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5 Hair Salon Service Mistakes to Avoid

Learning from these mistakes can help you to hold onto loyal clients.

I recently decided to “break up” with a hair stylist I’d been happily going to for more than five years after one notably bad service experience. It wasn’t just one issue, but a slew of service snafus at once, that sent me in search of a new stylist.

Turns out I’m not the only one who may flee a hairstylist for these types of hair salon service issues. In fact, several of the ones I experienced made a list of top salon complaints compiled by salon software provider Zolmi.  “It’s the little things that count,” according to Treatwell, a community of beauty service professionals.

“A great salon experience is just that – an experience,” Treatwell states. “To keep a customer booking with you again and again, everything from how they book you to the way they feel when they walk back out that door has to be perfect. But sometimes you might be making little mistakes without even realizing it.”

Here are five ways to unintentionally cut your client list, and tips on how you can avoid these mistakes:

1. Arriving late

My hairy debacle started when I rushed out the door to my 9 a.m. appointment. As I was getting in my car, my stylist texted to ask what I wanted to have done. I mentioned I might be a couple of minutes late, and she texted back: “Oh, it’s OK. I won’t be there until at least 9:15.” I arrived at 9:05 and ended up waiting 45 minutes before I texted to ask for an ETA. She wrote: “Oh, I’ll be there by 10.” I had a busy day ahead, so I was forced to leave and reschedule for the next week. Service lesson: if you have to be late, tell the client upfront exactly when you’ll arrive. Being communicative, proactive and apologetic can go a long way.

2. Disappearing on a client

The next week, my stylist was on time. After washing my hair, she put some gloss on my head and said she’d return in 10 minutes. Then she disappeared. As I sat leaning back with my head over the sink, my neck began to hurt. The salon was freezing, and my stylist was nowhere in sight. After about 25 minutes, I finally sat up with a bad crick in my neck. A few minutes later my stylist reappeared, airily commenting, “Oh, I left you a little longer than 10 minutes. But it’ll be just fine!” My neck, however, wasn’t: it was sore the rest of the day.

Service lesson: if your timing is off and you have to leave a client, make sure they’re comfortable and be honest about how long you’ll be gone.

3. Squeezing in a client at another’s expense

To add insult to (neck) injury, I could overhear my stylist in the next room, cutting another client’s hair while my wet hair dripped into the cold sink. As they chatted, the client talked about her upcoming vacation, and thanked my stylist for squeezing her in at the last minute. The client gave my stylist a gift, a ceramic piece she had made, and I could hear my stylist showing it off around the salon. I quickly realized my stylist had gone MIA in the middle of my service so she could tend to another client who hadn’t made an appointment in time.

Service lesson: if you want to squeeze in a client, let them sit and wait while you give priority to those with prior appointments.

4. Adding services without asking

Then I noticed when I checked out that my bill was higher than expected. I saw my stylist had added the gloss without mentioning it ahead of time or telling me the price. It looked good, so I wasn’t going to complain, but I wished she had gotten my OK.

Service lesson: if you want to add an extra service, mention the cost first to get the client’s buy-in.

5. Failing to give a promised discount.

The final service mistake my stylist made was not giving me a promised discount. The previous week when she’d been over an hour late getting to the salon, she’d promised me a 20 percent discount for the inconvenience, which I appreciated. The next week, she didn’t subtract that discount, and I didn’t ask for it. I just decided it was time to seek a new stylist.

Service lesson: don’t offer a discount unless you plan to honor it without being asked.

The bottom line

it’s not always about the hair. Treat your customers with respect, communicate clearly and fulfill your promises to keep clients happy—and loyal.