Money Matters

Why Do You Charge More? Responding to Client Questions About Discount Salons.

Train your staff — and yourself — to answer this sensitive question so you’re able to respond quickly and confidently to clients’ concerns.

Why are pink-and-white nails more expensive?

The reason: Pink-and-whites take more skill, and they require more work and additional product.


Highlight the selling point: “We charge more for pink-and-white nails because they require both a higher level of skill and more time. However, this is our most popular service because clients can often extend their service by as much as one week.”


The business behind the decision: Never feel badly for charging more for a specialty. Nearly every salon adds an additional charge for the pink-and-white service, whether it is a permanent French or a polished French. There is an art to the perfect pink-and-white manicure, and when done well it is worth every cent. Keep the additional cost of the pink-and-white services reasonable. It should be enough that clients are aware it’s a special service, without being so different from your regular services that it becomes prohibitive.


The value-added component to the pink-and-white service is two-fold: First, the manicure lasts longer. Second, it makes a statement of understated confidence, which you’ll want to mention. Pink-and-white nails that are done well (that’s an essential qualifier) always draw attention. Combined with the worry-free maintenance, the pricing on the pink-and-white service is easy to explain.

Why do you charge more for pedicures?

The reason: Your pedicures are an hour long, which allows you to include several steps that aren’t included in less expensive pedicures.


Highlight the selling point: “We believe pedicures are meant to be a luxurious experience, so along with the soak, shape, and polish, we include a warm sugar scrub, a clay mask, and a 15-minute massage. You can get your toes polished for less, but you won’t walk away feeling spoiled like you do when you experience our pedis.”


The business behind the decision: Pedicures are a funny business. When someone says they got a “fill”, we all know what they mean. But, “pedicures” no longer have a universal meaning. Some clients mean a service as simple as a shape and polish. Other clients mean they had a full-on spa treatment, complete with a dimly lit room and the sound of running water. When the price reflects the experience, it’s easier to explain a sliding pricing scale. As the owner, you need to decide if you want to offer a limited version of the pedicure, or if your salon will expand its offerings so that a larger market share can find what they want.

It’s easier to offer competitive pricing with pedicures than with full sets and fills, because it’s a relatively small adjustment to add lower-priced services. You would start by offering a rock bottom pedicure service: a polish change. The next level would be a dry shape and polish. Next, a mini-pedicure, which would include a soak, cream to soften skin and cuticles, and a shape and polish. The mini works well for the client looking for a maintenance service. Finally, there’s the full-service pedicure. This is what used to be considered the basic pedicure and includes special attention to rough areas on the skin, more time for the massage, and, as stated above, an extra step or two, using special products to exfoliate and hydrate. Be sure to price your services in a way that keeps your per-hour ratio the same. For example, don’t price the half-hour mini service at $15 if the hour service is $40, because you’ll be losing $5 an hour for each appointment, and techs will dread seeing “minis” on the book.

An easy way to add value to a pedicure is to “read” the customer. Did she come in with a girlfriend so they could talk and enjoy each other’s company? If so, perform the service as a quiet, peaceful addition to the room — don’t take their attention away from each other. Is the client laying back with her eyes closed? Maybe she’s had a stressful day and needs you to offer her a cup of calming tea. Does she seem like she’s in a rush? Ask her if she would prefer the mini. You can never, never, never put a price on good customer care. Be the tech that clients describe as the person who “understands” her. If a client feels important at your salon, she’s less likely to want to reduce the experience of her service to a price tag.

Why do you charge so much more for fills than the salon down the street?

The reason:You follow the rules and are willing to invest extra money for what you believe is a better, safer, more enjoyable experience for the client.


Highlight the selling point: “We never cut corners on safety. All of our techs are state-certified and licensed, and we follow all state regulations for sanitizing and sterilizing our work spaces and implements. We use only brand name products, and we are all committed to continuing education to keep up-to-date with any changes in the industry.”


The business behind the decision: Don’t be sensitive when you’re asked this question. It could be translated to any industry: Why does Barnes & Noble charge more for books than Amazon? Why does Ann Taylor charge more for a sweater than Walmart? Why does Bobbi Brown charge more for lipstick than Cover Girl? Why do you charge more for a fill than the salon down the street? Quality. Atmosphere. The Experience.


Did you ever see the sign that reads: “Fast, Good, or Cheap. Pick Two.”? This is a good reminder for clients. Quality, by definition, means a higher standard. In other words, you can expect to get more when you pay more. Here’s the catch: You need to deliver more. What is the “more” in your salon? Most likely this means you use only brand-name products, which means not only enhancement products, but also sanitizer, disinfectant for implements, and creams or lotions. Additionally, it means you use the same brand-name products, not whichever product is running a special or discount. “More” would also include hiring licensed, talented staff who display exceptional customer service. Further, and especially important, this staff is committed to protecting clients and themselves by following state standards for sanitation, so implements, desks, and other surfaces will be cleaned correctly.

Since techs at your salon are trained well and are committed to continuing education, clients can be assured their nails won’t “pop” off, and they won’t go home with sore, aching nail beds. The work is guaranteed, and it’s backed by a salon owner who is concerned about her reputation both in the salon and in the community. “Additionally,” says Annette Merulla, a nail tech of 18 years and owner of Volpe Nails of Cicero in Cicero, N.Y., “clients can trust they’ll find consistency at your salon. They know that the cost of the fill is the final cost.” In other words, there’s no add-on pricing for polish, no additional charge for shortening the nails or for fixing breaks. All these extras are included with the price of a fill. Finally, consider this: Many discount salons suggest clients schedule fill appointments every two weeks, while traditional salons may schedule three weeks between fills. Over the course of the year, your salon could actually be less expensive for the client.


What’s the value-added component of your nail services? Maybe you offer cold drinks in the summer and warm drinks in the winter. Maybe you know your clients well enough to pick up a new color that you knew a certain client would like. What other extras do you add to your customers’ experience that they won’t find at a discount salon? You can try the makeup at the Bobbi Brown counter; you can flip through books at Barnes & Noble. You can feel the difference in the quality of a sweater from Ann Taylor. How does a client touch and feel the difference in quality at your salon?


The concrete reason for the difference in pricing is that the cost of business at your salon is higher: Licensed techs want a decent wage. Brand names cost more than generic. A client can get beautiful nails somewhere else, possibly for less money. But they won’t have the confidence they have from coming to your salon. When they come to your salon they know they don’t have to worry about sanitation, about qualifications, about quality. The easiest way to answer this question is to address it before it’s ever asked. It’s your job to educate your client of the steps you’re taking to ensure they have the best, and safest, experience.

A Lesson From Another Industry
Kellie Jo Maher is a realtor with Coldwell Banker. With only six years experience, she is already among the top producers in Coldwell Banker Prime Properties in Central New York. Similar to techs, she’s in a competitive business where she needs to remind clients of the benefits of choosing her over less-expensive options, such as For Sale by Owner or flat-rate realtors. Maher says it’s about attitude and education. “There is always going to be someone out there who is offering the same product or service for less money,” she says. “You need to believe that you know what’s out there and be confident you are offering your clients the best.”

She says education helps build attitude and confidence. “When you study what’s out there, what the competition is offering, what changes are happening in the business, you have an edge. It gives you the confidence to educate your clients on the latest products, on the ‘next thing’ in the industry,” she says.

Maher’s offers old-school advice worth repeating. “Never badmouth the competition.” Instead, she says, show clients the value of your service. It’s called “spin selling,” and what it means is that you know and love your product, your service, your company, your business so much that you can talk about all the positives of what you offer without having to talk poorly about someone else.

Ultimately, says Maher, techs need to study their market — in this case that includes the clients, the competition, and the trends in the industry — to retain and grow their business. “Know more, grow more,” ¬advices Maher.

 

Keywords:   discount salons     keeping your business competitive     service pricing  

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