Simple Improvements to Retain More Clients

Author: Elizabeth Morris   |   Originally posted on Stylist Newspapers on January 01, 2017

There’s no real telling where our bad habits come from. Something small we do grows into a complete process without us actually realizing it.

Trying to pinpoint the source of our daily protocols is sometimes near impossible. Rather than try and spend time identifying the original source it is more important to be regularly aware of these bad habits and change them as quickly as possible.

Self-awareness both personally and in the business sense is an important topic. Why? Because it is so vital to inciting change. Without awareness you cannot change what is ailing you or your business. And change is what brings new opportunities.

This subject came to mind specifically after chatting with a hairstylist during the holidays. I finally took a moment to get my hair some much needed attention. After chatting with my stylist for a few moments we got on the subject of business and she began to explain her frustrations to me. This stylist suffers from the same issues I see and hear almost daily. She is a booth renter who is 100 percent responsible for building and maintaining her own clientele; she struggles with politics in the salon; she relies too heavily on the front desk and she feels stuck in a rut. The main issue in all of this boiled down to client acquisition and retention and I think this experience applies to many beauty professionals.

One of the main points that caught my attention was her habits throughout every appointment. She was doing all the right things, saying all the right things, but there were some common issues with her business approach. For example, relying on the salon’s front desk for booking and rebooking. As a booth renter in a salon that has a front desk this is usually a strange gray area, where technically the service provider should manage their own calls, but the convenience and professionalism offered by a front desk receptionist is hard to pass up.

This is a common mistake in the salon and many nail techs and stylists are unaware of how much potential business they are losing by not taking better control of their booking process. Yes, having a receptionist is great because it provides a professional image and prevents the service providers from having to be on the phone during appointments; but at the same time the front desk can become a crutch and the receptionist is not really incentivized to ensure new clients end up with you nor that your clients actually come back.

The real person who should be focusing on creating an excellent rebooking process is the service provider. However, this task of creating a streamlined booking and rebooking process usually gets abandoned quickly because the service provider either gives up or they start to take it for granted the front desk will complete this task.

To further explain let’s look at a typical service. Normally the service provider greets the client, provides the service, completes the appointment, and then says thank you and guides the client to the front desk to rebook before saying goodbye. The client gets left up front and the service provider carries on with their next guest. First, handing off to the front desk is mistake number one but I will discuss that more in a moment. Let’s start with the timing of this process and when the rebooking conversation actually happens.

It is extremely common for service providers to wait until the end of the appointment to ask about rebooking the client. Now there are most likely beauty pros who see no issue with this, but there’s a fatal error happening here. The key error is the waiting until the end to address your desire to rebook the client.

What ends up happening in this type of process is the service provider and the client are both in the wrong frame of mind at the end of the appointment and often feel rushed or disinterested. There’s an air of stress most beauty pros have experienced often. This can be very subtle but it is there. Clients are just looking to pay and leave and the service provider is looking to start their next appointment. So when you try to talk about rebooking only at the end of the appointment it can become a negative experience for both parties. You’re trying to achieve something important but at the most inopportune moment so it becomes a burden and you end up getting the quick response, “I’ll call as I don’t know my schedule yet” or something of that nature.

After discussing this point with my hairstylist she seemed intrigued. Instead of waiting until the end I suggested a couple of simple changes. In the middle of the appointment while the client is still focused and comfortable and the service provider has a bit of time to kill (i.e. during color processing, gel removal, massage, etc.) why not discuss the importance of rebooking?

It may seem a bit strange at first but it actually works very well. The middle of the appointment is not stressful for either person, and it allows you to take a moment to explain to your client (especially new clients) about how you operate your business and the important role they play in your success. If you’re up front with your clients about wanting to keep them, and you also discuss this at a more opportune moment like during the appointment instead of at the end, clients are more likely to be receptive to committing to a future appointment. I recommend telling new and existing clients:

You are so thankful for their business. You want to continue to be their service provider and that you offer incentives to loyal clients who rebook and keep their appointments consistently. That rebooking ahead of time and keeping the appointment allows both persons to organize their days and ensures a healthy and happy client/service provider relationship.

Incentives could be as simple as a small discount on their next appointment or a free massage if they both rebook now and also keep their appointment without last minute changes/cancellations.

Clients tend to take it for granted you are always going to be available and they also don’t think of the financial consequences of what last minute no-shows can mean for a booth renter. At the end of the day it’s not their job to care, but it is your job to entice the correct behavior by rewarding them for the good more so than punishing for the bad. I hear a lot of beauty pros opting to just enforce cancellation fees, but that doesn’t really fix the problem. Yes you will get some money to cover that blank spot on your schedule, but you’ll also end up with a disenchanted client who is very unlikely to return. Instead of opting to punish the bad, think about what you could be doing to entice them to be good. And pick something easy for you to achieve that costs little in time and money to offer.

A $5 or $10 discount might be a good start with a new client, but then you can evolve your incentives into a free extended scalp massage or a deep conditioning treatment. Even clients that have been with you for a long time should continue to receive perks as it shows them your commitment, makes each visit special, and if (and when) they cheat on you (which every client will at some point) they will immediately realize what they are missing.

On top of correct timing and incentives, the way to truly seal the deal is to maintain control of your booking to ensure it actually happens. Even if you have to write down appointments with pen and paper first and have the front desk enter them in at the end of the day, at least, you are able to ensure your clients are rebooking and you are creating the correct behaviors and habits you want for your clientele. If you’ve already discussed the rebooking during a calm time in the appointment and you’ve offered an incentive for them to rebook, then the follow-through needs to be getting both your phones out to get the appointment on the calendar.

Your front desk, if you have one, is definitely a useful tool but don’t forget you are the only one who truly cares about your business. Take the reins, keep your clients rewarded for good behavior, follow-through with your process and you are guaranteed to keep more clients.