Technology has dramatically changed the way that consumers find and choose salons. Google, Bing, Yelp, and Facebook lead the pack in terms of customer influence, but dozens of other sites like YP.com, Superpages, and MyTime can’t be ignored as they reach tens of millions of consumers each month.The stats can be scary --75% of consumers go online to find a business, and 80% trust online reviews as much as referrals. But in reality, these stats represent an opportunity for you to set your salon apart like never before in this brave new review-centric world.
Maintaining Your Online Presence
No matter how good your salon’s physical location, how you appear online represents your face and first interaction for the majority of prospective clients. When thinking about your online presence, you want to focus on three things: accuracy, visibility, and differentiation.
Start with the essentials that a client needs to consider your salon. By ensuring that your business info -- address, phone number, hours of operation, services offered, and prices -- is accurate and consistent across the various websites, you make it easy for a client to make a quick decision to book at your salon.
The goal is to be found, so focus first on having a listing on the highest traffic sites -- Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, YP, Superpages, and Facebook. Also ensure that the online pieces that you control, like your website, Facebook page, Twitter account, and Pinterest board, are up-to-date and engaging visitors with new content. Don’t forget about the importance of the mobile viewing experience, especially on your own website. Google searches on mobile just passed those on desktop, and your search ranking is heavily influenced by how well optimized your site is for the mobile viewing experience.
Each public listing website with a business profile for your salon, as well as your own website, represents an opportunity to tell your story and show what makes your salon great. Styling is an inherently visual art, so use pictures wherever possible to show off your successful styles, your salon’s interior, and happy customers and staff. Remember that most website visitors are looking to choose a salon, so you can differentiate your business further by enabling online booking to make it easy for clients to choose you once they’ve made their decision.
Making Reviews Work for You
Clients are naturally going to review your business, but you don’t have to passively wait for those reviews to come in. A Harvard University study revealed that a one-star decrease in a business’s Yelp rating resulted in as much as a 9% drop in revenue, so remember that it’s OK to ask your happy clients for a review. They want to help you succeed, so let them! You can even get sophisticated about it, using automated approaches that ask for feedback after an appointment, and if it’s positive, directs the client to leave a review online.
It’s almost unavoidable to receive the occasional negative online review. Don’t panic. Instead, remember these three points: listen, respond, and reach out.
Customer feedback is critical to improving your business. Reading reviews can help you identify the trends that are affecting customer satisfaction both positively and negatively as quickly as possible. If a customer has a bad experience, investigate by speaking with your staff so that you have a clear picture of any real or perceived service breakdowns. Reading reviews doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking -- there are a number of review monitoring programs, such as, MyTime, that aggregate reviews from several sites or alert you when new ones are posted.
Replying to reviews is rarely for the benefit of the individual reviewer. By responding quickly to both good and bad reviews, you show all prospective clients reading that review that you care about delivering a great salon experience. By thanking clients for good reviews, you reinforce that behavior. For negative reviews, this is your chance to shine by acknowledging the issue and outlining the steps you are taking to ensure that kind of service lapse doesn’t happen in the future. However, remember that the comments section isn’t the right place to get into a back and forth discussion with the reviewer.
Acknowledging the issue with empathy is key to dealing with negative reviews. Sometimes, it is appropriate to take the issue offline with the reviewer so that you can further explain, apologize, and make amends. A phone call or direct email can do a lot to defuse the situation and lets you extend an offer (if appropriate) without it being seen by everyone. Negative reviewers can become your strongest advocates if you can show them that their poor service experience was not the standard you provide clients.
Take Action, Show Heart
Your online presence on listing and review sites is increasingly the first impression of your salon that clients have. Put your best foot forward with accurate info, showcase your salon’s unique strengths, and encourage your happy customers to tell the world. If you do get a negative review, respond quickly and show the commitment that you and your staff have to your clients’ satisfaction. As a result, you’ll be demonstrating to new and existing clients that they can trust your salon to deliver a great service experience.
Photography: Courtesy of Sam Villa