How to Create a Socially Distanced Front-Desk Experience

Your front desk sets the stage for your clients’ entire experience with you. It’s the first physical contact they have with your salon or spa, and it’s usually the first moment they can connect with you and start to unwind.

With social distancing in full effect, that moment may now happen not at a traditional reception desk but at your front door, your client’s car, or on an outdoor patio. And for many people, even if they’ve been your client for years, it can be fraught with anxiety because of the pandemic.

With the reception desk now taking on a different meaning, how can you and your staff continue to create that friendly experience while following COVID-19 guidelines? Use these front-desk best practices to maintain the relaxing and thoughtful atmosphere your clients are used to.

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Connect before the appointment

Your reception area is a space where your clients can say hello and prepare to be immersed in the service they’re about to experience. Your regular clients likely feel close to you, so this moment can be hard to give up. To prevent lingering and extended chitchat while still keeping that personal connection, message your clients before their visit.

If your appointment scheduling software offers the ability to customize the automated email reminder, consider using it to share details about what customers should expect during the appointment. For massage therapists, that might include information on how to prep in the room before the massage starts, and what to expect when the massage is over. This not only helps clients feel more prepared before the appointment, but it can also help you and your team cut down on the appointment time.

If you’re asking clients to sign waivers, make sure this is done digitally before the appointment, to help you streamline the process and minimize your client’s time in your salon or spa.

Staff appropriately

Before your client arrives at your reception desk or check-in area, you want to be sure someone will be there to help them kick off their appointment. This will also prevent lines from forming as customer demand increases, and if your staff happens to have multiple bookings at the same time.

Match your bookings with your employee schedule so you can ensure the right number of staff will be there to assist your clients. To make staff scheduling easier, look into appointment booking software that has employee scheduling features.

Personalize the visit, right when they enter

Your clients come to you for the incredible pedicure, deep tissue massage, or balayage treatment you offer. But they also visit you because of that personal connection. If you know your client likes a certain artist, play that music when they enter. If you know they prefer a certain nail color, have those bottles displayed before they arrive.

Even if you have to limit the time you spend with your clients, you can still show your appreciation for those relationships by starting their experience the moment they step through the door.

Speed up the check-in process

Checking in might be the first interaction your customers have with you. To decrease the amount of time it takes, share check-in instructions in your clients’ reminder or confirmation emails, instead of talking about it at the front desk.

Speeding up the check-in process helps things run smoothly on the operations front, allowing you to keep appointments on time and enabling you to see more clients, which is especially important with reduced capacity. It can also help both you and your client stick to health and safety guidelines, since they won’t have to wait.

Make your reception area feel clean yet inviting

Whether your front desk is actually a front desk, or you’re meeting customers with your phone or mobile POS system, it’s important to declutter the initial space clients enter. Since the front desk represents your business, you want it to match your brand’s look and feel, while also showing that you’re adhering to health and safety protocols.

Part of that means that you and your team need to stick to the COVID-19 safety guidelines and sanitation requirements for your local area and industry. Beyond masks, depending on what your business requires, this could include setting up plexiglass barriers or wearing face shields, gowns, and other protective equipment. Even if it feels sterile and strange at first, it shows your clients that you care about their well-being.

You also want to create a relaxing space for your clients, which is even more important these days. Depending on the type of service you offer, that may mean bringing in fresh flowers, lighting candles, running essential oil diffusers, or playing soft music.

Select the right hardware setup

Another crucial aspect of your front-desk experience is your hardware setup. You want to make the right impression, and don’t want to have too many items crowding your spa or salon reception desk.

“We are in a little town that is only 25,000 people,” said Teresa Kuhbacher, the owner of Lil’ Tiffany’s Spa in Gillette, Wyoming. “So customers love when they walk in and see the look of the Square Register. When you walk in, it’s the first thing they see, and it’s a sleek look. We always get comments that the spa looks good because of that.”

Invest in modern hardware that allows you to do everything you need from one place. With tools like Square Appointments on Square Register, you can create a more unified experience when clients check in and out. “Before we had to download everything on phones, and then we had an iPad where everyone had to go,” explained Kuhbacher. “We were using six different devices. Now the receptionist can do everything in one.”

Rethink the waiting area

If customers have to wait before their appointment, make that area feel private and safe.

That may mean temporarily moving furniture that encourages close seating, like a loveseat, and replacing it with spaced-out chairs. Remove smaller shared items, like magazines, and rethink any refreshments you used to offer. For instance, sending clients home with prepackaged treats or individually wrapped tea and coffee pouches could be a way to extend the relaxing feeling of their appointment beyond your space.

You may also want to set up an outside area that allows for social distancing and fresh air. Or, you can encourage clients to stay in their cars until you notify them that you’re ready to start the appointment.

Speed up the checkout process

You want your clients to feel pampered throughout their visit, not stressed while fishing out their credit card or seeing another customer enter. That’s why it’s crucial to make the checkout experience as quick as possible.

Look into POS hardware that offers touch-free payments and can store clients’ credit cards on file for automatic billing. “Some of our clients were concerned about COVID-19,” said Kuhbacher. “So they love that they can do contactless payments with their phone or even their watch, and that’s usually what they use now. Or they book and prepay from home.”

Remote payments can also help your clients leave your space fast, so they can spend time paying and adding a tip without having to stay inside your business.

Your front-desk experience isn’t the same. Your business likely isn’t either. But there are ways to make your salon or spa experience feel special while still protecting your staff and clients.