Some salons simply can’t fathom the idea of taking walk-in clients. Their appointment books are filled to the brim with clients and they actually have to run away new ones because they don’t have the time to fit them in. If this sounds like you, then you are doing something right. For many other nail techs, however, this is nothing but a dream. Although you may have a steady stream of clients coming in, there are just some days when it feels like you’re the only one in the salon and the only nails you’re doing are your own. What to do?

If you’re not doing it already, think about giving walk-in clients a chance. Many nail techs are hesitant about taking walk-ins, considering them flighty salon-hoppers who are hard to please. While that may be true at times, the majority of walk-in clients are a varied group with a wide range of needs. Some are businesswomen who want a quick fill or who find themselves in a new city with extra time on their hands and want to spend it getting a manicure or pedicure. And don’t forget about the ski bunnies or summer vacationers looking for a good nail tech to mend a broken nail or apply a fresh coat of polish.

Still other walk-ins are friends and relatives of regular clients who need a quick nail fix while in your area. And don’t forget about men and women who walk or drive by your salon and want a service without an appointment.

You can’t categorize walk-in client as hard to please or impossible to hold down. Among the group[ are some potential regular clients just waiting to happen. They can help build your appointment book and boost retail sales. The trick can lies in handling these unexpected guests in a warm and efficient manner - just as you would your regular, loyal clients.

While putting up a “Walk-Ins Welcome” sign is a good start, it’s simply not enough. Yo need to be proactive and use other ways to attract walk-ins and keep them back coming back. We talked to nail techs who’ve had their fair share of walk-in clients to see what their strategies are. Keep reading and try using their tactics to your advantage.

1 Bring out the welcome signs.

Just as you welcome friends and family to your home with a welcome mat or sign, the same goes for welcoming clients to your salon. A potential client driving around looking for a salon to repair her broken nail is more apt to stop at your location if she spots a friendly welcome sign on your door or window (or anywhere else you place it).

Jill Iannuci, owner of Hands On Nail Studio in Chico, Calif., says her salon is tucked away in a driven where it’s difficult to see the salon. She make4s do by putting up few signs. “We have a big sign along the street and beneath it we’re got a smaller sign that says “Walk-in Welcome” with an arrow pointing down the driveway,” she says. “We also have a changeable sidewalk sign that we advertise special on slow days to get people to come in.”

If a potential client knows you actually welcome walk-ins, she’ll feel more comfortable going in and asking for a service.

Barbara Eve, a nail tech at The Regency Salon and Spa in Franklin Ohio, says brightly colored balloons tied to the salon’s sign have helped bring in new clients, “I like to do this around prom, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation time, homecoming, etc.” she says.

2 Find out that they want.

Once you greet the client, don’t wait too long before looking at her hands and asking what type of service she’d like. If you can’t fit her in that moment, give her an estimate of how long the wait will be. Vicki Lee Gattis, owner of Hair N’ Nails in Columbia, S.C., has walk-in clients fill out a client service card. “We make every effort to quickly get to know the client. We start with having them fill out a client service card, which gives us an overview of their needs and some history of services,” she says. “It also allows us to learn birthdays, anniversaries, and personal data so we can send card with small discount gifts enclosed,” she says.

3 Greet them with care.

Acknowledge a walk-in quickly. Even if you are busy with a client, look up as she enters the salon and tell her you’ll be with her in just a moment. When you’re courteous and acknowledge walk-ins as soon as they enter the salon, they’re usually flexible and easy to work with. There’s nothing worse than having a potential client walk into your salon and have to wait for what seems like ages for you to acknowledge she’s there. If you do that, chances are she’ll feel neglected and take her business elsewhere. “Always respond to walk-in requests with a cheerful and positive tone,” says Joanne Linck, a nail tech at Cecil B. Makeup Studio & Spa in New Westminster, British Columbia. “Never deflate them with an abrupt ‘no’. Even though there may not be time at the specific moment perhaps there will be in an hour.” Make a walk-in feel even more welcome by offering her a beverage or a magazine to read while she waits.

4 Know your strengths and weakness.

Every salon owner should know her staff’s strengths and weakness, including their speed and proficiency in all services. There’s no sense in assigning a brand new pedicure client to someone who doesn’t do pedicures well. Knowing each person’s abilities is essential when trying to fit in walk-in appointments. Keep yourself and your staff trained on as many kinds of services as possible so you can accommodate all types of walk-in clients. Many tourists look for a nail tech who use the same products or offer the same services as their hometown salons. If you can offer them what they want from a varied service and product menu, they’ll be more likely to commit to patronizing your salon on a regular basis (and so will their friends).

5 Go the extra mile.

In order to accommodate walk-ins, nail techs sometimes have to work overtime or odd hours. “I made sure I was open many hours, day and evening,” says Jennifer Ayers, owner of Nails by Jennifer in Newark, Ohio. “This is important because most nail tech don’t stay in the salon if they don’t have an appointment scheduled and miss out on a lot of traffic.” sometimes working extra hours might mean being “on call.” in some salons, a salon owner will require that nail techs allow time every day to accept walk-ins. However, it might still be necessary to hire a part-time nail tech just to handle walk-ins, especially during busy holiday season or promotions. Keep a list of nail techs’ names, the hours they are on call, and how long it takes them to reach the salon.

6 Let the Beginners practice.

A good solution for scheduling walk-ins is to assign them to new nail techs who are still building their clientele. It gives newbies a chance to practice what they learned in school and it also gives you more seasoned nail techs ample time to work on their loyal, established clientele. If you schedule new nail techs during prime walk-in such as Saturday afternoons and early evenings, they have a chance to hone their skills and practice customer-service skills. Some salon owners encourage walk-in clients to try a new tech by offering a special price. Beauty schools have had great success with charging reduced rates for services done by professionals in training for example.

7 Come up with an alternate plan.

You’d love to take that walk-in client who just walked in your door, but you’re swamped. What should you do? Should you turn her away? Strike a bargain with your walk-in client. If you’re pressed for time, offer to do a partial service. Instead of refusing her, try to find ways to save time, like offering to do her nails but skipping the polish. Or if she wants a set of acrylics offer her a nice manicure and have her come in for service the following week. Walk-ins are usually so grateful to get their nails done that they’re willing to skip some things or do it themselves later at home.

8 Do some follow-up work

Many walk-ins can be turned into loyal clients with just a little planning and lots of TLC. Michelle Ramoz, owner of Diva’s A Salon of Distinction in Lakeside, Ariz., says getting to know walk-ins by name is important, as well as offering to rebook them if it looks like they enjoyed the service. Besides doing that, also send a follow-up thank you card to walk-ins. They’ll be impressed by the attention, and if they misplaced or threw your business card, they now have a new one, and the card serves another purpose as well. “Tracking clients is important for follow-up marketing,” says Mary Metscaviz, owner of Awesome Nails in Grayslake, Ill. “I want to be able to send my clients specials we are offering.”

No matter how busy you are, there’s no reason to send clients to the competition. Sure, you might come across some difficult or hard-to-please walk-ins, but all it takes is a warm smile and some friendly service to soften them up. By being professional and treating walk-ins like you would your regular clients, you can have them commit to just one salon - your.

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