January 2010

Focus on the Client in 2010 — It’s Not Just about the Haircut

By Scott Missad, president of The Agility Group

Throughout 2009, you heard discussion after discussion about how economic conditions were impacting salons and spas. However, in 2010, it’s time to stop focusing on the economy and focus 100 percent on the client.

If you aren’t careful, you can get caught up in the media hype, make decisions based solely on the economy and get as depressed, as many other business owners have. However, focusing on the client allows you to get back to the purpose that you’re in business—to help your clients look and feel their best.

So what does that look like? First and foremost, as a salon or spa owner, a service provider and as a team, it means focusing on your existing clients. These clients need to be catered to at a much higher level, because value as a proposition in their minds is much different—and even more important—than it has ever been. With every visit and every experience, give them greater perceived value for the same amount of money.

Second, whether you’re an employee or independent contractor, as a hairdresser, nail technician, esthetician, makeup artist or other service provider, examine how you balance your activities. Quite often, you spend up to 95 percent of your time, energy and money on the technical service. Today, 95 percent of your time must be dedicated to learning how to upgrade the client’s experience by interacting with people on an extremely high level.

That means re-engaging your existing clients at every interaction. That includes making sure the greeting, shampoo, consultation, recommendation for product and training in how to do their own hair, skin or nails at home is off the charts in how great it is EVERY time. It’s critical that you learn how to be comfortable talking to them about spending money on services and products. The quality of the service today is a given—not a competitive edge.

An important step is to seek out training in areas that might not have anything to do with the beauty industry – public speaking, communications, marketing, sales. Many are offered locally and are inexpensive including programs that teach you how to rebalance and create an experience for your clients that gives them a wow at every touch point.

The shampoo and scalp massage must provide an excellent experience in addition to the cut. Your attitude and how you dress must be impeccable at every turn—no matter how many times you’ve serviced that client. You can’t take any client for granted. The biggest challenge is to not become routine but to make every touch point in every service special.

Third, salon owners have less room for error. Every new client costs so much more to get than she did in the past. In the past, most salon owners operated by their gut. Today, you need to use data and be driven by a process. That means learning who your clients are, where they are coming from and then how to attract similar people, who will also enjoy the experience at your salon or spa.

Fourth, you must have the knowledge and skills to service ALL of a client’s needs. At Strictly Business, our mantra is “productivity per client.” We are transitioning from a technical driven industry to an experience driven industry. It’s more about how the client feels about the service she experienced than the technical expertise of the service itself. Clients are also spending more based on the experience. That means today’s goal is to make the total client experience more important than the individual service.

You need to be able to look your client in the eye, talk with her, ask questions, and make professional recommendations. Those interpersonal skills are required to making the client feel comfortable during her experience. Clients are already assuming the technical skills are superior; it’s the experience that both creates the difference in her mind and allows you to generate add-on sales.

One of the biggest mistakes salon professionals have made over the years is to think they’re friends with their clients—especially long-time clients. That leads into assuming that they’ll always stay with you. But you can’t take anything for granted any longer. Clients have too many options for their beauty services and products, expect a great value for their money and are willing to go somewhere else when they don’t feel valued.

The bottom line is: look at what you can be doing differently to overcompensate for the economic conditions. Are some salons down? Yes. But I know of plenty of others who are still full and making money – and you can be one of those, too, starting today. Look at what they do differently. The economy hurts the average performers – not those who make the extra effort.

You need to have the skills to make clients feel special. They will choose to spend money with you because of how you make them feel. Look beyond doing a great service and take the opportunity to wow your clients at every opportunity. It hasn’t been about the haircut for 20 years.

Scott Missad is president of The Agility Group, producer of Strictly Business, which provides training for market leadership salons and spas. Reach him at scottm@theagilitygroup.com or visit www.theagilitygroup.com