Does it matter how great you say your salon is? Or does it matter more how great your clients say it is? It’s a little nauseating to others when we tend to blow our own horns.

CS Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and many other well know books gives writing advice to a young American fan named Joan Lancaster in June of 1956.

“In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.””

The point is that you should not have to tell people how great you are, they should be telling you how great you are because of the great things that you do. The question therefore is how do you get your clients to say great things about your business?

Exceed customer expectations

In my opinion this is not very hard in the hair industry (with exceptions of course). Again, maybe its because I’m a man and men generally are quite easy to please and therefore salon staff don’t feel the need to work very hard to please male clients, who knows?

As a result my expectation is that if I enquire about a booking and there are none available on the day I desire I will not get offered alternatives. If I do get a booking the staff will generally not know much about me even though I may have visited the salon on more than one previous occasion. While I’m at the salon I may or may not get offered some coffee or other type of refreshment, which seems quite standard. I may or not get my head massaged at the basin and if I do it may or may not be a great experience. I will most likely not get much of a consultation apart from the usual “What are we doing today?” Once my cut is finished and the stylist has flashed the mirror behind my head while I nod or grunt approval its then time to pay. The discussion of products for my hair will most likely not come up and if it does it will be something to the effect of would like to try this product or not? Once I’ve paid that will be the end of it and the sense I will leave with is that they couldn’t really be bothered if I return.

So the question is, if that has been my experience of so many salons over the years what will it take to exceed my expectations? I don’t think it will take very much indeed.

Little things on the side

One way to start is to do something small on the side. For example, what do you get when you buy a coffee at Vida? That’s right, a dark chocolate. Now, any coffee shop I visit after having experienced Vida that does not provide me with either a chocolate or a something similar will be less of an experience than Vida (Note that Im not commenting on the quality of the coffee itself – this is a matter of its own).

Another example is Pearl Valley golf course near Franschoek in the Western Cape, which is a wonderful experience. However, one of the best parts of the experience is something that is quite achievable by other golf courses who don’t enjoy such high pedigree. They have cool wet towels at the half way house. On a hot day there is hardly any better experience than walking into the clubhouse and wiping your face with a cooled towel. Also, on the first tee box I was given a chilled apple before starting the round. These are things that other courses could also offer that if they did people would talk about them.

The idea would be then for your clients to say something along the lines of “My salon is so amazing, whenever I go there they give me _____________ “(fill in the blank). Or, “…whenever I go there, they do ____________________ for me” (again fill in the blank).

Be careful though, once you start adding something to the mix (like you do above) then if you ever stop doing it in future your clients will not feel that you are simply offering the same as everyone else again, but rather they will feel like you have taken something away from them that they have grown to expect.

Validating parking

Our offices in Cape Town are near the Cape Quarter and inside there is a car wash. One of the things that the car wash does, apart from wash my car, is validate my parking for three hours. They most likely build it into the price of the car wash, however, it still comes to mind whenever I need to get my car washed. If you are able to build it into your costs, or able to work something out with centre management then covering some or all of a client’s parking would go a long way to building wow factor.

SMS Appointment Reminders

Sending your clients an sms appointment reminder goes a long way to improving their perception of your salon. On one hand it is practical and on the other hand it lets them know that you actually care for them to return, so much so that you are willing to send them a reminder.

Discount less preferred booking dates

This may be a bold one, but if a client wants an appointment today and you cant fit them in why not offer them a discount for a slot that you do have free. This may be the difference between them returning to your salon or not. I would be blown away if a receptionist said to me “we are fully booked today, but we have a slot tomorrow and we will give you a 10% discount if you take it”. It would be worth talking about.

10% off for a repeat booking

What about saying to a client as they finish paying “if you book your next appointment now you will be entitled to a 10% discount”? If that were me I would be much more inclined to make the booking and it would be something worth talking about to others.

Surprise them with your knowledge of them

If I sat down at the chair and the stylist recalled details of my previous visits it would surprise me. These details could be of a personal nature or related to products and services. If this was the standard I could expect from a salon it would definitely be worth talking about. But, Im talking about doing this for everyone, even the person who was last there more than 6 months ago and not just doing it for the clients you see week in and week out.


Its hard to give someone credit when they are giving themselves credit all the time. Rather, do things for others that result in them responding positively to you. Doing things like in the examples above gives the client an overall feeling that you want them to come back again. We want you to come back so we will pay for your parking, we want you to come back so we will send you a thank you SMS. We want you to come back so we will give you 10% off if you book your next appointment now.

When people sense that you value their business then they will talk about whatever factors contributed to that.