We have a hundred excuses for not sifting through old entries in our appointment books, but it basically boils down to this: We believe it’s unnecessary. Maybe we think we know our clients well enough to keep track of them mentally. Maybe it’s because we think we remember all the new clients we’ve met in the past couple of months, and we’re pretty sure most of them returned. (Didn’t they?) Or (and this was my offense) we think clients can make their own decision about where to go — and they know where to find us.

Whatever prevents us from going back into the dead files, let’s all agree on this: It’s a bad business move. We may think we have a picture of how our business is doing, the demographics of our clients, and our retention rate, but until we see it on paper, we don’t have an accurate snapshot.

But how does one go back through the records to assess her business? Gale Pyles, general manager of Studio 21 Salon & Spa in Gurnee, Ill., offers some advice. “Every three months,” she says, “we run a report to see who hasn’t been here in 90 days.” Clients are separated by which nail tech performed the service, and the techs go through the names to see if they know why the client hasn’t returned.” The tech will know, for example, if a client has moved, if she has removed her nails, or if she has moved south for the winter. Pyles says the clients who haven’t returned receive a note from the salon with a discount on a service. If a tech has only a few clients, she sends a handwritten note to the client with a $10-off gift certificate.

If you have a paper system, cleaning out your book may take longer, but it’s the same idea. You just do it all by hand. Flip the book back three months and the first time you read a name you don’t recognize, highlight it. Continue to do that until you reach today’s date. Now go back, write down the names of all the clients you haven’t seen in 90 days, pull their client cards to get their address and send them a letter saying you miss them. Offer a discount on a service or a free bottle of polish. Make sure you put an end date on the coupon — you want them to return soon.

You’ll eventually need to clean out that card file, too. Pyles says that once a year the salon goes through client files and purges old clients who haven’t been in and who haven’t responded to the discount mailings. This keeps the records current and it saves on postage when the salon sends targeted mailings.

Keeping your client files and your appointment book up to date offers a number of benefits both to the client and the techs. Clients feel more cared for when they realize you’re aware they haven’t been in, and techs have a better understanding of who makes up their clientele. Updated files also give techs a starting point for setting goals and growing their business. Did you realize your retention rate is 45%? Set a goal to pre-book so you can raise that to 60%. Did you notice when you ran a report that you have an increase in online bookings? Begin to ask clients for their e-mail addresses so you can announce promos and specials via e-mail to save the cost of a mailing.

Cleaning out your files isn’t difficult, but it does take some time — especially if you don’t have software to help make the job easier. However, it’s time well spent. You understand the pulse of your salon better, and clients feel valued from your personal attention.

Five Quick Tips

1. Get connected. If you don’t have salon software that helps you organize your clients, put that on your “must have” list immediately. Even a single tech working out of her home will benefit from an electronic, rather than a paper, system.

2. Just do it. Look at your database as a tool to providing exceptional customer care, not as one more thing to complete on your to-do list.

3. Send out notes. Personal, attentive care will grow your business and increase client retention.

4. It will be worth it. Updated files empower you to make decisions based on facts, not guesses.

5. The opportunities will be endless. Updated, electronic files allow you to communicate with your clients easily — so you can advertise specials, send out e-mail blasts, and remind clients of their next appointments automatically.

In this three-part spring cleaning guide we give you tips for clearing out the clutter in your appointment book, in your salon, and in your life. Check out our tips on Clearing Out the Clutter from Your Salon here, and check out our tips on Clearing Out the Clutter from Your Life here.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.