It goes without saying, nail techs are one hardworking bunch. But generally speaking, yours is a thankless job. Sure, every now and again you work miracles with some clients and reap a few minutes of adoration, but the average client comes in for a manicure or fill and, if you’ve done your job well, leaves without much to-do. And while a nice tip can be indication enough of whether a client is happy with your work, every now and again it’s nice to get some insight into the minds of your clients. Here is what some clients had to say about selecting a salon and what they like in a nail tech.

The Client Trap

Your salon does its best to attract clients. Maybe you run ads in local papers, post billboards, host promotional events, run mailings, or distribute newsletters. But do you really know what’s going to lure potential clients when they’re looking for a nail salon? Not surprisingly, of the 18 factors clients told us they look for in a potential nail salon, the top three mentioned were cleanliness, atmosphere, and quality customer service — with price and convenient location coming in a close second.

“I like a friendly staff and the feeling that I am being pampered,” says Delores Krakoff of Los Angeles. “The salon I frequent stores individually labeled boxes of implements for returning clients. They offer water and snacks, and have plenty of good reading material. When I go to a salon that treats me well I feel like I’m more than just a quick buck — and I’m willing to return.”

Appearances matter to clients, and first impressions make a strong impact on clients shopping for a new salon. Many clients we spoke to mentioned they are initially attracted to “cute decor,” “modern surroundings,” “serene atmosphere,” “the latest and greatest in new equipment,” “a spa-like environment,” “qualified professionals,” “heavy foot traffic,” and “fun atmosphere,” but nearly every client stressed cleanliness as the major concern. “Cleanliness is huge,” insists Lori Marovich of San Francisco. “I make sure the foot spas are cleaned between clients. The floor needs to be vacuumed and the restroom needs to be clean and well maintained.

And while price is, of course, a top concern it is rarely the deciding factor. “A salon has to be clean,” says Michelle McMahon of Santa Monica, Calif.  “I used to base my choice on price, but I was not always happy with what I got for that. I have heard too many stories about people getting infections. I would rather pay more for a clean salon.”

Age can play a factor in how important price is to a client. The younger 20- something clients find themselves needing to reconcile their beauty routine with their budget constraints — but even they make an effort to be savvy consumers.

“At my age price means a lot. Cheap is my main drive, but you have to be careful because not all inexpensive places are good,” says Sarah Soss of Long Beach, Calif.  “I look for cleanliness. Are their workstations clean? Are the bathrooms clean? I look for color selection and massage spa chairs. If they have more than one brand of polish and multiple spa chairs that aren’t 20 years old, I feel like they’re probably doing pretty well.” And whether clients are attracted to your bustling storefront, gleaming pedicure spas, or complimentary coffee bar, what it comes down to is a matter of trust. Clients are looking for signs they can trust your salon to provide a clean, thorough service.

“I base my decision on recommendations from others who can tell me what you get for your money, like hand and foot massage, exfoliating treatments, all the special things that some salons charge extra for,” says McMahon. Instead of risking a bad experience and rather than paying a visit to inspect your salon for themselves, many clients rely on word of mouth to find a salon. Recommendations play a big role in whether a client dares set foot in your door. And if that’s not incentive enough to make sure every client leaves feeling satisfied, we don’t know what is.

What I Like About You

Once a client finds herself at your table, it doesn’t matter if your salon wows her with state-of-the-art equipment, the world’s best receptionist, and service options galore.At that table it’s

just the two of you, one on one. “I’m not a frilly person, so I don’t care about vibrating chairs and Zen waterfalls — I care about getting a really good manicure,” says one client.

And guess what? Your clients have a lot of good things to say about the time they spend with you. Beyond the general descriptions of “polite,” “friendly,” “considerate,” “enthusiastic,” “flexible,” and “efficient,” clients vary in their ideas of what makes for a good nail tech. “I like manicurists who know what they’re talking about, and who have favorite products for specific reasons,” says Carrie Jacobson of Santa Monica, Calif. “I tend to ask a lot of questions and I like when they can answer me with formulated opinions. Enthusiasm is a plus.”

Personalities can come into play when a client is deciding if she has received a good service. Some clients are not looking to form a friendship with their techs, while others like to feel a sense of connection.


“I like a nice manicurist who is pleasant but does not want to know how old my mother is, how many kids I have, if I am married or not,” says Adriana Cox of Torrance, Calif. “Sometimes I like to talk but I don’t want to feel that I will offend her if I don’t feel like it.”

On the other hand, some clients crave a lot of personal interaction, looking to make their manicure resemble a social visit. “I like to feel that I am important and that the nail tech is listening to me,” says Jean Starr of Reno, Nev.

Those who have come to depend on one nail tech (for artificial enhancements or weekly manicures, for example) often come to understand the nuances in technique and the value of personalized care.

These clients tend to find one tech they like and build a rapport with them. “I tend to build a relationship with people like my nail technician and my hairdresser so I feel like I receive personal attention, and then I feel good about returning,” says Patricia Larson of Huntington Beach, Calif.

Robyn Mowery of Sidney, Neb., an eight-year client of one tech, has this to say: “My nail tech can do a whole set of nails in one hour. Her nails are always balanced and smooth. She fits me into her schedule whenever I have a broken nail. She is always seeking and implementing the newest and latest technologies.” Susan Conner of Indianapolis says this about her tech, whom she has been loyal to for years: “I have tried other manicurists in the past and have never found anyone who gives more service for the value than my nail tech. My nails and cuticles have never looked as good as they do now.”

Another client describes a good nail tech as “artistic, hygienic, and very professional at every appointment — someone who goes above and beyond to meet the needs of her client.” Sometimes it’s the sense of community that a nail tech and her colleagues create that keeps clients happy. “I’ve gone to the same nail salon for 12 years. The salon is not snazzy; it lacks modern additions like quick-drying machines and fancy pedicure basins. The decor is bland. But I continue to go because to all of us ‘regulars’ it’s a family,” says Linda Gordon of Los Angeles. “The staff knows us very well.”

In customer service, oftentimes it’s the little things that matter to clients. “I abhor it when polish gets on my skin. One time a manicurist dipped a brush in polish remover and went around my cuticle to remove excess polish. I’ve always wanted somebody to do that again, but no one ever does,” says Jacobson.

Showing initiative and creativity scores a lot of points with clients. “It’s nice when you have a nail tech who is creative and specializes in nail art,” says Soss. “When you’re paying $5 per toe for a design, who wants to pick from a selection of two flowers?” Jacobson adds, “I like when a nail tech can tell me what colors would look best with my skin.




With the good, comes the bad. Here, some clients share some things that leave them feeling less than satisfied when they leave the salon.

“I dislike it when dead skin is clipped off haphazardly and jagged skin appears around my nail a day or two later.”

“A manicurist who is too personal and too talkative makes me feel like I can’t relax during my manicure.”

“I don’t like feeling that the nail tech couldn’t care less if I return.”

“I feel unsatisfied if it takes two hours to get a manicure (which has actually happened) or if my skin consistently gets cut on accident.”

“I don’t like rude staff, long waits, or dirty tools. I was at one salon where they literally ripped the toe separators off of one person and stuck them on another. I walked out without receiving a service.”

“I dislike bad workmanship — chipping polish, bad nail shape. If I wanted my nails to look that way I’d do them at home.”

“Having to wait longer than expected. If they tell me the wait is 10 minutes, having to wait 30 is unacceptable. If I have an appointment and have to wait longer than 10 minutes, I will most likely not stay and not return to that salon.”

“I am not pleased when a pedicure ends up being basically a nail trim and a couple of layers of polish, and the entire time they keep trying to get you to buy add-ons, so it’s a constant struggle.”

“I find it unprofessional when a nail tech leaves me during the middle of my service to work on someone else, so a service that normally takes one hour then takes two because Betty needs to get her brows waxed.”


“I don’t like feeling that my service is rushed. It makes me feel like I am not important enough to spend time on.”



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