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As a salon owner and licensed manicurist, my perspective on the nail industry could not be more practical. While some may be offended by the opinions expressed, please understand that I want to share information and stimulate discussion. Whether you want your nails done or do nails professionally, I hope you find this blog both useful and interesting.

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Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Value of Standing Appointments

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, January 2012

After the chaos/excitement of the holidays, every year begins with a new, orderly salon schedule. At first glance, it may not look that different from last year’s schedule. The salon hours did not change; we’re still open Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm. We didn’t gain or lose any manicurists; there are three of us and I need to hire another one (that’s a whole other topic). We didn’t add or eliminate any services, and prices have not changed since our last increase in January 2010. Even the names on the schedule are familiar; they belong to clients who’ve reserved standing appointments for the entire year. Standing appointments demonstrate how much these Preferred Clients, as we call them, value our time and services. Likewise, we value Preferred Clients, above all others, for their commitment and reliability. Simply stated, my salon would not be as successful without them.

For 2012, we have approximately 75 Preferred Clients on our schedule. Some are relatively new, while others have been loyal clients for more than ten years. The importance of these clients is obvious; taken together, they account for nearly half our available time and more than half the income generated by the salon, including retail. While value can be quantified by various statistics (service frequency, service/retail/tip dollars, referrals, etc.), those numbers do not convey the qualitative value of standing appointments. They provide structure and stability, and eliminate the seasonal fluctuations that some salons experience. Particularly in uncertain economic times, it’s very reassuring to know that we can reasonably expect a certain amount of revenue during the year. 

More than once, I’ve heard the advice that a client should be pre-booked for the next appointment before leaving the salon. That’s not good enough if you want to secure a client’s loyalty for the long term. Why waste the time it takes to schedule the next appointment every visit when you could make a more permanent arrangement? Not only will this save time, but it also relieves the anxiety associated with either having too few clients on your schedule, or so many that you cannot find time for your best clients when they want an appointment.

To build a salon schedule based on standing appointments, advance planning is required, and the more consistent you can be, the better. Begin by establishing your available hours. For example, I work with clients Tuesday thru Thursday; my employees have different, yet consistent, schedules to cover the remaining salon hours. It’s also important to plan your schedule at least a year in advance. The planning for 2012 began last June (2011) with a completely empty schedule. (We don’t block off holidays until after reserving standing appointments; we reschedule those affected clients later.) A complete list of Preferred Clients (and others who wanted to be) ensured that everyone received consideration. Once it was determined that there wouldn’t be any price, service, or schedule changes, we started filling the schedule and confirming reservations based on seniority. Most Preferred Clients wanted to keep the same schedule, while some needed a change (e.g. adding another service or increasing the frequency interval from three weeks to two weeks). 

Let me emphasize that we offer standing appointments to only our best clients (reliable, cooperative, appreciative, etc.). It’s as easy as saying: “I really enjoy doing your nails, but as my clientele grows, convenient appointments will be harder to schedule. I’d like to reserve a specific day and time just for you. What days and times work best?” Not all clients will be able to commit as their personal schedules may vary too much, and that’s understandable. We also value these “regular” clients because they nearly fill out the remaining time in our schedule, leaving very little time for walk-in clients. Both our brochure and website announce: “By invitation only, Precision Nails offers standing appointments in one-, two-, three-or four-week intervals. Clients with standing appointments receive scheduling priority and other valuable benefits.” There’s no monetary incentive involved; the incentive for the client should be securing the most convenient time on a consistent basis. 

And speaking of incentives, I do not recommend discounts, ever. If getting busier (more clients, more appointments) is that important, you could advertise discounted (why not free?) services and convince yourself those clients will return and pay your regular prices later. However, being busy is not the same as being successful. The “regular” prices have no meaning when a salon continually offers discounts. In fact, the term “discount salon” is a common euphemism for a salon known for poor quality work at lower-than-average prices. Why would any beauty professional want to be associated with that? When manicurists discount their service prices, clients may discount their professionalism. I want clients who can readily afford to have their nails done, not those who need special pricing to justify the experience.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.