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Hair Removal in Hard Times

Abby Penning April 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
girl practicing hair removal

Book, wax, repeat—if only hair removal treatments nowadays were so simple. Fierce competition, economic effects and at-home treatments are all factors that have to be considered when weighing those hair removal services on your menu. Add to that the sanitation and training needed to perform waxing, laser, electrolysis, threading or tweezing, and it might just have you wondering whether hair removal offerings are worth keeping.

A look at the client desire for these professional treatments, however, still shows an immense demand. “Hair removal is something that a lot of women aren’t willing to let go by the wayside,” says Nona Daron, co-owner of Flying Beauticians, which has locations in San Francisco and Mill Valley, California. “And it’s women from all different cultures and generations who want that smooth skin and to feel feminine in that way—basically, they want that hair gone.”

The need for multiple, recurring hair removal maintenance treatments is something that is still driving the sales of these services, too. “People want to maintain what they’ve started,” says Ann Derenne, owner of the Skin Tight Medi-Spa & Salon in Colgate, Wisconsin. “If you just let it go, that’s like money out the door.” But more than that, hair removal services tend to be affordable for spa clients, as well as for the spas themselves, and they can easily make a large impact on both. Mandy Ford, operations team leader for the Nuovo Salon Group, three Aveda Lifestyle salons in Sarasota, Florida, says, “Something as simple as a brow waxing and shaping can really help boost morale and confidence for such a small expenditure.” There are a few keys to keeping your hair removal services at the height of demand, and knowing what to watch out for can keep your clients coming in again and again.

Keep clients close

Knowing your clients and the hair removal options they need are the first steps to staying relevant. Ford, whose facilities are in Florida, a popular tourist destination, explains that Nuovo keeps its main local clients in mind at all times. “Although we’re happy to have seasonal clients, the people we see on a regular basis are key for consistency,” she says.

Understanding each and every client, as well as their needs and issues, also comes in handy when creating that all-important relationship of trust, so slacking off on critical questions is a bad idea. “At times, estheticians forget to ask clients if they are taking any medications or using topical ointment treatments that might affect hair removal. Intake forms should be completed each and every time,” Ford says. “All it can take is one bad experience to create a negative impression. As a service provider, you work to build and maintain a high-trust relationship, and finding out the clients’ needs is really part of that. Listening is something that is so essential—consulting with each client is crucial and, believe it or not, spending that one-on-one time with clients creates a point of difference from the rest. The client feels heard and a relationship is created.”

Being aware of how your clients are reacting and responding to economic issues gives you a leg up, too, and helps you prepare better options for your target demographic. “Some clients might be considering trying waxing rather than laser because of the cost per session, or sometimes the pain level differences can cause someone to try something different in hair removal. Some are looking to maintain smaller areas, and that can often be better done with electrolysis,” notes Daron. “It’s still wise to shop around. For some, laser works best, and for others, it’s waxing or electrolysis. It depends on the time, pain tolerance and budget a client has.”

Of course, in order to reap the benefits of clients’ willingness to come in, you have to be both prepared and flexible with your schedule, and new technology can be greatly helpful in this regard. “We are creating and implementing online booking as a service to our clients,” Ford says, explaining how Nuovo consistently informs clients about appointment openings and updates. “Convenience is such a huge factor for everyone, and we are creating a template that will allow us to send out daily e-mails to our client base, letting it know about appointment opportunities available that day. Then we can tie-in value-added services or incentives if a client schedules an appointment.”

Keeping your clients and their interests close can only benefit you. As Julie McGinn, director of skin education for Gadabout SalonSpas in Tuscon, Arizona, explains, “We try to make all clients know we appreciate that they have chosen us for their personal services and do everything we can to ensure they receive five-star service. We are here for our clients and are happy to see them every time they come in.”

Dollars and deals

Even with the opportunity and desire for hair removal services, some clients still need a little push. This is where you need to get creative, like Blue Water Spa in Raleigh, North Carolina, did. When clients brought in canned goods to donate to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, a local anti-hunger organization, the spa offered them discounted treatments. “Our clients, even in this economy, still want to spend money on themselves, still want to look good, but they feel a little bit of guilt about it,” says Kile Law, president and co-owner of Blue Water Spa. “But when they are doing something for others as well as for themselves, it encourages more people to come in. We found that being able to do these little things that add up to something big really enhanced the loyalty of our clients..”

Customizing enticing pricing and packages can be beneficial options for hair removal offerings, and a way to market maintenance treatments. “We offer package deals. If they buy a package for waxing services, they prepay for five sessions and then the sixth is free,” says Daron. “To attract new clients, we sometimes offer 15–20% off for someone’s first service, and people can also come in and do a trial electrolysis session. This helps when someone isn’t sure about the pain or commitment level. First-timers also get free little underwear that say, ‘I Survived My First Brazilian,’ which is fun.”

Keeping your spa and services at the top of clients’ awareness by providing discounts or deals also ensures that they will likely be coming in more often. “I have been continually running specials that help get our name out there. The more consistently these run, the more our name gets out there, the more people see us as an option. It reinforces our visibility and continues to encourage referrals to come in,” says Derenne.

However, package deals and discounts aren’t always for everyone, and it’s important to consider what your goal is when you begin putting them together. In fact, the initial cost of packages may lead some clients to pause. Law says, “It’s a really big upfront investment, and no two people will experience hair removal the same. I like to go treatment by treatment, and if you are confident with your technology and your provider, clients will come back.”

Special pricing and packages aren’t the only money savers you can offer though, and there are techniques that can be used in order to heighten clients’ awareness of different treatment options. For example, employee downtime in the spa doesn’t have to be wasted time. “We encourage our staff to cross-promote to other departments, so giving a hair technician some cards to pass out for a complimentary brow wax is a great way to introduce a new client to a different service,” says McGinn. “We also have skin interns—estheticians who are in our education program—offer complimentary makeup touchups to our hair clients. While doing their makeup consultations, the skin interns are encouraged to speak about facial waxing, and even offer a complimentary brow wax and shape to a client.”

Additionally, Derenne notes, “I do see more add-on services, and that’s a trend with the economy. It’s keeping us all rolling, and everyone is still kind of waiting to get back in a groove. The economy has a lot of people in a holding pattern, waiting to see what’s going to happen, so add-on services do encourage those people to come in and see what’s going on here in addition to their usual treatments.”

Repeat business

A definite positive of hair removal services is the need for maintenance. Derenne explains, “We encourage maintenance for outgrowth. Those are considered spot touchup treatments, so the price is lessened quite a bit, too, but I like to explain to everyone at the start of a treatment how outgrowth can appear in certain areas, and that everyone is on different cycles, so the frequency that they need to come in can be different. It’s best to be upfront with clients about the possibility of spot touchups.” Letting clients know at the outset they will likely need to make follow-up visits to maintain quality results helps further develop an esthetician-client bond.

Rebooking can’t be a decision left entirely to clients, though. “We consistently coach and train our team to focus on prebooking as one of the sales drivers we look at,” Ford explains. “Too many times, clients either just walk out or are left to make up their own minds about booking another appointment, so now we take it upon ourselves to make sure we see them again in four to six weeks. We’ve really had to train our staff that, especially in this economic climate, nothing is left unsaid. Every opportunity needs to be taken to remind clients to rebook.”

Daron focuses on the same rebooking needs and also encourages clients to return in the instance they have any issues from a treatment, which can result in follow-up services and sales opportunities. “We also send people home with products to help them maintain smooth skin and prevent ingrowns,” she explains. Referral programs can be capitalized on by sending other things home, too. “We offer refer-a-friend cards to our clients to give their friends a referral to their technician,” says McGinn. “It works out great, because it builds loyalty from the client and builds the technician’s clientele.”

Reminding clients about the sensitive nature of these treatments can be to your benefit, as well. “For what we do, it’s important to have licensed professional estheticians who specialize in hair removal services, because the client then knows the service is going to be performed by a highly trained esthetician in a sanitized environment,” says Ford. “It’s just smart to have a professional who knows what they’re doing.” Daron agrees, saying, “We just like to show people they’ve come to the right place. This is our specialty—we aren’t offering it because it’s trendy.”

In the end, quality treatments are the key. Offer good results, and you will have good clients. Law says sharing information about hair removal treatments with fellow owners is important for this reason. “I’ve always felt that other medical spa owners and physicians in the laser hair removal business are colleagues. If someone is performing laser hair removal and offering good treatments with good results, that’s a good thing. There is plenty of business to go around. But if somebody isn’t providing effective treatments and is unsafe, that’s damaging to all of us,” she explains. So staying safe and effective—no matter the method or information channel—is the surest path to dependable success.

Hair removal, the right way

Hair removal can be a tricky offering. Sensitivities, repeat visits, fickle clients and safety considerations can all be challenging. Although a continued effort is necessary on the clients’ part for the results to be maintained, spas can also create their own opportunities to encourage patronage and provide quality professional care. Knowing clients, staying safe and being willing to learn are some of the most important details to remember, and that kind of attention and helpfulness is exactly what has clients coming in every few weeks for appointments—and telling their friends about your services.

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