How First Impressions Can Make or Break Client Retention

We know first impressions matter, but for a competitive business it can actually mean the difference between a loyal returning client and a one-and-done.

You can’t redo a first impression, so it’s critical that you and your team always get it right.

The truth is, in a matter of seconds, a new guest will develop an opinion about your business and their service provider. In that tiny slice of time, this person will arrive at one of three conclusions:

  • They like their service provider/ your salon;
  • They dislike their service provider/ your salon; or
  • They’re indifferent.

Two of these conclusions are a detriment to your business. Obviously dislike is bad, but so is indifference.  An indifferent client is a temporary client, who is only in your salon until they find a better option.

The ways in which new clients will size up a salon are as follows:

Appearance. Everyone has made a clear effort to look polished, well groomed, and in keeping with the workplace dress code. 

Cleanliness. Public areas and work stations are organized and free of clutter, with frequently swept floors and smudge-free windows, mirrors, and surfaces.

Courtesy. Your team greets the new client by name, makes eye contact, and welcomes them to the salon.

Credibility. The guest's check-in process was smooth, their service starts on time, and there are no surprises upon arrival to their appointment.

A client's first impression can make or break a salon.

Confidence. Your team is well aware of salon policies and procedures, has a solid understanding of the service the client is receiving, and makes it clear the client is in expert hands.

Friendliness. This starts with a smile, welcoming body language, and upbeat demeanor all around. Everyone on the team knows to keep complaints or negativity off the floor and away from clients.

Helpfulness. The whole team is receptive to the guest, asking regularly if they have questions or need/ want anything. 

Knowledge. Everyone is informed about the products and services provided in your salon, and can explain the "hows" and “whys” behind them. (Or, if they can’t, will immediately find someone who can.) 

Professionalism. Team members use respectful and considerate communication (in both spoken and body language) and can handle client complaints with efficiency and courtesy. When on the floor, all attention is focused on the guest experience — not on phones or side chats.

Responsiveness. The team should know how to steer conversations so the client has expected needs met without having to wonder. If the client makes a request, they shouldn’t have to ask twice.

Understanding. Everyone on the team, especially service providers, is trained in the art of listening and asking the correct questions. They should be able to determine what the client’s needs are and to discuss options for how they can be met.

As a salon owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure everyone on the team gets an A+ on those points. The good news is, it’s all within your power to do so!

Tap here for 10 ways you can bolster training or correct deficiencies to create a great first impression.


Liz McKeon is a salon business coach and founder of The International Salon Business School. She’s the author of 30 Days to Beauty Business Success.

Salon coach Liz McKeon