“Traditionally, a lot of men viewed a haircut as nothing more than a task to be crossed off a list. Now they can and should expect better for themselves.”
- Erich Herman,
owner, 18|18, Elm Grove, Wisconsin.
When it comes to caring for their appearance, men are changing their behaviors and expectations. Adapting to those changes is critical for any strong barbershop business, to ensure a reliable base of engaged, satisfied guests.
To understand how top barbershops are addressing men’s experiences, we gathered top tips from barbershop owners, to help impress your guests and keep them coming back time after time.
1. Offer guests the convenience of online booking
Gone are the days where men didn’t mind taking a seat in the waiting room until their barber was ready. Today’s guests want to enjoy their cut soon after they arrive and then get on with their day. Online booking capabilities help make this happen, as Ruffians CEO Andrew Cannon explains.
“Enabling guests to book online 24/7 gives them the convenience to know they only have to come in for their appointment time,” says Cannon. “Then they can leave and get back to their busy lives. You can even go a step further with a personalized brand app, which means you’re available on their phone whenever they need you.”
Jesse Pooni, Franchise Owner at three Tommy Gun’s Original Barbershop locations, recommends taking appointments, even if a formal online booking system isn’t yet in place.
“With COVID, we’ve especially noticed that people are more sensitive to time. Everyone is in a hurry,” says Pooni. “While we don’t have online booking yet, we try to give guests a rough time that we can get them in.”
2. Provide a personalized barbershop guest experience
To better serve each guest – and free up staff time – barbershops can add a digital kiosk at the front door. A kiosk brings a lot of perks: guests can take control by adding their name to a waitlist, viewing current wait times, selecting a preferred barber, and more.
It’s important, however, not to let a technology solution eliminate opportunities for greeting and personalization. Instead, a kiosk is best seen as removing administrative check-in work so staff can focus on a warm welcome and conversations that focus on the individual.
“Having a kiosk and then no staff member to welcome guests as they walk in is a huge miss,” explains Pooni. “Someone welcoming them starts the whole experience, builds the relationship, and helps create long-term loyalty to the business.”
Barbershop owners also agree on the value of personalization. As Cannon explains, “Being able to say, ‘oh hi Edward, how are you?’ when someone walks through the door goes a long way to showing you care.”
Dan, General Manager of the Jed’s Barbershop brand offers a valuable reminder about how guests think about their visits.
“Remember that you're not selling haircuts. What gets people coming back is not the haircut – it's that they want to go there. Is it worth going to? Does the staff make them feel like they belong?”
“If you go to a barbershop and there's no personalization, why would you go back? Know your brand before you start out, and make sure you know what you want to be known for.”
3. Build a loyal team
With repercussions from the COVID pandemic and Great Resignation still felt across the industry, retaining top employees remains as important as ever. To hold on to great talent, barbershop owners are making employee satisfaction a priority.
“My biggest piece of advice is to prioritize your recruiting, onboarding, education, and team development,” says Erich Herman of 18|18 Fine Men’s Salon of Elm Grove. “More than anything else you do, this will determine the success of your salon or barbershop.”
“As owners, our primary job is to ensure that our people are not only motivated, challenged, and fulfilled, but also well-compensated, supported with benefits, enjoy a work/life balance, receive continuous education, and understand how their performance impacts their career path.”
Michael Portman, Co-Founder of Birds Barbershop suggests it’s most important to “hire to compliment your strengths.” Pooni recommends prioritizing compensation. “Get strong retail managers that you can trust and pay them what they are worth,” he explains, “because having trusted employees makes a huge difference and will help you and your business in the long run.”
4. Always deliver value
Barbershops that want to stand out in the market must start by delivering a guest experience that meets or exceeds expectations. Pooni advises “If you deliver on the experience, then guests clearly see the value. A person choosing to visit a barbershop that offers a $15 haircut will likely have lower expectations than if they visited a barbershop that offers $40 cuts. Ensure you match these expectations by having the right people to provide the service, and treating each guest like a king when they walk in.”
Herman shares the focus of 18|8: “Transform a basic transactional interaction into a full-service experience.”
“A visit starts with world-class hospitality from the moment a guest walks through our front door,” details Herman. “That includes unique amenities like a robe to keep him dry and hair-free, and shampoo bowls built into every station so he never needs to move during his visit. But the primary reason so many men select our salon is our commitment to our craft and ability to deliver expertly hand-crafted haircuts that are customized to each specific head shape and hair type.”
For Cannon, value at Ruffians comes down to the “extra gift” barbershops can provide guests via technology. “I can capture all their details to market to them and build friendships, rapport, and trust very quickly. Likewise, when they walk out the door, technology allows the whole experience to be seamless.”
The Ruffians team goes a step further by offering unexpected social events their target audience will enjoy, such as a whiskey night or an art exhibition. These are designed to deliver value outside the traditional appointment experience, building upon the brand experience and keeping Ruffians top-of-mind with guests.
5. Use cloud software to manage the business
The final tip from barbershop owners is to choose a complete software solution that makes it easier to run a successful barbershop brand.
“Stop using pieces of paper,” implores Cannon. “Use a software system because everything is seamless. You’ll enjoy it and so will your staff and guests. Plus, with everything in the cloud, you are connected to it wherever and whenever you are and can see what’s going on in the business at all times."
Barbershops with a complete cloud software solution can manage every aspect of their business from a single platform – for instance, easy access to guest information can be used to elevate the appointment experience and strengthen and simplify marketing efforts. Cannon uses the Zenoti technology platform to automate Ruffians’ marketing efforts, which the CEO finds “invaluable.”
“We can tell if a regular guest hasn’t been in for a few weeks and automatically send them a reminder text or email to encourage them to book.”
Finally, offering men a digital experience brings barbershops up to date with so many other consumer interactions. Software conveniences such as online check-in and digital payments deliver speed, ease, and personalization – similar to pre-ordering at Starbucks using an app or presetting your preferences for a ride-share experience.
Regardless of the digital conveniences, Cannon does recommend barbers have time for a wrap-up chat with guests.
“All barbers at Ruffians are encouraged to close the appointment by asking their guest how they enjoyed their experience and where they’re headed next. We can remember these details and continue to build rapport when they next come in.”