4 Best Practices to Handle a Wait at Your Spa or Salon – So your clients still get a great customer experience


I spent my Friday evening at a spa. My experience didn’t start out luxurious or relaxing like a spa experience should. But I did enjoy a glass of red wine while there.

I had a 5:30 pm appointment. Downtown no less. I left my office 50 minutes before my appointment to ensure I was on time. I very much wanted to respect the spa staff and other customers by making my appointment time. I’m glad I left early because I encountered not one, but 3 car accidents that brought traffic to a halt on the expressway.

But I made it to my appointment just fine and in fact, I was a couple minutes early. Whew!

I walk into the spa and…I see no one! I stood at the front counter for what felt like several minutes, though it was probably less than a minute. What I recall clearly is that no one was there to welcome me into the spa.

Momentarily, the spa owner appeared and greeted me enthusiastically. She told me she’d let my guy know I had arrived. And then she led me to a dark room illuminated only by candles and invited me to have a seat. And she offered me wine, which I accepted gladly.

There I sat in the candlelit room for nearly 30 minutes sipping my wine. No one checked on me. There were no updates on my estimated wait. Because the room was so dark, I couldn’t even while away the time with a book. If only I had brought my Kindle. Then I could read in the dark.

I just sat there sipping my wine. In the dark. And thinking about how I took such care to arrive on time….I carefully allowed plenty of time for the drive. And I recalled how I stressed about arriving on time when I encountered heavy traffic and traffic accidents. I wished the spa took as much care in getting me serviced on time. I continued to sip my wine.

My guy appeared in the dark waiting area just shy of 30 minutes past my scheduled appointment time. He was apologetic and gracious.

I was pleased with the service experience from that point on. But my overall experience was negative, based on my first impression.

Customers will have to wait from time to time. The wait doesn’t have to ruin the customer’s spa experience. All you have to do is follow a few simple tips to turn lemons into lemonade when clients have to wait.

The basics are:

1. Greet clients immediately

First impressions are the most impacting in the overall customer experience. When clients walk into your spa or salon, make sure they are greeted within 10 seconds of entering the salon or within 10 feet of entering. This is known as the rule of 10-10 and if you’re one of my retail, spa, restaurant or library clients, you’ve heard me preach about this.

2. Provide a comfortable waiting area

There will be times when clients have to wait and that is really okay. Provide a waiting area that is comfortable, exquisitely designed and well lit. While spas tend to be dimly lit, the waiting areas need to be well lit. Clients need light in order to interact with each other and the light gives them the opportunity to read or work comfortably on phones or tablets. If you serve a drink to clients, make sure they have a table to place their drinks on.

3. Check-in on waiting guests

After about 10 minutes, waiting clients begin to feel frustrated. Check in to give clients updates and to see if you can offer them water, tea, wine or whatever. Checking in puts clients at ease and keeps them from wondering if you’ve forgotten about them.

4. Apologize genuinely for the wait – and explain why the wait occurred

Welcome the waiting clients with enthusiasm, like my guy did. Then, offer a sincere apology with an explanation of why the wait occurred. For example, “Good evening. How are you? I’m really sorry about the wait. My last client arrived half an hour late and that threw my schedule off.”

Greet clients immediately, make their wait comfortable, provide updates and genuinely apologize for the delay. When you do, you’ll make the wait more pleasant and you won’t leave clients with a negative impression. 

What would it be like to sit down in a cafe and talk over a latte with a trusted colleague, who knew enough to help you position your employees to deliver the best possible customer experience, and who could help you relieve stress on your employees as they deal with challenging customers and tough situations?

It would look a LOT like my newsletter.

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