Q & A with John Harms: How to Keep Your Front Desk Productive

Dear John,

I’m noticing that during our slower days, my front desk employees are buried in their smartphones texting friends and playing games. I don’t want to have to forbid personal phone use, but it’s affecting morale and it’s certainly not helping the business. Are there any strategies we can use that will give them more responsibilities and make them feel like they are doing more than just answering phones?

When asked about problem areas of a business, many spa and salon owners and managers complain about "downtime" and lack of motivation at the front desk. Having no downtime at the front desk is the responsibility, first, of the owner or manager to document and teach. The front desk is a profit center when it employs professionals who know how to attract guests in more often, sell gift cards and retail, and proactively look for ways to fill the book day after day.

You can’t change yesterday’s revenue but you can affect tomorrow’s by focusing on five simple growth indicators. We tend to only focus on revenue, we set goals based on revenue, and we give our employees goals that are based on the revenue they bring in. The problem is that revenue is the result of what we did yesterday, and it’s too late today to affect yesterday’s results.

Let’s focus on the key growth indicators that will allow us to create predictable, increased revenue tomorrow. We learn a lot of strategies from the people who use Millennium software, and one of them is to focus on the growth indicators each day of the week. With your front desk staff, you can work to implement these strategies, which will in turn, make them an integral part of your team, keep them motivated, and create more revenue for the business. The growth indicators are very simple yet important to know:

  • New Guests Per Month. You need new guests to make up for the existing guests that you might lose. Guest referral programs, word of mouth and advertising help generate new guests.
  • New Guest Retention. Once you work so hard to bring in new guests, it is paramount that you improve how well you keep them coming back. Focus on pre-booking on the first visit, welcome emails, gift cards and free product on the next visit, etc.
  • Repeat Guest Retention. Retaining the guests who have already shown loyalty (and have been coming in for at least a year or four visits) will increase productivity greatly over time. Don’t let guests go more than 90 days without coming back. Pre-book them so they are more likely to return.
  • Frequency of Visit. Pre-book and attract guests in more often. The easiest way to grow without spending money is to simply get your loyal clients to come in more often.
  • Average Ticket. Increase the average money spent per guest—upsell, cross-sell and recommend other services, etc.

What might a strategy for the front desk look like? Here’s a brief sample below:

MONDAY: New Guest Retention

  1. Mail out welcome cards and send emails to all new guests from the previous week.
  2. Review each guest from last week to ensure that they have an appointment on the book, and if not, make that call.
  3. Send out $10 gift cards that can be redeemed by the recipient during their next visit.

TUESDAY: Frequency of Visit

  1. Review pre-book percentages for last week and identify top staff members who pre-booked and celebrate their efforts.
  2. Check for guests who are due in this week who have no appointment booked. Begin with guests who get chemical treatments first, as they are the most loyal and will generally have the highest tickets.

WEDNESDAY: Repeat Guest Retention

  1. Identify any guest who has not been in within the last 90 days, has had at least 2 appointments at your salon/spa, and know what service they generally receive PRIOR to calling or emailing them. Also, know what openings you have this week or next for that service so that you can give the guest options immediately and professionally.

These are just some examples. Using client loyalty systems within your salon/spa software can help build up retention and average ticket as well. Embrace the growth indicators and create a system that increases your business’s bottom line by utilizing the people at the front desk. If you don’t have front desk staff, then make sure your software can automate some of these things to improve frequency of visit and retention. Make a commitment to create a strategy so there is no downtime at the front desk and the results will be tangible within 90 days.

John Harms
Millennium Systems International, Founder and CEO

About: John Harms, Founder & CEO of Millennium Systems International, creator of Millennium Software, has been designing industry leading salon scheduling software and educating the beauty & wellness industry since 1987. Today Millennium is utilized in thousands of businesses in over 38 countries and operating with approximately 150+ employees worldwide.  Millennium currently runs its corporate headquarters out of New Jersey and its international office is based in the U.K.