How to Use Information Flow to Maximize Customer Loyalty

August 14, 2022 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

The challenge of delivering consistently high levels of customer loyalty and retention is the subjective nature of exactly what customer loyalty is and looks like.

What one customer regards as quality service may be completely different to another.

At salons and spas, that same subjectivity exists with employees. Owners and managers must define, communicate and train all employees to deliver customer experiences to maximize the loyalty factor as the salon/spa envisions it.

Without this absolute level of clarity, individual employee interpretations will lead to inconsistent service experiences that compromise customer loyalty.

Information-flow systems are vital to keeping your critical numbers for customer loyalty in front of employees. It doesn’t make sense to complain about low customer retention rates if employees can’t see and monitor the same numbers that are frustrating you.

I’ve done countless staff meetings where, for the first time, I introduced the company’s first-time customer retention rates. In utter disbelief, their responses are, “No way we’re losing that many first-time clients.” ... Read More

Ten Characteristics of a Successful Salon/Spa Business

April 9, 2022 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

For salon/spa owners, the past two years sure feel like everything to run a successful business has changed.

What hasn’t changed are the characteristics of a successful salon/spa.</strong> In fact, they just became more non-negotiable.

Using a simple grading system of 1 to 10 (10 being truly outstanding), each characteristic listed below establishes a benchmark that you can use to quickly assess the viability of any business … including yours. Using this approach, a score of 10 for each characteristic will yield a perfect score of 100.

Characteristic Number 1 – Leadership: First and foremost, the owner of a successful business functions as a businessperson. This means that the owner is engaged, accountable and drives performance by paying attention to the business. That being said, it’s easy to identify owners that are so engrossed in their non-leadership work that the business is essentially free-floating without direction, structure or systems. This is the equivalent of trying to run a business by remote control. It just doesn’t work.... Read More

Keep Your Information Flow Flowing

December 12, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

We live in an age where information flows at the speed of light. From e-mails and text messages to all sorts of social media apps and live satellite feeds from anyplace in the world where news is happening.

Historically, information flow at salons and spas can be inconsistent, excruciatingly slow, or, even worse, completely absent.

The result is missed opportunities, lack of team effort, and lost revenue.

The problem with poor information flow is that you have no clue how inconsistent it really is until you do some exploring.

The obvious indicators of poor information flow sound like…

  • “I didn’t know”
  • “Why didn’t I know?”
  • “I thought this is what you wanted.”
  • “Why didn’t I know this was happening?”

Even if you think information is flowing well throughout your company, there are leaks — and you need to find them.

To help get started on assessing how well your information-flow systems are flowing, use the following four-step process:... Read More

7 Steps to Understanding & Navigating Confrontation in the Salon/Spa

October 23, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Ever encounter a leader wandering around like a mad dog looking for confrontation? Chances are, you haven’t.

And if you did, why would you even tolerate, or allow yourself to be subjected to, such demeaning and abusive behavior?

Confrontation isn’t something that well-intended owners seek out. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the delivering or receiving end, there’s nothing about confrontation that feels good.

FACT: Confrontation is something that all leaders must deal with.

The question is: How do you confront confrontation?

Most leaders openly admit that they don’t like confrontation. However, dealing effectively with confrontation is a responsibility leaders must make “peace” with.

In a leadership role, the first step is to accept confrontation for what it is. It’s a conversation that seeks to resolve a problem or situation that has the potential to become emotional.... Read More

Service Consistency Defines Your Salon/Spa Brand

October 17, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

In a service business, consistency is beautiful to behold. It’s what makes great companies truly great. It’s about your salon/spa’s commitment to getting it right not some of the time – but all of the time.

Consistency is also one of those quests worthy of the quote, “Careful what you wish for.”

Going for consistency means that, as a leader, you are prepared to do what others will not.

You are prepared to do whatever it takes and define your salon/spa’s reputation and brand identity.

Consistency is about the execution of work and systems to exact standards. It defines world-class service.

Consistency can only occur when it’s embedded in the thinking and behavior of a company’s culture. Anything less than consistency is a compromise.

But it’s the journey to consistency that most leaders underestimate in terms of the degree of difficulty and time. Consistency is something a company chases for a long time. Only those committed for the long haul stand a chance of catching it.... Read More

How to Implement a Major Salon/Spa Price Increase

July 18, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

In last week’s blog post on Why Salons/Spas Should Raise Prices Now, I delivered this reality check on the need to increase service prices:

“The combination of limited service hours available for sale, high customer demand, high productivity rates, and a tight labor market, means it’s time to raise prices. The industry is experiencing a “perfect storm” period for price increases.”

THE CHALLENGE: The industry suffers from price increase phobia out of fear of losing clients. In the process, too many salons/spas struggle with cash flow and creating profit.

Here is our hit-list of strategies to successfully implement a major price increase:

  • The proverbial “What’s the best way to raise prices?”: The answers are all over the place from put up signs, send email notices, tell clients the price is going to increase on their next visit, to front desk telling them at check out. The most logical solution is to inform clients when booking appointments and have service providers inform clients of the price increase at the beginning of the service.
  • The Fix: When it’s time to raise prices … set the date, raise prices, and get it over with. Dragging out the “let’s try to inform everyone so no one complains” is pointless. Guess what? Some clients are going to complain — the majority will not. You need gas and the price at the pump went up overnight … you still buy the gas. You’re a business owner that needs to make business decisions regarding price. Clients know this. If they appreciate the consistent quality you deliver, they’ll pay the new price. If not, it is the client’s choice to accept the increase or go elsewhere. There is no need for price increase phobia.
  • Will all clients who are not paying the current price please stand up? Maybe one reason you need to raise prices is that there are existing clients that still haven’t been charged the last price increase … or two. That’s right, and you know it. There are probably clients with appointments and/or receiving services at your salon/spa that are still paying old prices. This is pure insanity and a 100% compromise of your business. If you and your employees are true professionals, respect the value of your skills, experience, and quality of work, and charge the appropriate prices.


  • The Fix: I’m just going to say it, “Get a new backbone if the one you have is a rubber band.” Clients are NOT your friends. They buy your time to receive services. When the value of your time and cost of business increases, you raise prices, and they pay the increase that all other clients are required to pay. If a client doesn’t want to pay your rate — he or she is not a good client. I bet you’ll see better cash flow just by enforcing your existing pricing structure.
  • Pricing based on assumptions: You know how much to mark up a retail bottle of shampoo based on its cost. How do you know how much to mark up a service if you don’t know what an hour of service costs? The answer is you don’t know … so you guess. It’s downright scary how many salons/spas set service pricing based on WAGS (wild-ass guesses) — or what the competition is charging, that’s also based on a WAGS. Maybe your pricing is based on some level system you installed that has set price ranges for each level, but are those prices based on your company‘s cost per hour or someone else’s?
  • Discounting away profits: Are you driving gift card sales by offering big attractive discounts? It’s great to see all that gift card cash add up, but you may be setting your company up for a cash crisis at redemption time when the cost of fulfilling those pre-paid services is going to exceed their purchase price. The cash crisis is going to be even more painful if the gift card cash was spent and not held in reserve. You’ll not only be busy fulfilling gift card services at a loss due to excessive discounting … you won’t have the cash to cover the fulfillment costs. Discounting dependency kills cash flow and destroys profit. Groupons, and the like, are about the worst discounting practices any salon/spa can engage in.
  • The Fix: There’s nothing wrong with occasional and selective discounting promotions. When discounting becomes a crutch to drive sales, your service business is in trouble. Stop the discounts and focus on quality, delivering extraordinary experiences, giving value, pre-booking, and client retention. As for discounted gift cards, stop the practice. It will come back to haunt you at redemption.
  • Going for the tip vs. charging the right price: This is extremely common and probably alive and well in your salon/spa. It’s when service providers intentionally give away or don’t charge correctly for services, to receive a bigger tip. It’s also when service providers fail to charge clients a price increase because they think they’ll lose clients and miss out on tip income.
  • The Fix: You must have a system in place that monitors the price that clients are being charged for services. Some software systems can alert you whenever a price is adjusted. In a service business, educating your team on proper pricing and pricing policies is non-negotiable. Inspect, verify, and correct. Otherwise, the leaks in your pricing system will eventually sink your company.

Here’s my challenge to you: Prices on damn near everything have increased since the pandemic. It’s time to raise yours.... Read More

When You Keep a Bad Employee for the Money He/She Brings In

May 30, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

Everything was going great. You couldn’t be happier with this employee.

Maybe you hired this employee right out of school, trained them, and helped them build that “big book.”

Maybe you hired this employee for their experience. And maybe because of the clients that would follow them to your business.

But over time, things changed. Teamwork was replaced with attitude, indifference, and entitlement. They would come in, do their clients, and leave.

At company meetings, they would radiate an unsettling funk that everyone could feel. In the break room, it was non-stop complaining about anything and everything.

You had a few quasi-fierce conversations with them about their attitude to no avail.

So why not fire them? The answer is obvious. They’re busy as hell and bring in a ton of money.

As a salon/spa owner, you can relate to the above scenario and likely have your own “employee from hell” stories.... Read More

How to Keep Salon/Spa Employees Motivated to Achieve Goals

March 28, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

Goals are essential in business. Achieving those goals requires leadership, information flow, determination, and accountability. More importantly, goals demand teamwork.

There’s something about goals in the salon/spa industry — and working to achieve those goals — that too often creates more frustration than wins.

To illustrate, here’s what an owner posted on Strategies Salon, Spa Business Idea Exchange Facebook discussion group:

Goals — I love them. But not everyone is driven by them. It’s like an elevator trying to motivate employees to hit a goal. I coach. Motivation goes up … then down … and, after another meeting to get their heads back in the game, it goes back up again.

We do bigger staff meetings at the first of every month. A quicker mid-month meeting to keep everyone on track. Then we do one-on-one’s every month plus a 15-minute one-on-one mid-month to check on goal progress.... Read More

What are Your COVID-19 “Out Sick/Can’t Work” Policies?

July 27, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

When it comes to salon/spa business challenges, COVID-19 is the virus that just keeps on giving. It’s like you solve one problem and two more instantly appear.

In last week’s blog post, I gave you six strategies to address the recent increase in last minute cancellations and no shows.

This week, I’m going to address employees calling out with little to no notice and other challenges due to COVID-19.

Andrea Birst is a Strategies Coach and the owner of Glance Salon & Spa in Bismarck, ND. She offers this caution, “Due to the surge of COVID-19, salons/spas need to be prepared to deal with employees that need to stay home. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cough, sinus issue, fever, exposure and/or testing positive for COVID — we cannot have sick, or potentially sick, employees at work.” ... Read More

A Salon/Spa Owner’s Checklist for 30-45 Days After Reopening

June 29, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Depending on the state, some salons and spas have been open since the end of April. Salons and spas in eastern PA and NY are just reopening … or about to. Salons and spas in certain counties in CA are still waiting to reopen.

For most of you, it’s been a mad dash to get your salon/spa reopened. You had to figure out all the safety protocols, acquire PPE, get your employees off unemployment, sanitize everything, reschedule client appointments … phew.

No matter where your salon/spa is in the reopening timeline, checking all the boxes in all those reopening checklists is a daunting task. It’s easy to miss a few. It’s easy for a new system or protocol to become inconsistent, ignored or forgotten.

More importantly, there are to-do’s that should have been on your checklist that you didn’t know about, or feel were important, or just didn’t want to deal with.

At Strategies, our mission is to help owners lead and grow salons and spas that are capable of delivering service excellence in the most efficient, productive and consistently profitable manner possible. To do so requires the right leadership approach, systems and team-based culture.... Read More

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