The Art of Balancing Regular and Walk-In Appointments

Long wait times frustrate new customers, often making them turn to one of your competitors down the road. Yet minimising your pre-scheduled availability—in order to open up time for walk-in appointments—frustrates regular clients as well.

How do you balance your schedule to make both groups happy and continue to build client relationships? To practice effective salon management, you need to create a walk-in policy when you open a salon.

Walk-In Policies

A walk-in customer is a person who comes into your salon without an appointment. As a salon owner, you have two different options when determining how to schedule appointments versus walk-ins:

No walk-ins policy

If you see your salon calendar booked out a few weeks in advance, rejoice! But that leaves little downtime for the stylists and little opportunity for walk-in appointments. If you see this trend happening, you may want to think about implementing a no walk-ins policy.

There are pros and cons to this approach. A no walk-ins policy keeps your schedule relatively systematic and allows you to better plan for your day. And busy stylists can dedicate their windows of free time to cleaning, administrative duties, or even attending network events and classes.

It does become harder for stylists to grow their client base when implementing this policy, though. With this approach, you have to rely on salon marketing strategies and promotional incentives to attract new clients to your salon and stay ahead of your competitors.

With that being said, there are a few ways to handle walk-in prospects and build client relationships when your salon implements a no walk-ins policy. You can have your staff try to book an appointment for a walk-in customer at a later date. And some stylists offer discounts or other promotional offers for booking in advance, which incentivises new customers to try out a salon.

Take note that if you do implement a no walk-ins policy, you should always enforce it. Appointment scheduling for businesses, however you handle it, is a way that your customers rely on you. Having wishy-washy policies can result in angry customers, bad Yelp reviews, and a decrease in foot traffic at your salon.

Open walk-in policy

Some salon owners accept walk-in appointments with open arms and take in new customers whenever possible, especially when first opening a salon.

The benefit of this is expanding your customer base and creating client relationships from the start. By allowing walk-ins, salon stylists have the opportunity to meet new customers, perfect their skills, and stay ahead of their competitors. An open walk-in policy also creates a great impression for a first-timer walking into your salon.

Alternatively, an open walk-in policy can create scheduling chaos and frustrate customers who have appointments that become delayed. A day can easily spiral out of control with long wait times that ultimately drive customers away. The Independent, reporting on the science behind lines, states that “Queues in a modern economy are inevitable, but they have the power to significantly sour a customer’s attitude toward a place.” So, it’s imperative to have a system that works.

Manage Your Walk-In and Regular Appointments

If you’ve decided to implement a walk-in appointment policy, you need to figure out how to build your clientele while maintaining client relationships at your salon.

Here are some salon management tips for how to best handle different types of appointment scheduling and balance both walk-ins and regulars at your salon.

Turn first-time visitors into loyal clients.

Your goal when taking walk-in customers is to convert them into loyal clients, so make sure your customer experience is exceptional. Creating a customer-first mindset in your salon sets you apart from your competition and ensures loyalty.

Your staff is the secret behind the frequency of client visits. Educate your team on the importance of rebooking customers for their next appointment in order to build client relationships. Because customers don’t usually like waiting around at the front desk after the service, have stylists talk about rebooking during their processing intermission or styling time.

You might also create an enticing customer loyalty program that helps maintain customer relationships and hook customers the first time they walk into your salon. Offer unbeatable discounts in the program that encourage walk-in clients to sign up after their first visit.

Hire the right team.

Your salon’s productivity, flexibility, and overall success are dependent on the stylists you hire. Finding the right stylists for your salon is crucial for the environment and growth of your business. You want to hire the right employees, ones who mirror your brand image and are passionate about their work. Once you create your dream team, you must learn how to create an optimal salon scheduling strategy that not only works for your salon but is also mindful of your staff.

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Dedicate walk-in customers to novice stylists.

This gives newer stylists the opportunity to fine-tune their skills while growing their book of business and building client relationships. When their client base expands, your salon’s profits grow as well.

Invest in your technology.

By investing in an integrated online scheduling system, clients—both new and loyal—can visit your website and check out stylists’ availability. Clients can submit appointment requests to your calendar, and you’ll receive a notification before accepting, which can eliminate the risk of scheduling conflicts.

Dedicate time for walk-in appointments.

Instruct stylists to set aside time in their schedule for walk-ins. By using business analytics software for your salon, you can analyse real-time reports that show your hourly sales. This can help you determine the hours that are less busy for your salon and dedicate them to walk-in appointments. Take it a step further and advertise this to the public as a time for walk-in visits.

Limit the services selection for walk-in customers.

Walk-in appointments can be nerve-wracking because stylists are unable to predict the amount of time needed for a service. To help prevent unexpected incidences with walk-in customers, you can limit the services available to them, for example, to haircuts only.

Incentivise and promote appointment scheduling.

As stated earlier, there are a variety of ways to incentivise booking an appointment online, instead of walking in. It is important that your scheduling software is user-friendly and that clients can access your calendar 24/7. The easier the booking process is, the more likely a client is to make an appointment online. Some salons offer additional service discounts for those who book appointments ahead of time as another way to entice people to book an appointment before walking in. And you can even extend those service discounts to accept online payments for services before the appointment is performed.

Ultimately, it is essential to align your walk-in policy with your growth strategy. For newer salons looking to establish their brand and rapidly grow their client base, having an open-door policy for walk-ins is more beneficial. Established salons might consider enforcing stricter policies so they can focus on maximising scheduling efficiency and maintain their client relationships.

Regardless of your salon’s stage, finding a balance between regular and walk-in appointments helps you create new client relationships and maintain your current base—both crucial for your salon’s well-being.

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