How many times have you looked at a particular website, perhaps searching for travel options, and the next thing you find the Expedia ad popping up on every other site you visit?
by Maria Robins
If you’ve ever bought a book on Amazon, you no doubt received an email a few days later suggesting, ‘other titles we think you might like.’ That’s because these companies have sophisticated pixel software tracking your online viewing habits and detecting patterns of buying so that they can predict what you are likely to buy next. Doing so allows them to then place relevant advertising in prominent positions based on your recent search history. In effect these big companies are tailor-making future sales opportunities based on what they know about you.
If we are to keep up with progress, the same must apply to our businesses. Gone are the days where as beauty therapists we can offer a one-treatment-fits-all approach to our clients and our marketing. Understanding our clients and then customising or personalising treatments to match an individual client’s needs is something that many clinics already do and others are fast following. This doesn’t only mean an external treatment plan but can often extend to nutritional advice regarding what vitamins and minerals to take, alongside any recommended treatment or skin care protocols. Therapists have become a combination of scientific skincare experts, nutritional advisors and counsellors. Customising treatments adds another layer to your clinic services in terms of developing loyal and ongoing relationships with your clients and adding high tech diagnostic equipment brings in the science behind the knowledge.
Louise Gray has incorporated both aspects into her salon services. “All our treatments are fully customised. Our standard facial treatments are either 30 minutes or an hour which gives the therapist the ability to fully treat each client as an individual, using whatever products she feels will deliver the best results. We also use specialised equipment such as LED, micro-current, hydro dermabrasion and CIT and 18 months ago introduced a skin imager to our clinic services which uses white light photography and cross-polarised flash photography to record surface and sub-surface skin conditions.
“Our consultation process has always been very strong, but using a scanner lifts it to the next level. We use the scanner within the initial skin consultation process and it acts as a visual reference point for future analysis. We have the ability to assess melanin and vascular conditions; the zoom function magnifies areas for closer examination and takes a cross section of the contour of the skin when looking at fine lines. This is all done with your client sitting next to you, seeing exactly what you are seeing. As decisions based on treatment protocols are conducted with a visual aid, it becomes much more engaging for the client. Each image is analysed and the information is relayed to the client throughout the consultation process. We can then provide detailed information on skin conditions and how they can be treated with both products and in clinic services. A personalised report can be generated but we have found that they usually receive enough knowledge through this process that we keep the report on site.
“The scanner provides professional credibility to our therapists as future images can be taken and the client can see the visual progression. People never remember what their skins were really like before, so this tool allows us to go right back and compare the previous images side by side with today’s reality.”
Tania Behrns, co-owner of Embrayce Skin & Beauty in Christchurch says that using a skin scanner for the past four years has definitely increased client confidence. “Not only does it allow us to put the right treatment protocol in place, but it adds a scientific aspect to our services and helps give weight to our advice. Clients have far more trust when they can see the numbers, as numbers don’t lie. From our perspective we can put preventative treatment plans in place based on what are likely to become long term issues, usually sun damage, that are not yet visible to the naked eye but lying in wait underneath. When a client sees the evidence themselves on the screen, they are far more likely to commit to an ongoing treatment protocol. We keep their records on file and can also print a report off for them to take home if they wish. Being able to see the progression has also helped to increased product sales for us.”
Wellington clinic skinfocus has been using two pieces of equipment since opening in 2012. Owner Helen Daly says, “The German-made digital skin analysis machine we use gives us measurements of lipid and hydration levels, along with erythema and melanin measurements to determine the customer’s Fitzpatrick skin tone and risk factor for such things as future pigmentation and sun damage. We also utilise a skin scanner, which has a black light to help us see past the surface of the skin.”
Helen considers skin diagnostic equipment a must in this modern world of technology. “I don’t believe you need the fanciest, gimmicky machines on the market, because at the end of the day, if your knowledge as a skin treatment therapist isn’t up to scratch, then you will have no idea of what you’re looking at in the first place, or how to fix the problem. The machines we use place us as a serious skin clinic but support the post graduate knowledge we work really hard to keep up to date with. The skin diagnostic machines don’t and shouldn’t do the job for you; rather they are a valuable aid to your consultations. You still need both parts of an analysis. It’s important that you ask questions about the client’s daily environment, their genetic history and past/present skin care or skin treatments via a visual and touch analysis. The machines are a great tool to confirm diagnosis of a skin condition after a verbal questionnaire and visual analysis has been completed and can often throw up something unexpected.
“Following a skin analysis we offer a comprehensive treatment plan in the form of a personalised report which includes home care, dietary and lifestyle advice, as well as in clinic treatments with a timescale on what condition we want the skin to be in before we go into more advanced treatments. The customer is taken through the whole plan one on one. We follow up one to two weeks later face to face and on-going support is provided in the form of emails or a phone call. Each time the customer returns for a skin treatment we remeasure a part of the initial analysis to compare results to make sure we are tracking correctly or whether we need to tweak the plan.”
Chrysalis in Auckland does not use a skin imager but Owner Louise Dickinson says that every treatment programme is tailor made to fit the client. “We conduct either a 10-minute or 30-minute initial skin consult, based on the client’s concerns when booking. This is a free consult as I see the value to us being our client going forward with the recommended treatment programme and investing in products. We treat this consultation as a motivation session – we are motivating the client into taking care of their skin. At the consult, we explain why committing to a programme is a lifelong investment. To that end we have established tailor made Elite Skin programmes, a customised combination of treatments and products designed to work together to achieve maximum results for our clients.”
Tonic Day Spa in Auckland offers standardised treatment procedures for skin treatments, however they also have products that are able to be used as the therapist sees fit during her consultation and prescription. Owner Kim Buckley says, “If you are truly client-focused you will always be customising your treatment approach as no one treatment fits all client concerns. We also design treatment rituals that we feel fit our client demographic, especially within the spa/body treatments. To perform a good consultation, the therapist must have a thorough understanding of skin types and conditions. Advanced skin training must be undertaken to be able to competently move past performing standardised treatment procedures to customised ones.
“During the consult we usually write our suggestions on a prescription pad with prices and a programme of importance in terms of what to purchase first and/or what treatment to start with. I find it better to show clients at the time how to use some of the products so they feel confident when they get home. Otherwise you often find the client doesn’t use the product as they feel unsure, or worse, they misuse it. If we have to relay information post the consult, we ring and/or email information to them.”
In terms of marketing, offering customised treatments holds a lot of appeal for the customer. Embrayce offers complimentary consultations and promo evenings with other businesses, along with introducing friend vouchers to existing clients.
For skinfocus, an important part of the salon’s marketing involves the skin imaging tool. “Our skin analysis is very comprehensive because we keep up to date with our knowledge and we combine this with the use of the skin diagnostic equipment. We proudly display this on our website and in our treatment brochures. We have also used parts of our skin analysing equipment at separate times in various promotions, educating customers on how to relate their skin concerns to a cause, and how their skin treatment is not just ‘fluff and pamper’ but is actually making a difference. “Helen says that using skin diagnostic equipment gives the client facts to work off and pictures to compare. “We place an emphasis on educating the customer about their skin so that they can make informed decisions and we then work together on fixing the skin concern. This in turn builds client confidence and loyalty. Customers are paying for our knowledge, which many hours of post graduate training have gone into, so we charge $92 for a 75-minute skin analysis. Then there is another 30 minutes behind the scenes to put together a summary report. This is emailed to the client and discussed at a 15-minute follow-up appointment, one or two weeks later. Charging the correct price for an analysis is a fine line. We need to cover costs yet also have some value to the consultation they’re booking. It’s all part of the customer putting their skin first and making a commitment. At the same time I want the analysis to be achievable for people, as it’s not ideal if the client only books the analysis and then goes no further. Most people do buy the products recommended and commit to the treatment plan so I believe $92 is a good price point.”
Skin imaging is such an integral part of Louise Gray’s clinic services that it is at the forefront of her marketing, both print and digitally. “The skin diagnosis is charged at $65 per consultation, which is redeemable on a product purchase. Subsequent photos are not charged for as they become a main focus of the client’s treatment plans. Our therapists use this tool with existing clients to track progression at no charge, as this continues to form that professional bond of client – therapist.”
Tonic Day Spa also charges for the consult time but it is redeemable against products purchased at the time or against the first treatment booked after the consultation. Says Kim, ‘If we decide to customise a treatment we will usually suggest this at the initial consult, but sometimes we will adapt as the treatment progresses due to perhaps seeing a response that is different to what was expected (e.g., skin reaction). If there are to be multiple treatments then we are likely to be creating treatment changes as we go to fit the changes that should be occurring in their skin or body.
“Client notes are very important and these involve notes on what the therapist sees and also the client’s feedback. The consult process will occur each time they come for their treatment – it is not just a one-off thing. Of course it will not be as involved but you must continue to observe changes so as to customise your treatment effectively. With some treatments we will take pics and store them on their client files. Especially when treating pigmentation or couperose. All our notes and pictures are kept on a computer software program.”
At Chrysalis photos are also taken at every treatment to keep track of progress. Louise says, “We call it the ‘check-in.’ Every time a client comes in, we spend 15 minutes discussing progress, making any programme tweaks and taking a photo so that they have a storybook of their progress at the end.”
Tania from Embrayce agrees that it’s important to keep detailed client records. “With the scanner, our clients will come back in to see how things have improved and we can show them the before and after pictures and map their progress... it’s a bit like having a personal trainer for your skin.”
So do customising treatments build customer loyalty? “Most definitely!” says Kim Buckley. “The client feels listened to and important if they are the centre of your treatment programme. No one likes to feel they are just another facial or massage. Each client comes with their own concerns and needs and that is the fun part of therapy – it would be boring otherwise.
I have been doing therapy for 27 years now and am still treating clients who have been seeing me all this time! Their skin and body needs have certainly been changing, so therefore my treatments have had to change. My clients trust that I will always be providing them with the very best in treatment programmes and homecare for their needs.’
Louise Dickinson believes that long term client loyalty is based not only on good communication and trust with the therapist but also the client understanding and having realistic expectations of what they can achieve. “They are investing in the future of their skin, not necessarily to obtain a 10-years-younger result. We encourage them to think of it this way, that in two years from now they will be looking younger than their friends. We want to keep their skin in the best possible condition as time moves on.”
Although diagnostic tools are a growing trend in clinic services, not having one does not mean a clinic is at a disadvantage. Louise Gray sums it up, “You can have all the advanced technology in the world but if you do not have a strong knowledge of histology and ingredients, then applying the information that is obtained will be to no avail. The most important thing is: know the skin, and know your products, then find a protocol that works for each individual!”