NO FRONT DESK? NO PROBLEM

 
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For years, Lavish owner Kristi Brehm talked about ways to improve her front desk staff. The Webster, Texas-based salon was using tried-and-true methods that just weren’t cutting it anymore for Brehm and she was looking for major change.

Then inspiration struck. On a trip to Serious Business, her creative juices started flowing after sitting in on a break-out session. That night, she went to dinner with her manager, where they continued their front desk conversation.

“I was struggling so much,” says Brehm. “We always knew we had to get the staff out from behind the desk, but didn’t know how.”

She knew something was missing from the equation, and as her manager kept throwing out the usual tactics—better training, etc.—Brehm finally said, “No. We need to start over.”

“My manager then said, ‘let’s just throw away the desk then if we’re going to start over.’ And I said, ‘YES!’”

ACHIEVING A GOAL

Once Brehm knew she was going to do away with her front desk, she had to hone in on what she wanted to achieve.

I wanted more interaction and more intimacy,” Brehm says. “Clients want to see what’s going on.

So Brehm began researching the no-front-desk strategy on the internet. Most of what she found was at hotels with virtual check-ins and check-outs and checking in on iPads. But this didn’t quite fit the bill for her space at Lavish.

“My guests need a place to put their stuff when they’re checking in/out,” she says. “They don’t like not having anywhere to set a bag down. So having nothing at all wasn’t an option.”

Then she started thinking about the Apple store and its layout. That’s when she came up with the concept of a table that sits in the middle of the salon’s retail area. The white oval table Brehm purchased is grounded by a funky light fixture hanging above it, creating a focal point guests are drawn to even though it’s not a traditional front desk. Three Macs sit on the table, ready for “front desk” staffers to check clients in and out.

FORM AND FUNCTION

Brehm admits clients were a little confused when the table was first introduced. Staff members also had to adjust—where do they stand if there’s no front desk?

“They are in the retail area, by the door—ready to interact with clients,” says Brehm. “Now, instead of a client coming to the front desk to be greeted, someone walks up to them as soon as they walk in the door. When we had the desk, that never happened.”

Her front desk staff’s new roles in the space have put guests at ease as well.

Brehm says, “Guests are sometimes caught off guard when so much attention is given to them when they walk in the door: They are greeted, asked about their appointment and then escorted to the table.”

After such detailed attention, guests feel very taken care of and ready for their appointment.

Of course, there are some occasions where all three terminals on the table are busy. In that case, staff members look up and greet the guest, the same as they would if they were behind the desk.

“The table also creates more intimacy,” says Brehm. “There’s a face-to-face encounter when you are standing right next to someone without a barrier between you.”

However, this intimacy created a logistical challenge for Brehm that was not an issue when working behind a front desk.

“We put comments about clients in our software before like, ‘She’s always late,’” she says. “Three months prior to installing the table, we had to get rid of that because our computers are out in the wide open where anyone—including clients—can see them. We’re so much more transparent and authentic because of it.

And ultimately, this has turned out to be a positive change for the salon.

“If a client tends to be late all the time, we word it to say ‘Please allow an additional 15 minutes,’ instead,” says Brehm. “We must be positive instead of negative, which is always good.”

A beautiful, clean table with just three computers on top presents some logistical issues as well. Where do brochures, pens, etc. that are usually kept at the front desk go?

Brehm thought of all that, too. “There are discreet drawers in the desk that can be used and credit card terminals were integrated right into the Macs.

“During construction, we had to have wiring go into the floor. One of the legs in the desk is hollow, so the wires can go seamlessly through it and into the floor to be plugged in,” she adds.

For brochures, gift cards and any other necessities, a beautiful little box sits on the table with a pretty plate on top for pens. The result is a clean, uncluttered space that clients can set a bag on while checking in or out.

RAMPING UP RETAIL

The main goal of eliminating the front desk in favor of the table was to get staff members out on the floor interacting with guests in a more natural, organic way. Brehm says her strategy is working.

“There is so much more interchange that goes on between front desk staff and clients because they are sharing the same space,” she says. “Clients are given more assistance. With the front desk, staff members hid behind it—it was like this safe box they could exist behind.

“By stripping that away, it stripped away everything that came with it: Staff who didn’t interact with retail clients or check on clients whose color is processing, etc. Having the table encourages staff members to interact with clients more,” she adds.

Brehm finds the whole salon is just a more open, friendly and interactive space with the table. And although it was a risk—the table cost about $6,000—it’s one that has paid off.

Not only has she noticed a difference in her retail numbers, she’s also noticed a big difference in the overall client experience at Lavish.

“It has promoted so much better customer service by having the space set up this way,” she says.

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