Over the past few months I have been all over New Zealand doing a series of seminars in Skin 101. An integral aspect of my message is the importance of conducting a thorough skin analysis for clients as part of the retail sales process. The obvious connection is that by telling and showing the customer what the condition of their skin is like, then they will want to buy the products you recommend to improve it. However, I believe that by conducting a skin analysis you are actually doing and saying a whole lot more.
Let me explain…..
Become an expert.
Beauty therapists are experts in the skin. There are very few people in your community that know more about the condition and care of the skin than you do. Certainly, we know that our customers don’t. They don’t know the difference between dry or dehydrated skin, what is healthy oil flow or not, they have no idea what is causing their acne and they turn to us for help. This makes you an expert. One of the easiest ways to demonstrate your expertise is to conduct a full diagnostic skin analysis. It immediately places you in a position of expertise and control. You have the perfect opportunity to display your knowledge and confidently educate your client. Firstly, with what you see and secondly with what you determine they need. Your clients are far more inclined to listen to your recommendations if they are confident you know what you are doing. The skin consultation phase of their visit gives you an opportunity to display your professionalism. That’s why confident, well-trained therapists have no trouble recommending retail products to their clients. Their clients actually trust their expertise.
Conducting an analysis of the skin
One of the disciplines that experienced therapists have a habit of doing daily, is the task of doing homework on their clients. Much can be gleaned about a client’s skin just by looking at what products they have purchased, what treatments they have had and how often they visit the salon. Notes about a client’s skin from previous visits or suggestions made to the client at their last consultation can assist greatly in preparing for a customer’s skin consultation. Doing homework means that you recommend products that they do not already have. Reminders about products that should be running out can be made, reiteration of past suggestions can be reinforced and clues as to what to look for in a client’s skin condition can be found. All this can be achieved easily just by looking closely at the client’s history. The therapist can have thought through their suggestions and mentally prepared for each client, they can prepare their treatment rooms with appropriate products and equipment and they can learn about the products they will be recommending even before their client enters the salon. This gives therapists a focus for each client, which in turn enables the consultation to be conducted with the confidence of an expert.
- Ask your client about their concerns
Even though you have done your homework on your clients, it is important to ask them what their concerns are about their skin. My favourite question is:
If you could change one thing about your skin, what would it be? It is a direct question that will usually result in the client telling you their greatest concerns. I have often heard therapists ask the more general question of:
“Do you have any concerns regarding your skin?” Only to be told:
“No, not really.”
The real reason for asking such questions is to listen carefully to the answer and then show off your expertise by digging deeper with further probing questions to isolate either the exact concern or what might be causing the problem. I encourage therapists to write down notes to show the client that they really are listening and really do care.
- Look at the skin
If ever there was an area of training every therapist should constantly be practising, then diagnostic skin analysis is it! It is the key to determining client treatments and home care, effectively providing the client with the best result possible. For this reason, I ask therapists to map out the face and draw what they see on this map. Many clients have a better understanding of the technical terms such as pigmentation, dehydration, couperose, rosacea, lipids, epidermis and the like, if they can see it represented on paper. It makes the condition seem more real. Remember when looking at the skin to look for the areas of concern that the client mentioned.
I love skin scanners and the latest technology in photographic and video imaging because the client can see exactly what you see and can easily identify what you are talking about. But a Woods Lamp or even a Maggi Lamp in the hands of a skilled therapist can still provide the perfect opportunity to show off their expertise.
- Today’s Treatment
I have considered not having facials with names on a pricelist because this places the choice of treatment in the hands of the customer who rarely knows what their true skin condition is. How can they choose the most appropriate treatment when they cannot accurately assess their own skin? Surely, treatments should only be decided upon after a consultation and discussion about what would be best for each individual’s skin condition. For this reason, I ask therapists to be open to suggesting a change of treatment if it is not the most appropriate for that client’s skin type. Of course, there are constraints such as price and the amount of time allotted to that treatment when it was booked. However, in most cases there is plenty of flexibility available for an experienced therapist to suggest changes to bookings. This is also the perfect opportunity to up-sell the treatment.
- A Programme of Treatments
For the vast majority of our clients, they will never get a noticeable result with just one treatment. As experts we need to educate our clients about a plan or programme of treatments to best treat their concerns. This requires two important factors. First, the programme must contain a series of treatments that will compliment each other, building on the effects of the previous treatments and the home care routine the client follows. Secondly, each treatment on the programme must be spaced to maximise its effect for the client. Whoever decided that facials should be four weeks apart must have only had one client! It makes sense that every client will require different time frames between treatments depending on their skin condition and the type of facial they are having. By booking clients on programmes, there are no problems with rebooking and customers are less likely to try another salon’s services.
- Write out a Home Care Prescription
As vital as checking their skin and booking a programme of treatments is the issue of home care. The only way our clients are going to get results is to see a therapist regularly and to use salon exclusive home care products. By prescribing home care products as a part of the skin consultation you are connecting the on-going treatment that is done at home with their salon treatments. Write down the order they should use their products both in the morning and at night. Include the names of these products and any special application instructions. Don’t forget less regular products such as exfoliants and masques as well. Whenever I write out a prescription for home care, I imagine that I am writing it for a fifteen year old. That way I keep it simple and easy to follow. Watch as your clients start to tell you what they need to buy next, because you took the time to write them a prescription of home care products at their consultation.
The practice of conducting a skin consultation is the perfect opportunity to show off your salon’s best point of difference – Your expertise. As you can see it opens up numerous possibilities to display staff talent and knowledge, can be the best retail sales environment and is ideal for up-selling treatments to additional or more expensive services. Make sure your customers get this sort of expert attention and watch your salon profits grow!
Paul Carbis is widely recognised as one of the world’s foremost experts in the area of operating profitable beauty salons. He is invited around the world to speak at expos and conferences addressing salon owners and therapists with his highly entertaining, yet always educational seminars. Working with many of the major product brands around the world as well as mentoring salon owners and facilitating in – salon staff training, Paul provides a unique perspective on how successful salons are run. Click here to Contact Paul for your next staff training
With several degrees under my belt, a number of different business interests and my role as a business consultant many people would think that I would be fairly independent when it comes to running my businesses. In fact, one of the first rules I learnt about being successful in business was to understand what your own strengths and weaknesses are and seek professional help in the areas you are not strong in. For example, I do not try and do my own accounting. I rely on an expert in this field who is both well trained and efficient in this area of expertise. Similarly, I utilise knowledge of an experienced travel agent to recommend and book all my overseas travel arrangements (Back in the days when we could travel overseas!). Utilising the specific skills of these people means that I get professional advice, efficient service and less costly mistakes. In the long run my business is more profitable.
I apply exactly the same rules to running beauty salons. Despite having many years experience in the industry, despite brilliant hands-on skills and despite dedicating long hours to their businesses, many salon owners are now turning to business and training professionals to assist them in growing their businesses. And why wouldn’t you? Today there are people that can help you in just about every facet of running your salon, each of them experts in their chosen fields. After all, they never taught you to be an accountant, teacher, marketing guru, professional trainer, business executive, banker, …. or the myriad of other different titles that we all are expected to wear. In this article I want to outline a number of areas you could consider seeking professional help and guidance in order to better operate your salon and staff.
Start with a SWOT analysis
SWOT is an acronym for STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES and THREATS. The easiest way to do this is to start making lists of things that would fall under each of the headings.
For example, you might consider your experience, industry contacts, loyal customer base, location, product brand, etc as strengths of your business.
Conversely you might admit that your accounting skills, marketing expertise, time management or staff management are areas of weakness.
Interestingly, some of these same areas might be possible opportunities if you could get the right sort of help. Staff training, marketing and advertising, accounting and book -keeping often fall into this category.
Threats are areas of weakness that can be targeted by your opposition or can seriously effect your business, such as losing staff, client retention rates, the look of your salon, the use of newer beauty equipment and procedures such as IPL, lasers, Radio Frequency, LED light therapy and body contouring equipment.
In essence, try to identify the areas of your business that you are proficient at and the areas that you feel less than comfortable doing. In some cases, this will include highlighting time consuming tasks or duties that you just don’t like doing and would be willing to outsource.
What type of expert do I need?
- Business Management
Finding a business management consultant that understands the beauty industry can provide wonderful guidance and direction. So often salon owners and managers are caught up in the daily grind of doing treatments, stock control, retailing and handling customer service issues that they find it difficult to take a step back and work on their business rather than work in the business. Working with a business consultant allows you to analyse the different areas of your business that helps you to make money. They are able to point out where income is derived from, what your major expenses are, areas of success and areas of concern. Best of all they will help you to devise strategies to improve each area of your business, providing you with tools to help you become more profitable.
- Staff Trainers
Although all salon owners are continually training their staff, the use of professional educators can be a real benefit to your staff’s development. Some product houses offer trainers as a service for stocking their products. Product knowledge schools are also regularly available for therapists to update their skills. However, I believe that the services of trainers in the areas of retailing, diagnostic skin analysis, product chemistry, skin function and beauty therapy technique can provide your salon with a very important point of difference – Expertise!
- Marketing Consultants
The expertise of specialist marketing consultants who have an intimate understanding of our industry can be far reaching for your business. They can dramatically improve your advertising results both to existing customers as well as attracting new clients to your business. Marketing is an area where a lot of money can be wasted if you don’t get professional advice. Good consultants in this field will not only teach you better and more effective ways to advertise your business but will test and measure the results so that educated decisions are made using facts to determine future advertising.
If there is a single time consuming task in running a business, book keeping and accounting would rank fairly highly. Yet as every business owner knows, this area of the business is also absolutely essential. Utilising the skills of bookkeepers and clever accountants will not only save you many hours in time it will eradicate much of the bookwork stress you experience. In most countries around the world taxation laws are complex and certainly not within the expertise of the average salon owner. A good accountant will not only help with taxation but will assist in looking at how the business is operating. They can breakdown costs and profit making areas of your business to give you a detailed picture of what the business is generating.
- Architects and Interior Designers
So many salons I visit are poorly designed and this affects both the operation and the efficiency of the salon. Correct design can mean more comfortable environments for both staff and customers. Lighting, colours, sound, retail areas, treatment room designs, storage areas, waiting rooms, reception desks, consultation areas and staff facilities are all important design factors for creating an inviting space for customers and a workable space for staff. Obtaining professional help in the design and look of your salon can make such a difference to the feel and workability of your salon.
- IT and Communications
The demands of a busy salon today mean that it is vital to have reliable computer hardware, user friendly software and very good telecommunication systems. Many salons today rely on computer systems to produce advertising and marketing materials, maintain client histories, keep accounting records and operate point of sale facilities. Similarly, having versatile phone systems, email and facsimile systems is now mandatory for successful salons to operate effectively. Having a specialist consultant in these fields to assist in the choice of computer hardware, phone systems and computer software can make the world of difference to your salon operations. Too often salon owners not well versed in these technical fields find that their computers are not able to run the newer operating systems, that the software they choose is out of date and cannot provide all of the functions a modern salon requires or the telephone system is not portable and there aren’t enough lines into the salon to run Point of Sale, phone and internet together. IT and telecommunications specialists can save you money and time by helping you choose the most appropriate systems for your salon’s needs.
I am in awe at the variety of skills a beauty therapist displays every day. However, too often salon owners are reluctant to ask for specialist assistance and sometimes make costly mistakes because of this. Consultants are experts in their fields and should be utilised to help generate profits, save time or better equip the salon and staff.
Paul Carbis is a business consultant to the beauty industry around the world. He is often invited to many of the international expos and conferences as a speaker as well as offering salon owners the opportunity to utilise his experience for management help and staff training. For further information about Paul’s services, he can be contacted by email on email@example.com or by phone on 02102226174
I recently underwent a review with all of the salon and clinic owners that I currently work with to ascertain how I could better supply services for them. Part of that review asked the question – What has been the most significant benefit to your business from the consultancy help you have received? I thought there would be a variety of different answers and was somewhat surprised when the vast majority of the responses were about the backroom systems that we initiated. Backroom systems are the organisational processes that happen again and again over regular time periods to record, analyse and plan for improvement in every facet of managing the business.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised because much of the marketing help I provide is for a single campaign, staff training is often quite specific to address a particular problem or professional education issue. However, the work we do in formalising business systems is continuous and provides new – found control over the business for owners and managers.
So, I thought it might be useful to discuss some of these systems and the benefits using them can provide business owners.
- Test and Measure.
First and foremost, I have to explain the vital importance of testing and measuring everything you can about your business. I see so many owners who make decisions on what they think or feel is true but have no real idea if it is actually correct. I like to deal in facts when I make decisions. The only way I can know the facts is to measure the results of what I am doing. For example, if I asked most owners what their total income was last week or month, they could tell me. But when asked for a comparison against last year at the same time or as a percentage against costs or even the make-up of that income into the various services and retail items they provide many owners are not able to provide such information easily.
- What was your customer count last week?
- Was your average spend per customer up or down?
- What percentage of your clients had multiple treatments?
- What was the ratio of new to existing customers?
- How did your customers find out about you?
- What were your rebooking rates?
- Which staff members made you the most money?
- What specials from your latest marketing exercise did customers respond to and how does that compare to other campaigns you have undertaken?
Indeed, the list of things you can measure is almost endless. But if you did know the answers to just these basic questions your forward planning would be far more precise. Your decisions about advertising to attract clients as opposed to the far cheaper marketing of merely retaining customers would be based on hard evidence. Your staff training in retail selling would reflect the low numbers of retail dollars in your total income, rebooking numbers can be seen as a reflection of your customer service levels and you would know what advertising to repeat because you know whether it worked or not as a fact.
Consequently, one of the first things I do in clinics I work with is to put in place some measurement procedures to gain a true picture of the health of that clinic.
- Begin with Existing Clients.
When I instigate backroom procedures in clinics, I usually like to begin with systems for retaining existing customers. Experts believe it is between 5 – 8 times cheaper and easier to get an existing customer to return than it is to attract a new one. I believe we need to be providing our existing clients with legitimate reasons to return to our clinics. Most of them want to continue to see us but are torn between other obligations and the cost of our services. By building strong relationships that enable us to continually maintain communication with these clients through fliers, newsletters, phone calls and direct mail we are able to retain more clients and have them book for series of treatments. In other words, we give them legitimate reasons to choose our services first. Therefore, I find that implementing some of the following marketing materials and having a set time to distribute them becomes a systematic part of the operation of your business.
Just a few ideas to keep in touch:
- Regular newsletters either quarterly or bi-monthly.
- Happy birthday letters with a voucher for something special emailed the day of the client’s birthday.
- Thank you for choosing our clinic letters with an invitation to return attached
- Membership to a VIP club
- Thank you cards with a small gift for those who refer others to your business
- Monthly cross over offers for clients to try a service they may not have ever tried before
- Haven’t seen you letters with a special offer to return for clients you may not have seen for some time…..and the list can go on forever.
In many clinics we instigate Mad Mail-out Mondays where every Monday either monthly or weekly letters are emailed. It becomes an operational system that these retention tools are sent out.
- Staff Performance.
Another area where some set systems can really help is the monitoring of staff performances. Holding regular staff meetings, training sessions, formal opportunities to give staff feed-back and the setting of new goals is best done over a consistent time frame and following a systemised format.
How are your staff monitored for excellence?
- Do staff have set weekly or monthly targets in areas such as income per hour worked, retailing, services dollars, customer numbers or average dollar spend of their clients?
- Is there a set period where staff performance is formally assessed and they are provided with factual details of their performance goals?
- Are there clear position descriptions in place that outline exactly what is required of staff?
- What are the consequences of outstanding or poor performance?
- How are staff presented with their performance results?
- Are staff thanked, rewarded and challenged?
By having very regular review dates, one-on-one meetings, fair yet challenging goals and sales targets, staff are continually informed about their own performance and acutely aware of the expectations you as an employer have of them. One of the biggest problems I find when owners complain about poor staff performance is that the staff fail to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. By having consistent formats for presenting staff performances not only are owners in a position to act on good or poor performance but staff know where they stand and exactly what is expected of them.
- Stock Control.
Stock control is another area where some simple systems can make a huge difference in stock ordering procedures and stock levels. In many of the clinics that I attend there is literally tens of thousands of dollars of stock tied up either for professional use or retail sales. In many cases only a fraction of this amount actually needs to be in the clinic. The opposite problem also exists where due to a lack of stock, retail sales opportunities are lost. By having a systemised stock ordering procedure based on minimum and maximum sales numbers, stock supplies can be maintained at correct levels. Similarly, by ordering more regularly, stock is turned over quicker and adjustments to orders can be rectified faster. Many of these problems arise when staff guess what stock is needed rather than follow a set procedure for deciding what stock is required.
Consider these questions:
- What is the maximum number of each item sold over the past five ordering periods?
- Do you have a list of overstocked items not to be ordered?
- How often is stock ordering done?
- Are there incentives such as free delivery if orders total over a certain dollar figure?
- Are all staff trained to order and process stock?
- Do you know exactly what your current stock holding is valued at?
- Are there seasonal items that need to be remembered?
- Marketing Systems.
Although there are numerous other business systems we could look at, the final area I would like to mention is that of advertising and marketing. As I have already stated, I believe that we need to continually place legitimate excuses for our clients to return in front of them regularly. In order to achieve this, we need to have a detailed marketing plan that utilises a number of different advertising channels. Everyone knows that having a great marketing plan is essential, but how do you know what is going to work? One way is to hire experienced experts in our industry to help you. Or you can rely on your own experience and good judgement. Whichever way you choose, repeating successes and rethinking less than successful campaigns makes plenty of sense. How we systemise our marketing is by monitoring the success of our marketing ideas and recording diary – like each campaign.
Here are just a few of things I like to record:
- What date the campaign started and how long it lasted.
- What the offers were.
- Price point
- Who was the target market.
- Cost of the campaign
- Return on investment in $ and customer numbers
- How, how many and where was it distributed.
- Rebooking numbers
- Suggested changes
By keeping a journal style record of each campaign, decisions in the following year can be made on accurate facts. Let’s face it, getting the start of your Christmas or Mother’s Day advertising wrong by just one week can cost your business thousands of dollars in additional sales.
The implications of having systemised procedures are enormous. Accuracy of decision making improves, productivity increases, more important tasks get completed on time and vital information gets recorded in a user – friendly manner so that there is factual material to base future decisions on. The result will be a more profitable and efficient business for you. But more importantly your customers will benefit with better customer service, more appealing offers and regular attendance.
If you would like to know more about how to implement profit building systems into your business, Paul Carbis can be contacted by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or you can book to see him when he next visits your area.
Having spent a lot of time in salons over the past 20 or so years I am regularly astounded about the breadth of knowledge beauty therapists possess.
I have overheard conversations that vary from marital advice, the raising of teenagers, the buying and selling of cars and real estate, stocks and share portfolios, the latest local scandal, the problems in the local school, political opinion, not to mention the conversations on sex, affairs and knowing which male celebrity is hot.
As impressed as I am at the intellect of today’s beauty therapists, I cannot help but wonder if our role should really be that of, confidant, confessor or counsellor. Now don’t get me wrong, I am the first to tell staff to build rapport with their clients. I agree that we need to be friendly and approachable. However, I really question the professionalism of regularly becoming involved in conversations that are not to do with the client’s skin needs.
It’s about walking the fine line between friendliness and professionalism. More than ever our industry needs to project itself as a group of highly trained professionals in order to maintain our customer base and attract more men and women into our salons. In recent years there has been an influx of doctors, plastic surgeons, nurses and other professionals sweep into our industry offering an assortment of new and exciting treatments as well as encroaching on traditional beauty therapy treatments. Why is it that the public are turning to doctors to try peels, wraps, skin needling, laser, IPL and other treatments that are best done by well–trained and experienced therapists. I suspect it’s partly because of the professional approach these medically trained operators offer. After all, when you go to your doctor rarely does the conversation drift away from your medical requirements. Very clearly, we view these people as experts in their field and this in turn provides us with a sense of confidence in their ability.
Beauty therapists are also experts!
They are experts in the skin and how to treat it. I wonder how gossiping about local events or people helps to portray this expertise across to our clients. In fact, how hard are we concentrating on providing the very best care and attention to our clients if we are busy in idle conversation about things that we are not really experts in anyway? Let’s try and concentrate on discussions about areas where we can display our expertise and build a public perception where we are seen as the best source for all skin care advice.
I am not trying to be a scrooge here. I know that a little bit of banter helps cement relationships and break the ice with clients. It’s just, I wonder how much more productive we could all be if we could keep steering our conversations back to our area of professional expertise. Imagine how much better our skin analysis might be, how many more products we could recommend to our clients, how much more education about the skin and how we care for it could take place, or how much more home care information we could impart if we concentrated more on our professional conversations rather than socialising? For that matter, how many of us would keep our treatments on time instead of regularly running late and keeping customers waiting?
So how do we put all this into practice?
I believe that one of the easiest ways to maintain a professional conversation is to pre-empt what you want to discuss with your clients even before they enter the salon. I call this ‘doing homework’. This professional preparation simply involves scanning through your client’s history and looking for services or products that they have not yet utilised in your salon. For example, if Mrs Jennings has already purchased a cleanser, eye cream, day and night creams, then you might note that you should discuss the merits of a good exfoliant or home care masque. Similarly, if you note reports of ingrown hairs whilst waxing, you could prepare by demonstrating a loofah glove and body scrub. Or perhaps you can use their history to see if new products are due to be purchased because their current home care should be almost finished. You might discuss a pedicure to someone who has never tried one or the advantages of a lash tint to those who haven’t experienced this service.
The point is, that the exercise will provide you with plenty of professional discussion topics as well as preparing you mentally for the sales process.
But even if you don’t do homework on your clients, salons should have weekly or monthly focus products that they can introduce to all their clients. Or perhaps it is a monthly special from a newsletter or flyer that can be shown to customers. Even discussing common seasonal problems such as fine lines around the eyes or chapped lips during winter. Or perhaps summer sun damage and dehydration. At least our conversations are client care focussed and of a professional nature. It also allows you to direct and control the conversation enabling you to maintain the direction of your discussion topics, in turn providing you with far more opportunities to recommend products, up-sell services and add-on extras. The more we do this, the more we assist the client to achieve healthy, better looking and feeling skin.
Now I know that it is not that easy, some customers don’t stop talking from the minute they enter the salon. For others, they look forward to their regular chat with you. But even with these ladies, if we can just focus a little more of our conversation time on professional dialogue, then over time they too might change their perception of the professional image of beauty therapists. I am not suggesting that beauty therapists are not professional, far from it. However, I do believe it would help individual therapists develop professionally, improve your salon’s overall performance and change for the better the public perception of our industry if we could concentrate on focussing our conversations more towards friendly, professional skin care advice and education. I believe our clients deserve our commitment to deliver this level of care, each and every time they visit our salons.
After visiting literally thousands of salons over the past twenty years, there is one indisputable truth. – The best salons also have the best trained staff! It’s true, today’s cosmetic client is really quite savvy, they know the difference between merely qualified and well – trained staff. More and more, well trained staff are becoming a point of difference for top salons as our customers are reading and asking about the new equipment and products they see in the numerous glossy magazines.
Let’s face it, with the advances in technology, product ingredients and procedural techniques our industry has experienced over the past five years, it has become almost imperative that post graduate training of some kind is undertaken on a regular basis – Just to keep abreast of industry standards. So, I thought it might be appropriate to look at some of the industry training available.
Traditionally product supply companies would offer product knowledge training and some technique training on the basic procedures that they expected to be performed in the salon. This is still the case and remains one of the most popular post graduate training areas in the industry. In fact, one of the primary factors in choosing a product for my salon is looking at how good their training programme is. Salons require regular product training opportunities so that when new staff are employed, they do not have to wait too long for a product school to attend. Ask potential suppliers for a training calendar when choosing a new brand. Also ask about who will be the trainers. How experienced and qualified are they, what is their background and how long have they been working with the brand. Another vital decision – making factor is to ask if they will be available to provide specific in-salon training for your staff.
A few of the product suppliers have even gone an extra step of providing advanced training in areas such as business management, staff management, advertising and promotions. Their commitment to training goes beyond just the promotion of their products and extends into helping you grow your business.
Colleges and Universities
Throughout New Zealand and Australia we are fortunate to have a wide variety of courses ranging from Certificates to Diplomas and Degrees. However, the numbers of therapists returning to a training college to retrain in areas they have forgotten or to learn new training on advanced equipment and techniques are still very low. This shouldn’t be the case. Short courses are now available in specific areas of the industry such as electrolysis, Brazilian waxing, spa treatments, nails, IPL and laser, skin needling and more. I believe that this is one industry where continual professional training is what sets expert therapists apart from average therapists. Many of the courses can even be completed by correspondence reducing the inconvenience of time and the distance required to travel to a good college. Most of the better colleges now offer post graduate studies of an evening as well as their daytime classes.
Experts and Consultants
Then there are a number of industry specific consultants that are available for both salon management training as well as staff training. (I have travelled the world lecturing at expos and conferences, and I am happy to say that the level of industry training in New Zealand and Australia is as good, if not better than anything I have witnessed around the world). Owners cannot just expect that their staff can retail. They cannot just expect that they can manage the reception area or have excellent customer service skills. These things need to be trained and they are often not a priority for the colleges. This type of training is as important as knowing products or how to wax. There are enormous amounts of money lost in salons from staff not being able to convert inquiries at the front counter or failing to recommend home care products to clients that will buy from somewhere else.
There are even experts available in areas such as advanced skin analysis, shop fit-outs and merchandising, advanced equipment training and team building.
Expos and Conferences
I love attending the various world expos that I get invited to. It gives me a chance to see what the industry trends are, what new products are available, hear a variety of industry experts and learn new techniques in treatments. Here in New Zealand and Australia up to four expos each year are held and many of the larger product suppliers hold annual conferences as well. I encourage every therapist to get along and be a part of events such as the Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne Expos. Here you have the opportunity to listen to speakers, watch demonstrations and get excited by what is happening in our fabulous industry. There is little doubt that staff members that have attended these events come back to the salon re-invigorated and far more focused.
Staff Meetings and In-Salon Training
Regular information sharing in staff meetings and in-salon training sessions are another way for staff to keep their training up to date. I believe it is the duty of salon owners to provide specific in-salon training on a regular basis, which directly responds to staff performance and procedural issues. I see many staff members under-performing and hear salon owners complain, but little or no specific retraining is made available to the staff concerned. Consequently, we see little, if any, improvement.
This, in-salon training, needs to be well planned, not ad-hoc. It is probably the most effective training your staff will experience when it is well planned and conducted with a specific purpose in mind. I stated earlier that the best salons have the best trained staff. They also have well planned staff meetings and training sessions. These salons not only provide team training but also have individualised training plans for all staff members where staff attain skills ranging from treatment procedures to management duties. Your staff work for you. Not the product company, not the equipment company and not the computer company. It is not professional enough to simply wait for these organizations to provide training opportunities for your staff. Every owner and manager must provide regular salon specific training for every staff member if they want that staff member to improve their performance.
Now I have heard the arguments that it is expensive to train staff when they just leave or are tempted away by other salons. I personally think that this is something of a fallacy. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, however my experience is that staff that are given fantastic training and personal development opportunities tend to be far more loyal because they see the commitment that their owners have made to furthering their professional education. They also see the results of their training in their performance figures and in most salons that means extra dollars in commissions and bonuses. Most salon owners look upon training as an expense. Yes, it costs time and money. But when you change your thinking from expense to investment you will see the benefits of better prepared staff, higher services and retail figures, greater rebooking rates, a more professional environment and most importantly more profit.
In my experience there are only five ways you can make more profit in your salon.
- Attract more customers
- Encourage clients to visit your salon more often
- Convince them to spend more each time they visit
- Reduce your overheads
- Retain more of your existing clients
That sounds simplistic enough, but the reality is that most salons overlook the easiest and most effective method on this list. – Retaining existing clients.
I am constantly amazed at just how many customers are on salon databases that haven’t been into the salon in months or years. After all, we spend hard earned money on advertising, web sites, social media, brochures, business cards or expensive shop fit outs to attract them to us in the first place, so why would we let this money go to waste after just one visit?
Most surveys suggest that it is approximately five to eight times cheaper and easier to retain an existing client than to attract a new one. Yet very few salons have a plan in place to maintain their existing client numbers.
A well known survey on why customers stop doing business with an organisation found the following:
- 1% Die
- 3% Move away
- 5% Develop other friendships
- 9% Leave for competitive reasons
- 14% Are dissatisfied with your product
- 68% Don’t return because of a perceived attitude of indifference towards them by either the manager or an employee.
When I first read these results, I was startled that a massive 68% of our customers didn’t return because they felt that we didn’t care. Almost impossible to believe with the personalised services we offer. But it isn’t the service we provide in the salon that gives them the impression we don’t care. I believe it’s our lack of follow up and haphazard communication systems that give these clients a false sense of indifference. Whilst we keep in touch with our customers, they feel that they have a relationship with us and therefore will choose to use our services again to maintain this relationship, often despite our prices. However, when we have failed to maintain communication with them, they no longer have that sense of relationship and now feel free to shop elsewhere. I actually believe that many clients feel awkward about returning after an extended absence. We have all had the experience of a good friend or relative that for whatever reason we have lost contact with. Now, it’s just too difficult to call them, it’s been too long, what do you say?…..Well, your customers have the same feelings, except you are the one that has to be responsible for maintaining communication. If you have not had some form of contact each twenty to thirty days, you may be seen as not caring. The good news is that it is easy to fix!
It’s all about effective communication.
Effective communication requires a plan that starts immediately after ever client’s first visit. A plan that is a system of emails, phone calls, cards, social media and special events that will keep giving your existing customers an excuse to return again and again.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- After every client’s first appointment write to him or her and thank them for visiting your salon. Try giving them a $20 gift voucher to encourage them to return.
- Record their birthday and anniversary dates. Email out cards for these occasions is a great way to show you care.
- Produce a regular newsletter. These do not have to be expensive publications, but should encourage existing clients to try new services and products. Try emailing out a newsletter bi-monthly as a part of your regular communications plan.
- Email clients that you haven’t seen for more than two months. Ask them to return with a special offer that’s just too good to refuse. You will be astounded at how many just need a reminder to rebook.
- Find some time to phone a number of these clients each day, or set aside a particular time each week to call clients that you haven’t seen. Set yourself a target of how many you will call.
- Invite existing clients to special in-salon events. Closed-door sales, new product launches, Pre-Christmas drinks, salon birthday celebrations, demonstration days…etc.
- Email out thank you cards when an existing client refers a friend. Let them know how much you appreciate their referral.
- Try offering a loyalty points with rewards for utilising your services. Clients can build up points towards free services or gifts. Send out reminders that clients are only a few points from their next reward.
- Follow up every client that purchases a product within a week to check if everything is OK. If the client has a problem, you can address it immediately or simply reinforce how the product should be used. Either way you are showing that you care.
The trick to retaining more customers is to keep in touch more often. So, you have to be organised. At the end of each week email out new client letters. At the start of each month get birthdays from your database. Plan your special events to fall in the months between your newsletters. Send out “We haven’t seen you” emails to clients you haven’t seen for over two months at the start of each month, make a set number of phone calls each day or at a set time each week. Allocate each task to a particular staff member that is responsible for that activity happening on time each week or month.
Many salon owners are amazed at how many clients are on their database right now that they haven’t seen for months and haven’t asked to return. By putting simple communication systems in place these clients may just become regular lifetime customers.
How often have you walked away from a sales person shaking your head in disbelief because you barely understood a word they said? In our high – tech world of computers, chemical compounds and acronyms for just about everything, it is all too easy to be lost in the jargon that surrounds purchasing even everyday items.
Those who know me, will know that I am an avid Apple Macintosh Computer user. I have owned Macs for years now and find them wonderfully easy to operate and incredibly reliable. Yet, I can’t give the same high praise to the sales representative that greeted me recently when I inquired about upgrading my current model.
Yes, I was greeted warmly.
Yes, the showroom was presented beautifully and,
Yes, the salesperson was enthusiastic to serve me.
But as soon as I muttered the word “upgrade” I was whisked away into the far off world of computer speak.
Now, I don’t consider myself a fool, but I was lost after the very first sentence of gigabytes, RAM, Ports, Bluetooth, Apps and Cloud. If this young man was trying to impress me with his knowledge, he was doing a great job. But if he was trying to sell me a computer system, he had no chance at all. You see, I had no idea what he was talking about, nor did I care. I felt a mixture of foolishness and anger. The salesperson wasn’t interested in my needs, my lifestyle, or my understanding. He was too busy impressing me!
Consequently, I chose not to purchase from that particular outlet.
Jargon in any field of business can kill sales. Doctors who presume we have a degree in anatomy or mechanics who think we can do more than put petrol in the tank and change a tyre. Even cook – book writers who believe we all grow exotic herbs and Asian vegetables. Or worst of all, beauty therapists who talk about active ingredients that other than industrial chemists no-one else has heard about and how they work on layers of the skin with really strange names. To make it worse, many of these products have names that match their ingredients which many of us cannot even pronounce correctly, let alone understand.
Great sales people in our industry do not presume that the average woman thinking about buying products from us knows the difference between, an AHA or a BHA. They don’t take it for granted that Collagen and Elastin are household words. They don’t think that everyone knows where the epidermis is or understand terms such as iontophoresis and radio frequency. They don’t use confusing ingredient names or strange aromatherapy plant extracts in their speech, without explaining themselves in common, easy to understand, every – day language. Our industry is constantly changing and many of these changes are on the cutting edge of science, medicine, chemistry and engineering. So, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest industry jargon in our enthusiasm to inform our customers of the benefits of products and treatments they can receive in our salons.
However, until you have asked sufficient questions about your client’s needs and wants, you cannot possibly talk at that customer’s level of understanding. Jargon sounds great if you are at a conference with peers from your industry. But the average man and woman (your customers), want things explained to them in language they can understand. How else can they make an informed decision to buy?
To highlight this point, I have noticed solicitors and accountancy firms include terms such as: “explained in plain English” in their advertising. Even restaurant menus have an explanation following the names of dishes only a chef could dream up.
I am pleased to say that some therapists do brilliantly when it comes to explaining both products and services. On a recent trip to Auckland, I was able to overhear a conversation a young therapist was having with her customer. What impressed me most was the lack of talking and the careful listening that was taking place. Initially, she asked; “So what do you want to achieve with your products?” The emphasis was completely on assisting the customer rather than just pushing the newest, latest, most expensive cream in the salon. After intently listening to the customer’s response, the therapist asked a few more probing questions, again listening carefully to the answers, before making her recommendations. In each case, she explained the benefits of using the products she had selected in easy to understand language. Throughout her discussion she demonstrated her professional knowledge and expertise by utilizing industry specific words, but each time this was done, she made sure the client fully understood what she was saying by offering a simple explanation of these terms. Her customer felt extremely comfortable buying from her.
Indeed, some of the worst jargon comes in the form of abbreviations and acronyms. To quote a certain computer salesperson, we have megs, gigs, Mhz, Apps, PC’s, Bits, Bytes, PDF’s and Jpegs all at RRP.
How often in the beauty industry do we fall into the trap of forgetting that our customers simply might not understand? It’s very easy to do and may be killing your sales!
If only the computer salesman had bothered to speak with me, rather than speak at me in some kind of alien dialect, I may well have been writing this article on a new computer!
There are, a plethora of salon exclusive products on the market for salon owners to choose from and it seems every time I turn around there is another new name in the marketplace. On one hand this is good because you can easily find high quality, effective skin care ranges for your salon, on the other, it makes the process of choosing all the more difficult.
Here are just a few of the considerations that I discuss with my clients before they take on a new range.
- Every product range has something they can claim to be the best at. Quite often our decision making in this area is not wholly about the product, but rather about service, marketing and training. So, my first point is be careful, choosing simply because of claims that the product is the best, highest potency, household name, favourite or latest in skin science.
- Ask about the extent of the range. Does it cover the key areas of our business including hydrators, antioxidants and vitamins, AHA’s and BHA’s or even enzyme peels, a men’s range, body products for both retail sales and professional use, problem skin products specific to concerns such as acne, an anti-aging line, products that can be used in conjunction with mechanical services such as skin needling, IPL or laser, gift lines for events such as Christmas and Mother’s Day….My point is where do you need the new range to fit into your client’s needs. We need to offer as full a spectrum of services as we can in order to capture the most market and therefore need a product range or ranges to provide wide coverage of these services.
- For many salons the size and value of the opening order can be an obstacle. Whilst opening orders are intended to provide the salon with the full extent of the range, many product companies are now flexible with opening orders to suit either retail space or budget. Also make sure that the recommended opening order covers your needs for professional as well as retail stock.
- Point of sale materials can be expensive if you have to purchase them. Most leading brands offer a wide range of point of sale posters, bags, flyers, price lists, social media content, window displays and stands with their products. Some of these items will be free to you, some will not. It is always a good idea to qualify what you will receive for free to your salon long term. Also, what are the ongoing cost of items such as bags and flyers if you have to pay for them. A number of companies now supply these important items dependant on the size of your order or at a subsidised rate.
- Delivery times and costs are another factor that should be considered when choosing a product company. Just how quickly can they have product to you if you need it urgently? Similarly, what are the costs involved in shipping orders to you. Many companies offer free delivery if the value of the order exceeds a certain amount. This is important because freight costs can quickly eat away profits on low margin products. Another factor to consider is that of supply. What is the company’s record like on out of stocks?
- You need to calculate both the mark up and margin of the products when comparing different product companies. You are in business to make profit, so profit margins for both retail products and the cost of performing services is vital information. Ask the product companies to provide profit reports on their recommended retail prices as well as their professional product use as a cost per treatment.
- Payment terms are also a consideration. Payment terms can vary from payment on delivery, to 7, 14 or 30 day accounts. Some companies offer credit card facilities, some require direct deposits, some pass on their EFTPOS and credit card charges. For many salon owners a 30 day account means that you can turn over your stock and have the money in the bank before you have to pay for it.
- How experienced and knowledgeable is the product company representative that will be servicing your salon? What assistance will they be providing you with? Have they worked in a busy salon? Have they ever owned or managed a salon? These are important questions if you want to gain the maximum assistance from a product representative. Ask how often they will visit your salon. This is especially important in rural areas where salons are often forgotten because of their distance from major cities. Will this person be able to help conduct staff training, staff meetings, one on one meetings with owners and managers, provide marketing ideas, assist with promotional days, product launches and VIP nights? Often these sorts of activities need to be conducted after normal business hours for your salon to run smoothly for your customers. Is your product representative going to be available at times to suit you?
- What product price point does your salon need to meet? Different areas attract different sorts of customers. Understanding the demographics of your local area can help you to determine the price points that you want your services and retail products to sell at. Quite often two or more price points need to be met in order to adequately cater for the different socio-economic needs of your customers. Often having ranges that cover both a high and low price point allows you to cater for those who enjoy the results of serious skin care ranges whilst still offering a viable, salon exclusive alternative to those who would normally walk out and purchase from a pharmacy or supermarket.
- Knowing what the products contain is another factor in choosing the right product for your salon. The initial choice will be between different products by their major ingredients. Aromatherapy based, marine algae formulations, all natural ingredients, vitamin and antioxidant focussed, plant extracts, AHA’s…Which of these fits your salon philosophy or compliments / contrasts an existing range. Underpinning this is the full ingredients list of the products you will want to use and sell. As a professional it is very important you study the ingredients of products to be sure that what you are using will only have a positive long – term effect on your client’s skin.
- Some product houses provide public advertising in various forms. This can be of great benefit to your salon providing public awareness of the brand you will be stocking. Check who is advertising on social media, woman’s and men’s magazines, newspapers and at the various expos and conferences. Some of this advertising can even list your salon location or offer special offers to bring customers into your salon. Some brands are also well recognised in their support for charities and community events. Again, this can be wonderful brand awareness and attract extra customers to your business.
- Product and post graduate training schools are now offered by many product houses. These schools should be an integral part of your staff training in an industry where product development and techniques are changing so quickly. When choosing a new product range consider the frequency, timing and length of the various training schools offered by the company. Also consider where these schools are held. Often, they are only available in the capital cities and travelling expenses can be costly in both, time away from the salon and travel costs. A number of companies also provide non product related training in salon management, staff management, retail selling, advertising and marketing, business coaching, motivation and financial management. Having regular access to training professionals such as myself through the product company you are working with can be a huge advantage to your business.
- Always consider how proactive a product company is. Check their schedule for new product launches, what products are being withdrawn from sale, special deals and promotional activities. There should be a promotional calendar gazetted well ahead that will allow you to plan your own marketing including seasonal promotions to fit with different climatic conditions and events. Ask about the advertising collateral such as stands, posters, sign writing, newspaper advertisements and flyers that accompany these promotions.
- Accessory products such as testers and samples are also an important consideration. Similarly, incentives or rewards for staff can sometimes be provided by some companies. The number, cost, value and frequency of these items should be considered when choosing your next range.
- Consider whether the range is included in the product training at your local colleges. If it is, then students graduating or even doing work experience are familiar with the range and quicker to train to your salon standards.
As you can see there are many considerations in choosing your next product range and this is by no means an exhaustive list. However, I have left the most important consideration to last. You have got to enjoy the product yourself. It is so much easier to sell a product and feel confident in your treatments when you enjoy using the products yourself. Ask the representative to leave you samples and to give you a treatment. If you enjoy the product, like the results and get positive answers to the considerations listed above, then it is probably a safe bet that the product is right for your salon.