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How do I stand out in a crowded market? | Phil Smith

March 30, 2022

Ss one of the most respected names in the hairdressing world, Phil Smith has built salon empires, launched multi-million selling haircare ranges and won countless awards for his business acumen. Here, he tackles your tricky post-Pandemic business issues…

“My salon has always enjoyed a good reputation but with two new salons opening in my town I’m worried about what it takes to stand out in what’s becoming a crowded market.”


“Simple answer? It’s exceptional customer service that makes your salon stand out above the rest. You could have the best stylists, a brilliant location and the fanciest products on your shelf but unless your clients – new and existing – love the whole experience of visiting your salon they could be tempted to look elsewhere. Notice how I didn’t talk about being price competitive. Yes, you need to keep an eye on what your market can sustain but if you offer a service that’s worth every penny, you can always justify your price list.

Customer service needs to be seamless on every level and it’s a requirement you should hammer home to the team every day. Being greeted with a smile from the front desk and feeling comfortable with the person holding the scissors is just a small part of what it takes. The whole process of ‘getting your hair done’ can be elevated with not a huge amount of effort. Here’s how…


I’ll admit it, I like drinking quality wine, I enjoy visiting nice restaurants. Do they cost more? Yes. But I also appreciate them above the average high street restaurant or supermarket wine.

If you ask me, it’s not about how much you spend but more about the value you are getting for it. When I go to a smart hotel or bar for a drink, it’s the touches that make it more special. For instance, a friendly, professional greeting, attentive service, and an atmosphere that hasn’t scrimped on details. I always use this as an example of how I can improve things at my salon.

Could it be that you throw in a conditioning treatment for every client, a complimentary head massage, better coffee in the machine, a nicely designed drinks menu at every chair, freshly laundered gowns that smell amazing, flowers from the market on the reception desk. All relatively low cost but their perceived value is priceless. 


You could say our primary objective when a customer walks through the door is to make them LOOK a million dollars. But what about how they FEEL? There’s been a surge in people’s awareness of self-care and a visit to the salon can come almost top of that list.

As hairdressers, we have a duty to make the outcome of every appointment not just a great haircut and colour but a feeling of wellbeing too. Getting a haircut is not the same as going to the supermarket. It’s an investment in image and self-worth. We may not be psychotherapists but dig a little deeper into the emotional value of hairdressing and you’re onto a winner.


Even when you try your hardest there will be areas you can improve on. How will you know? By asking for, monitoring and reviewing your customer’s feedback. Constructive criticism is worthwhile whether you’re starting out or been in business for years.

I’m the first to admit that everyone can get complacent but you should never take a good reputation for granted. You won’t be judged merely on the technical quality of your team, a bad review is far more likely to be about the service. A relationship of trust is crucial. On the rare occasion things don’t go right, we want the opportunity to sort it out.

That requires our client to feel comfortable enough to raise any issues, whether that’s directly with their stylist, or with someone else in the team. Bad hair can be fixed, bad service is rarely forgiven.


Customer service begins as soon as your client walks through the door. In fact, let me correct myself – it starts even before that. Customer service is how your business comes across at every touchpoint.

How user-friendly is your website? What have you invested into making your shopfront appealing? Is your phone answered in a timely and professional way? It really is important to invest in customer service on every level. And not just when it comes to attracting new clients. I’d say it’s even more important to look after the ones you already have.

There’s a huge amount of effort and cost that goes into attracting new clientele so it makes sense to invest in the ones you already have. 

Our goal is to have customers who just wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else to get their hair done. Try not to worry too much about what other salons in your area are doing – in my experience there is plenty of room for everyone. My best advice is to give your clients more than just an amazing haircut and they’ll keep coming back for more.

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