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Who Owns the Salon/Spa Client?
February 15, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments
Everyone knows about the “walls,” though few openly speak of them. These are the invisible barriers that stand between stations, between technical and guest services, between staff and ownership.
- Everyone agrees the walls should come down, but few know where to begin. The fact is, many of these barriers can be circumvented, and eventually torn down, by a new approach to client service.
The question of who “owns” the client is central to the thinking of most stylists and technicians, because they want to own as many as possible. This is especially prevalent in commission salons/spas where income is based solely on individual service and retail sales. In such circumstances, more clients equal more money. But this mentality builds those infamous invisible barriers within the salon.
Everyone who works does so, at least partly, in the pursuit of money. Working long hours in order to live well is a common endeavor. But at what point do customer relations begin to suffer?
- When salon stylists and technicians become more concerned with the quantity of clients they serve than with their quality of service, the finer points of customer relations easily fall through the cracks.
Who “owns” the clients in your salon or spa? If the business model is based on individual book building, service providers naturally assume that clients belong to them. This is the way many owners “train” new staff members to think and act.
- How much more profitable and comfortable would the salon/spa be if all clients were loyal to the business?
- How much more at ease would clients feel?
- The client is the reason the salon exists. And if customer service is truly your salon’s highest priority, there is no room for proprietary notions from staff or owners.
- SUPERB CLIENT CARE – absolutely. CLIENT OWNERSHIP – absolutely not.
Most salon and day spa owners are realizing that encouraging employees to build individual followings is self-defeating. They understand that building proprietary clienteles within the business is not only divisive – but also destructive.
- If you’re afraid the staff will walk with “their clients” – you designed your business for that scenario to occur.
Many salon businesses are operated in such a way that they are destined to fragment themselves. It all depends on the way an owner chooses to construct – or not to construct – the culture of the business. If allowed to evolve without guidance, that culture will not be what you want it to be.
Owners who work in the business: Is one of the reasons you work so hard as a service provider for protection to survive a walkout? If so, it’s time for grass-roots changes. It all starts with a progressive, four-pronged communication regimen. It’s time to stop shooting yourself in the foot.
OWNER TO STAFF: Do your employees have any idea of how difficult it is to own and operate a small business? Do they know what they need to do to play a part in growing a dynamic salon/spa business and brand? Your job will not get any easier until you bring the staff into it.
STAFF TO STAFF: Not everyone responds well to authoritative change. Target the key players, and get them talking to their peers. It’s amazing what a little peer pressure and friendly competition can do.
STAFF TO CLIENT: This is crucial. Clients may not be aware of the turmoil behind the scenes. They never should be. All they have to understand is that it is alright for them to utilize the skills of the entire salon/spa team. But the word must come from trusted technicians.
CLIENT TO CLIENT: This is gold for salons and spas. Referrals from the existing client base should be a primary fuel for growth. Get clients excited about team service and they will talk.
There are no winners in the battle over who owns the customer.
Salons/spas self-destruct when employees threaten to use this power. How devastating is a walkout with 25% or more of the client base? Owners either cower in fear or make reciprocal threats. But neither helps the business.
The most unsettling truth about owning a salon or day spa is the reality that a large segment of the customer base is often more loyal to specific individuals than they are to the business itself. While the business world is driving fast and furious toward team service, salons and spas are still driving individual relationships.
- Old systems like tracking request rates and “book building” are diametrically opposed to team service. It is the business design that needs to be refocused.
The following strategies will only require adjustments to systems and processes already in place at many salons and spas. Others may need to be planned and designed from scratch. Collectively, these strategies are designed to support and drive a team-service approach to servicing the needs of salon and spa customers. All emphasis is on placing the customer first.
CONSULTATIONS: Shout it Loud
First-visit consultations are the most overlooked opportunity to set up a team-service relationship and properly introduce new customers into your team-service approach. It must be communicated to every customer.
- How many existing customers would love to experience the skills of other team members, but feel uncomfortable doing so?
- Customers are often afraid of hurting a stylist’s feelings if they sit in another chair. Design an existing customer update consultation. Invest in the education of your retained customers by updating them on the benefits of your new team-service concept.
- An investment of only five to ten minutes can result in significant sales gains and ensure long-term retention to the salon.
Track Retention … Not Request
Request tracking is the mechanism that drives individual followings. If your business uses individual request rates as the basis for raises and advancement … STOP. All request rates tell you is which employees are building followings.
- First-time and Existing Retention tracking should replace all request tracking systems. “How many new came in, how many returned to the business.”
- Make client retention performance a key requirement for pay advancement.
- Request tracking is old technology.
Build Trust Through Consistency
Customers often lock onto one individual because they don’t trust the ability of the team to offer technical and service consistency throughout the salon.
- Developing a formal skill certification program is no longer an option for salons/spa … it’s a must.
- Trust comes from consistency. Consistency requires education and certification.
- Aggressively promote your skill certification to new and existing clients.
Don’t Complicate Your Pricing
Multi-level pricing can get out of control and complicate client movement throughout the team. Two or three levels should be sufficient for most salons.
- If clients are questioning why the pricing is different every time they visit another stylist, it’s time to flatten and simplify your price structure.
Waiting Lists vs. Time Available
It doesn’t make sense to have clients waiting to spend money when there is time and skill available for sale. Educate the team that everyone is responsible for every hour available for sale. The more you become a Team-Service Salon/Spa … the faster waiting lists will shrink and overall productivity rates increase.
Teams Think Wide … Not Narrow
Growing individual columns on the appointment book is about building individuals. Teams grow strong dynamic businesses and brands.