The Front Line

Exclusive tips from members of American Salon’s Better Business Network

The salon’s front desk staff is just as vital as its team of stylists, according to these American Salon Better Business Network members.

When training team members, it’s tempting to focus on the stylists—but don’t forget about the important role of front desk coordinators because they set the standard for customer service, says Wendy White-McCown, owner of Signatures Salon in Lake Charles, LA. “They’re the first point of contact for all of our clients and the main source of communication to our stylists throughout the day,” she says.


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A typical salon client has about nine touch points from the initial phone call to the follow-up call, White-McCown says, and she’s calculated that in her salon, the front desk staff is responsible for about 70 percent of those contacts. “If any of these touch points are inconsistent or not done well, it can spoil the entire visit,” she says.

Signatures Salon requires its front desk staff to complete four weeks of hands-on training after the initial hire. The salon uses an in-house curriculum and scheduling software like SalonBiz and Demandforce that help streamline client visits. Once training is complete, the staff is reviewed weekly through one-on-one meetings. “Open communication is the heartbeat of our salon, and is the only way we can maintain the standards that our clients have come to expect,” says White-McCown.

Sue Burkholder, president of Salon Art-Tiff in Ephrata, PA, says her staff relies on software like Millennium Systems International and Demandforce to manage client follow-ups, and sends surveys after each appointment, as well as “We miss you” incentives to clients who haven’t returned for several months. New hires work extensively with the guest services director and team leaders for their first 90 days, and training is divided into focus areas that must be mastered before moving to the next level to ensure customers receive the best experience from start to finish. Burkholder adds, “The front desk can make or break a client’s experience. They have the first and last communication with every client.”

Burkholder offers a rewards system at her salon to encourage rebooking and upselling, in which her staff sets both individual and monthly team goals, and each team member is then responsible for tracking his or her own results and submitting them weekly. “Our rewards system has helped a lot by making the staff more accountable in all areas and working together as a team to accomplish their goals,” Burkholder says. She also offers a rewards program specifically designed for the front desk, in which they pick four areas of self-improvement each month and have the opportunity for a raise if they meet those goals.

White-McCown also uses an incentive program, in which the front desk staff and managers get a percentage of the gross profit on days when the salon is booked at 90 percent or more. “It made such a difference in how much effort is put toward getting clients in the salon,” she says, adding that the program helped increase appointment confirmation calls and last-minute fill-ins. This incentive is also part of the salon’s workweek concept, in which staff members work three days a week with 90 percent-plus productivity each day.

“We used to have lots of turnover with the front desk because they couldn’t see this as a career,” White-McCown says. With the incentive program, she says her staff realizes the potential to earn more income based on chairs filled.

White-McCown also recently changed the title of the front desk staff from front desk coordinators to experience coordinators, emphasizing that it’s all about the ideal client experience. The changes have truly paid off, she says, and staff members are more motivated than ever.

Strong communication and attainable goals are paramount to the front desk team’s happiness, Burkholder concludes. “Stay connected to your staff and motivate them.” ✂—Corie Russell