8 TIPS FOR GUEST RETENTION
Contributing Source: Scott Buchanan, Principal at Scott J Salons and Spas and Educator for Aveda Business College
You know retaining the guests you have is vital for growth, but such a broad topic easily becomes overwhelming. So if you do nothing else, implement these 8 tips for guest retention. (This is so important, we couldn’t just stop at 5).
Tip 1: Create and Standardize Your Guest Experience
Some of the most successful salons and spas we know have told us that keeping a guest happy is 20% technical (i.e. the haircut) and 80% their experience.
So what is your guest experience? It’s amazing how many salons just let this flow happen naturally. While that doesn’t sound so bad, it leaves the WOW details that really matter un-delegated, causing them to fall through the cracks because no one owns them. Plus a new team member’s “warm greeting” may be fine in their eyes, but off-brand in yours. On paper, you want to create the best possible guest flow, from the moment the guest enters the door to when they check out. What does it look like when a guest experiences each and every perfect detail you offer? That’s what you define and assign to the appropriate roles, ensuring it happens to your standards — all of the time, not some of the time.
Tip 2: Do Great Work
Remember that other 20%? Keep your team cutting-edge with regular technical education opportunities — but someone has to plan them. Schedule your education planning sessions at least quarterly, and like any other meeting on your calendar, stick to it. If you don’t have an Education Director, you can delegate this planning to a trusted team member who is hungry to perfect his/her craft, and have them present the plan for your approval.
Tip 3: Focus on Effective Consultations
Just look at online reviews for any business and you’ll see they support the 80/20 rule—that most unhappy guest reviews are the result of a lacking experience vs. an insufficient product. In the salon and spa world, when the complaint is about the product, the problem can usually be traced back to an ineffective consultation. What the guest thought they asked for is not what we heard or delivered. There are whole workshops on this subject, but in short:
Listen and identify what their need is.
Repeat it back to the guest with your recommended solution.
Ensure they really understand the approach you’ll be taking.
If you’re using different words, define them.
When you get a blank stare or an “I guess,” change your words and repeat.
We need to train our teams to speak the guest’s language, not expect the guest to understand ours. And at the end of the day, if a guest isn’t happy with a service, it’s because you didn’t understand them.
Tip 4: Measure
Guest retention is a key number to watch diligently. The ideal report(s) will show you retention by the individual, by the salon, and by the brand (across multi-locations) over a 3-4 month period.
About Guest Retention Benchmarks: These differ for New vs. Existing guests. New guests (those who have been in less than twice) should see 50% retention, existing guests 70%.
Tip 5: Coach on the Numbers
Once you know where you are, you can talk to the team about it. Celebrate increases and pep-talk on tips in team meetings. Go deep in one-on-one coaching sessions. Use the benchmarks above as goals and make sustaining them requirements for price increases. When your team knows where the benchmark is, success is more attainable. Best practice is to post results in the break room for healthy competition and stylists know where they currently are to goal.
Tip 6: Secret Shop
Secret shopping shouldn’t be a secret. Talk about it regularly, out in the open, so your team knows it’s something you do. They don’t need to know when, but make sure they know why: because it provides valuable feedback and opportunities for improvement. We all have room to grow — why wouldn’t we want to know what we can do better? Then share these results regularly with them. Talk about the good in team meetings, the bad one-on-one. Quarterly planning sessions keep it consistent; you always want secret shoppers in the pipeline across your services.
Tip 7: Don’t Let a Guest Leave Unhappy
Listen to what your guests are really telling you when the service is complete. While the service provider is ultimately responsible for getting this feedback, teach your front desk that they’re the check here and they should never let someone leave if they’re not sure how their experience was. Sometimes they say it was fine but your gut says it wasn’t, so how do you know? Closed body language like folded arms should leave you skeptical. Ask how their experience was, and when you hear “Okay” or “Fine,” empower them to say: “Oh wow, it was just okay? We hate okay, we want you to love it. What happened? Please tell me.” Finally, teach them to go to a manager who can do something for a guest who seems unhappy.
Tip 8: Remember the Golden Egg
Impart upon your staff that the guest is the golden egg — because without the guest, none of us have a job. This is a partnership, and we each have to do our part and trust each other to ensure that each guest leaves happy.
It’s not just about guest retention numbers. It’s about remembering the golden egg that lets us all do what we love.