How to Recruit Salon/Spa Employees in the Post Pandemic

May 2, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments

From the day I entered the professional salon/spa industry in 1970, recruiting new and experienced employees has been a serious challenge.

Add pandemic-related disruptions into the mix, and the process of recruiting new employees has gotten more and more difficult.

Then, there’s the industry’s long history of high employee turnover. The more turnover you have, the more pressure on your recruiting efforts — especially in today’s tight labor market.

Many owners blame turnover and recruitment challenges on the growth of booth rental and suites — but even businesses that cater to independents are having difficulty renting/leasing space.

FACT: You can’t grow a service business if you can’t recruit new

Yes, the pandemic seriously rattled the economy and our industry. In the process, it proved that the days of “business as usual” are long gone.

So, what’s a salon/spa owner to do when want ads, online recruitment sites, and visits to schools, barely get a trickle of applicants — or no applicants at all?... Read More

Why “Who Gets the Credit” Hurts Your Salon/Spa Culture

February 21, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

The salon/spa industry’s longstanding approach to compensation is built on one seriously simple method: If a service provider delivers a service, or sells a product, he or she gets a piece.

In order to get that “piece,” the salon/spa must determine “who gets the credit” for the service or product sale.

Here are the four most common “who gets the credit” challenges:

  1. One or more service providers work on one client and each expects to get “a piece” of the ticket.
  2. A front desk/guest services employee sells a retail item to client at checkout. The service provider has a fit because he/she didn’t get the credit.
  3. Front desk/guest services employees disengage from closing or selling retail because the credit and commission automatically goes to the service provider.
  4. A service provider says, “I’m not doing [insert service/product sale] unless I get a piece.”

These four challenges may seem extremely basic, but they’re far from it. Why? Because the moment an employee feels short-changed or cheated, it contaminates your culture and spreads like wildfire.... Read More

Driving Salon/Spa Client Loyalty in the Days of COVID-19

December 13, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Strategies definition of Client Loyalty: “The customer satisfaction business outcome is all about delivering extraordinary service, quality and value to achieve maximum client retention — and doing so with a no-compromise passion to be nothing less than world-class.”

In good times, retaining clients is essential.

In COVID-19 times, retaining clients is massively critical. It means becoming super innovative and thinking out of the box to counter the negative impact of clients spreading out appointments and addressing COVID fears.

This week, we showcase the winner of our 2020 Team-Based Pay Client Loyalty Award.

 ... Read More

Customer Loyalty Systems Hit List for Salons & Spas

January 29, 2018 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

If you want consistency in customer service, satisfaction and retention, you must use systems.

A football coach has his playbook — a collection of systems designed to produce specific results.

What does your company’s playbook look like?

Customers are on the receiving end of your systems. If those systems are designed well and your team follows those systems with discipline and resolve, you have the best chance of achieving consistent and predictable results.

If you’re lacking systems, or they’re poorly designed and not followed, your customers are on the receiving end of compromise.

Your company phone won’t be answered correctly. Customers will be on hold too long. Problems will take longer to resolve. Retention will suffer.... Read More

Everyone is Accountable for Salon & Spa Customer Loyalty

June 20, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Everyone is accountable for customer loyalty.



Yes, customer loyalty begins with leadership and that’s where the problem can begin.

Leaders are notorious for going on those infamous rampages when a customer quits the salon/spa or when customer retention rates go critical. The no-compromise question to ask is, “Where is the accountability and how far down in the salon/spa does that accountability go?” Playing the blame game is a compromise and totally unacceptable.

The no-compromise leader places accountability for customer loyalty in the hands of every company employee.

It cannot be any other way.

For this level of accountability to exist, employees need to understand just how accountable they are. What I’m talking about here is a team-based business culture.

In a team-based business culture, ALL employees feel the pain of a lost customer. They feel the pain when a customer has a problem that could have been avoided.... Read More

Who Owns the Salon/Spa Client?

February 15, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

Everyone knows about the “walls,” though few openly speak of them. These are the invisible barriers that stand between stations, between technical and guest services, between staff and ownership.

  • Everyone agrees the walls should come down, but few know where to begin. The fact is, many of these barriers can be circumvented, and eventually torn down, by a new approach to client service.

The question of who “owns” the client is central to the thinking of most stylists and technicians, because they want to own as many as possible. This is especially prevalent in commission salons/spas where income is based solely on individual service and retail sales. In such circumstances, more clients equal more money. But this mentality builds those infamous invisible barriers within the salon.

Everyone who works does so, at least partly, in the pursuit of money. Working long hours in order to live well is a common endeavor. But at what point do customer relations begin to suffer?... Read More

No-Compromise Leadership Choices Drive Consistency

October 5, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

No-compromise leadership = Consistency across all four business outcomes (Productivity, Profitability, Staff Retention and Customer Loyalty). It’s such a simple equation. Yet, within its simplicity is a profound message to all who lead, or seek to lead others. The rich word for me here is consistency. Consistency is perhaps the most challenging aspect of no-compromise leadership to comprehend and live, because how one leads is influenced by the leader’s collective abilities, beliefs, behavior styles, perceptions and life experiences.

How long your voyage to no-compromise leadership will take depends on current behavior patterns. Some people are natural achievers while others are procrastinators. There are those who obsess over every minor detail in their quest for perfection. In leadership positions they can bog things down by micro-managing everything. At the other end of the spectrum are those who hate the details and do all they can to avoid them. In leadership positions, they can wreak havoc by communicating in such broad brush stokes that the outcomes they desire are vague and open to broad interpretation … if achieved at all. For a company’s performance and culture to be consistent, its leader must be a model of consistency. This is non-negotiable. It is one’s commitment and ability to be consistent that defines the no-compromise leader.... Read More

Customer Service Is All About Sense of Urgency

July 13, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Sense of urgency takes on new meaning and purpose when discussing the Customer Satisfaction Business Outcome. Think about the times you walked into a business and waited for someone to notice and take care of you. OK, now think about the times you waited while watching employees talk to one another and were totally oblivious to your presence. How about those times you sat in a restaurant watching other tables being served that were seated after you? What about that customer service representative that promised to call you back in an hour … and never did? These are all symptoms of a breakdown in sense of urgency.

Sense of urgency and customer satisfaction are inseparable. If your business fails to deliver on a customer expectation, it will show in your first-time and existing client retention rates. It’s that black and white. Nothing infuriates clients more than shoddy or substandard service. If a business fails to deliver on its quality and experience promise, it must be regarded as a breach of contract. Likewise, attention to detail, amazing service and the efforts any business makes to exceed the ordinary and deliver the extraordinary is what truly defines world-class brand.... Read More

Understanding Drivers & Outcomes in Your Salon/Spa

April 7, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

At Strategies, every aspect of our business training and coaching is focused on what we call The Four Business Outcomes: productivity, profitability, staff retention and customer loyalty. Business success, and your success as a leader, is defined not only by the proficiency and mastery of each outcome, but by how equally you balance and synchronize The Four Business Outcomes. Think of each Outcome as one of the four powerful jet engines on a Boeing 747. Maximum efficiency and thrust to lift the 875,000 pound jetliner with over 500 passengers and cargo requires all four engines to be in sync. Should one engine underperform or fail, the performance and safety of the entire jetliner is compromised.

Outcomes are an end result. High productivity rates are an outcome. Impressive Balance Sheets and Profit & Loss Statements are outcomes. A unified and cohesive company culture with little employee turnover is an outcome. Fiercely loyal customers and high client retention rates are outcomes. In order to produce extraordinary outcomes, you’ve got to get the drivers right.... Read More

Lesson of the extraordinary oil change

March 17, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

GrahamGraham Kenny of Edmonton, Alberta, brought his car to the local Lexus dealer for an oil change. There is nothing exciting about getting an oil change. Your car needs it; you sit and wait in a plastic chair; you get it over with. But little did Graham know his mundane oil change would turn into a truly remarkable VIP experience. The waiting room at this Lexus dealer offered complimentary wine, a selection of Keurig coffee, sodas, bottled water, and snacks, and even one of those massage chair recliners with a built-in iPad. Graham was so impressed that he posted pictures and described his VIP oil change experience on Facebook.

The last thing Graham wanted to hear was, “Mr. Kenny, your car is ready.” He wanted his VIP experience to last. But wait a minute … we’re talking about an oil change here, not a fine dining experience! Lexus of Edmonton simply transformed the process of waiting for your car to be serviced into a VIP experience by giving attention to the otherwise boring waiting room. All it took was a little wine, a beverage selection, some snacks … and that wonderful massage chair with an iPad for surfing the web (conveniently set to Graham now looks forward to an oil change.... Read More

Leading is about believing in people

May 13, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 8 Comments

believe_inBeing the leader of a business is perhaps one of the most complex, rewarding, and often brutally frustrating professions. Leaders are constantly held accountable, subjected to relentless demands, and must always be at the top of their game. A true leader works tirelessly to drive the Four Business Outcomes: productivity, profitability, staff retention, and customer loyalty. But when you peel away all of the trappings of leadership, what it really comes down to is believing in people – and that’s where things start to get interesting.

A leader’s job is to achieve results through the work of others. They keep people and teams on task. They maintain order, direction, and momentum. But would you want to work for a leader who is solely driven by the numbers, in an organization where people are simply the means to an end? In turn, would you want to be that kind of leader? You will get your results, but at what cost to those you lead; and at what cost to the work environment, or company culture? (more…)... Read More

Are your front desk systems firing on all cylinders?

August 31, 2012 | By Eric Ducoff | 1 Comment

It’s a scenario most of us have lived out hundreds of times: Coffee in hand, we unlock the front door to the salon/spa and walk straight past the front desk as we settle in to begin our daily duties as owners, managers, leaders, etc.

But lets stop right there and back up a few steps — keep going until you get back to the front desk. Now, take a minute to think about your front desk. Not the physical desk, but the experience your clients have when they interact with your front desk/guest services staff. Are clients treated friendly? Are appointments being pre-booked? Are retail sales being rung up? Are clients’ concerns being addressed quickly and courteously? Is the interaction your clients are experiencing on par with how you envision?

Now, ask yourself one last question: Are you doing your part to prepare your front desk staff to deliver the experience that you — and your clients — expect from them?

Here are a five simple areas to focus on to get your front desk systems firing on all cylinders:... Read More

Social media for salons and spas – Part 1

August 10, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

Part 1: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked by salon owners across the country what my stance is on social media and how to best manage team members and their activity when it comes to online social media sites. The topic doesn’t usually come up until a team member decides to leave and then communicates to their friends and followers where they are going and where to find them. Or even worse, when a former employee decides to post derogatory comments about their former boss or place of employment. These are very valid concerns for anyone running a business. While we never want to hear anything negative about our business, unfortunately, at some point it’s going to happen. And guess what — It’s legal. (Think Yelp!)

Somebody once told me that when it comes to social media, it will become a problem when you make it a problem. That hit me square between the eyes. How many times do we find ourselves doing stuff like that? We create friction in our own companies and we don’t even realize we’re doing it.... Read More

Why 7 out of 10 new salon and spa clients don’t come back

July 12, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

You cannot argue with the numbers. From a technical standpoint, the beauty industry offers consumers extraordinary levels of skill and expertise. From a customer service and True Quality standpoint, salons and spas score poorly. No matter how badly you want to refute this assessment, it is impossible to argue with industry-wide numbers that show salons and spas are not retaining seven of ten first-time clients. Interestingly, poor retention remains consistent from value-priced salons right up to upscale, service-intensive day spas.

  • On average, only three percent of owners know their retention rate.
  • Half of these confuse request rate with retention rate — they are not the same.
  • Most have no means to track retention. Even those with point-of-sale computer systems often realize their software doesn’t track retention properly, if at all.

It’s your True Quality score. The overriding objective of every business is to attract and retain customers. The higher your retention rate for first-time clients, the higher your level of customer satisfaction, and the closer you are to delivering consistent True Quality experiences. Granted, you want to satisfy clients on every visit, but client retention tracking begins on the first visit. If your salon or spa fails to perform to client expectations on the first visit, there usually is no second chance. If your business has a 30% first-time client retention rate, don’t even think of using “True Quality” to describe your business.... Read More

Are you leaving a legacy as a salon or spa leader?

July 5, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

What legacy will you leave behind as an owner or leader?

I have been pondering this thought lately. I am in my 28th year in the beauty industry, and I am starting to think about handing over the torch in the next 10 years.  But what got me to really thinking about my legacy was reflecting on my former boss Allen Queen. Allen hired me to work at Chick-fil-A when I was 15 years old. (I am 47 now.) I worked for him for a little over two years.

Allen always taught me that “sales chase service.” He knows this to be true. A five-time winner of the coveted Symbols of Success award by Chick-fil-A, he operates a store that will do $6 million. Yes, a $6 million store. That’s a lot of chicken!

Allen will be retiring soon, and I was asked to speak of the legacy that Allen will be leaving following his 31 years with the company. More than one thousand people came out to wish Allen farewell at his retirement party. Even Elvis made an appearance.

I heard the same comments over and over again. “Allen was always present.” “Allen set the standard in servant leadership.” “Allen taught me to make a difference in the lives of others through charity and service.”... Read More

Who ‘owns’ the customer?

June 22, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

Recently, I went shopping at a local mall. A sales associate approached me to ask if I needed help. I told her what I was looking for. She immediately came back with knowledgeable recommendations. After trying on the selections, she asked if I’d like to shop some more, which I did. So far, so good.

As I was walking through the store, another salesperson offered assistance. “Wow,” I thought, “they really have this team-service concept down.” And that’s when it happened.

The first salesperson came over and scolded the second one for helping me! He left, embarrassed, without another word to me. I somehow had changed from “valued customer” to “instigator.” It left a very bad taste in my mouth, especially as I knew that once I left, that second associate would probably be further reamed out – all for the “sin” of trying to help a customer. Trust me, my desire to purchase new clothes plummeted after the incident!... Read More

How to keep clients coming back with pre-booking

May 24, 2012 | By nducoff | 4 Comments

Pre-booking is merely the practice of asking your guests for the permission to book their next appointments before they check out. It’s centered on maintaining and fulfilling their needs. Pre-booking increases productivity, drives revenue, helps with staff retention and improves customer loyalty.

Here’s your pre-booking to-do list: (Goal: Build a total “Client Experience System” that includes pre-booking.)

  1. Ensure your team understands:
    • What pre-booking is.
    • Why they need to do it.
    • How to do it. (More on that below.)
    • How it will be evaluated.
  2. Develop the process. It’s as simple as asking the client how she feels about her service. You’ve just opened the door to make the recommendation for the next visit, which may involve the same service and/or the addition of a complementary service.
  3. Have your team build scripts to successfully pre-book.
  4. Role-play using the scripts so that they feel natural. This will help your staff feel comfortable recommending pre-booking and dealing with different responses from customers.
  5. Be sure your front-desk/guest-services team has the scripts to successfully pre-book. The goal is that every guest is pre-booked. Everyone is responsible.
  6. Communicate the progress daily.
  7. Ask your staff: “What can I do to help you reach pre-book success?”

What should this the pre-book score look like?... Read More

Creating a foundation for salon and spa growth

May 3, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

You’d never open a salon without the proper tools — state-of-the-art scissors, top-of-the-line blow dryers and, of course, fabulous, effective products. Similarly, no one would try to run a spa without massage tables, pedi chairs and wonderful scrubs and lotions.

Unfortunately, many owners do try to run their salons and spas without the proper business tools needed to be profitable and successful.

Many salons and spas struggle with cash-flow and figuring out what’s coming in (and going out). Without a clear financial picture, it’s impossible to plan for steady growth, as expenses always pop up. Many owners (maybe even you) start using their personal credit cards to pay the bills — even to cover payroll. It’s impossible to build a strong business without a realistic cash-flow plan.

Numerous other owners and managers grapple with staff concerns, from hiring to pay design to performance evaluations. Some owners have leadership issues, uncertain how to translate their vision to their employees so that everyone is working toward the same goals. Proper communication is one of the first steps in building a successful business, yet it is one of the basics that many salon and spa owners believe they don’t have time for. A culture where employees want to do their best, stay and grow is one of the hallmarks of a thriving, profitable business.... Read More

How to increase salon and spa web traffic with blogging

April 26, 2012 | By Eric Ducoff | 3 Comments

Several years ago, the bulk of my marketing responsibilities at Strategies involved print ads and direct mail. But in a seeming blink of an eye, those traditional marketing avenues have all but dried up — in every industry. The launch pad for the selling process has relocated from the mailbox to the computer screen. People are relying on the Internet more than ever to make their buying decisions. The challenge is how to grab the attention of both potential clients and the search engines they’re searching with.

One of the most important elements in getting found online is the ability to consistently publish new and relevant content. Just like you and me, search engines like new stuff! One of the most effective ways to pump new content onto your site is through blogging.

Not sure what to write about? Here are five salon/spa blog topics to drive traffic to your website:

  • Seasonal styles and trends: Is your staff trained on the latest techniques? Great! Showcase these trends to your clients. Whether it’s a cut, color, manicure or quick-and-easy style, the more expertise you display about the latest trends, the greater the chances potential clients will make their appointments with your business.
  • Product spotlights: Have a product that’s flying off the shelves? When products are popular, buyers are looking for them online. Share your professional insights on the hottest sellers to drive traffic to your site.
  • Team profiles: You’ve got a great team, so talk them up! What are their areas of expertise? What awards have they won? What new classes have they taken? Why do they love working at your salon or spa? Don’t forget about your non-technical team members. Tell the world why you think you have the greatest guest-services staff.
  • Special events: Whether it’s a cut-a-thon, guy’s night, breast cancer awareness event or a fashion show, events are prime marketing opportunities. Let potential clients know that your business is about more than just hair and massages; it’s about giving back and having fun.
  • How to get the most out of a salon/spa service: Help take the guesswork out of what a client should expect from their service by educating them on the lingo, etiquette and  options available.

These five topics are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blogging ideas for salons and spas. I’ll leave you with three closing thoughts.... Read More

Five strategies for staying focused on customer service

April 16, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

You’re in a restaurant, waiting for someone to take your drink order. Scanning the room, you see plenty of employees. Finally, the waiter arrives and takes your order. You’re hungry and would like some of that bread that the party at the next table, who were seated after you, is enjoying. After a long wait the drinks arrive, and you order dinner (still no bread). The long wait and empty water glasses are in stark contrast to this restaurant’s reputation. You finish your meal and just want to go home. Now you’re waving your napkin trying to catch your waiter’s eye for the check. To avoid having to wait a minute longer, you have your credit card out to give the waiter when you ask for the check. Great food. Bad service. Zero peripheral vision.... Read More

Three keys to creating the ultimate salon or spa experience

March 29, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

A friend and fellow entrepreneur once told me when it comes to going to a salon, it’s important that the stylist get the cut and/or color right every time. If you don’t get that part down, you can forget about everything else. However, when you consistently get the cut and/or color right, then it becomes about everything else, the experience.

Salons and spas throw the word “experience” around like nobody’s business. “We charge higher prices because our clients pay for the experience.” “Our clients come to us because of our great salon experience.” What the heck does that mean? While every salon/spa has their own way of doing things, many owners and managers have no clue what matters to their clients.... Read More


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