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The Power of Pre-booking
By: John Harms
Posted: August 1, 2011, from the August 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Whenever the typical spa or medical spa owner considers increasing revenue, the obvious tactics come to mind, such as raising prices, up-selling more expensive services and advertising to new clients. However, the easiest way to increase revenue is by trying to get your already-loyal clients into the facility more often.
Amazing growth potential
Pre-booking a client’s next service is the key to increasing the frequency of visits and filling the appointment book well in advance of the actual service being performed. Many spas are only 25% booked two weeks out and are barely more than 50% booked for a given day seven days out. This makes it evident that many people book the week of—or many times within 48 hours of—when they need or desire a skin care service. Pre-booking increases a typical client’s visit frequency by about 40–50% during a year. So a client who comes to the spa five times a year would end up coming in seven times a year. Now consider that for your total number of current clients, and you can see the amazing growth potential you have when focusing on increasing frequency of visits and pre-booking.
Pre-book the right way
What is the typical pre-book percentage in skin care facilities? It’s hard to say because so many businesses don’t pre-book correctly. What’s the right way to get clients to book in advance? You have to build a culture around pre-booking that begins with the skin care professional’s dialogue with clients about the importance of seeing them again during the upcoming weeks, based on the service being provided. Then, when the skin care professional walks the client to the check-out station, the client should be introduced to the front desk person with the mention that it would be ideal to see the client again in X weeks. The front desk person then offers the client a choice between at least two openings during the requested time period. They shouldn’t ask “Would you like to book your next appointment?” It’s too easy for the client to say “No.” They should ask which opening works best for them, “Saturday the 24th at 2 pm or 4 pm?”
Pre-booking will also reduce incoming telephone traffic and, with technology, all of these appointments can be confirmed via text messaging and e-mails. It is important to keep the front desk staff working on proactive ways to grow the business, such as gift card sales, retailing, following up on no-shows and cancellations, following up with clients on appointments for services, and other service-oriented tasks. Empowering the front desk and tracking pre-book percentages will motivate them and make them feel like a part of the growth and success of your skin care facility. A good pre-book percentage goal is 50%. Half of the clients who come in should be booked again before they leave for some type of service. There are spas that reach a whopping 75% pre-book, so that’s not even impossible.
Build a culture
Give it a try! Build a culture around increasing the number of times your loyal clients come in to your business. It’s much easier and certainly cheaper than trying to market and advertise enough to bring in the equivalent in new client visits. Once you increase your frequency of visits, be sure to keep an eye on client retention to make sure you don’t have holes in your system and aren’t losing those clients you’ve worked so hard to add to your database.