It’s a bug bare that every salon and spa across the industry and the world faces, clients who have booked in and then don't show up or cancel at the last minute impacting the finances of the business.
It can be VERY frustrating.
I'm going to share 3 neurological and psychological techniques that are simple to use but can have a powerful effect on client behaviour.
Many salons and spa's are using techniques to prevent or reduce no shows and late cancellations with text message and email reminders a week in advance, then 2 days notice and on the day, essential strategies that every business should use. I want to share how to increase their power.
I think of it like this I either use powerful techniques to reduce the damage or I can go into battle with clients and enforce penalties.
But for me, if I go into battle I run the risk of losing. Win the battle, lose the client.
And that's a tough one, because we need clients to take our time seriously and using penalties is one method, one I had in my salon, but... Here's why I don't like them, personally.
Neurologically, scientists have been able to prove that the brain reacts sending messages to our body when we spend money, and those messages are the same as if we're in pain!
Yes, spending money HURTS!
So, if you know someone who hates to spend money, their brain is hyper sensitive to this and they really do find spending money painful!
If someone is being made to pay a penalty the brain will potential respond causing pain AND an emotional response potentially with anger, disappointment, or even disgust.
Ever felt happy paying a fine?
When our brain has a BIG emotional response it places what I call a memory marker next to the event. If they think about the experience, the brain will bring up that marker.
Ever remembered something that really hacked you off and with seconds we can feel it all over again. That's a memory marker.
I don't know about you but I never wanted my clients to have a marker next to my salons name linked with anger, disappointment or disgust.
When we battle a client we risk the brain holding a memory maker of the business with strong emotions that are negative.
I'm sure we've all heard that a happy client will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. However, dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. Add social media into the equation and that figure will be much higher.
Now, don't get me wrong I had a cancellation policy in my salon but I worked on how to get more of the clients WANTING to call and tell us in advance if they needed to rebook AND have those booked committed to coming in.
The more notice we get, the better chance we have of booking someone else.
So, here are my top tips with "clever" marketing (neurological and psychological) techniques.
1 - Make calling a pleasure
The pleasure-pain principle was originally published by Sigmund Freud in modern psychoanalysis but can be traced back to as early as 300 BC.
Put simply, human beings SEEK pleasure but avoid perceived pain.
All those reasons a client didn't turn up "I didn't get the text" "you must have book it wrong".
Those clients are potentially avoiding perceived pain by shifting the blame. It’s a form of negative behaviour, we blame someone else. Which can be very annoying, and something I cover in my online course, the top ten negative habits that stop our success.
If I went and researched NO SHOWS I'd expect a very high figure on the reason the person didn't call will be pain avoidance.
So, the key it how can we make calling us a pleasure so we get the client behaviour we want, calling, to give us the time needed to fill the gap.
My top tip would be to link calling with instant gratification, pleasure.
If we are calling or texting and getting no response its highly likely to be the client is avoiding us, because its perceived pain, so its key to make canceling or rebooking a pleasure.
Two ways to give pleasure
A thank you bonus loyalty point for themselves or and link to local charities, a giving scheme.
Client loyalty point
By giving the client a bonus point has 2 interesting effects.
1 – There's a pleasure reason to call, bingo!
2 – Giving bonus loyalty points fits in with artificial advancement marketing.
Research my professors Joseph Nunes and Xavier Dreze looked at how when you move someone closer to the loyalty reward it changed their behaviour. The research found an increase in the frequency of visits. The person came back quicker and more often.
For me this is a bonus, not only can I make giving me more notice a pleasure so they want to call but I have the potential of getting them back AND more often.
The Charity Link
This is a style of neurological marketing and a must have in salons and spa's – in part because I'm sure like I you've had phone calls asking for donations so why not use it to increase loyalty and spend? I'll tell you more on charity linking in another Revenue Newsletter.
In short, ever noticed if you buy a brand of nappies / diapers the company will give to a charity? Ever been at the checkout and offered school vouchers or plastic coins to put into a clear box supporting local charities? Yes, it is marketing.
It’s a way to decrease the pain of spending and give pleasure by helping others.
We seek pleasure and avoid perceived pain.
Consider setting up that clients get a bonus point for giving more notice, say 24 - 48 hours plus the charity point, and then reduce to just the charity if under a time limit, for example 5 hours (still time to fill, IF they call).
This is down to an individual salon owner, with of course additional Terms and Conditions, such as a limit to 3 separate appointment points over a set time frame, so they can't keep booking and canceling to get the reward.
The key is time, if I have time I have the chance to fill the slot. If I make calling less painful and more pleasurable no shows or late cancellations should drop. By how much will depend on the type of clients we have, more on that so keep reading or listening.
2 - No Feelings = No Action
In my salon team training courses we cover this in detail BECAUSE 70% of the buying experience is based on how clients FEEL they are treated.
We cover in detail what impacts what I call the emotional salon journey – get that right and revenue rockets.
Us humans are governed by our emotions and emotions are controlled by the subconscious brain.
We have emotions every second of the day but we only FEEL the emotion if the brain sends out enough messengers, hormones, making us aware of a feeling.
Ever had an experience when you met someone and you get that "gut" reaction, "I don't know what it is but I just don't like him / her".
What's happened is the brain has searched it memory banks and something about the person has raised a red flag, a memory marker. The brain wanting to protect us has sent out loads of messengers and we get the "gut" feeling.
Ever met someone and said "I feel like I've know you for years" you clicked with the person, again the brain sent out loads of dopamine, the happy hormone, and we felt great with that person.
Ever meet anyone and felt nothing? Well, the brain did send out messengers just not enough to feel anything. The person was nice, this is what I train teams, if as a salon or spa our clients don't feel, they don't spend. The buying experience is 70% feelings. "Nice" Salons and spas struggle with revenue.
Getting clients to call and rebook needs feelings.
No Feelings = No Action
So when it comes to getting more clients to call and rebook we need them to have an emotional reason why. To pick up the phone and call is a conscious action, we're aware of doing it and we get more action when we communicate with the subconscious first, so we give clients an emotional reason WHY they need to call.
3 simple techniques to increase feeling = action with reminders
Consider adding to your reminders.
1 – The Face
Our brain loves faces, in marketing we use the face to hold attention for longer.
If you put a toy or a face in front of a baby, the face will always hold their attention for longer, and that doesn't change as we get older.
In our non-verbal communication we can read emotions in someone's face, something I've been teaching since 1999.
So, look for ways to include a picture or two either of the team or the individual team member into appointment reminders.
Easier perhaps in email reminders a picture of Julie with a happy, smiling, face with a "Julie will be seeing on Wednesday..."
The brain has what is know as mirror neurons, we mirror what we see and the brain will COPY. If I can get the client to smile their brain will release dopamine, the happy hormone.
Staff Smiling = Client Smiles = Dopamine = Feeling = Action
Also consider the pain, give them a little pain. A picture of Julie with perhaps an empty chair looking either happy, sad or bored with something like;
"We love how our clients call us when something's come up, it helps us find someone else to keep Julie busy and happy.
If you need to rebook please call, as a thank you, we will add a loyalty point for you and donate to XYZ charity."
With a final picture of "Julie" either giving to the charity or a client in the chair both smiling.
The key is the picture of the person or the team.
The subconscious is HOT WIRED to react with emotions to facial expressions.
Emotions leads to feels, leads to action.
Could you do this on a text message? Maybe. Would it need a little planning to set it up? Yes. But, putting a face, the person to the appointment reminder hits the brain hard.
Small Emotions = No Feelings = No Action
Clients won't call if they don't care!
Use social media
A simple post once a week with a picture or video.
Something like this;
"we would like to thank all of the wonderful clients who took the time to call us and re-booked this week.
As a thank you we've given you a bonus loyalty point and given to XYZ charity.
When someone doesn't show up or cancels at the last minute it can really hurts the salon and the teams job security, so we are so grateful when you call.
That call makes such a difference to us, so thank you
This weeks no shows without a message – 5
Tell the story, why its so important to call and how much you appreciate it.
The point is to mix up the pain & pleasure principle, the mirror effect, storytelling, emotional reading and The Tribe Effect.
The Tribe Effect
Loyal clients are in our tribe, followers. The tribe doesn't like it when something bad happens, but also a tribe member doesn't feel good if they let us down.
Think of it like having good friends, if someone does something unkind it can make us mad at that person or if we did something bad we can feel really guilty. We've let the tribe down!
That's why I would CONSIDER posting on social media and if the salon has a newsletter. I want to get people feeling emotions, but a post would have to be worded carefully and controlled.
The loyal followers will potentially respond with emotions whether sadness, anger, disappointment or disgust.
BUT if they comment please don't get into a negative chat.
A simple "thank you, we just want everyone to know how much we love it when they call to rebook."
Keep it positive.
In part the point of making people aware;
1 – Not calling hurts the salon and the team
2 – We love it when clients call and will reward you
3 – The tribe effect – When clients are loyal they become part of our tribe, in neurological marketing the tribe effect is about how our old brain works.
If loyal "tribe" members respond with comments like "that's horrible..." Keep your response VERY positive BUT smile, those who haven't called may see the post and FEEL guilty and that's good. The loyal followers are reacting with feelings so they will mark in the memory "I must call" and in the future are more likely to remember and give use notice.
When posting the number of No Shows only count those who never called before or after their appointment.
Do be prepared for positive and negative comments on the post. Keep any responses focused to what you want, we love it when you call.
When people do call, smile on the phone. The point is to make calling a pleasure so the tone of voice and what is said must be positive, even if it's shorter notice then we would like. Calling must be a pleasure.
3 - Repeat Offenders
Have a policy in place that is on the website and price list, and enforced it.
I would consider the appropriate choice technique. Because I don't want to go into battle with clients but I ALSO want to be in control.
This technique allows the client to feel they have a choice, adults don't like being told what to do, but as an owner I'm still in charge.
Whether the policy is 3 repeat last minute cancellations or no shows within a time frame then the appropriate choice would kick in.
The client can either;
Only make appointments on the day they want or they will need to pay a non-refundable deposit for a future appointment.
For example "Mrs Jones over the last x weeks you gave us less than x hours notice so we have 2 choices, we can either take a non refundable deposit if you want a specific day and time or you can call us on the day, which would you prefer?
By giving the client a choice it reduces conflict, of course the client may go for one other choice and not return, and that's sometimes a good thing.
Repeat offenders are often transaction clients, have little or no loyalty, are often highly demanding expecting everything for nothing and often are late or just don't turn up. They don't care and we can't make them care about the business, the team or you as the owner.
We can all be transaction consumers at some point. Brain wise...
Transaction clients like to hunt for deals whether the best insurance, broadband or even hair retail!
True transaction clients, deal hunters will tell the world how much they saved, they get a buzz from the hunt.
Their brain has sent out dopamine, the pleasure hormone and their memory has marked deal hunting in their brain. So they hunt for more because the brain loves dopamine!
They're not interested in a relationship, they don't care, it’s the transaction, the price that matters.
For me it’s a key reason I've written before about transaction clients in the Revenue Newsletter, Who are you marketing too? And Discounts Damage Salons and Spas.
Transaction clients are looking for deals and the price is key, so adding value and avoiding discounts can also help reduce no show and late cancellation, by attracting relationship clients, people who do care.
Do you have a relationship plan? Just like ANY relationship, to make it strong will need work.