Words Can Cost or Make You Money

Front desk employee

Did you know during the average client’s visit, they have one interaction with their stylist, and four interactions with the front desk? From the initial phone call to the salon, all the way to checkout, the front desk staff is continually engaged with clients.

But often, they’re the last to receive credit or acknowledgment when things go well, and the first to be blamed when things go wrong.

Lance Courtney, international business trainer and certified dream coach, says this is why your front desk needs purposeful training to give them the confidence to become one of your salon’s main profit centers.

Train Your Pilots

With the right infrastructure and tools, Courtney says the front desk can be your biggest asset.


Lance Courtney

“You have to flip the script so the customer isn’t initiating everything,” he says. “There should be no more receptionists at your salon—only front desk pilots who are piloting all the activity taking place in the salon.”

The pilot makes and confirms the reservation, and takes the customer through their experience at the salon, stabilizing the guest experience.

“The front desk should be trained to create an experience the guest responds and reacts to,” he explains.

And it all starts with the phone greeting. Courtney says “pilots” should NOT:

  • Put people on hold
  • Forget to give their name/name of salon
  • Forget to ask for the client’s name


Another tip from Courtney:

Thank you doesn’t initiate a conversation, it completes it.”

So when answering the phone, “It’s a great day for hair color at Salon Style” is a better way to kick off the call than “Thank you for calling Salon Style.”

From there, Courtney outlines his “Top Gun” greeting:

  1. Start with a simple, defining statement that powerfully captures the curiosity, attention and interest of your guests. Change the initial greeting depending on the season, and do it in three seconds. Even a quick, “We appreciate your call at Salon Style” is effective.
  2. Give your business name and your name, because in order to receive, you have to give.
  3. Retrieve the guest’s first name.
  4. Address the guest by name and offer to help. “Hi Sarah, how can I support you today?”
  5. If there is a guest or call ahead of theirs, inform the guest and ask permission to place them on hold.


This system reduces call time and creates a better experience for the customer.

Once your staff is trained to answer the phone “Top Gun” style each and every time, it’s time to focus on utilizing them as a profit center.

“Are they making money or costing money?” Courtney asks. “Train them to ‘Question, Answer, Close,’ and they can make money for your business.”

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Below is an example of Courtney’s QAC (Question, Answer, Close) strategy:

Client calls into salon, and after initial greeting, the conversation goes like this:

Client: How much are your body massages?
Front Desk: Great question, Tina. Do you want a 30, 60 or 90-minute massage? What sounds best to you?
Client: Well, an hour.
FD: Great, that’s only $75. Is it for you or someone else?
Client: For me.
FD: When would you like to come in?

This conversation answers the client’s questions and leads them directly into an appointment without giving them the opportunity to change their mind.

One area Courtney says sales often fall through at the front desk is hair extensions. Because extensions require a consultation for accurate pricing, clients often call the salon, and are told they can’t learn about pricing until they come in for a consultation, giving them plenty of time to back out.

Courtney recommends handling the extension conversation as follows:

Client: Do you offer hair extensions?
Front Desk: Absolutely, Suzanne, what has you interested in extensions—volume, length or chemical-free color?
Caller: I guess a little bit of each, but more volume. How much do you charge?
FD: Great question, we start at X for volume, depending on your hair. When would be best for you to come in for a consultation and color match? The beginning of the week?

The confirmation call is another area of opportunity. It’s usually considered a low-value interaction, but Courtney says it’s the perfect time for add-on services.


Front Desk: Hello Jill, I’m calling to confirm your appointment on Wednesday. We also have a manicure available. If you would like to enjoy that with your treatment, please call us back at 555-1234 and we’ll be happy to add that to your experience while it’s still available. Thank you, and have an outstanding day.

Courtney emphasizes that it’s not about adding on the sale, it’s about adding value. Your front desk should be trained to make life easier for the client. He likens it to buying a coffee maker from Amazon.

If you purchase a coffee maker, Amazon asks if you want to buy coffee filters to go with it. They’re making life easier for their customers by thinking for and about them.

“So it’s not a confirmation call, it’s a contribution,” Courtney says. “You’re adding value with services that are easy to upgrade and add-on.

“The customer has already committed to coming into the salon, their credit card is on file, so figure out what else could enhance their experience. It’s your job to educate, and their job to choose.”

Front Desk at Gina Conway Salon | Source:
Front Desk at Gina Conway Salon | Source:

The Phrase that Pays

Certain words or phrases are apt to give a client pause. For example, saying, “I don’t know” essentially says, “I’m really not interested in getting you that information.” Courtney says instead to say, “I’ll find out” or “I’ll look into it.”

These “power phrases” inspire people rather than causing them to stop in their tracks the way a “caution phrase” does.

Here are some common caution phrases and the power phrases to replace them.

Train your front desk to watch their words, and watch your profits increase.

Caution Phrase: You’re welcome
Power Phrase: My pleasure

CP: You said
PP: I heard

CP: Calm down
PP: I understand/You’re right

CP: No
PP: Say yes and redirect with actual details

CP: How are you doing?
PP: Good morning/afternoon

CP: Fine
PP: Fabulous

CP: Unfortunately, Sarah is booked today
PP: Fortunately, Sarah has an opening tomorrow…

CP: Buy, pay
PP: Get, have

CP: Price, cost
PP: Investment, total

CP: Try, can’t, won’t
PP: Do, can, will

Words are powerful, and with the proper training, your front desk can improve customer service and add profit to your bottom line.


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