Why is the front desk so important?

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Lisa Conway
Salon Coach
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The first place that people fail in many salons is at the front desk. Appearance in our industry is everything and YES, we do judge a book by its cover!

Should we? What a silly question. We just do.

It often amazes me to see how people treat a walk in; a simple front desk inquiry asking, “Can I have a haircut”?

As part of my ongoing industry research, I often enter a salon pretending to be a client and make an inquiry. I ask about price, what is included, and I suspect they often think I’m a penny pincher. It’s not that at all. People ask how much something costs because they want to know how much it is going to cost. We don’t like surprises.

You can tell a lot about a salon by their response to this question.

If they throw a number at you like the numbers dropping at Powerball on Saturday night, you can be as sure as hell, they are going to do just what you ask, and nothing more. A haircut is this much- that’s it.

If they bother to explain to you what the service includes, that’s a good sign. If they over-explain, for example, “you might need this treatment which will cost $x, and you might not want this so it will only be $y, but then …”, this is NOT a good sign! You can tell they feel guilty about how much the boss thinks this place is worth.

Your best strategy is to make a connection, get the client comfortable and have a quiet chat sitting down (not standing at the front desk).

It could go like this:

“Good morning, my name is Lisa, and your name is?”


“Hi Chris, what can I help you with today?”

“I need a haircut.”

“Great! You’ve come to the right place. Our haircuts always include a conversation on whether you’re after new ideas or maybe a new look and also what suits your face and your lifestyle. We offer suggestions, as well as styling tips so you can easily style it yourself. It’s no good if we can make you look great but you can’t keep it looking that way, so we show you.

All our stylists are very competent, but we offer a range of pricing from $68 to $110 depending on the years of experience and training your stylist has. You can choose anyone from the artistic director to our newest, emerging talent. What did you have in mind for today? Are you after a completely new look?”

Let’s get one thing straight now. If you are ever asked, “Can I get a haircut?” The answer is always, “yes.” An even better answer is, “Yes, I’d love to cut your hair!”

When, is a whole different story! When you say, “yes,” the person relaxes and knows you are interested, and then you can find a time. Maybe it’s not until next Tuesday, but the answer is still yes.

“I am sad to say, Chris, that we are totally booked today, but I can get you in this week if you are a little flexible with timing. Sarah loves working with curls like yours and she has an appointment available this time tomorrow. Can I hold that for you?”

When I am snooping around pretending that I want a haircut or a price, sometimes you’d think I’d asked for a kidney. It’s really frustrating when they are trying to find me an appointment time before they know what I want.

If hairdressing is about relationships and building a rapport with clients, how are you going to do that when you are acting like the bouncer at a nightclub?

If hairdressing is about relationships and building a rapport with clients, how are you going to do that when you are acting like the bouncer at a nightclub?

I suggest you take a quick look at the customer and notice something nice about them – that’s a lovely bracelet, the colour of that top suits you perfectly, you have a great tan – anything that shifts the awkwardness out to the side.

Here’s how it can be fun: I was at a Lady Gaga concert with my twin sons, and afterwards they met up with some friends and I was waiting for them.

I noticed this man’s shoes; very Gaga and absolutely rolling in sparkle. “Nice Shoes!” I said, and we struck up a conversation about the awesome concert.

His wife looked over and said, “Lisa? Lisa Conway?”

What are the chances? Sally was my sister’s friend in high school, and also a hairdresser. We laughed at how our paths crossed and we all got on the same tram with our adult kids and talked all the way back to the city. That doesn’t happen if you keep your thoughts to yourself.

If you just relax and think about the person in front of you as someone just like you, you‘ll be surprised at how easily a conversation can happen and where it takes you.

We should never forget we are in the ‘people industry’ and making some one-feel good is the ultimate prize.

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