When a client leaves your salon, she may have every intention of following your recommendation to return four weeks later for another pedicure. But, as her hectic life has her scrambling at work and at home, she probably won’t think about foot maintenance until she notices her polish growing out at the four-week mark. By the time she’s able to call during business hours, she may already be five weeks out from her last visit. And the next mutually convenient time may not be until the six-week mark.

“Your client who usually comes in 12 times a year now comes in an average of eight times a year. At $50 a pedicure, you miss out on $200 annually because she didn’t prebook and missed or stretched out a few appointments,” says Jill Wilson, a nail tech and the Summit Salon Business Center consultant for the nail department. “And that’s only one client,” she adds. “Do the math with several clients and it adds up quickly. It could be costing you thousands of dollars in revenue a year.”

When a client prebooks her appointments, you’re not only providing a customer service, you’re also guaranteeing your income, Wilson says. That’s a compelling reason to turn at least some of your intermittent clients into regulars with standing appointments.


Excuses, Excuses

So why aren’t your clients prebooking? It could simply be because you’re not bringing up the option with them. Or perhaps you mentioned standing appointments right before a client’s business trip or summer vacation but never broached the subject again.

Scott Buchanan, owner of Scott J Salons & Spas in New York City and chair of the Professional Beauty Association board of directors, likes to start the conversation about standing appointments right away. “I like to start it in the consultation piece and listen for small hints,” Buchanan says. “Also when talking about what we are going to do, we will discuss the maintenance/upkeep of whatever we are talking about, and I will mention that we can prebook you for X weeks later.” He adds that when clients check out, the front desk staff should ask if they want to prebook.

According to our experts, common reasons clients cite for being noncommittal include, “I don’t know my schedule that far in advance,” “I am too busy,” “I don’t want to take time up on your book and then cancel,” “I prefer to call,” and “I don’t have my date book on me.”

When a client offers one of these excuses, you should stress that the appointment isn’t written in indelible ink. Explain that, even with standing appointments, you are flexible and understand she may need to reschedule. Buchanan says letting the guest know it’s a service and that they can cancel if things change goes a long way in convincing uncommitted clients to reserve future time slots. “They will get a confirmation call two days before and if they need to cancel at least they can then reschedule.” Confirmation calls, emails, or texts are a good idea with standing appointments. Depending on your scheduling software, you may be able to automate these. Plan to take care of the confirmation far enough in advance that you can fill the slot with another client in the case of a rescheduling.

Wilson prefers to prebook standing appointments for one year at a time, but if clients don’t want to commit to such a long time span, she can usually get them to commit to at least the next few appointments. “They start with a few appointments and get used to it, then we commit to six months or a year,” Wilson says. Once a year (in October, strategically before the end of the year and before the holiday rush), Wilson’s salon starts booking standing appointments for the following year. “We give current standing appointment holders first choice to secure their spot for the next year. After that, we open up the books to everyone else,” Wilson says.

And if the client turns still turns the offer down? Bring it up again at the next appointment. Amy Carter, president of Empowering You Consulting, says, “Seed planting is key! Be consistent.”


Incentive Ideas

If you own a salon that’s not used to prebooking clients, then try incentives for both staff and clients. Buchanan says, “To jump-start it, you can sometimes make a contest for your front desk staff to see who gets the most prebookings in a week and then give them a Starbucks card. For guests, you can hold a ‘prebook raffle.’ If they book their next two appointments in advance, they will be entered into a client raffle. You can raffle away anything from services to salon products.”

Raffles work well, all of our sources say, and they give you a chance to do creative marketing for other salon services and products. Carter says, “I love incentives and contests to get the team and clients in a routine and habit of prebooking.” Carter likes the raffle prize to be a percentage off salon retail purchases. “So this hits both rebooking and retail — a win-win,” she says.

Wilson is strategic too. “We place three labeled vases (pedicure, massage, and facial) at the front desk. Clients fill out an entry blank and choose which vase to place their entry blank in,” she says. One name is drawn each month for each service, but then Wilson takes the incentive a step further. “Here is the beauty of this contest. Say, for example, salon client Lillian chose to enter her name in the pedicure drawing. I now know that Lillian is interested in a pedicure. So we use that to our marketing advantage. We send Lillian a postcard with a special offer, promotion, or $20 off a pedicure.”

Some salons choose to discount the client’s prebooked services as an incentive, but our experts caution against this practice. Carter says, “Never discount your services. My hunch is you are not charging enough as it is!”


Be Picky

Standing appointments offer many advantages, but you don’t want to book them indiscriminately. Target clients who are likely to keep their appointments, not those whose lifestyles (such as frequent travelers) won’t accommodate a bi-weekly visit.

Wilson says, “Standing appointments are not for every client. I don’t want to be so gridlocked I don’t have flexibility for my clients. But if I see a client requesting the same day and time regularly, I will offer it. I usually don’t offer standing appointments to new clients. I prefer to build rapport with them and get them comfortable with me and my services. I have had more success doing it that way.”

There may be instances in which you need to ask a client to revert to phone-as-you-go visits, such as in the case of multiple no-shows. Carter says this may also be the case if the client continues to move the appointment and it’s just not fitting her lifestyle. “We want to be a service to our guest, not a disservice,” she says.

Many clients will find that making the commitment is indeed a valuable service that your salon offers. It eases the burden of their hectic schedules — a phone call to the salon each month is now one less item on their to-do lists. And, of course, they never have to worry their pedicure is out of date.


We Want You Back!

So what about those clients who not only aren’t regulars, but they actually haven’t been inside your salon, in, oh, six months or so? It’s time to reach out with an incentive to come back. There are a few methods by which to do this, but they all assume that you collected the client’s contact information (email address, phone number, etc.) to begin with. So if you aren’t yet doing client information cards each time a new client walks in your doors, now is a great time to start. “You can expect about 20% of those you contact to return,” says Empowering You Consulting’s Amy Carter.

> Send a “We miss you” email with a coupon for a percentage off the next visit.

> Hand write a note with an offer and put it in the mail. Be sure to include an expiration date so there’s a real call to action.

> Call the client to check in. Let her know about any current specials or new retail items she may be interested in.


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