Don’t “Peel” Away Your Profits

Don’t “Peel” Away Your Profits
Douglas Preston
salon spa equipment
Microdermabrasion. Sonic microdermabrasion. Alphahydroxy acids. BHAs. Enzymes. Vegetable peels. Blue Peels. Laser treatments–enough already! The march for the latest, best, most innovative skin exfoliation technique has created, in its wake, a deepening layer of confusion, contradiction, and treatment expense for spas and their clients.

We seem to be awash in competing devices and product formulations designed to produce similar skin-smoothing effects in a “unique, more effective, or revolutionary” way. The concerned spa owner or skin care professional worries that, unless equipped with the latest and greatest product and technology, they’ll fall behind in the game. So how does one stay on top of the ever-evolving exfoliation methods while, at the same time, manage operating costs and glean a profit?

Relax. There is a sound and reliable way to produce great treatment results, satisfy your customers, and protect your business’s bottom-line, but first you need to understand the kind of business you’re actually doing–what your real product is–before you can take the correct action. Let’s begin with a little business lesson.

First, some interesting facts. In survey after survey I’ve conducted with practicing estheticians throughout the world I’ve discovered a genuinely puzzling reality: that most estheticians are rarely if ever consumers of the services they sell, that is, they almost never receive facial treatments from other like professionals. You could argue that a skin care expert doesn’t need the care and advice of another but this is overlooking a powerfully important point. By failing to be in the customer’s spa robe ourselves we, as professionals serving clients, lack a real understanding of what the customer experiences, values, and keeps them returning again and again. By luck or through skill many estheticians have built up lucrative followings over the years and yet still guess as to what their clients appreciate the most about the treatments they purchase.

In my 21 years of work with both skin care clients and spa business owners I’ve spent much of my time interviewing both, attempting to uncover the motives and benefits that drive them together. Some fascinating results have surfaced from these “semi-scientific” studies: 77% of all facial clients rated “stress release and relaxation” as the greatest benefit of their treatment. 20% rated skin improvement benefits as most important to them, and the rest weren’t sure what to expect. Interestingly, spa business owners and estheticians rank skin improvements as their primary goal for client facial treatments, roughly 92% of the time when questioned. What’s wrong here? It seems as though what we’re trying to do for customers, while important to them, actually ranks below what most customers chiefly value in their treatments. Why is this important to you, the practitioner and businessperson? Because dollars spent on improving your company’s service quality should be directed toward things that make the greatest impression on customers from their perspective, not ours. Clients evaluate us more on a feeling level rather than a technical one–the one they’re the most qualified to perceive and relate to others. And because we, the professionals, have only a partial appreciation of what clients value most (not being one ourselves) we approach business and treatment planning from a self-directed rather than a client-directed point of view–one that’s likely to waste money and fail to significantly grow your income or profits.

Ask yourself a few honest questions:

• How many of my clients have been dissatisfied with my conventionalexfoliating techniques?

• How much better do clients actually look from the “new and improved techniques” I’ve added to my list of services.

• How much more money have I actually made (take-home pay) from these new treatments as compared to before I introduced them?

• Is the new technique going to hold the long-term attention of my clients or will my investment be eclipsed by the next new (and expensive) device?

• Have the prices of my exfoliation techniques held or has competition driven them down?

• Could I have been just as successful doing something else in my treatments with less expense and even greater client satisfaction?

The point here is not to discredit either the value or efficacy of evolving exfoliation techniques but, rather, to address the pressure many estheticians feel to keep up with the so-called “cutting-edge” products and equipment. Some of the most successful estheticians I know, many of whom have maintained loyal and satisfied clients for years, use little if any of the more “advanced” treatment methods available today. One in particular, a close friend of mine and a tremendously popular esthetician, has never even introduced glycolic acid into her practice! Yet you can’t argue her success. Now, in our technique-biased way, we may say that she’s not providing her customers with the best possible treatments but those customers aren’t complaining or being milked away by more technologically savvy skin care professionals. How does she do it, then? Simple. She gives her customers exactly what they want most–a peaceful, relaxing, and technically satisfying treatment. Not the most advanced, not the most invasive, not the most expensive-to-perform, but treatments with a proven history of satisfying clients and winning new ones through the golden system of word-of-mouth referrals..

So, what’s the best approach in deciding which exfoliation products and equipment to add to your business? Maybe a few of the following guides can help you:

1. Don’t let worry dictate your business decisions. Unless the dark clouds of disappearing clients is something you’re experiencing and can prove is the result of being behind the times in the latest services, don’t act as if it’s true. You need to know for certain what’s happening in your company, what clients want that could make the critical difference between staying with you or trying the newest spa in town. Ask questions, take a survey, but don’t go out and buy a supposed solution that may not be needed.

2. Is the problem…you? Are you or your employees bored with your routine? Are you or they losing interest in your work and your customers? Has the loss of enthusiasm led to the loss of clients as well? While buying a new skin care device or introducing a new procedure may light up your attention for a while it may not be the best, most enduring, or even wisest approach to an “internal” problem. Consider a better (and cheaper) way to rev up your practice: take a business-building seminar, read a book on customer service, find a career coach to help you set and attain goals. Expanding your service menu or adding redundant exfoliation techniques may only add to your expenses and obscure the true reason things have begun to slide downward.

3. Select a new exfoliation method that serves the needs of your specific clientele. If your customers are more focused on relaxation and normal skin maintenance then the most expensive exfoliation technology may not be a prudent investment for you–glycolic acid or enzymes may suit your customers nicely–and these are already proven to work well. If you practice in an area or facility where anti-aging clients abound such as in a major metropolitan center or medispa then the more advanced techniques may be worth the investment, especially if they are widely offered and in demand.

4. Before you add anything new to your practice or business be certain that you and your employees are fully committed to promoting the service. Far too many spa owners have found themselves saddled with a costly machine that their technicians insisted upon only to find the thing silent and neglected because the same proved employees too timid to promote the higher-priced services to their clients. What often follows is an employee demand for service-promoting advertising that only builds the investment load while not guaranteeing its immediate or long-term success.

And wait! Don’t be the first to do anything in this business. The first to get in are often the first to drop out. Be cautious. The spa and esthetics business will be around long enough for you to make sound decisions. The question is, will you be?

Best of luck to you.

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