The “Behind Schedule” Cure

The “Behind Schedule” Cure
Douglas Preston
salon spa equipment
You know the story: no matter what you do, somehow you, or your employees if you have them, find a way to get behind on appointment timing. And while there’s little you can do when a late client or coworker backs you up, this late problem seems to have a mind of its own–you just can’t keep up with the clock.

Time management is a big problem for spa professionals and those who employ them, the consequences of which are well known: angry clients, annoyed colleagues and supervisors, and lost income. Your business reputation will suffer; clients will defect to other spas and take their referral power with them. Everyone pays, and all for a problem that’s not too difficult to fix–if you want to. I know of a hair salon that offered a free service to clients if their stylist ran more than 15-minutes behind schedule, yet never came up with a plan for staying on time. The company had to drop the policy after being bled white from comped services. It takes more than a promise to be timely–you must have a method.

In my years as an employer and trainer of estheticians and body therapists, one thing was consistently evident: that beauty and post-graduate schools stress technique much more than expedience and efficiency. Most of the technicians we hired had previously practiced by feel: that is, according to the pace that was comfortable for them. And while that approach may seem logical, even correct, it ignores some very substantial realities about the business of personal services: that time and money do matter in the survival of a spa or salon. One must realize that a service must be performed in the time allowed for it; we can’t stretch the hour, so must learn to work and work well within its limits.

Whether you are a practicing therapist or manage them, you’ll find our treatment protocol model a valuable tool for your use. The graphic guide helps the esthetician or body therapist follow the sequential steps of a treatment while remaining mindful of the clock (see diagram below). I’ve provided a model for a basic facial that can be customized to fit any of your own treatments and time allowances; the same format can be used for body, nail, and other multi-step services. Using the diagram can help you learn the feel of staying on track; if you’re training new staff members, you can simply observe them as they perform the routine on a model as detailed in the protocol. Once training is complete, the treatment guide can be kept nearby on a counter and referred to as needed to fully master the steps and the timing. This is especially helpful for not only new staff members, but also when you introduce new services to your team.

When using this method for the first time or when training therapists, you’ll notice some of the more common causes for late-running appointments. Look for places where one commonly becomes “stuck” in a procedure, such as taking too long with cleansing and rinsing of the skin, or a facial massage that runs on and on. You may also discover that the treatment room itself–the location of products and tools, etc.– actually impedes the service “flow”. If a technician has long reaches to water and supplies they may find it difficult to maintain a smooth pace during an appointment. Consider making changes in rooms that hinder the tasks at hand.

It’s important for therapists to understand that a treatment can be adjusted to meet the needs of individual clients and their conditions. An exfoliation may be shortened or extended depending on need, massage may be abbreviated to accommodate a deeper focus on extractions, and so forth. The various segments of treatment in the training guide should be seen as flexible (wherever possible), to be altered as circumstances, including a tardy client, require. Therapists who adhere to a rigid interpretation of a treatment protocol are set up to fall behind, and often. This is especially true for new or relatively inexperienced professionals who will not feel comfortable making independent changes in procedures. Allow for lots of practice time, and if you have staff, supervise these sessions so you can see where timing issues crop up.

But perhaps the key to maintaining timely service output, beyond training, is in making a firm commitment to being on time. Bad habits can be difficult to break so better to start on the right foot. For those managing a team, lead the way and then show that you’re serious about your expectations. Be consistent or you’ll lose the cooperation.

Using this facial training guide you can easily teach yourself and others how to think through a treatment cycle with better precision and less stress. Your customers will appreciate the commitment to service excellence!

salon spa equipment

Download your own blank version of the image above to customize here.

Best of luck to you.

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