Turn non-returning clients into forever fans

Lisa Conway
Lisa Conway
Salon Coach
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What’s on every hairdresser’s wish list? Having more of those great clients, the A-grade ones who lift your day as soon as you spy their name in the appointment book.

How do I know? Because, as a business coach, the question I’m most commonly asked is: “How do I fill my salon with them?”

My answer is clear. A-grade salon clients don’t just magically appear. You make them. You take a B- or C- grade client and you educate them. It’s all about building trust.

Salons are like no other business because of the relationships that we do (or do not) create. If you work on the floor you already know that some salon clients make your day a joy while others make it a living hell. Some salon clients you connect with and others you don’t, no matter how hard you try.

If your business is always searching for more clients, my question is: what did you do to the clients you already had, the non-returning ones?

Non-returning clients are probably the most under-monitored data in any salon, yet the figures tell us so much.

Let’s put a microscope on your salon and take a closer look at your weekly client breakdown.

The list goes like this:

  • Total number of clients for the week
  • Number of those who are new
  • Number who are lost or non-returning

The first two figures are easy enough to gather.

Quantifying your “non-returning clients” is trickier.

Do you look at the lost or non-returning clients every single week? And after how many weeks do you consider a client to be lost?

My definition: if your salon client has not been in during the last 16 weeks, she or he is either not a regular or she has wandered off.

Unless your business is relatively new (say under a year old) I’d expect you’ve seen a fair share of clients come and go in your salon.

So, where are they now? And, why didn’t they stay?

Few salon owners grasp this. They hand me a retention report. What I want is the names of the lost clients and who touched them last.

Understand this: putting your business hat on and looking at those lost clients each week will show you what is really going on. That’s the real way to monitor this and to learn about your team.

Understand this: putting your business hat on and looking at those lost clients each week will show you what is really going on. That’s the real way to monitor this and to learn about your team.

You will start to see a pattern. If you give a client to a particular team member, there is a higher likelihood that they will return. With another team member, the probability is much lower.

Attracting a new salon client is at least six times harder than looking after an existing one. Once a client comes into your salon, is serviced by an expert and enjoys a great customer experience, you generally have to muck-up big-time for she or he to decide to try elsewhere.

Wow them with your customer care, share your knowledge and get them into your business three times, and chances are you’ll have a loyal client, a forever fan.

Let me tell you about gorgeous Melanie, a forty-something woman I met at a networking group. After we chatted, Melanie took my advice and treated herself to a new hair cut. But she wasn’t happy with it, mainly because her hairdresser hadn’t given her a scrap of advice on managing her new style at home.

Melanie was unsatisfied but didn’t know how to break up with her hairdresser. What madness! I still haven’t convinced Melanie to go elsewhere, which confirms that it’s about much more than the hair, it’s about the relationship.

I wish all clients were as loyal as Melanie. They are not, but once a client sees you as their salon of choice, you have a distinct advantage.

Keeping clients happy and caring for them between visits is everything. Some of them will disappear despite your bend-over- backwards efforts and you need to develop a thick skin to be a salon owner.

You can put it down to luck, or personality, or the economic climate.

Or you can take a business owner’s perspective and introduce some changes.

This week, take a critical look at what each member of your team is doing to the Melanies in your salon.

Start by making sure that everyone on your team is rebooking each client as they leave. It’s not enough to ask, “Do you want to rebook?” or (even worse) “You don’t rebook, do you?”

Coach your people to frame the question along these lines: “When am I going to see you again, Melanie?” or “Your turnaround is between five and seven weeks. What do you think about making a time now for six weeks so you know we can look after you? Is this time and day good for you?”

It’s not rocket science. You want all the great clients, all the lovely, loyal Melanies, in your column, right? Well, step up and book them in so the grumpy whiny ones can’t get in!

Now back to your list of non-returning salon clients.

They will fall into three categories, each with its own action:

  1. OMG I can’t believe she stopped coming. Pick up the phone and call her, and politely say we missed you, are you OK?
  2. The middle range, garden variety clients. Send them an offer to come back, using good old-fashioned snail mail. If your clients aren’t worth a stamp and some of your time, maybe you better rethink you business model.
  3. The “D” Drainers. These are the whingy ones who leave you feeling drained and undervalued. Just be pleased the wind blew them away. Let them go.

If you act on your non-returning clients, you’re heading in the right direction. If you remain vigilant about measuring and monitoring, increase the new clients who come in and reduce the lost ones, you simply can’t help but grow your business.

Look after your clients and treat them with the respect they deserve because without clients your business is just a bunch of chairs.

And we both know you didn’t get into this industry to preside over a bunch of chairs.

It’s about quality A-grade bums on seats, which is about creating rewarding client relationships.

It’s about the people, people.

Interested in learning more about this topic or my thoughts on how to run a salon that has you jumping for joy? Visit my website, find my video tips on YouTube or read my book The Naked Salon, an essential guide to time, team and money.

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