Customer Service

Make a First Impression Last

Here are four steps for courting prospective clients and building long-lasting relationships.



We’ve all heard the common idiom, “first impressions are the most lasting” — it’s a difficult one to ignore. In an industry so focused on customer service, mastering the art of leaving good impressions on first-time clients is a must. A happy client is likely to become a friend to the salon, and one of your biggest sources of advertisement.

Courting a new client is a delicate balance of give and take, putting your best foot forward, and getting to know the visitor as an individual. Whether it’s in person, over the phone, via e-mail, or on a website, always be aware of the way you talk to clients and present your brand. After all, studies* show time and time again that it’s the first few seconds of contact between two people that are the most critical.

*Many studies show this, including results depicted in research article “First Impressions: Making Up Your Mind After a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face” by Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University.

1. LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

There’s nothing quite like meeting someone face-to-face for the first time. Human communication is complex and there are a lot of factors that go into how others precieve us and form their impressions. Words, for one, are powerful but so is body language, tone of voice, and eye contact.

When you’re meeting a new client in person for the first time, one of the best things you can do for your business is welcome them with arms wide open, so to speak. Make an extra effort to address your client by her name, look her in the eyes, and above all else, smile! Your salon should be a safe and relaxing space, and you can create that atmosphere right from the get-go. Jillian Swan-Eiffe, owner of Nailotus in Sydney, Australia says it best: “You want your client to feel welcome, wanted, and comfortable.” Make your clients fall in love with your salon at first sight.

To make things easier, have a protocol in place for handling new clients. Whether the official meet-and-greeter is the receptionist or the nail tech performing the service, everyone should know exactly what to do. First thing’s first, focus on making the client’s experience comfortable — take a beverage order, give her a chair.

“I introduce myself while shaking her hand, then we sit down and figure out what she’s looking for: long or short term, high or low maintenance,” says Christine Olmo Schels of Fabulous Full Service Salon in Milford, Del.
Stay engaged in the conversation, and of course, be yourself!

2. “EDU-DATING”

Your client’s first service is a great time to get to know her. Making a strong initial effort to break the ice can lead to a wealth of information that will help you make her experience more personalized. But while it’s important for you to understand your client, it’s also important for her to do the same so she can build a sense of trust in you and familiarize herself with what you have to offer. Ronieka Howell of Abstract Nails & Wellness Studio in Indianapolis calls this getting-to-know-you period “edu-dating.” (A combination of educating and dating.)

“This is the time where I get to know them, find out how they like their nails shaped, and see what colors they prefer,” she says. “This time also allows the client to ask me questions about anything from sanitation to how many years I’ve been in the business. Feeling comfortable getting the answers to those questions will put clients at ease — that’s when they’ll know they’ve definitely chosen the right nail spa.”

Wendy Shelton, a nail technician at Essex Hair Design in East Lansing, Mich., takes a pretty active role in the edu-dating process. During a client’s first visit, she helps them decide which service from the menu would be the best fit for them, and then explains what she’s doing step by step so the client feels comfortable.

3. LONG DISTANCE

It’s important to give new clients the sense that they’re welcomed and wanted over phone and e-mail as well.  Clients should never feel like they’re an inconvenience, even if they have more questions than you’re excited to answer. Take the time to answer each one kindly, and point them in the direction of your website or Facebook page.

If a prospective client contacts your salon for an appointment and you can’t meet her needs, give her options, making her feel like your salon truly cares about earning and keeping her business. For example, let’s say a new client is looking for a last-minute pedicure and is hoping your salon will be able to help her in a pinch. You’re all booked, but rather than simply saying sorry, consider the following dialogue:

New Client: “Do you have any openings for a pedicure today?”

Salon: “I’m so sorry, we’re actually all booked today, but let me check to see if any of our nail techs are available this week. Does that work?”

New Client: “No, I need to see someone today — I’m leaving for vacation.”

Salon: “I see. We’d love to help, so let me take down your contact info and I’ll definitely call if we have any cancellations. Hope to see you later!”

Don’t be afraid to create a script. It doesn’t need to be rehearsed like a school play, but creating a general outline of things to mention will help troubleshoot unexpected problems that might arise. Responding to these scenarios correctly and confidently will help your salon impress — and even hold onto — these prospective clients.

4. CALL ME!

When the new client’s first salon experience is complete, it’s important to follow up soon after the visit. Let them know you care with an e-mail, phone call, or coupon, depending on your style of business.

“After the service, I thank the new client for being my guest and hanging out with me,” says Howell. “I walk her to the check-out counter, where she receives a coupon for her next visit. I want new clients to know their business is always appreciated.”

Howell also has a policy at her salon where nail techs send out a thank you e-mail before the client gets into her car so it’s waiting in her inbox when she gets home. The e-mail is a welcome letter thanking the client again for her business and promising her another successful nail journey soon.

RELATED ARTICLES:

-How to Meet and Greet
-The First Impression [Really Does Count]
-Communication Breakdown

To read them, visit www.nailsmag.com/firstimpression

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