Salon policies are rules that you set and boundaries that you define. They apply to the services you provide and the ways in which you operate your business. A random example of this would be, “We do not apply drugstore haircolor.” That is a service policy communicating to clients that they can’t just show up with a box of Natural Instincts, slap a $20 on the counter, and expect you to apply it for them.
Where policies are concerned, there are three types of professionals.
- “I’ll do anything as long as I’m getting paid.” These professionals don’t have any service policies. The client wants Cruella deVille’s dye job with Miley’s unfortunate Beiber cut? No problem. That’ll be $110. Show me the money.
- “I won’t do X…unless Y or Z. Then, I guess it’s okay.” These professionals have a rule or two, but they’re not in writing or they’re relatively flexible. This kind of nail tech says, “I won’t do acrylics on teenagers–unless they’re a ‘mature’ teenager and/or their mom says it okay.”
- “I won’t do it. Period. If you don’t like it, there’s the door.” Some of us are hard core. We know how we like to do business and we’re very specific about it. We will not negotiate our policies with terrorists clients. If our policies state that we won’t do something, save your breath. Don’t even ask. The answer is NO. This kind of nail tech says, “I do not fill nail enhancements that I did not apply. No amount of money, begging, bribery, or blackmailing will change that fact.”
I’m not advocating any one stance over the others. Whether you have service policies at all is entirely up to you. Everyone does business differently.
For your consideration, here are the advantages and drawbacks of having policies in place:
You control the quality of work you produce. When you set clear rules and boundaries, you gain complete control over your output. For example, by refusing to fill enhancements someone else applied, I am communicating to clients that I will not accept responsibility for someone else’s questionable prep, poor craftsmanship, or cheap product. By refusing to perform hair services that will end in disaster, you’re communicating to clients that you aren’t motivated by their money–you really do want them to look good.
Clients who leave our chairs are wearing our reputations on their hands, their heads, or their faces.
We should ensure they’re advertising our skill and experience in the best way possible. Setting service policies is a surefire way to accomplish that.
Clients will see and appreciate the passion you have for your work. A lot of the time, our policies benefit the clients as well–even policies that may seem crappy on the surface. For example, a lot of spas have policies that state, “If you are delayed in your arrival, please remember that your service will end at its original time.” While this policy benefits you by deterring late arrivals, it also benefits the clients because it doesn’t allow those latecomers to inconvenience the customers that do show up on time.
You can eliminate the hagglers/bargainers. A confident, passionate professional is a magnet for quality clients. That same confidence will absolutely repel hagglers. We’ll use the late arrival policy as an example. Some clients might look at that late arrival policy and say, “Screw that place! What a ripoff! If I’m paying for the service, I should get the full service regardless of how late I am.” Other clients (the ones who are more likely to respect your time), will read the same policy and appreciate that you respect their time.
And now for the drawbacks:
You may lose business. This is not necessarily a bad thing because the clients you lose tend to be the ones you probably didn’t want to attract to begin with. Nonetheless, if you are a “show me the money” professional who doesn’t really care about anything outside of your immediate bottom line, policies may pose a problem.
You may come off as “stuck-up.” Again, the people who hold these opinions may belong to that undesirable client group. I’ll admit it, I am stuck-up and rigid about my policies and procedures. I hold myself and my clients to a higher standard.
We’ve worked hard to be good at what we do. We shouldn’t be ashamed of that and we shouldn’t be humble about it.
If you can walk your talk, embrace the “stuck-up,” “uppity bitchface” label. You earned it.
Do we refuse to do cheap, crappy work? Hell yes we do.
Why? Because we actually give a shit.
Do we charge no-shows for disrespecting our time? You bet.
Why? Because this is our career; not a hobby. Our time has value. We’re here to get paid.
Anyways, this a “con” that I wouldn’t take seriously for a single second, but some professionals really care about the opinions of clients who aren’t likely to value them. (Obviously, I’m not one of them.)
Clients may not be receptive to the policies. Clients who are disdainful of policies tend to be those who violate them. They’re the kinds of clients who confuse service workers with servants while shouting, “The customer is always right!”
we’re not servants–we’re highly trained professionals–and the customer is almost never right, especially with regards to our technical knowledge versus theirs.
(Sorry, clients. Sad truth. If you could do our jobs as well as we can, you wouldn’t be in our chairs. So, if your professional refuses to do something or insists on an alternative, they generally have a reason for it. Usually that reason is, “It’s for your own good.”)
Alright, so there you have it. A list of pros and cons not as awesome pros. Now how can you create and implement them in your business?
When you think about what your service policies will be, I’m sure a few things come to mind immediately. Make a list of them and prioritize it by severity. Things you absolutely will not allow go at the top and things you might be flexible on go at the bottom.
My list looks like this:
1.) No children in the spa.
2.) We do not fill or repair enhancements we didn’t apply.
3.) No shows will be charged 100% and will be required to secure all future bookings with a credit card.
4.) No food or drinks in the spa treatment areas.
5.) I require the client’s full attention during their services–cell phones off, magazines put away, eyes on me.
Now you know where you draw your lines and how firmly you press your pen down when you draw them. With this knowledge, we can move on to wording, placement, and enforcement.
- Choose your words wisely. On policies you feel strongly about, make your wording very clear. Keep your sentences concise and firm. Stay away from polite words. If “please,” “kindly,” or “we ask” are anywhere in those policies, you’re doing it wrong.
Those words are soft and make the policies seem optional. Stick to phrases like, “do not,” “will not,” “not permitted,” “for any reason,” and “no exceptions.”
These words are strong. They form an immediate impression. They make it clear the policies are mandatory and non-negotiable.
- Choose your placement. You don’t want to slap your clients in the face with a rulebook. Think about where you can place policies so clients will see them only when necessary.
Important rules go in multiple places. More specific ones will go where they’re relevant.
- Prepare to enforce your policies. Sometimes this means making the consequences clear so that you have something to point at when you’re enforcing them. Also have a reason for each policy you create so you can defend them when necessary.
You don’t need to have a reason for having a particular policy.
For example, I don’t do facials on men. My reason? When I was nineteen, some a-hole propositioned me for sex in an aggressive, threatening way in a facial room.
Is it likely to happen again? Probably not.
Does that mean I’m going to start taking male facial clients again? Nope. Never again.
Don’t feel like you need to defend your policies. It helps if you can when confronted about them by clients, but it’s not a requirement.
Take a look at my list as an example of how wording, placement, and justification work:
1.) “No children are permitted in the spa for any reason.”
WORDING: No “please,” “kindly,” or “we request” nonsense here. The wording in this policy is as straightforward as a pistol shot.
PLACEMENT: This goes on my website, my brochure, the reception desk, and pops up during online booking. This policy is critically important, so it shows up multiple places.
REASON: We use a lot of dangerous chemicals and sharp implements. We also have expensive equipment. It is a liability and we cannot be held responsible for a child’s safety while we’re working. Children also interfere with the relaxation of the other clients and can be distracting for the technicians. Children do not fit in the atmosphere my business creates. It’s an oasis away from the outside world; not a daycare center.
2.) “We do not fill nail enhancements that we did not apply. No exceptions.”
WORDING: Again, this policy doesn’t fool around. “We do not.” “No exceptions.”
PLACEMENT: This goes on my website and on my brochures where the nail enhancement prices are listed. New clients who book a Fill & Rebalance will be called and offered an Enhancement Removal & Full Set. If they refuse a new set, they will be denied the appointment.
REASON: We do not know how well the natural nails were prepped prior to application. Bacteria could be brewing under there. If the infection manifests a week after we fill them, we don’t want our name attached to it. If those nails pop off due to bad prep or crumble due to garbage product, we’re not fixing it or taking the blame for it. If the client is going to walk around telling people they’re wearing our nails, they need to be wearing our product, sculpted and finished our way.
3.) “Clients who fail to provide 24 hour notice of cancellation will be charged for the full amount of their appointment. Future appointments will have to be paid in advance.”
WORDING: Remember how I said I was rigid and strict? This policy’s wording lacks those nice, gentle words because it’s not a nice, gentle policy. You fail to cancel with appropriate notice, we’re still getting paid.
PLACEMENT: This goes out with reminder emails, pops up during online booking, and is posted on the reception desk where people sign their credit card receipts. It’s also on brochures and the website.
REASON: This is our business. We get paid for the time a client reserved whether or not they decided to show up for the service. It’s not an unreasonable request and I haven’t had a single person complain about it.
4.) “No food or drinks are permitted in the spa treatment areas.”
WORDING: This policy isn’t a “please” or “thank you” policy either, largely because it’s a health code violation to have clients eating and drinking in service spaces.
PLACEMENT: This sign is on the door that leads back into the treatment areas. I don’t care if clients eat and drink in reception, but they absolutely can’t while we’re working.
REASON: It’s gross, but really, the policy exists because it has to.
5.) “During services, we require your full, undivided attention. Please plan to be an active participant for the duration of your service.”
WORDING: Oh look! I said “please!” This policy is still one we enforce, but not one we’re extremely rigid about.
PLACEMENT: This goes on the intake form the clients fill out and sign. Our intake forms explain our sanitation practices, home care, and other important information.
REASON: Since a lot of our clients suffer from peripheral neuropathy (and we use sharp tools and e-files), we do require their full attention. This means no phones, no books, and no tablets. We’re flexible on this policy after the first appointment, depending on the client’s needs, so we don’t need to have it posted anywhere or worded in a way that sounds as if Hitler were barking it.
Do you have policies? Are you realizing it may be time to implement a few? What problems have you experienced that required you to implement some ground rules? Let us know in the comments!
The Policy Creation & Enforcement Pack
Need help creating your own policies? Get The Policy Creation & Enforcement Pack today!
This pack includes a 55-page PDF with everything you need to understand why certain policies may be required, who should and shouldn’t implement them, and when and how to introduce them in your salon. The kit includes:
- templates for every salon policy imaginable
- placement and wording recommendations
- scripts for communicating policies
- enforcement tips, and
- enforcement correspondence.
I’ve also provided guidelines for creating and effectively communicating any additional polices your salon may require in the future and a suggested appointment reminder schedule with reminder templates.