The "Front Desk Doctor" Shares Tips for Salon Success

Shear Art Salon & Spa recently relocated to a new location in Tampa, FL, to accommodate its booming client base.  

The front desk is the lifeblood of the salon, providing essential guest interaction and increasing revenue potential. Here, Summit Salon Business Center co-owner Kristi Valenzuela shares her tips for achieving greater success in this vital area.

Long before I became an educator and earned the moniker “Front Desk Doctor,” I was a commission-service provider in one of the fastest-growing salons in Michigan. This place ticked all the boxes — it had multiple, upscale locations; it was one of the best salons to work as a service provider; and it had a stellar reputation in the community, not to mention a burgeoning clientele base. From all appearances, it seemed the business was moving full speed ahead.

Behind the scenes, it was a whole different story. Speed bumps in the form of little or no team communication and customer care systems were slowing down the business. High turnover, which I came to learn after helping the salon manager send out W-2s to a slew of former front desk employees one January day, was another huge issue. I remember looking at the stack of envelopes being sent out and thinking that it looked pretty staggering. Without a doubt, it was definitely an aha moment for me—one that made me aware of the pivotal role that qualified front desk team members play in shaping a salon’s image and the success of its service providers. 


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As it turns out, it was also the impetus behind my desire to create salon programs designed to overcome front desk frustration. When it comes to creating a blueprint for being the best at the front desk, salon owners and managers must overcome three common challenges:

1. High turnover

2. Inconsistency with customer care and scripts

3. Lack of motivation

The good news is that these challenges can be prevented—not by teaching the front desk team as one might expect, but by bringing awareness and systems to the top. Oftentimes, the challenges encountered by the front desk result from having weak systems and lack of leadership in place. It’s not because salon owners and managers are doing anything wrong, it’s simply because they have never been given a strong leadership action plan for this important area of the salon.

Kristi Valenzuela

To maximize the true power of the front desk, strengthen these six areas to achieve success and motivate the front desk team. 


All too often, salon owners lack the time, organization and questioning skills to find qualified staff. They employ the first person they talk to, which often results in high turnover. To ensure hiring success, ask the candidate to complete an exercise called “sell me this item.” It could be a pen or even a coffee cup. The goal is to see whether the interviewee can complete the exercise in a confident, descriptive, friendly, conversational way. Rather than measuring sales skills, simply observe how fast and willing the candidate completes the unexpected task during the interview. If he or she is incapable of executing the request in the interview, that person will likely not be strong, confident nor smooth when recommending products and services to salon guests. On the flip side, salon owners need to fire faster, especially when it’s apparent that a new employee isn’t working out within the first few days or weeks. Failing to act swiftly is a leadership inefficiency that can cause stress with guests and the team, as well as a loss of revenue at the front desk.  


It’s no secret that salons suffer from lack of front desk training, which, in turn, causes a breakdown in team synergy, guest care and revenue potential. Many implement shadow training to educate a new hire on salon systems. However, taking notes and following a lead person for a few weeks often results in inconsistent experiences and an inconsistency in the new hire’s skills. Instead, start off with a training chart containing tasks, exercises and assessments that each new hire and trainer follows for the first 30 days of employment. This  ensures more employee follow-through and consistency with systems and scripts.


Since the front desk is equal parts customer service and sales, all guest-care systems should be spelled out in a salon training manual that includes chapters on phone scripting and how to greet the guest at check-in, conduct the salon tour, offer additional services and perform guest checkouts. Here, an example: 

Welcome: Instead of saying, “Hi, who are you here to see?” say, “Welcome back — who has the pleasure to see you today?”

Retail: Opening the sale is a great way to enhance customer care and increase  sales. For instance, you might say, “We have a great special—buy any two full-size products, receive a travel size free. Ask your stylist which ones would be right for you.”

Additional Services: The front desk’s mission is to help grow the service providers’ and the salon’s business. Offering service availabilities in other departments is essential for this growth. For example, you might say: “We have a great opportunity in our spa nail department today. Melissa has time to pamper you with our signature pedicure  right after your hair service. Would you have time to enjoy that service today?”

Browse: Instead of saying, “Have a seat,” say, “Go ahead and take a look around. I'll let your stylist know you are here.”

Front Desk Leadership Success Wheel


Lack of motivation, focus, follow-through and self-accountability from front desk team members can easily be remedied by supplying them a monthly goal and reward program based on performance in five main areas. Individual goals should include upselling services (40 per month), gift cards sold or upsold (20 per month) and new guest referrals (five per month). There are also two front desk team goals—rebooking (5 percent greater than the current rebooking trend), and retail (2 percent greater retail to service percentage than the current trend). Monthly bonuses are paid per target achieved by each front desk professional. The system provides a potential bonus up to $100 per front desk team member each month. Hourly raises are achieved when the front desk professional achieves five targets per month, for five months during a 12-month period.  


Tracking goes hand-in-hand with goal and reward systems. Each of the five indicators mentioned here are tracked by the individual and team on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. This maintains focus and allows for sales-goal forecasting, strategic scripting and enhanced team synergy.


Once goals, rewards and tracking have been implemented, it becomes easier to conduct a 15-minute private coaching session with the front desk staff member to discuss strengths and areas of needed improvement.

A renowned motivational speaker and success coach, Kristi Valenzuela focuses on salon team building, profitability through the front desk and empowering salon owners to take control of their business. She is also the co-owner of Summit Salon Business Center, Plymouth, MN.