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#005 - The Absence Of A Booking Policy Should Be A Deal Breaker

May 08, 2019

In December 2015, a girlfriend and I purchased tickets to the Book of Mormons for January 2017. Yes, 13 months in advance! FOMO (fear of missing out) right?

In August of 2016, I booked my flights to New York to visit my son. So happy with myself, I excitedly went to put the whole trip in my diary and Aaarrrgh! The Book of Mormons was smack bang in the middle of my trip! So what to do? Not go to the show or not go to New York? uummm, let me see…..not go to the show!

Now I’m no dummy. I knew that I had a $130 ticket in my hand that was NOT going to be refunded. I knew that, and so fussing over my $130 which was probably now worth $135 with interest, my choice was to either forfeit the ticket or sell it. Lucky for me, my girlfriend just got back with her ex and took the ticket off my hands!

Another option I had was to change my flights. Well that very wasn’t doable because I bought the tickets on points and to schedule on points, well… I would be losing 5,000 points each way. I didn’t want to do that and I had a very tight time frame where I could be away.

Regardless of what I COULD have done, this was MY problem and my responsibility. The rules for purchasing my tickets; both flight ticket and show ticket were clear to me before I booked either. Expecting anything else would be futile.

Now before I go on, I encourage you to print the transcript to this blog to follow along as I’m using a lot of numbers in this one and as most of us are visual learners, the notes will certainly help.

A few years ago, I conducted a short but very important survey on the controversial topic of booking and cancellation policies. Oooooh, I can almost feel the frustration to so many as I write those dirty words. Well there’s no use in ignoring the elephant in the beauty industry room, so let’s do this.

So many salon owners are still on the fence about this one. As you would expect, I definitely have an opinion on the subject so stay tuned and see how you feel at the end.

129 salon owners participated in the survey which was made up of only 4 questions.

Let me take one question at a time…..

(1) Do you have a booking/cancellation policy?

  • Yes – 71%
  • No – 29%

When the results came in, I did a little happy dance! 71% said they had a booking and cancellation policy and only 29% didn’t. In real numbers, out of 129 salons, 92 salons had a booking policy whilst only 37 didn’t. OMGoodness, I was finally getting through! After years and years of preaching booking policies I became a self-crowned industry influencer. Yes! Me!

Well within less than 3 seconds, I was dethroned. Here’s question number 2 coming.

(2) If you answered ‘YES’ to question 1, which of the following statements best describes your salon?

  • We strictly enforce it – 34%
  • We have one but we’re not consistent with enforcing it – 66%

What? Are you kidding me? 66% of the salons who DID have a policy, weren’t enforcing it! If you have a booking policy and you’re not enforcing it, you may as well not have one at all! In fact, having one, under these conditions is worse than not having one! This way, you are teaching your clients not to take you seriously, respect you or your business. Seriously. After this question, the 92 that did have policies came down to only 31 salons having a booking policy that were being strictly enforced. That makes the stat, actually 24%. Pretty far away from my original 71% hey?

Let’s move on to the third question…..

(3) If you answered ‘NO’ to question 1, which of the following statement best describes your salon? (You’ll find this interesting).

  • I’ve been wanting to bring in a policy but I’m afraid to lose clients because of it – 41%
  • I want to, but I’ve been procrastinating. I’ll get around to it soon – 9%
  • I would like to, but I don’t know how to best do it – 16%
  • I’m concerned my employees wouldn’t consistently enforce it if I did – 4%
  • I’ve tried it before and lost a lot of business over it so I stopped it 14%
  • We don’t need it. We rarely have cancellations or no shows (no more than 1 a week) – 7%
  • We don’t need it because we can always fill up the spots at the last minute – 2%
  • I don’t believe in having one so I have no intention of introducing one to my business 7%

Looking at these numbers, ONLY 15% of the salons who didn’t have a booking policy (5 salons) didn’t feel the need to have one. And if that’s the case for you, GREAT. You’re obviously booked out in advance with minimal cancellations and no-shows and your customers respect your business. My hat off to you.

Let’s have a quick review of the numbers now…

  • 31 have a booking/cancellation policy that is enforced strictly
  • 93 either don’t have one or have one but don’t enforce it strictly. Same thing to me
  • 5 don’t feel the need to have one


(4) If you answered, ‘STRICTLY ENFORCE IT’ to question 2, which of the following statements best describes your salon?

  • Best decision I ever made. We barely had any problems with it. We lost a few clients at first but the majority of the clients understand and respect the need for our policy – 58%
  • Best decision I ever made. We lost quite a lot of clients over it but most of them were the biggest offenders so we’re not unhappy about that – 13%
  • It’s not working for us and I’m considering scrapping the policy – 2%
  • Other – 27% (I don’t know what happened there)

This is a very revealing response – ONLY 2% of the strict enforces thought it wasn’t working for them. Which means that 30 out of the 31, feel it is working for them. That’s great news and should be encouraging for those of you who are on the fence about this topic.

As a coach though, only 30 salon owners out of the 129 having a policy and feeling confident about it, is not good news to me. That’s only 23% of the total people surveyed which means the rest, will still be suffering the consequences of last minute cancellations and no shows. A massive cost to your business.

THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE! And let me tell you why.

Salons are in the BUSINESS OF SERVICING. And servicing takes TIME. You give people YOUR TIME and in return, they give you 'MONEY’ unlike fully retail businesses, where 1 salesperson can serve or sell to 1 or 30 or more customers in a day; any time of the day. Those sales do not rely on putting time aside to sell something, to a particular person at a particular time.

To a service based industry such as the beauty industry, the ‘sale’; the making of money is dependent on completely different factors. The making of money depends on a client booking a particular time slot with a therapist. If every hour of a therapist’s available day is booked, and the clients turn up to their appointments, the therapist can rely on having a good day, a great day in fact. If on the other hand the day is booked out and some cancel at the last minute or not show, her great day just turned bad and there’s absolutely nothing she can do about it. Once the time is gone, it’s gone. It can never be made up. It’s not like if she loses a facial at 10am, she can hurry through and do two facials at 11am. Clearly it just doesn’t work that way. Service businesses are TIME BASED.

Appointments are scheduled in advance. As far as the business is concerned, an appointment is locked in and unlike some of your clients, even if a better offer comes up, YOU COMMIT to honour that appointment slot and won’t take any other bookings during that time, irrespective of what comes up. If I was your client and turned up to my facial booking at 2pm today, can you see yourself saying “Sorry, Brigitte, I know it’s late notice but another client booked in for a Skin Needling and we decided to take her instead!”

Imagine the outrage! The bad reviews on your Facebook page, Yelp and anywhere else I could get my disgust in you, heard on the world wide web? You would NEVER recover!

Let me highlight something through an example.

Julie, the client, books a 60minute facial on Thursday at 11am with Mary, the therapist. The facial is $135 which means that between 11 and 12pm, the only money that can possibly be made by Mary the therapist is $135 at the minimum. With some retailing during the appointment, most likely more. That hour is worth $135 plus. But if Julie, the client, doesn’t show up, that hour is worth nothing.

Now take the same client, Julie who books an airline ticket to Mexico. Whether Julie shows up or not, the plane WILL fly, with or without her and the money WILL be made. And what if same Julie books a ticket to The Book of Mormons and can’t go? As they say in the classics, the show MUST go on. Money will be made. Regardless.

The psychology is interesting here. Somehow customers who purchase airline or show tickets understand, appreciate and accept that by purchasing an airline or show ticket, they are limiting other people and even sometimes PREVENTING other people from flying or attending the show. MORE than that, they understand AND accept they’ll be forfeiting the money they paid if they fail to show up. In the case of the flight ticket, Julie probably couldn’t even give or sell her ticket to someone else! Money gone bye-bye. No argument or cause of a fuss. This is universally widely accepted in these and many other types of industry.

But somehow not so much for the beauty industry. Your clients don’t apply the same thinking and expect you and your business to ‘wear’ the cost of THEIR no-show or cancellation.

If Julie doesn’t show up to her facial at your salon, the show will NOT go on! The plane will not fly! And that hour is worth nothing and money is LOST. No money will be made between 11am and 12pm on Thursday and the thing is….you can’t get that time back. You will NEVER recover the cost of that hour to your business.

So why do you think it’s acceptable with some industries and not others?

Well…. because in some industries, Julie has no choice but to accept the booking and cancellation policy of the service provider!! Because EVERY airline flies with the same rules and every show operates with the same rules. Julie would not be able to secure a ticket or a seat if she doesn’t pay up front. And if she doesn’t want to pay up front, that’s ok but she shouldn’t expect a seat to be especially put aside for her. Simple. Play or don’t play. But if you play, you’ll play by our rules.

And why do you think airlines, theatre operators, movie theatres, hotels and no doubt countless other industries run their businesses by these rules? BECAUSE WHEN THEY DIDN’T, THERE WERE TOO MANY NO-SHOWS AND CANCELLATIONS and if something wasn’t done about it, they would have gone out of business!

Look, if you want a business that is profitable and grows, you cannot afford to allow clients to not show up to the time YOU to committed to THEM. Not a single client, not a single appointment. If you do, it leads to so many problems, inconsistencies and uncertainty in your business.

Truth is, if ALL salons operated under the terms of businesses such as airlines, theatres, hotels etc. this would not be a problem and all clients would expect that if they want a great service, their commitment to you needs to be equal to your commitment to them. Imagine if we lived in a world that if a client didn’t like your booking policy and called another salon, the same booking commitment would be required from her. And then the next salon and the next and the next? What a wonderful world it would be!

The movement has already been started for you. All you have to do is join it.

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