How’s your ‘new normal’ salon client experience?

Over the next weeks and months clients are going to ask themselves ‘Can I trust my therapist/stylist to keep me safe?’

It’s a big question.

You’ve invested thousands in the best PPE and set up strict COVID-19 salon systems.

But have you thought how the ‘new normal’ salon experience will make your clients feel?

Yep. They will be thrilled to get those DIY dye disasters fixed or their bikini line waxed. But what then?

Kick-back, relax and indulge in some me-time’ doesn’t sit so well with having your temperature taken as you arrive, no cappuccino and a masked therapist in a visor bending over you for that ‘pampering’ facial.

And worse:

If a client starts to feel unsafe during their beauty or hair appointment this can quickly lead to high levels of anger and frustration.


Build trust into your new salon client journey

Building trust is vital if clients are to feel comfortable with your new COVID-19 procedures. And crucially, reassured enough to rebook before they leave.

But little ‘moments’ in their visit can build or destroy trust.


So how do you build this trust?

Two key ways:

1. Deliver on your COVID-19 safety promises

It’s easy to make promises:

‘Your safety is our top priority’

‘Our salon team follows the highest hygiene procedures.’

‘Social distancing is in place throughout the clinic.’

But are you and your team keeping and delivering them? At every client appointment?

Does your client experience live up to these COVID-19 promises? Or is it just talk?

Failing to deliver on safety or hygiene promises you made on salon social media, in your e-newsletter or on your website is the #1 way to break trust.

2. A consistent salon experience

On their first post-lockdown appointment your client was impressed with your systems and processes. You got 10/10 and a happy, reassured client.

But this pandemic is going to be with us for many months and you need to keep building that trust.

Trust is built with consistent experiences. Your team needs to walk the talk at every appointment.

A customer care slip on a loyal client in pre-COVID-19 days might have passed uncommented on. But in post-lockdown a safety slip can damage trust in an instant.

And worse. The client may share the experience on social and with friends as a ‘warning’ that your salon isn’t safe.

I take a deep dive into why rebooking is key to your business profitability and how to improve your return rates and frequency here.

And in this in-depth guide I look at practical ways to attract new clients to your hair or beauty business.

Okay, so let’s look at some practical ways you can build trust and reassurance at your client’s post-lockdown appointments.


Client communication just got harder

Wearing a face mask or visor makes communication with your clients harder.

Not only may clients not be able to hear you as clearly but your body language isn’t as visible. Are you smiling, or pursing your lips, behind that mask?

Given you may also look a tad scary in your PPE kit, building that crucial rapport and empathy with clients becomes that much harder. To counter this educate your team to be more aware than ever of their non-verbal communications (body language).

One of the best ways to build rapport and make clients feel less anxious is by showing you’re really listening to them. When you listen, people feel that you’re interested in them, and value them.

‘Listening is a positive act: you have to put yourself out to do it’
– David Hockney

Body language expert Elizabeth Kuhnke explains that really listening requires more than just hearing the words being spoken. Pay attention to the non-verbal behaviour not just the words spoken.

Show your client you’re listening to them from behind your mask:

  • Try to look at your client 65-85% of the time – although avoid staring.
  • Show interest by leaning in slightly towards them when they are speaking.
  • Nod your head in agreement to show empathy and agreement.
  • Smile more than normal, and if you’re wearing a mask rather than a visor make sure that smile shows in your eyes.
  • Avoid frowning as this looks as though you disagree or are finding fault, especially with PPE on.
  • Instead, tilt your head slightly to the side as this signals you are concerned and interested.

Having shown your client you’re listening to them, put yourself in their shoes. They may be feeling anxious about catching the virus and a little outside their comfort zone with the new COVID-19 procedures. Chat is more difficult with you both wearing masks so look for non-verbal clues about your client’s feelings and thoughts:

  • Avoiding eye contact often suggests negative thoughts.
  • A wrinkled forehead suggests worry, anxiety, or annoyance.
  • Fiddling fingers often indicate worry or fretfulness.
  • Clenched fists can indicate anger or frustration.
  • While juggling feet point to impatience.
  • Anxious people often have quick, shallow, short breaths so look out for these too.

By watching their body language you can read their mood and offer calm, soothing reassurance to calm nerves and anxiety.


Reassure during their salon visit

In today’s COVID-19 world reassuring touchpoints throughout your client’s salon journey are more critical than ever.

When planning your safety processes think about how you can give reassurance when your client books, arrives, meets their therapist/stylist and pays.

By anticipating possible pain points you can develop them into meaningful touchpoints or ‘moments’ that proactively build trust. A reassured client will feel comfortable to book their next appointment before they leave.

What steps can you take? Here are 5 practical marketing ideas:

1. Manage client expectations

Immediately they book, send an email outlining your new COVID-19 procedures. Let them know what to expect on arrival, about refreshments and the protection screens you’ve erected.

Or you could pop a COVID-19 safety page on your website and point them to that.

2. Reassure in advance and on the day

Don’t let them wonder about your cleaning processes or team training. Reassure them in advance about how often and fully you cleanse.

And add signs in salon reinforcing the action you’re taking.

3. Give them answers before they ask

Don’t leave them to figure out what they need to do.

Tell them when they book that you’ll be supplying a fresh face mask when they arrive, or will be providing bottled water.

4. Avoid nasty surprises on the day

Be upfront before and after they book about any supplemental PPE charges, or changes to your payment procedures.

Finding an unexpected PPE surcharge added to their invoice as they leave is going to damage trust and may put them off rebooking on the spot.

5. Don’t add to their concerns

If your salon  or clinic washrooms are going to be closed then tell them in advance.

And if you aren’t offering cloakroom facilities spell it out in advance and ask them not to bring coats and bags if they can help it.


What to do if things go wrong

Hopefully if you’ve built trust and set client journey expectations in advance you won’t find yourself in a conflict situation.

But when we’re apprehensive and worried about our health and safety, emotions can run high, and the slightest thing can trigger unreasonable behaviour during their salon visit.

When you’re training the team on COVID-19 safety precautions remember to prepare them for clients possibly becoming confrontational or even slightly aggressive.

If the team find themselves facing jabbing fingers, scowls and loud voices they need to understand:

  • Why clients are reacting out of character.
  • How to deal with it.

Body language expert Elizabeth Kuhnke says ‘In a conflict situation, actively listen and give the other person time to put their case forward without arguing or interrupting.’

Use your own body language to help diffuse the situation:

  • Use open hand gestures.
  • Keep arms and legs uncrossed.
  • Don’t raise your voice, and use firm but reassuring language.
  • Avoid frowning or screwing up your eyes and face.

And above all, don’t mirror or match the client’s behaviour.

I share loads more body language tips to help you and your team make the right impression with beauty and hair clients here.


Your ‘new normal’ salon client journey

COVID-19 preparations don’t end with setting up safety procedures and training your salon team in PPE – crucial as these are.

Reopening is a challenging for any beauty or business owner, with so much do and no money coming in. But try and think about how your clients are going to feel and react to the ‘new normal’ salon experience, and how you can adapt your client journey to build trust, reassure them and convince them to rebook.

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