Giving Back to Your Clients
by Antonio Gonzales on Monday, November 1st, 2010
I was born in Trinidad in the height of a hurricane. I spent my childhood surrounded by the sights and sounds and smells of Carnival and the other Indian, African and Spanish festivals of the Islands. Loving the amazing costumes, I got my start dressing my sisters and doing their hair and makeup. An opportunity came up to work with Trinidad’s leading costume designers, makeup artists and hair stylists. After I left the Island, my career evolved with work in Munich, Los Angeles and now New York City. Here in New York, I am a stylist at the Orlo Salon in the Meat Packing district. Vogue magazine recently named me as one of the rising hairstylist stars in N.Y., I was awarded the best haircut of 2008 by shecky’s.com, Gotham Magazine called me a Shear Genius and Allure Magazine featured me as one of the best cuts 2009.
Client appreciation is extremely vital for any business to run successfully. Clients provide us with the ability to exist as a collective unit, offering the opportunity to strive in a very competitive industry. When the client makes a choice to walk into your salon and sit in your chair, she has made a conscious decision to place her trust in your hands. As a result, “giving back” to the client is something we should all consider. Some think that in order to keep a client happy, something should be given away with each service: a treatment, a few highlights, a blow-dry, or even products. I agree in part. It’s a smart move to give treats on occasion, but an entire year of them not only sends the wrong message, but can also cost your business its profit.
Think about this for a minute: Doctors, lawyers, even the street-corner fruit vendor do not give away products or services for free, so why should we? Personally I try to give the best service possible and together with the salon put in place a system that maintains the level of service that’s worth the client’s every penny. There’s no need to “dress up” your service with freebees. It sends a message of insecurity. Let that incredible haircut or color stand on its own, so wow your client with the results. I have even seen businesses attempt to “give back” by offering a great opportunity to be part of lofty and elite client programs that end up costing the clients more in the end, not less. That is not giving—that’s just complicated and manipulative.
I’ll describe next some very helpful solutions for showing appreciation to those clients who matter most:
Make it structured: Giving back to the folks who support your business is a decision that should be well-thought-out. The last thing you want is to create a lax situation that is hard to manage, creating product waste and unnecessary expectations from your client. I feel strongly that to truly give is to do so with no expectations involved, so why not create a fun event that can be enjoyed by all, staff included? As a hairstylist, there is nothing greater than seeing my clients smile. This is where a special event comes in. To start getting the word out about this special day, I recommend posting small signs in your changing rooms, on your blog or website, and at the front desk, informing your clients to mark their calendars. A short line thanking them for their support could be added to the notice.
You can also leave a message on your outgoing phone recording, so that when clients call on closed days or are placed on hold they hear some information detailing the event. If it’s planned well in advance you can avoid mail-outs, which can be costly, not to mention annoying to the client—many will throw away or delete the notice without even realizing what it is. No offense, but we all have emails that we never get around to reading, so the less to read the better. And that money you would have put toward the mail-out? Use it for the event itself, instead.
These events should happen twice a year, each running about three days. I recommend choosing the two quietest periods of your year to host. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are generally the quietest days in our profession, so while giving back to your clients, you will also kill two birds by filling the salon with customers on a day that’s usually less busy. For most salons, Fridays and Saturdays are crazier; you may consider leaving those days for your normal traffic
There are so many things you can give clients during these three-day events. I would consider making sure the flow of business remains efficient, as to not cause unnecessary problems to your usual great service. On that note: This doesn’t mean hiring limbo dancers to disrupt the service with excessive noise. Your client can go elsewhere for entertainment. I recommend instead offering something more along the lines of complimentary conditioning treatments or a scalp massage with any service booked on those days. Together the staff can create a special way to handle this service—maybe it’s an added neck massage and a hot-towel press while reclining at the sink. Added bonus: The hot towel cuts the time of the client spends sitting under the drier, and feels amazing on the scalp.
You may wonder where all these treatments will come from, and will it cost your business too much doing it all at once? Well, guess what? I have the solution for that. I recommend keeping all product samples and free products you may have received with special promotions from your distributors during the year. On your C.A.D. (Client Appreciation Day), all of these products can then be handed out to your clients. When the customer pays for their service (after her incredible scalp treatment), you can offer her a gift bag with product samples and coupons from your other friendly businesses in the neighborhood. Contact these other businesses beforehand in the neighborhood—boutiques, dry cleaners and skin spas (given that your salon does not offer those services, of course)—explaining what you are doing for your clients and offering the opportunity to place discount cards for their services in your gift bags. Reach out to your neighborhood coffee shops or juice bars, asking if they would like to promote their business by offering your customers a slight discount. Offer to display their business cards. In these difficult times, all businesses understand the value of mutual support through free advertising.
You can also include your product companies and distributors when planning your event. Ask if each can supply you with treatments to use at the shampoo bowl, and for samples and products to add to the gift bags. After all the support that the salon provides, the least they can do is help you on these special occasions. Keep in mind that events like these are appreciated most when they don’t coincide with big holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving.
On a personal note, I never offer discounts on my services. The value of my service never goes down—it’s not a pair of stilettos at the department store that may go out of style post-season.
In my next installment I will be sharing ideas for the salon owner on giving back to the staff.