Creating a Culture of Booking Ahead

Lisa Starr

Booking Ahead - spa appointments and salon appointments

I’m betting that one of your spa or salon business goals for the New Year is to increase your revenue or profits. Encouraging clients to schedule appointments ahead of time is one of the easiest ways to accomplish this, and yet this activity, which should be ingrained into the behavior of your staff, doesn’t happen as often as you would like.

Not every client is interested in booking ahead; a certain percentage of people will need to check their work or personal schedule, or the client may just be visiting while on vacation from out of town. There are also budgetary considerations. But one of the biggest hurdles seems to be this perpetual question from staff: Whose job is it to encourage pre-bookings?

Technicians generally want to be busy while at work, but don’t always take responsibility for making that happen. They often rely on the front desk to rebook their clients, so their appointment slots are magically filled. However, creating a culture of booking ahead is really a team effort.

The most effective driver of pre-booking is found in your technicians themselves; clients are more apt to respond to the directives of a licensed professional when it comes to their personal care. But it’s up to the front desk to complete the process by asking the client as she checks out, “When did Sarah say she would like to see you next?” If the front desk asks the departing client this question, and the client has no answer, then you may need to remind your technicians about the importance of setting the stage for clients’ next visits at the end of an appointment.

Of all of the beauty disciplines, hair tends to gravitate toward a pre-booking culture most naturally. Most clients, female and male alike, follow a 6-8 week cycle between haircuts and color appointments, and are more apt to have a regular routine around these activities. They may even appreciate having a regular appointment day or time offered to them. Salons and spas with nail departments also see a high degree of repeat business.

Spa front desk staff often protest that pre-booking treatments is too difficult, as too many clients are sporadic in their attendance. However, many spas provide services that should be performed on a periodic basis (think facials and massages)—and this can be a great place to start encouraging your staff to recommend a follow-up appointment.

Booking ahead is especially important as the start of the New Year, when both spas and salons are likely to see an increase in guests who received gift cards for the holidays. Keep in mind that these guests are still “prospects”—not full-fledged clients. In fact, most spas and salons don’t consider a guest “retained” until they have their third visit to the business—a first-time doesn’t necessarily signify any intention to keep doing business with you. And that’s where pre-booking comes in.

Many of these new clients will think your salon or spa is lovely and comfortable, and will enjoy their massage or hairstyling appointment, and then wonder what is supposed to happen next. Well, what is supposed to happen next is that your technicians invite them to return for a subsequent appointment as a part of building rapport with the client. Because the treatments and services we offer aren’t essentials for daily life, prospects are much more likely to return if they’re made to feel included and welcome, and are directed as to what their next steps should be.

So where should you start with pre-bookings? Mention them during your first staff meeting of the year. Tell the entire staff you expect all of them to take responsibility and act accordingly, and make sure they have the tools to succeed. Write out short scripts for both technicians and front desk to engage clients, and then have them practice it on each other. Like any goal, results that can be measured are more likely to drive progress; your salon or spa software should allow you to measure pre-booked appointments so you can share progress with your team.

For some of your staff members, creating a culture of pre-booking may feel like “selling” instead of helping.  It’s important to remind these folks why clients come to your business in the first place: they want to look or feel better, The time clients spend on improving their looks or health in our establishments allows them to be more confident in their personal and professional lives. By encouraging clients to book ahead, your staff is really encouraging clients to take care of their health, appearance, and self esteem.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, when a new prospect sees the result of their first facial, their technician can suggest that, “For your next appointment, which should be in about six weeks, I would recommend that you book this same treatment, but ask the desk to add an anti-aging mask to your treatment so you see even better results.” When that client makes their way to checkout, and the front desk asks them if they want to book their next appointment, the client will have an answer—and you’ll have a future appointment slot already filled.

An additional benefit of pre-booking is that it frees up your front desk staff. Instead of spending all of their time taking appointments by phone, they can focus on confirming and upselling existing appointments, and providing great in-person service to each client who comes to visit. These efforts can have an even greater impact on your bottom line. 

About the Author

Lisa Starr

Lisa Starr brings over 30 years of industry-specific experience as a consultant, educator and writer to Booker through GOtalk. Lisa also works for Wynne Business, a leading spa consulting and education company. Among other things, Lisa’s expertise lies in business operations and finances, sales and marketing, inventory management, human resource development, and business process improvement. She is a well-known speaker within the trade show circuit and is a frequent contributor to industry

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