Most professionals have heard that it costs 11 times more to find a new client than it does to retain an existing one. If this is true, why don’t professionals spend at least twice as much time working to keep existing clients happy to avoid the costly mistake of client turnover? Client retention is one of the most important metrics that every professional skin care clinic should keep track of. A spa’s rebooking rate is one of the single most important indicators for financial and professional success. Simply put, the spa’s rebooking rate is the percentage of clients who schedule their next appointment before they leave. If 10 out of 10, this equals a 100% rebooking rate – clients rebook every time; great job. In this case, the professional most likely learned the lessons below years ago. If about five out of 10 clients rebook, this equals a 50% rebooking rate – then, this article is written for you. The goal is to keep it 100.
The top five reasons clients do not return: professionals put their needs before clients’; the rebooking process is too difficult; the professional overpromises and underdelivers; they do not make a strong connection; or the professional did not ask for the rebook.
THE CLIENTS’ NEEDS ARE NOT PRIORITIZED
In the professional skin care industry, the customer is king or queen. How does one prepare to serve royalty? If a client is to be treated as a king or queen, then what is the professional doing to offer them the royal treatment? For the professional to distinguish the spa from competition, the separation begins with the preparation – preparation in training, treatments, retail home prescriptives, client in-take, clinic presentation, consultations, and over-around customer service.
Putting a client’s needs before one’s own comes down to understanding what clients want and need even before they come into the spa. Kings and queens expect professionalism, expert advice, education, results, personalized experiences, and honesty. Once the spa has selected one or two professional skin care companies to work with, it is vital to maximize training and education to be able to offer the best results for clients. This will help give expert advice, education, and results to clients.
One of the best times to discover a client’s needs is during the initial consultation. This is the absolute most important meeting the professional will have with their client. This is when trust and professionalism are established. This is where the unexpressed needs are uncovered and the professional gets to the root of why the client came to the spa. There are several reasons that clients come to a professional skin care clinic – most of which are tied to a specific skin condition. But, at the end of the day, it is because either the client does not feel confident with the current skin they are in or they want to maintain the confidence they have with their current skin. Regardless of the root reason for the appointment, professionals should always charge for the very first skin consultation. Some spas do not feel comfortable charging for the initial consultation but, in professional industries, free equals worthless. Some spas will charge for the initial consultation but then credit it off the first treatment as a way to earn the initial appointment.
The client consultation process should take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes and cover items such as basic contact information and preferences, client concerns and expectations, allergies, diet, medication, histology, injuries, and any other physical or emotional concerns. Please note, advice is limited to scope of practice – questions are not. Ask as many relevant questions as possible; now is the time to listen and learn. During this process, analyze the texture, color, and secretions of the skin along with the skin condition(s). Take photos to document the current condition(s). Based on observations, educate the client on the major causes of the skin condition(s) they are experiencing and then make the proper recommendation for treatments and home prescriptives.
It is not uncommon for clients to only focus on one skin condition, believing that their skin will always be congested and they have tried everything to remedy the persistent condition. For instance, a client may come into the spa with congested skin and closed comedones, but during the consultation may only express concern about the rhytides around her eyes. Regardless, the professional obligation is to treat what the client expects to be treated and, over time, earn the trust to treat other conditions, as needed. This is a perfect example of putting the client’s needs first.
Putting clients’ needs first comes down to treating them like royalty, preparing to meet their needs, and having a detailed, consistent consultation process. Meeting their needs will ensure they keep coming back month after month.
REBOOKING IS TOO DIFFICULT
The second reason clients do not return is because it is too difficult. Consider trying to make a reservation at a restaurant only to find out it can only be done by calling during business hours. What restaurant in 2019 does not have online booking? Do clients have to call or text to book an appointment at the spa? One of the main reasons clients do not rebook their treatments is because it is too difficult.
Investing in a spa management software program is worth every penny. For starters, it will automatically calculate the rebooking rate for the spa. Secondly, many programs will manage retail inventory and keep a record of all client information, including events, birthdays, and previous treatments, along with before and after pictures. Thirdly, it will allow clients to book any time of the day, even while the professional is sleeping or in treatment with another client. The program will even remind the client and let them confirm the appointment without a call or text. Fourthly, there are several programs available for minimal monthly cost or even free. Keep clients coming back month after month by giving them 24-hour access for booking appointments.
THE PROFESSIONAL OVERPROMISES AND UNDERDELIVERS
The third reason clients do not return is because their expectations are not met. We have all been promised one thing and given another – the classic bait and switch. This is when what is expected and what is being delivered are two different things. Nothing undermines trust quicker than when a client does not receive what they were anticipating.
This is one of the reasons the client consultation is so important. During the consultation, the professional has the opportunity to uncover a client’s true needs and wants. Many who have been in the industry for a number of years will understand that physical results and professionalism are just the beginning of the relationship. Often, clients will have other unexpressed needs that are not always met with a treatment or bottle.
One of the best ways to uncover what their true needs are is to ask about previous experiences with other aestheticians; what are their main concerns? One great question to ask is: “If you had a magic wand, what is one thing you would change about your skin?” This is the moment of truth. This is where the professional manages the expectations and shares what the client can expect over the next several months – no hype, no buzz words, just real honesty of what can be accomplished.
Another variable to keep in mind about managing expectations is to charge appropriately. If the professional is able to provide award-winning, life changing skin care treatments and home prescriptives, then their menu should not look like a fast-food drive through menu. Luxury items should be priced accordingly and so should the services. If clients are getting real results, they will gladly pay a premium. Charging properly is all about becoming a partner in clients’ skin care journeys. They are not only paying for treatments and products; they are paying for experience, expertise, and someone to look after their skin – charge accordingly.
Managing client expectations is very important during the consultation. This will help ensure clients come back for future appointments. For example, one would never promise a 75-year-old female that she could magically have 25-year-old skin. Instead, educate the client on their skin condition and, then, help them observe a portion of their body which has not been exposed to the elements, such as an area near the breast or underarm, to show their genetic potential. The goal is to revise skin back to its genetic potential.
A STRONG CONNECTION IS NOT MADE
The fourth reason clients do not return is that they did not make a strong enough connection. Often, first time clients are shopping for aestheticians or service providers. Their visit is the one shot to make a strong connection and earn the relationship. It was mentioned earlier to charge for the initial consultation; this is a must for true professional skin care clinics. It immediately communicates that the professional is an expert and their time is very valuable. Still, that does not mean they should not be personable.
The three easiest questions one can ask to build rapport are: where do you live, where do you work, and what are your hobbies? These are simple, non-personal questions that immediately get the client talking about themselves. As the client opens up and shares, the professional is able to find common ground and make connections. The more the professional has in common with their clients, the more their clients trust and connect with them.
Another great tip for making a strong connection with a new or existing client is to exceed their expectations. This can be done in a number of ways, but a sincere, genuine, hand-written note always goes a long way. Other ideas include sample products, complimentary upgrades, or follow-up calls or texts. These things do not need to cost a fortune; the goal is to make a strong connection for the beginning of a long-term relationship.
THE PROFESSIONAL DID NOT ASK
The fifth and most common reason clients do not return is because the professional fails to ask. It is hard to believe that this is the number one reason clients do not return, but it is true. Naturally, when invited to rebook, this puts the client in a position to accept or reject. There are several reasons why one would not ask, but one of the most common is fear of rejection.
How can professionals remove the fear of rejection and ensure that they ask for the next appointment? These are a few great techniques:
- Start by asking which day of the week the client prefers. “Mrs. Smith, would you prefer your next appointment on Tuesday or Thursday?” This is an option question, not a yes or no question.
- Allude to their previous appointment timeline. “Mrs. Smith, the last time we saw you was four weeks ago, do you prefer four- or five-week schedules?” This question references their previous preference and gives them an option of treatment frequency.
- The third technique is by far the most effective because it is needs-based and explained during the consultation. During the consultation, explain about how long the skin condition will take to revise and ask for commitment from the client about the timeline.
Example: “If we want results, treating grade 3 acne is a journey that takes commitment from both you and me. If you are not committed to the home prescriptives and professional treatments, your progress will be significantly stunted with minimal result. Are you ready to commit to at least eight to 12 weeks of treatments and homecare to help take back control of your skin?” This clearly lays out the expectation and allows the client to choose if they are ready to move forward.
Client retention is one of the most important variables for a spa’s success. The clients’ needs should always come first – they are the kings and queens. Keep it easy for clients by allowing them to book and confirm appointments on their phones to ensure increased client appointments. Managing expectations and delivering on promises is the best way to keep clients coming back. Making a strong connection from the first appointment is crucial to client retention. If professionals want to be successful, they need to make sure they are asking the right rebooking questions. Following the best practices listed above will increase any professional’s rebooking rate and ensure they are keeping it 100.
Drew Coleman is the vice president of education and sales for DMK International. His professional passion is to help business owners maximize their potential by benchmarking and identifying growth opportunities. Coleman’s 17-year career has been dedicated to helping businesses grow. He loves the aesthetics industry because of the passionate business owners he works with every day.