social media (posting great content on Facebook, Instagram, and other relevant networks)
- Mobile (keeping in touch via SMS or through an app that can send notifications)
- SEO (optimising your website and search listings to ensure your business shows up whenever someone runs a search for your services)
Explore these channels, conduct some tests, and see what works best for your audience, business, and budget.
Promote repeat visits
Bundling your services could be another effective way to increase repeat visits. Colina Salon and Med Spa in Long Beach, California for instance, offers five Keratin treatments for a set price. Since women typically go through Keratin treatments 2 or 3 times a year, this package pretty much guarantees repeat visits for every client that signs up. Not to mention, the salon takes payments up front, which helps with cash flow.
See if you can do something similar in your business. Bundle up your services for a price that’s a bit less than how much it would cost if the client purchased them individually. Promote it to your customers and see how well it works out.
Identify clients who haven’t visited you in a while, then craft messages to re-engage them. Maybe you can send them an “I miss you” email or a quick text letting them know that you’d love to see them.
For best results, customise the message by including your client’s name. And if possible, have the message come from the stylist or aesthetician who provided the service on their last visit.
Check out the text message below. Not only is it addressed directly to the client, but it was also sent by the stylist herself, so the conversation felt more personal.
Pillar #3: Your booking process
Securing appointments requires the right skills and tools. Having a well-designed and smooth process will help you book more clients repeatedly.
Here are a few tips that can help keep your calendar full:
Master the art of rebooking
One of the best ways to secure a repeat visit is to do it while the client is in your salon or spa. For example, while you’re finishing up a service, you could say something like:
“My clients typically come back after 2 months to maintain their skin. Does [insert date] work for you?”
Another option is to practice rebooking at the front desk. So, when a client is about to check out, your receptionist could give a statement similar to the example above. Also, if an event or holiday is coming up, use that in rebooking scripts. You could say something along the lines of:
“Hey, [insert holiday] is coming up. We typically fill up fast during that week, but we still have some availability. Does [insert day and time] work for you?”
You may not get a “yes” 100% of the time, but you’ll likely get a good chunk of clients to commit.
Sometimes it’s better to wait. Think about the client experience, and decide whether it may be better to follow up later. Follow-up messages are a great way to improve your rebooking rates, and can be set to send off automatically. Save yourself the hassle!
Arm yourself with a modern booking solution
Now let’s talk about booking tools. Having the right appointment and client management system can make scheduling a breeze, thus increasing your booking and rebooking rate.
If you have online booking software, for example, then clients who are already fans of your work can schedule their next visit on your website or Facebook page. Most online booking solutions also offer features like automatic reminders, which are proven to decrease no-shows.
If you’re still using a manual process to schedule appointments, do yourself (and your clients) a favour, and explore solutions that can streamline booking in your business.
Pillar #4: Your staff
Last but not least are your employees. Salons and spas are primarily service-based businesses, and excellent service starts with your team.
As customer service expert Nancy Friedman points out, “customer service is key to any business operation and its success, and this holds true for those in the salon and spa business. The goal is… to provide excellent service so your customers will not only come back, but recommend your salon or spa to others.”
Nancy cautions businesses that don’t focus enough on customer service, saying that those who fail in the service department “may not only lose sales to competitors but may also experience public relations problems and social media shaming.”
How can you encourage amazing customer service from your staff? Try doing the following:
Train them well
“Customer service training is essential and should be ongoing.” – Nancy Friedman.
According to her, there appears to be “a direct correlation to poor customer service and no training program in place,” particularly for client-facing employees.
This is why it’s critical that you invest in proper training. In addition to educating your team about your company, services, and products, make it a point to emphasise the importance of customer service. You can accomplish this by providing relevant resources (e.g., customer policies, guidelines, etc.) and by role-playing with your team.
Create a positive workplace culture
Happy employees perform better, so do what you can to delight and motivate your staff. Start by treating and paying them well. Nothing zaps inspiration and productivity faster than an employer who undervalues their staff. Anyone who thinks they’re saving money by not investing in their employees is greatly mistaken.
Another effective way to improve employee morale is to create a culture of recognition. In addition to personally giving kudos to your staff, encourage peer-to-peer recognition to boost team spirit and camaraderie.
It doesn’t cost much, but recognition (or lack thereof) can have a massive impact your staff’s performance. As social scientist Dan Ariely wrote in his book, Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, “When we are acknowledged for our work, we are willing to work harder for less pay, and when we are not acknowledged, we lose much of our motivation.”
A high client retention rate doesn’t happen by itself. You need to actively encourage repeat business.
It’s also important to note that client retention doesn’t come down to a single tactic or strategy. It’s a combination of your salon or spa experience, marketing strategy, booking process, and customer service. If you get it right in all four areas, you’ll always have a stream of returning clients walking through your doors.