Insight for Stylists

How to Improve the Salon Experience, with Sara Aikens


By Erin Noha

Experience is about the services you offer, but it’s also about the feel of the salon and the way you treat your guests, said Sara Aikens, Director of Technical and Business Development at Zano Salons.

Sara Aikens of Zano SalonsCreating an all-encompassing experience, in word and deed, is the way to keep and grow your clientele. That means treating your guests—and staff—like family, creating a mood for your salon and adapting to the ever-changing hair industry.

A beauty salon can be intimidating for some people—it’s a salon’s job to change that perspective.

“It’s hard when our hair, makeup and clothing are at their fullest. It’s more than what it looks like,” she said.

Zano Salon, a full-service salon with four different locations, trains their staff to make the space welcoming by treating guests and coworkers with respect.

“When a guest walks into an environment where the team is cohesive and inviting to each other, they feel included.”

Focus on Guest Appreciation

The key is surprise and delight, Aikens said. Zano Salon treats their guests with special offers and promotions in the salon. Last holiday season, they sent their top guests a gift card thanking them for their patronage. They also held a “Head-to-Toe Sale” where they gave 25% off hair color, keratin smoothing and pedicure services.

They also take time to celebrate. For their 30th anniversary last November, the salon had champagne for guests. Around Mother’s Day, they offered strawberries and whipped cream. During spring break they handed out popsicles to clients.

“We’re fun with appreciating our guests. We hear them say ‘thank you’ all the time and we want to thank them.”

Enhance the Salon Atmosphere

Along with treating customers with respect, the decor of the salon also contributes a great deal to the client’s experience. Get back to basics, make a budget for decorations and make sure your salon is clean. There’s no replacement for making things impeccable.

“Walk into the salon when customers aren’t there and sit wherever they sit. You start to look at things with a fresh pair of eyes.”

You might see the perfect place for a decoration, find another place to clean or notice that a wall has an opportunity to market products with a promotional poster.

“Make sure it has a consistent theme,” Aikens said. “If you started the business committed to looking feng shui and antique, make sure what you add echoes that.”

Seasons are important, too. Merchandise your retail area according to the season to stay current and up-to-date. After all, the customer base is different than they were a decade ago. They have a stricter gauge for a quality service and experience, which means your décor, treatment and service must be top-notch. They’re also more knowledgeable about what haircut and color they want, Aikens said.

Adapt to the Ever-Changing Industry

“People used to sit and read magazines and now they sit with a smartphone. We enjoy that our clientele is able to research information at the click of a button. It also challenges us professionals to add a layer of interest to the service, which we didn’t have to do 10 to 15 years ago.”

Stylists must educate themselves on the looks their clients are requesting and speak with integrity to every aspect of service in the salon. Still, there are some things that technology won’t replace.

“I think the salon experience is one of the most important things our industry has to offer. People always remember how you made them feel. Whether it’s a relaxing shampoo or shoulder massage—it’s something that technology can’t provide.”

Erin Noha covers stories for Premier Beauty.

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