Good ReceptionHow to get the best from your front desk.

The first face a client sees or voice she hears speaks volumes about your business. That’s why Frances DuBose, owner of London Hair in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, loves her desk coordinator.

DuBose is lucky her son-in-law is the one up front, and he’s super organized, remembering details that prevent snafus, such as taking an old appointment off the books if the client reschedules. He also calls clients if a stylist is running late, and is a polite liaison if anyone ever asks for a “redo.” For those owners who have to manage the relationship more, goal setting gets the desk and the staff in sync.

“Our stylists retail and rebook on their own, but if they forget, our desk help never does,” says DuBose. “It’s his to close. For instance, if a stylist recommended three products, he tells the client if she buys one more, she gets 20-percent off. He also reminds them they get $5 off the next visit for rebooking—men in particular love it!”

The Three Rs

At Sharmaines Salon and Day Spa, Clearwater, Florida, owner Lori Blankenship Fudens ties desk bonuses to service providers’ ability to meet rebooking, retailing and repeat-guest goals.

“When guests check out, our desk person asks three key questions,” says Blankenship Fudens. “First, she asks how their service was; if she perceives even a tiny bit of dissatisfaction, she addresses it. Then she notes the suggested retail items and asks if the guest would like anything else. Finally, if the service provider didn’t book the next appointment, our software system prompts the desk to ask the guest to rebook. It acts as our safety net.”

Additionally, at the beginning of each month, the desk is given a gross sales goal, based on the same month for the previous year. Sometimes, Blankenship Fudens sets it intentionally steep; the desk gets a cash bonus if it’s met, and it often is.

“This helps everyone work as a team,” she says.

Desk-Free Future

At RedChocolate, a Minneapolis-based educational consulting company, cofounders David Adams and Virginia Meyer say the desk support of the future will be freed from physical constraints by the iPad.

They envision a free-floating concierge who “greets and seats,” notifies the stylists of guests’ arrival via the iPad, brings retail products or beverages to the chair (again, communicating via the iPad) and surveys the salon landscape to “put out fires.” Many salon software systems like Korvue and Salon Biz, they say, have iPad apps for both service providers and the desk. Card readers that attach to the iPad even allow the guest to check out right at the chair.

“Currently, the concierge has to greet guests and check out others while answering the phone; it’s not realistic,” says Adams. “In the future, support personnel will be more like those, who in better restaurants, go table to table. Think of your experience in an Apple store. Everyone is out-front and engaged in facilitating service.”

Training this person may be easier, says Meyer, just look for someone with a true spirit of service. This is not a minimum-wage job, she stresses, but the cost of non-service providers can be supported via retail sales and pooled bonuses. In the long term, better service builds business and retains more clients.

“Our consumer focus groups revealed that the biggest complaint about salons was unprofessionalism,” says Meyer. “The new concierge can change that if you re-think how you operate.”

How One Salon Does it At New Reflections in Plymouth, Minnesota, Ridgedale-location manager Kelly Geatz says Motorola radios and headsets help the salon coordinate every step of guest visits, enhancing team performance.

When guests arrive, guest services notifies the stylist with “Excuse me, Emily, your guest Mary has arrived five minutes before” (meaning early) or “five minutes after” (a way to avoid saying “late.”)

Anytime during the service, the stylist can use her headset to request beverages, a magazine or retail be brought to the chair. Finally, the stylist calls for a closing ticket.

“Guest services brings the ticket and a personalized form to the station,” explains Geatz. “They take any information on add-on services, note recommended retail and ask when the stylist recommends rebooking.”

They also ask the guest if she’d like them to book that next visit and if she’d like a complimentary make-up touch-up. Then, they return to the front, fill out an Aveda “Purescription” pad for the guest, gather retail, schedule the rebooking and fill out a reminder card. Once the guest reaches the desk, check out is fast and efficient.