Customer Service

Dear Jane...

Regular clients don’t just stop coming — they have reasons that more often than not directly relate to you or your salon. Make sure you don’t let clients use any of these 10 reasons to say sayonara to your salon.

They were a nail technician’s dream clients: A group of three women from a nearby office building who came in together for a biweekly manicure and gab session. The dream lasted more than six years, until the women just stopped coining. The nail technician called one woman, then another, trying to find out why. What the women wouldn’t say (at least to her) was that they had found someone new — someone who gave “to melt for” hand massages and perfect polish.

Regular clients don’t just stop coming — they have reasons that more often than not directly relate to their dissatisfaction with you or your salon. In this case, the three women left because they found someone who used hot oil treatments as opposed to a few strokes with a damp scrub brush, and who gave 10-niinute hand and arm massages as opposed to a perfunctory five-minute “finger massage.”

Regular clients are like precious gems — as hard to find and just as valuable. It’s a well-known business maxim that it costs six times as much to find a new client as it does to retain a current one. It’s important to find out why clients stop coming so you can make amends. But it’s equally important to never give clients a reason to stop coining in the first place.


1.         “YOU STARTED TAKING ME FOR GRANTED.” Sometimes nail technicians get so caught up doing nails that they forget the client is more than just a pair of hands stretched across the table. “Some nail technicians have too many clients and they begin to do their nails in an assembly line fashion,” says Marie von Haas, owner of The Nail Parlor in Aurora, Colo. “You lose the one-on-one with clients that way. That one-on-one is critical, especially in this industry where people come to see you as much as to get their nails done.”

“After a client’s been coming for awhile she starts to feel unimportant,” adds Jane Bruns, owner of Elegant Nails Etc. in Norfolk, Neb. “You have to remember to treat that person like she’s your only client and stay excited about her.”


2.         “I’M BORED WITH MY NAILS (AND WITH YOU).” Don’t let clients get bored. “Sometimes technicians get in a rut and do the same thing over and over,” says von Haas. “You keep those customers through your own continuing education, new products, new colors, and new conversations.”

Mona Buggers, owner of The Polished Outlook, A Spa in the Village in Milford, Mich., agrees. “I find switching products generates new interest. A lot of people are real trendy and you have to stay up on new techniques and new products. Always be presenting something new to keep their interest,” she says.


3.         “I CAN GET MY NAILS DONE CHEAPER ELSEWHERE.” Clients will always be able to find cheaper nail services, but if you are providing services that oiler value, you shouldn’t have to lose these clients. You should be educating your clients constantly on why your services are priced just so. You also need to distinguish your salon from the crowd: Your salon should be the cleanest one in town and offer the highest-equality nail services. The little extras, like an extra few minutes of massage and a caring altitude, will be hard for a customer to leave. Amy Jamarowicz, owner of Amy Designs Ltd. in Hockessin, Del., says there’s little she can do to stop clients from switching to a cheapen salon, but she; adds that they usually come back on their own. “There is a real price difference, but they aren’t getting the service and the nails aren’t as great,” she explains.


4.         “I DON’T LIKE MY NAILS.” A client’s unhappiness with a service often stems from a lack of communication. Its not that you did something wrong, it just wasn’t what she wanted done. While you can discuss new services with clients, don’t push them into trying something before they’re ready. Before you start working on a client’s nails, even if she’s been coming to you for years, take two minutes to discuss the service with her. You may find she wants her nails longer or shorter, or would like to try something different, like a sculpted French manicure.

When a client is unhappy, ask her what will fix the situation. Sometimes you may have to redo the service or give her a complimentary service the next time. Maybe she simply wanted a different polish color or felt the service took too long.

Says Sherri Evans, owner of Get Nailed by Sherri & Company in Yuma, Ariz., “When a client is unhappy with a service I redo it as the salon owner, schedule her with another technician, give her a refund, or give her the next service free. When people knew you guarantee the work, they stay with you.”


5.         “I DON’T LIKE YOU.” While you should always be friendly with each client and show genuine interest in what she has to say, inevitably there will be clients you just don’t click with. If you don’t hit it off with a new client, talk to her about all the services in the; salon and invite; her to try any technician she chooses. “We have clients who do better with one technician than another. Let clients know they can see whomever they want in the salon,” says Lynne Pereux, owner of The Nail Polish in Nashau, N.H.

Cindy Fairchild, owner of De Nouveaux in Tucson, Ariz., displays a card that tells clients that the entire staff is at their disposal. “That way, if they like the salon and just aren’t happy with the person, they know they have the entire staff to choose from,” she says.


6.         “YOU’RE NEVER AVAILABLE WHEN I WANT TO COME IN.” Most nail technicians try to book standing appointments for regular clients, but what do you do with those clients whose schedules vary from week to week, or who need to get in for a repair or to have their nails done for a special occasion? If you say no, even if your reason is legitimate, you risk upsetting the client, who doesn’t have anywhere else to turn. And if you send her somewhere else, she may stay there.

“If a client needs to change her appointment, I ask her when she can come in and then try to reschedule the client who’s in that slot. My clients all know that I do this for them and they try to work with me. It’s worth the work because they appreciate it,” says Audrey Burtin-Cutts, owner of Nails Just for You in Little Rock, Ark.

When she can’t accommodate clients, Pereux says they get frustrated. When this happens, she sends a note to the client explaining she is trying to accommodate her, and she may include an offer of a free paraffin treatment at the client’s next visit.


7.         “I’M TOO BUSY TO GET MY NAILS DONE.” Sometimes, demanding schedules force clients to put their nails at the bottom of their to-do list. “A lot of my clients are professionals, so they tend to get busy and forget to call to make an appointment,” says Dominick Strauss, a nail technician at Aziz Salon in Austin, Texas. “Calling them works great for me because it gets them back into the salon, and I can book their next appointment then,” says Strauss.

Summer is a slow season at Pereux’s salon, and the lag can carry over into fall if she doesn’t spur her clients to come in. “We’re about two hours from the lake and some clients go up to their cottages there for the summer. They can’t come back to get their nails done so they take them off. When they return, they get caught up in the kids going back to school and so on and they forget to come back,” she says. Usualy, a simple reminder note the clients back, she says.


8.         “I CAN’T AFFORD TO GET MY NAILS DONE ANYMORE.” Although many women who get their nails done swear that their salon visits would be the last to go from the budget, sometimes women are forced to cut back because of a loss of income or unexpected expenses. While some clients won’t admit this is the reason they won’t be back, you should be alert to comments they make. If, for example, a client announces her husband lost his job or her child needs braces, you might suggest changing her nail care program.

“We put clients in a more economical treatment; for example, we’ve promoted a lot of natural nail care. You can offer an alternative without making money the issue, but mention casually that it’s less expensive,” says Ruggers.

At Evans’ salon, she has a sliding fee scale based on the technician’s experience. “When a client says she can’t afford to get her nails done anymore, I suggest she try one of the other technicians at a lower price. That work’s about 50% of the time,” Evans says.


9.         “THE SALON IS TOO NOISY.” Or too quiet, or there are too many people or not enough action. Clients are looking for an experience — and a salon — that fits their personality. Vernita Gray of About Nails, Faces, Etc. in Milwaukee, Wis., says her clients want a relaxing experience. When they couldn’t find that experience at her former location, they left. “Clients who stopped coming to the two other beauty businesses in the building because of personality conflicts stopped coming to me as well because they had to come through the other businesses to get to mine upstairs,” says Gray. So Gray left too, and promptly sent those clients a flier announcing her move. About 40% of those clients came to her new location.

Strauss says his salon lost customers because; the nail area was just too noisy. “We had five nail techs in a room that’s not very large. It was very loud and boisterous so we cut back to three nail technicians and created a quieter, more: therapeutic environment,” he says.


10.       “I DON’T WANT TO GET MY NAILS DONE ANYMORE.” What these clients may actually be saying is they don’t want to get the same service anymore. Either they’re unhappy or bored with their nails and have decided they’re not worth the investment. To change their mind, you need to offer your clients innovation and excitement in a new service. Give them a sculpted French manicure, put them in gels, or show them the beauty of natural nails with professional manicures.

While you won’t keep the same clients forever — some move away or move on to something different — don’t let them leave because of something you did or didn’t do to keep them happy. Your efforts will not only keep your old clients, but will attract new clients, too, when your happy clients tell their friends about a great place to get their nails done — your salon.

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