Customer Service

When Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Doing Client Surveys

When you want to know what’s hot and what’s not with your clients, ask them!

“First, know your strategic goals,” Oskin advises. “Let’s say a salon owner’s goals are to improve retail sales by 10%, increase nail case service by 20%, and grow nail art by 10%.” Then you would create a survey that asks clients what they want and need in these areas as well as how you can improve in addressing them. According to Oskin, a successful survey includes the following:

  • Questions that rate first impressions and all the regularly used salon experiences.
  • Questions that rate all the rarely used or new services
  • A simple format that uses a numerical rating or yes/no system
  • Areas for open-ended essay comments and suggestions
  • A comprehensive design that is professionally typeset and printed on high-equality paper and incorporates the salon logo and graphics or photos
  • A token product or service reward for survey participation that doubles as a promotion
  • A self-addressed, postage-paid mail format

Oskin recommends developing questions with your staff, who can not only help formulate the questions, but whose participation will ensure the ultimate success of implementing customer-suggested changes. “Once you determine the areas you want to research, divide the questions into those areas,” he continues. “For example, you may want to ask about the quality of your staff, the front desk service, the products, or just total customer service on such issues as cleanliness. One of the important things to learning is how you are attracting customers and then how you’re getting them back the second time.

“Do some questions as yes and no and some as rankings. You could, for example, provide 10 reasons for why a client visits the salon and ask clients to rank each reason in order of importance to them. Another question would be to rank your staff on the critical attributes such as technical skill and customer service. That way you’re doing qualititative research. As for essay question, I recommend very limited use. I would ask a maximum of four essay questions and give no more than three lines each for the response.”

When Michelle Yaksich and Terri Decort, owners of Nail Galleria, began planning their salon relocation in the summer of 1997, they decided to survey their clients about whether they’d continue patronizing the salon after the move and what new services they’d like, as well as any other ideas they had. “We geared the survey toward finding out what things we were overlooking for the new salon,” Yaksich remembers. “Myself, Terri, and the salon coordinator brainstormed questions, and then we got together with our employees to get their ideas. We did a lot of yes/no questions with blanks for explanations and any other ideas they had.”

Where should you look for inspiration on what questions to ask?” You can hire a marketing firm, but I recommend doing your own research,” Oskin says. “Visit local resorts, hotels, and restaurants and ask for their customer surveys. Use those to get ideas.”

Elaine Shapiro, owner of Elan Salon & Day Spa in Cranston, R.I., says she got most of the ideas for the survey she’s been using for the past eight years from a magazine. “I aw someone else’s survey in an article, took bits and pieces of it and added questions on things I was interested in and then went from there,” she says. In her last survey, clients indicated they wanted more body services, so she says she’s added a few more body wraps and a Lavender Body Polish, all of which have been well-received.

One Hand Feeds the Other                                

While some salons choose to mail surveys to their clients, Oskin recommends against this approach because of the expense, as well as he client’s tendency to view it as junk mail. Instead, he recommends handing a survey to clients as they check out from the salon and including a postage-paid envelope so that they are more likely to return it. “The normal response to direct mail is 2%-5%; handing it out gets a 5%-10% response,” he notes. “If you hand it out at your station, you could get as much as 80% response, but you might not get honest responses.” After all, what client is going to say she didn’t like the service or the technician’s attitude, for example, when the technician is watching her fill it out?

Still Gower says The Upper Hand gets a 60% response by doing just this, and that technicians are trained to move away from the client immediately after handing them the survey so that there is no pressure on the client. Shapiro also distributes her survey in-salon, explaining clients receive them as they check out and are guaranteed anonymity because surveys are collected in a sealed box near the door. Like Gower, she claims a 60% response rate.

Yaksich and DeCort used to mail their surveys to clients as part of their salon newsletter, but realized that clients were usually taking a new newsletter in the salon to clip a coupon or fill out a survey, so they decided to hand them out in the salon and through other local businesses. “We found we’re enjoying a huge savings from not mailing them, and we get a good response to our specials by handing clients a newsletter as they walk in,” Yaksich says.

One way all three salons boost their client response rate to questionnaires is through promotional incentives. For example, Nail Galleria clients receive a card for a free paraffin dip with any service, while Elan clients who respond are entered in a drawing for a free service or package of services.

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