salon Policies: No Show? No Problem!

How do you handle no shows, late cancellations, and other undesirable behaviors? Confront your fears and insecurity, not your clients, before problems arise. Salon policies cannot protect your businesses without careful planning, clear communication, and consistent enforcement.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

JAIME: Welcome to Outgrowth: A Slice of Pro Beauty with your hosts Jaime Schrabeck.

ASHLEY: And Ashley Gregory. As clients return to salons under new guidelines, the policies and procedures we have in place are often challenged.

JAIME: How can you feel empowered to enforce your salon policies while providing good customer service? Let’s grow together.

ASHLEY: Jaime, I think it’s a tale as old as time in the beauty industry that we have all experienced a situation where a client no showed for an appointment, or said, oh, I left my wallet at home. Let me get you next time. Or came to their appointment with three or four toddlers in tow, expecting you to babysit while you also perform the beauty service.

JAIME: We could spend hours discussing client behaviors and the experiences that we’ve had, whether they be common or outrageous at times, but the things that you’ve described are fairly common things that a beauty professional will experience likely at some point during their career.

ASHLEY: When we’re all new in this industry, and even going through school, we’re taught that   the client is always right and we should give them what they want. So how do we move away from that way of thinking and still have some boundaries, but also maintain professionalism and great customer experience?

JAIME: The kind of experience that we offer our clients is up to us to determine, and we need to get away from that because as professionals, we’re not in a position to provide service to everyone, nor are clients in a position to demand services from us. So, what we need to decide are those policies that allow us to be the best professional we can be and give us the kind of career where we look forward to going to work every day rather than dreading who might be showing up on the schedule.

ASHLEY: I’ve heard you speak on this subject multiple times because you teach a great class at a lot of beauty shows called Your Salon, Your Rules. So I’m going to defer to your expertise on this and just kind of interview you about what your thoughts and experiences are on salon policies, if that’s okay with you.

JAIME: Oh, that’d be great. The point that you made about good customer service. We get to this career, I think often through our abilities and our desire to please people, to make them feel good and to feel good about the time they spend with us. So often we’re not in a position, or we feel that we’re not in a position, to tell people no, and no is a fairly harsh word. And you’ll hear people come up with all different types of ways to avoid saying no. And I think that’s what policies do for us. It sets those boundaries so we don’t have to say no. We can say yes to these things if the clients understand what’s expected of them.

ASHLEY: So why have policies in the first place if we can just maybe review things on a case by case basis or start instituting policie the first time we get burned by a bad client experience?

JAIME: There are so many behaviors that we could expect of clients that there’s no point in waiting for those to come up to actually consider what the consequences might be. So the first example that you gave of a client not showing up for a scheduled appointment, that’s very likely to happen. And we have to know what to tell clients so that if they were anticipating they needed to cancel the appointment, they know what’s expected in terms of some sort of notification that you require. And if they don’t give you that notification, what the client can expect to have happen, whether it be that they get charged the full service price, or they go on a waiting list, or perhaps they’re not allowed to come back until they pay for the service that they missed. It gets back to what you said earlier about clients and the good customer service that they’re expecting. Good customer service doesn’t mean give the clients what they want. And I know that’s what’s wrong with us as beauty professionals is we think that’s what that means. What it really means is what can we do to create the safest, most enjoyable experience possible while still meeting our professional obligations and expressing our creativity. So it’s really a balancing act.

ASHLEY: Do you think that having salon policies in place from the very beginning are a way to essentially protect your beauty business?

JAIME: I absolutely do. If you were opening a business, let’s say you were opening up a clothing store, you would never open up a clothing store without having a policy for returns. I like that example because I think everyone has had the experience of buying a piece of clothing and then wanting to return it later. And we know that there are some brands that have very generous return policies, Nordstrom comes to mind, and there are other brands that might not be able to be so generous, and they might require a receipt, and that the tags haven’t been removed, and that the garment does not appear to have been worn. So there’s a continuum there of not only generosity, but the willingness to tolerate certain behaviors in this case of a customer who is a retail customer, and we’re dealing with goods when we’re talking about clothing. Where it’s more serious for us is that we’re selling more than just our expertise. We’re selling our time, and there’s really no way to get our time back. So if we were to do a service, and the client were dissatisfied, and the client expected a refund for the service, we’re giving away the time and refunding the money. That’s a lot.

ASHLEY: That is a lot. And I know you have strong feelings about that, as do I. What I guess, I think the disconnect in what I’m observing and seeing, is that there’s lots of salons and beauty professionals that have policies in place, but they don’t necessarily enforce them. They’ll give a client three strikes before they’ll charge them a no show fee, or they’ll cut the service short in policy if they’re late, but then they end up doing the full thing cause they don’t want to have that awkward potential confrontation. So they just make themselves late and the next client angry because they can’t adhere to their schedule. So how can you, as a beauty professional, empower yourself to actually enforce the policies you make?

JAIME: You do that by making the client bear the consequences. What you just described I’ve experienced that myself, where if you were willing to take someone who’s shown up 10 to 15 minutes late and you tell yourself, you know, if I just work really fast, I’ll be able to get the entire service done. And I might be a few minutes late for the next person, but   will have accomplished what I intended to. There’s no consequence for the client in that situation. And you’ve only burdened yourself by working harder and faster, trying to meet their, which then undermines any policy you might have about showing up on time. I mean the whole expectations in 10 to 15 minutes less time. In the meanwhile, you are going to be late for the next client scenario is horrible because what you’re telling a client in this situation, without even saying anything, just by doing it, is that you can show up late and you can still get the entire service. I’ll make it happen. And that’s not the message we should be sending.

ASHLEY: No, cause it just rewards poor behavior.

JAIME: And that’s what that gets to is that we want to reward good client behavior, but we have to ask ourselves, what is it that we want clients to do? What does that ideal client look like? And I know, Ashley, that you have thought about that in great detail, because I know when you want to market to your ideal client, these are the types of things that you need to take into account. Who is that ideal client? Is it what she looks like? I don’t think so. My ideal client is not a look, or some sort of other demographic information about their socioeconomic status, or their education, or the kind of career they might have. My ideal client I tend to describe in terms of their behavior. 

ASHLEY: So let’s get into the nitty gritty of using COVID as a way to hit the reset button for your salon. You want to encourage good behavior moving forward from clients that are maybe new to you because we’re all sort of doing this shuffle right now. How would you go about setting good general salon policies? Or what guidelines would you give to a listener who is like, okay, this is it. I’m going to have policies that are going to enforce them?

JAIME: The thing that you control that clients want, and you can either give or not, is your time. Getting back to that idea that clients can’t demand service from you. They can’t force you to provide service. You have your time. And when you put boundaries on your time, then you are able to allocate it according to your priorities. So, in my case, I only want to give of my time on certain days for a certain number of hours during that day. And I don’t want to have to work with so many clients during that day that I’m completely exhausted by the end of the day. So I’m not going to try to cram too many people in there. So I think the schedule is the first boundary that you set, and then you clarify to new clients, in particular, that the time that you reserve for them, and I like to use the word reservation on purpose because it’s a reservation. It’s a commitment that you’re making to be there to provide the service. That client is making a commitment to be there to receive the service.  But it’s not really actually happening until you’re both there in the same space. So up until that point, it’s a reservation. But I can’t just go around giving the same reservation to multiple people. It’s one person during that, in my case, hour that I’m committing to, and without knowing who that person is, if they’re a new client, I need them to secure that commitment by prepaying. I have new clients prepay the entire cost of whatever service they’re reserving in order to secure the reservation.

ASHLEY: Interesting. So, what would happen, I’m just curious, if the client no shows, so you’re paid for that hour and they want another appointment. Do you apply that to the second appointment or is that just their loss?

JAIME: They would pay again, because now they’ve already demonstrated that they can’t keep an appointment, so they would be reserving another appointment. And clients who can demonstrate that they can be there when they say they’re going to be there, I don’t require them to prepay in advance for every appointment certainly because that’s the relationship that you build is the trust that I, as the service provider will be there and the client will be there. Now, there are some service providers who are known not to show up for appointments they schedule. You hear clients complaining about that. I mean, has it ever happened to you as a beauty professional that you forgot to be there for a client? And that’s happened to me and it typically happens when you go out of your way, when you schedule a time that you wouldn’t normally be there, and you forget, or you might schedule two people for the same time and not realize that that’s what you’ve done, because you forgot to write down the first appointment and you later offer that same time to some other client, and then at the time of the appointment, two different clients show up and that’s your screw up.

ASHLEY: No good deed goes unpunished.

JAIME: No, it certainly doesn’t. So going back to this idea of appointment reservations, the reason why I implemented that was I don’t need to worry about whether a first time client no shows under these circumstances because they’re invested already. They wouldn’t be making this reservation if they weren’t going to be there and they have the opportunity to cancel or reschedule if they give me adequate notice, in which case, it’s 24 hours. If I get 24-hours notice,   and they just want to cancel the appointment completely, they don’t have any plans to ever reschedule or come in at a later time, then I’m just going to refund the money they paid, and no questions asked. That’s fine. But if they don’t give me adequate notice or I don’t hear from them and the time comes and goes and they didn’t show up, then I’m entitled to that money because that was the policy that was in place and that they were aware of at the time they made the reservation.

ASHLEY: So how do you communicate these policies then to new potential clients who want to book with you?

JAIME: When we first get contacted, we want to make sure that that potential client knows what we offer. And that might sound ridiculous, like, well, Jaime, you’re a nail salon, of course you do waxing. We don’t do waxing. We’re a nail salon. We do nails. So the first indication that I have that someone’s interested, I want to get to know more about what their expectations are so we direct them immediately to the website so that they can read through the service descriptions and determine which service they’re most interested in. From there, we know how much time we need to look for in the schedule. And then we start discussing what their availability might be, what ours is, that we work by appointment only, and that new clients are required to prepay the price of whatever service they’re reserving. And interestingly enough, we get very little pushback on that. It’s become more common. I think years ago, when we first implemented this, we got more like, well, what do you mean I have to do that? What if I don’t show up or what, what if I get called in to work? Well, why should I suffer if you’re called into work? That’s the whole point. I’m, I’m there to work. This is my work. So we try to determine what it is that they want first. We let them know that that’s the policy, and the way that we actually achieve it technologically without storing anyone’s credit card number, which is not something anyone should be doing, is that we will get the person’s first name, last name, email address, and when we decide on a particular date that will work, we invoice through Square. So we’re sending that invoice via email, and when they complete the invoice, then we go ahead and add their name to the schedule, and that reservation then is confirmed.

ASHLEY: Cause you don’t offer online booking, correct?

JAIME: We don’t offer online booking. We tried it, but there were so many instances where we found that what a client was expecting or was asking for through just doing it on their own, by reading through service descriptions and such, and what they came in and wanted from us was a complete disconnect and I will blame gel polish for that. 

ASHLEY: Really?

JAIME: Because when gel polish came out, everything was a manicure

ASHLEY: Ah, right.

JAIME: Before gel polish, when you wanted a manicure, a manicure was traditional polish that was easily removed with acetone. There wasn’t any issue of trying to get some product off, or soaking it off, or anything like that. But when gel polish came out, it was marketed as a natural nail service, which I don’t confuse the two, but when it was marketed as such, everything seemed so easy that clients didn’t give a second thought to signing themselves up for perhaps the cheapest and shortest option on your menu, and then getting there and presenting you with a mess.

ASHLEY: But if someone were to have online booking as a regular practice, I know with a website we’re required to have terms and conditions available to be clicked on and peruse, how would you go about making an acknowledgement of those policies? Something that people would actually read and not just do the perfunctory click. Yes. Okay. Whatever. Get rid of this popup.

JAIME: I think some of that is achieved through permissions. I would feel much more comfortable allowing existing clients who already know what services they need to get, and how much time it takes, and what my policies are. Someone like that I would certainly trust to book their own appointments, but I think through giving clients permission. So maybe you don’t let new clients book an appointment online. Maybe that’s only available to existing clients and maybe only certain existing clients. And this whole idea of, you know, checking a box, or indicating that you somehow accept or understand the cancellation policy, or the fact that you’re providing a credit card number, and in those systems, there’s that option of having it be securely stored and charged later. Those are all things, that depending on the technology you’re using, you can work through. I’ve just found the way that I do it to be the simplest way for the technology that I want to work with, and ultimately, because I want to have control over my time. Just because I say five hours is available on a particular day does not mean that I want random strangers taking up those five hours. I want to be able to assign that time to the clients I value the most, and those are gonna be my existing clients, and even within my existing clientele, there’s priority based on their longevity in my clientele, their seniority.  

ASHLEY: Okay. So then in those rare instances, thinking about the average beauty provider who either works in a salon or has their own salon suite, when they’re challenged on those policies, what are some best practices to help them relay the info, but still hold firm and actually enforce the policy?

JAIME: The idea of you selling your time. I want every beauty professional to keep that in their mind that you are selling your time. When you have no clients in your salon for a period of time, you’re paying for your time. When you have a client paying for that time, a client is paying. So either you’re paying or your client is paying for your time. So one of the things I like to suggest is that if a client, for example, misses an appointment and you want to give an exception, you don’t want to enforce your policy of charging for a missed appointment. I would suggest that you direct this to the client and say, you know, it’s unfortunate that you missed your appointment. I will pay for it this time, but it will be the last time I pay for it.

ASHLEY: Oh, I like that.

JAIME: Which sounds kind of harsh, but it gets across the point that because you were expecting the client to be there as they committed to being there, and they weren’t there to pay you for your time, if you’re going to allow them to get away with not paying for it, you ended up paying for it.

ASHLEY: I like that paradigm only because it’s a good reminder of, of course, time is money and we all know those old adages, but something that you mentioned back in our episode about service pricing is that time is a nonrenewable resource. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And it’s helpful to understand that, yes, from the client’s point of view, they can reschedule and get their service at another time, but for you, you’ve essentially done the service twice and only been paid half. The sooner I think we all come to terms with that and understand that it’s not necessarily about enforcing the policy, it’s just being consistent and understanding that if we’re going to be trading our time for money, that someone has to pay. And to your point, if it’s you or the client, someone is still paying for that time because it costs you money to have your doors open. It costs you money to pay payroll. It costs you money to have the lights on, et cetera. I love that way of thinking, because I think it really helps drive home the point that, all right, first one’s on me, but the next time you do it, we’re going to have a conversation.

JAIME: And the first one may not be on you. The beauty of having your own rules is that you have the power to either enforce them or not. So while it’s true that the more consistent you can be in enforcing the policies, the better off you are, if you choose not to enforce your rule, if you choose a different consequence for the person, it’s because it’s your choice. In giving someone permission to not pay you for an hour that they missed, I would only do that for someone for whom that’s not their normal practice. They’ve been a fabulous client. This is out of the ordinary for them to have done this. And, you know, you can make a joke about it then. You could say, you’re such a fabulous client and you know, these things happen. Don’t worry about it. I got you this time. And then you just go on from there. Now, if it becomes a habit, that’s something else. But if it’s someone that you don’t have that relationship with, or for whom you don’t really care, whether that person continues as a client or not, they haven’t earned their way into the top tier of your clientele, then that may be the line you draw and whether they choose to do the right thing by paying for your time, even though they haven’t received the service or not, may be the determining situation that would cause them to not be welcomed back.

ASHLEY: Let’s talk about some of the pitfalls that one could run into when it comes to enforcing the policy. What are some dos and don’ts when your client has confronted you and said, I don’t agree with this? How dare you? I’ve been a client for six whole weeks here, and I really think that I am entitled to A, B, and C. What are some things not to do?

JAIME: Well, I love that you said six whole weeks because the flip side of that is, I’ve come six times in the last 10 years. I am one of your longest, most loyal clients ever. We’ve known each other for 10 years. You used the word confront. And I think that’s particularly useful because I don’t think all that many people in our industry are very confrontational. That’s typically not the style of our industry to be confrontational because we are trying to create a welcoming environment, and we’re trying to please people, and I don’t see too many situations where  confronting your clients on an ongoing basis about things is going to create that kind of environment. But in order to avoid that confrontation, this is where the policies come into play. This is where having them written down. They have to be written down. They have to be put in front of clients and made clear that these are the policies going in. And you have to enforce them often enough that you earn a reputation for actually having policies. Which seems kind of strange, like, you’d think, you know, I want a reputation for doing fabulous hair, or doing great facials, or whatever. It’s like, yeah, you want to have that reputation too, but you want to also have a reputation as being a good business person. And part of being a good business person is having the kinds of policies that allow you to enjoy the clients that you have and to express your creativity. It’s very hard to do all of that if you’re worried about getting paid, or if you’re worried about clients misbehaving once they get to your salon, or as you mentioned earlier, bringing their kids along. Those aren’t things that are conducive to doing your best work. So in terms of the confrontation, I would say that if you are being challenged, it would depend on how that’s coming to you, whether it’s coming to you in the moment, in person, while the client is still at the salon, or if it comes to you through an email, or through a phone call, or even maybe through a review on social media, and you have to consider the source. So, at times, it’s going to be valid where you might think, you know, that client has an excellent point. Maybe this policy isn’t working. Maybe this is the time to change the policy, and embrace the client, and keep that person as a client, or this may be the moment that you have the opportunity to enforce a policy and let that person go. So you really have to think long and hard about who this person is, whether you want to keep them or not, which sounds kind of harsh, but that’s what it comes down to, but do you want to keep them or not, And then how to contain this conversation because you don’t want to have an ongoing back and forth. What we want to do is to manage it as professionally as possible and move on.

ASHLEY: I know a lot of members of our industry struggle with this because they feel very connected to their clients. They feel like they have a friendship type of relationship with them. And I know when we’ve discussed this in the past, whether it be at a show or beyond when money comes into the situation, into the equation, friendship isn’t really on the table because you’re transacting. It is great to be pleasant, and cordial, and inquisitive about your client’s lives and things like that to create that welcoming atmosphere. But I don’t think we should really confuse the client provider relationship with friendship because at the end of the day, someone’s swiping their card. I know that there can be a lot of awkwardness around enforcing policies when bad client behavior is exhibited, but we shy away from those awkward conversations because, to your point, we’re not a confrontational industry. We’re very giving. We’re very empathetic. We’re very creative people just by our nature, in general. Especially for salon suite owners, it’s just you between the client and the policy. It can often feel like it’s just easier to say, okay, you get your way. I’ll pay for my time this time, and I don’t want to deal with it.

JAIME: That’s an excellent point because when it is just you, there’s no backup. There’s no salon manager. There’s no salon owner. There’s no one else to point to and say, hey, if it were my decision, you know, I would go ahead and let you slide on this, but you know, I’ve got to follow the salon policy. You know me to be someone who takes responsibility for things so much so that I hate using the passive form of a verb in a sentence, but here is a situation, and I’m glad you’ve brought this up for anyone who’s working by themselves, which I did for the first years of my career, but I learned to say, the salon policy is, even when I was the one writing the salon policy, and I was the only one in the salon, and I was the only one that was going to enforce the salon policy. If you make it about something separate from yourself, even if it’s the thing that you have control over. Another example would be the schedule. So instead of saying, I don’t have time to see you that day as a client is pressuring you to squeeze her into your schedule. Just say, according to the schedule, that time is not available. Take yourself, like take the word I, literally, out of the sentence that you’re going to say. It shifts the responsibility onto something so it lets the client know this is not personal.

ASHLEY: Right.

JAIME: This is business. It’s not about the relationship I have with you. It’s what I’ve laid out to be my best practices, my policies that seem to work for everyone else that comes and how you have forced me to enforce those policies based on your behavior. That’s really what you’re dealing with and whether or not you’re willing to accept that bad behavior, what you’re willing to tolerate in order to either keep that clientele, make that money, whatever it is that you feel you need to do. When we’re new to this industry, there’s so much more that we put up with. There’s so much bad behavior. And that’s why we see professionals posting on Facebook, after seven years, I guess it’s time that I finally had a cancellation policy, and I’m thinking, seven years? What took you so long? You should have had that policy day one. Now, it may not be the same policy. You might, it might evolve over time, but you knew what to expect of clients. There are certain behaviors that we can expect from clients because things happen. Life happens. What are you going to do when those things happen?

ASHLEY: I like your statement about taking the word I out of the equation and being a bit more passive in saying, well, the policy, the salon policy states A, B, and C. I know there’s another word that you advocate for eliminating and that word is sorry.

JAIME: Oh, my. So I tend not to apologize unless I’ve hurt your feelings or I’ve made you bleed. 

ASHLEY: Wow.

JAIME: And that, and that’s an exaggeration, but to just say, I’m sorry, because somehow a client is being inconvenienced in a way that’s through no fault of my own. So going back to the example of a client who’s demanding, or expecting to get on your schedule, when you don’t have time to say, I’m sorry. I don’t have that time available means you’re apologizing for being busy when you shouldn’t be. You shouldn’t be apologizing for being successful. You shouldn’t be apologizing for doing your job. You should be in a position to say, that time’s not available. Our next available time is, and move forward, and they’ll either work with it or they won’t. But to have created a situation where you feel obligated to apologize because somehow you’re magically not available at some random time that someone calls you and expects you to be, that’s just ridiculous. Save your sorries and your apologies for the times where it really counts, and those words will mean more when you do use them.

ASHLEY: Yeah, the words matter. I mean, if we’re throwing sorries out there willy nilly. I guess what it comes down to, and I think I’m coming from a place right now of watching people throw temper tantrums in grocery stores over mask policies and things like that. I guess we’re all preparing for worst case scenario when we do enforce policies. We’re kind of grimacing and bracing ourselves for a meltdown, when I think those reactions are really just about a lack of control of the situation. And I like to put it back to a client and say, you know, in my head, essentially, this is a situation you’ve caused by either not showing up for the appointment, or coming to a salon that has advertised their policies, is very upfront about them, and you had to acknowledge when you made the appointment. So whatever their reaction is they own, because they caused it by doing whatever it is that broke the policy. So if you can kind of remove yourself from the equation that way and remove your feelings from it too, it’s really hard to do, but I hope that that would help empower someone who feels a little bit powerless when challenged on a policy that they’re trying to enforce. The more you let things slide, and the more you say, I’m sorry but, the less power you have. If you’re not going to protect your business, who is?

JAIME: So true. If you’ve injected yourself in the policy when you wrote it, it’s hard to extract yourself from it later. And by that, I mean, your policy needs to be very direct, and concise, and straightforward. There should not be any question. Going back to the idea of a cancellation policy, if you say, I require 24-hours notice to cancel a reservation, or an appointment if you choose to use that word, if not, and then you list a consequence, that’s very straight forward. What’s not straightforward is if you say, my time is valuable, and there are lots of clients who want to get in, and if you don’t show up that means someone else didn’t get the chance to come in, and I’m out money, and blah, blah, blah, and then you get, you know, forget it. Nobody cares. Just tell them what you expect if this situation comes up, whether it’s, I need to cancel an appointment or all the sudden, I want to add a service to my appointment, and you can’t always do that. You’re not always going to have additional time to add something. I mean, you’re going to have to have a policy for different things, but I think the cancellation policy is probably the most critical, I think, of any of the policies that you have for doing this kind of work is what you’re going to do if someone can’t be there, or chooses not to be there, or forgets to be there. For whatever reason, they’re not there. That is critical because it does tie back to how you make those appointments in the first place. So it’s a whole system, really, that you create around whatever policy you have for what were to happen if they weren’t going to be there. But like I said, if you do interject a lot of explanation, it just ends up sounding like you’re either being defensive, or apologetic, or whiny, or whatever. It’s just not a good look, and trying to even interject some humor may not work either because this is something where you do have to be serious in stating the policy. In enforcing it, you can interject some humor if you want to, just to sort of lighten the mood a bit, but in writing the policy and communicating it, you do need to be serious without being overdramatic. You just have to be direct.

ASHLEY: The policy shouldn’t be the reason for the policy. 

JAIME: Thank you. Thank you for making it shorter.

ASHLEY: Well, if you have to do, and I’ve seen that dance so many times of, it has come to my attention that through no fault of my own, people feel that they don’t need to honor, like really?    If you could write it on a scroll, and unroll it, and shout it in a town square, it’s probably not worded correctly.

JAIME: And it’s the same thing we see when salons raise their prices. It’s this huge explanation of, oh, the shipping costs have gone up, and this has gone up, and again, nobody cares. Just tell them what the consequence is. The consequence is the prices have gone up, and this is the new price. That’s all they need to know. Prices are going up. This is the new price effective on this day. Done.

ASHLEY: No other industry waffles, and hems and haws back and forth, about raising the price of something and communicating that price raise the way we do. The grocery store has no problem raising the price of a product. It’s not like they mail everybody a letter saying the cost of a pound of butter is now this. I think a lot of that comes back to the fact that we all come from such varying backgrounds with our beauty school education and the quality of it. Because what we’re talking about in this episode are really the main tenets of running a business, and to use your retail example again, if you’re not going to have a policy the moment your doors open day one, what will you do when presented with a situation like a cancellation? Or I want to return a retail product I bought from you, or I went home and I tripped and fell, and my toenails were too shiny, and now I want a refund. If you were to take that retail example and extrapolate it out, you’re not going to determine your return policy the first time someone wants to return something and policies are plainly stated at the register. This is our return policy. Are you familiar with it? Yes. Great.

JAIME: You can’t do it on a case by case basis because then you are allowing the clients who are behaving badly to take up the bulk of your time, and it’s not even time doing services. That’s like time managing their behavior, and that’s not what you’re paid to do. You’re paid to perform services, not manage adults’ behavior.

ASHLEY: And you’re paid the same amount, whether your client behaves according to policy or not. So If you’re allowing things to continue to happen in your business, and yet you have clients who are willing to do what’s asked of them for that price, how can you really justify that? And justify the extra time that you’re spending on the back and forth with someone, or chasing down a Yelp review, or trading DMS and crappy comments on your Facebook page. Like if you have a policy and you adhere to it, you can expect some pushback, but it’s being prepared for those scenarios and having policies that you enforce equally, fairly, et cetera, that’s going to allow you to have a really impeccable reputation around, this is what I expect of you. If you can’t meet that expectation, here are the consequences.

JAIME: I like to think of it in terms of relationships. If this were a friendship, let’s, let’s take this as a friendship. It’s not unusual for friends to disagree, but if that disagreement turns into a fight, are you going to abandon the friendship? Are you going to walk away from that friend over this issue? And I would say it depends on the issue and it depends on how close the friend. Do you really want to have a relationship with this person in the future? And you can apply that same logic to clients. What is the value of that client to your business beyond the money? And this is a really hard thing for people to hear, but don’t make it about the money. If a client complains about a service and wants a refund, I would urge everyone to immediately refund the money that was paid, all of it, including the tip. And from that point, you can determine what happens next. Now, that sounds, we just talked about, you know, giving away a service or giving away our time. We wouldn’t want to make a habit of this. We wouldn’t want to be taking in clients, and letting them think that this is your policy, that you just routinely give them their money back if they complain, but you do have to draw a line and make it clear that I am not going to do whatever it takes just to take your money. I don’t need the money so bad that I’m willing to compromise my integrity, or my values, or my professionalism. If you do have an unhappy client, you have to ask yourself, did that person have a legitimate complaint? Because it may have been legitimate. Whether you’re the person who provided the service, or if you are a salon owner or a manager supervising other professionals who are in fact responsible for providing that service, it may be very fair that that client complained, and if that’s the case, and that’s a client you want to hold on to, you refund the money and you welcome them back. You make it right. You assign them to someone else or you do whatever it takes. But the money isn’t hanging over the transaction.

ASHLEY: Right. Because if this is someone who wants to become weaponized in their dissatisfaction, and everybody loves to hate online with a bad review, the fact that you can say you were refunded, it can take the wind out of a lot of negative sales because they’re expecting the fight. I saw this really funny sketch where there was an angry customer trying to return cheese. And the woman at the register said, oh, of course, we’ll take that right back. And the customer was so shocked. She was like, oh, I was really ready for a fight. Could we just have a little fight so I feel better? Then the woman at the register said, of course, you know, oh no, we won’t take it back. How dare you? Do you have a receipt? We’re all so conditioned as customers and clients to expect that push and pull that we’re ready to fight someone. We’re ready to have an argument, or ready to plead our case. But I know you are one of the only people in the industry who says, go ahead and refund the money, and I love that because it’s such a unique position.

JAIME: It does give you the power to determine what happens next. So once you’ve done that, you can, then in your mind, decide, is this a person I want to see again? Is this a relationship I want to continue to cultivate? Because if it is then, well, of course, we’re going to schedule another appointment, and make this right, and do what needs to be done. But if that’s the end of the relationship, then that’s the end of the relationship,

ASHLEY: Right.

JAIME: And that’s okay. But what’s not okay is feeling taken advantage of, and I think that’s where, when we talk about this whole idea of power, and who’s in control, and clients expecting you to be okay with three no-shows or, then you come up with this policy, you know, on your third strike. It’s like, no, no, no. I mean, that’s, that’s not how this works. You have to be willing to implement your policies and enforce them from the very first behavior, because that establishes the pattern, whatever that pattern is, whether it’s a client who routinely shows up 15 minutes late. I mean, you could argue about it every time they show up 15 minutes late, or you could say, so do you want to skip the polish or the massage today? They’re still paying for the whole service, but they’re not going to get the entire service. Or you can always tell them their appointment is 15 minutes earlier than it’s actually scheduled on your schedule and just not even worry about it. And they’ll, of course, floor you that one time they show up on time and they’re going to have to wait, but that one time does not make up for all the times that you sat there and waited for them to show up expecting somehow that this time their behavior would change when most likely that’s just a pattern. Maybe they just run 15 minutes late everywhere they go.

ASHLEY: I can name off the top of my head, 5 or 10 people that I know like that.

JAIME: But isn’t that interesting because the consistency of that can be used to your benefit.

ASHLEY: Exactly. And the consistency in that situation can be you consistently enforcing the salon policy.

JAIME: And at some point, because your schedule is yours and your time is yours to allocate, as you see fit to those people who you feel are most deserving in your clientele, that’s why I always reset my schedule every January 1st. So even clients who have had standing appointments for years, they might’ve come every Thursday at four o’clock for years, and I expect them to do that for years going forward, my schedule, starting January 1st, is completely blank because I’m going to prioritize my best clients and ask them, do you still want that appointment Thursday at four o’clock? Is that still going to be your best time? Because if it’s not, then I need to find a different spot for them because their circumstances might’ve changed. Maybe a different time of day is better. And I’m going to recreate my schedule, always giving myself the opportunity and the permission to hold tight to the clients that serve me well, and to allow other clients to go serve someone else better. Is that a polite way of letting clients go?

ASHLEY: Yes. It is, and I love it. And I think that that is a phenomenal point to end on. Do you agree?

JAIME: I do agree. We could spend hours talking about the specifics of the wording of policies.   I’m always fascinated by going on to websites and reading policies because I just shake my head thinking, wow. In some cases, salons are making more work for themselves by what they’ve written. So not all policies are created equal, and sometimes putting something in writing that’s bad is worse than having no policy at all.

ASHLEY: Definitely. And if it’s something that you whip up to toss onto Instagram in five minutes might not be the correct process to issue a new salon policy.

JAIME: Another strategy would be going to someone else’s website and copy pasting someone’s policies. That’s not a good idea either. 

ASHLEY: Not even a little bit, because if the policies apply to their business, how could they potentially apply to yours, something being completely different?

JAIME: That and it’s just straight up plagiarism.

ASHLEY: Well, yeah. I mean, if you’re okay with copy paste, you’re okay with a lot of things.

JAIME: The person who wrote that policy is not going to be there to enforce it for you.

ASHLEY: All right. Well, I hope that this allows our listeners to feel a bit more empowered when it comes to creating policies and enforcing them. It’s not always fun. It’s not always easy, but you walk away from this with your dignity and self-respect intact and your business thriving because you’ve chosen to put it first.

JAIME: Yeah, you’re managing your own time. You’re trying to manage your client’s behaviors to your best ability. Just choose better clients.

ASHLEY: And I think that’s a topic for another time, for sure.  Please subscribe, rate, and review Outgrowth on your favorite podcast platform. It helps us reach more listeners like you.

JAIME: And we’d love to hear what you think about Outgrowth. So if you would please leave us a review on Apple podcast, we might read your review on our next episode. We’d also like to hear about your challenges with salon policies and which behaviors you found most difficult to manage. There are so many individual stories, Ashley, that, I mean, we’d probably cry and laugh along with our fellow professionals in reading through some of these stories, but I think we can all agree that there are some commonalities and some fundamental policies that would serve everyone.

ASHLEY: Yeah, I’m very curious what the sticking point is for a lot of our listeners. So feel free as always to follow us and comment on recent episodes on Instagram at @outgrowthpodcast. Always a fun discussion happening in the comments over there.

JAIME: Until next time.

ASHLEY: Be smart.

JAIME: Be safe.

ASHLEY: Bye.

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