Hello? What’s Your Phone IQ?

A large percentage of licensed skincare therapists, cosmetologists, and other professionals working in the health and beauty industries are solopreneurs. Being a solopreneur makes it really difficult to juggle between managing the business, answering calls and performing direct services, all at the same time. The most important thing that a solopreneur can do as the first step to close a sale is having Phone IQ. If they’re not answering the phone, returning a call on time or answering the phone properly, the chances to lose a sale are higher.

Note: 92% of all customer interactions happen over the phone and 30-50% of sales go to the business that responds first.

Phone IQ is a term I’ve coined which entails everything from technology to phone etiquette. Let’s review your Phone Intelligence Quotient:

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You should have a dedicated line for your business. If you’re using your personal cell phone number, you don’t have Phone IQ. If you don’t want to have two mobile phones with you at all times, consider using Google Voice. It’s a free service, and it allows you to have a dedicated business number that rings into your cellphone allowing you to distinguish between personal and business calls. You can set it up with voicemail (VM) that can get transcribed into your email so you never lose a message.

Have a professional voice message for your VM. Keep it short, sweet and clear. Everybody knows they need to leave their “name, phone number and a brief message”, so skip all that. If you have too much information to offer, such as making announcements about your specials or changes in your policies, you should direct your clients to your website. But most importantly, state the time frame in which you are going to return calls (usually 24 hours) and stick to that time frame no matter how tired you are at the end of the day. However, keep in mind that the faster you return a call, the more likely you are to make a sale.

Note: Referring clients to your website will allow them to get more information about your offerings and your business. Having a “FAQs” page is highly advisable. Your website should definitely have a “Contact Us” page, as well as ways in which the client can easily schedule an appointment with you. (Read my articles on “Salons and Millennials” Part 1 and Part 2).  

Answer the call promptly. Sure, there are times when we just can’t drop everything to answer the phone. But your clients should expect a prompt response within 2 rings. Two rings should also be the setting for calls to go to voicemail. Don’t make the client wait for you.

Note: Treat questions, comments and complaints on social media just as promptly as phone calls. Seventy-eight percent of salespeople using social media outsell their peers. “Salespeople” in this context translates to “solopreneurs” who respond to potential and existing clients promptly on social media.

When answering the phone, stand up and smile. When you stand up, your energy increases, and when you smile, your client can “see” and “hear” it. Sending positive energy and vibrations to a potential or existing client makes them feel better about themselves, which in turn makes them feel better about doing business with you. Picking up the phone with a quick “Jane’s Salon, how can I help you?” sounds rushed, abrupt and boring and will automatically make the client feel put off. We are in a creative business. Get creative with your own “pick up line” and add a splash of friendliness.

Note: According to an article on Discovery, human beings can differentiate vocal intonation not only between a smile and a non-smile but among different types of smile. “Smiling affects how we speak, to the point that listeners can actually identify the type of smile based on sound alone…” And since 84% of the message over a phone is your tone of voice, making sure that “smiling tone” comes through is imperative (Read source here).

If you must put a client on hold, let them know why. It only takes an additional 10 seconds at the most. I personally find it annoying when I am told, right off the bat, “can you please hold?”, especially when all I have is a “yes or no” question. Wouldn’t it sound better to hear “Thank you for calling XYZ Salon. I’m wrapping up with a client. Would you mind holding for about one or two minutes?”; and then wait for the client’s response. If you know it will take longer than two minutes, let the call go to voicemail and don’t pick  up. If you have an employee, ask for help and have the employee assist the caller. Oh, and make sure you have some kind of music programmed on your hold system. It’s frustrating to not know whether you’re on hold or if the call got disconnected.

How many times have you been under the impression that the business hung up on you? Urgh! Off-putting, isn’t it? Sometimes, the client has remembered one last question, or they are in the middle of telling you to have a good day, only to be cut off. So never hang up first. Just don’t do it. The rule is that the client hangs up first – not without hearing from you, first, that it was your pleasure to assist them and wishing them a good day. Waiting for them to hang up first sends the message that they are most important.

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Don’t speak over a client. It’s just rude. If the client is calling you with questions about your products or services, don’t rush to cut them off because you think what the question is. And when your client calls you because they have a complaint or concern, allow them to vent and finish what they have to say and immediately apologize. If you simply don’t have the time to discuss over the phone (you’re alone in your business and another client is soon to arrive) schedule them for a 30-minute (in your book) in-person meeting (you can call it chat, consult, discussion, etc). The client will feel more important and will most likely feel better about you and your business by the time they come to you.

Note: Retaining current customers is 6 to 7 times less costly than acquiring new ones. So put energy and effort in your current clients and solving their needs.

If you have the financial means to hire a Virtual Phone Service, do so. They provide all kinds of services that may be difficult for us, as solopreneurs, to get on our own (mainly due to our lack of technical knowledge). These services range from toll-free numbers, hold music, “call flip”, call recording and video conferencing to live attendant, among others.

Note: When you have to leave the office in the middle of a phone, “call flip” allows you to transfer the call from your desk device to your cell phone so you can keep talking on the go.

If you have employees, make sure they (all of them) are properly trained to answer the phone exactly as you want them to. Never allow them to deviate from that format. Have procedures in place on how to handle appointments, questions, sales, and complaints. Your employees should also expect that they, too, should answer the phone if you or the receptionist are not available. That phone call pays their salaries!

The following rules on how to answer the phone, along with examples of how the conversation may actually go, have been researched and put into practice by very successful small businesses. Many business coaches use these rules when a potential client calls them for the very first time. I would like to share them with you.

Rule #1: Build Relationship with the client

Salon: It’s a great day at XYZ Salon. How can I help you?
Caller: I wanted to know about your XYZ service.
Salon: That’s great. My name is _______. May I have your name?
Caller: Sandra
Salon: Hi Sandra. How are you today?
Caller: I’m good.
Salon: Awesome!

Note: Starting with “It’s a great day at…” and learning and repeating the name of the client several times over the course of the conversation is mandatory.

Rule #2: Ask Empowering Questions

Salon: So that I am able to help you better, would you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Caller: Sure
Salon: Is this treatment for yourself or are you calling on behalf of a friend?
Caller: Myself
Salon: What are the areas of concern that you’d like to target?
Caller: XYZ and ABC
Salon: Have you ever received a similar service?
Caller: Not really
Salon: What have you done so far to treat the area? At home or in salon? And are you currently using any products?
Caller: I’ve received ABC and just using XYZ
Salon: What kind of results are you expecting to receive?

Rule #3: Gain Commitment

Salon:
I ask these questions because a lot of times people have an idea in their mind of what this treatment is about and usually ask the wrong questions and have false expectations. Most people believe that XYZ they have had for years will go away in one session. That is not the case. It is for this reason that this treatment is being offered as a package of (amount) for $xxx.

This is where you will provide the necessary information. However, keep in mind that if you have a niche treatment that you’ve developed, the best course of action would be to ask the caller to schedule an in-person consultation (see below) and prevent your competition from gaining access to this information free of charge.

Rule #4: Ask for referral or to search testimonials and close

Salon: Sandra, what I’d like you to do is visit my Facebook page to see the “before and after” photos I’ve posted from clients who have authorized me to publish these photos. With no commitment, would you like to come in for a consultation?
Caller: OK
Salon: Great! What day and time are more convenient for you?
Caller: Tuesday at 3pm
Salon: Absolutely! I have that time frame available, so let me get some information from you (You want to get full name, email address and tel# and perhaps a credit card if you hold appointments with a credit card).
Salon: Sandra, I have you down for Tuesday at 3pm. Please note that I have a 24 hour cancellation policy which I recommend you read in full on our website. Also, Sandra, I would like to make you aware that we offer a Referral Program, which you can learn all about it on our website as well. Please let your friends and family know about our services and that we are here to serve them as well.

 

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Salons and Millennials: The Missing Ingredient – PART 2

By now, you should be getting some ideas as to how to market to the millennial crowd. But there are still other characteristics you may want to consider before finalizing your marketing strategies.
Millennials are civic-minded (good citizenship) with a strong sense of community – locally and globally. Remember, they’ve been instilled that they are here for a purpose. They prefer to work for companies that sponsor events outside of work, especially so, when these are charity events or when the company supports volunteer opportunities.  They also care about supporting local businesses and promoting local employment. In fact, more than 50% of millennials make an extra effort to buy products from companies that support the causes they care about (research from Barkley, an independent advertising agency). They’re also twice as likely than Baby Boomers and Gen Xers to care how their food is produced and whether or not is organic (Boston Consulting Group).

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Salon: You’re small and you’re local – you’re already half way there! Connect and submit a proposal to a few local companies that provide wellness programs for their employees. Present monthly lunch-and-learns at the company site, then provide discount coupons to the person in charge of benefits in the HR department so that they can be handed out to the employees. You can also connect with a local charity and co-host a fundraising event. Don’t know which charity to give to? Survey your clients before they’re out your door. Provide them with 3 or 4 options and extra space to add their own. Majority wins. 

Millennials are not individualistic but rather group-oriented, as long as these groups are formed by members of their own generation. They are willing to sacrifice their own identity – to not stand out among their peers – in order to be seen as part of the group.  This stems from the fact that parents of millennials have taught their children that every voice matters and equality is worth fighting for. Millennials have a strong sense of justice. They can be compared to the “Flower Child” of the Baby Boomer era.

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Salon: Provide opportunities to experience your services and products in groups!  Offer BOGO’s and…don’t cringe… extend the Loyalty Program to their best friend (only one friend) so that they can share it. 
Millennials like collaboration because they are community-oriented. They want everyone to get along. So, the possibility of collaborating with businesses and brands, is high in their list of interests. Alex Castellarnau from Dropbox, the popular file transfer cloud service, said: With millennials, “a new brand, service or product is only started by the company; it’s finished by the customers. Millennials are a generation that wants to co-create the product, the brand, with you. Companies that understand this and figure out ways to engage in this co-creation relationship with millennials will have an edge.”
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Salon: While the observation above mainly refers to the technology sector, there are many ways in which a salon can collaborate with their millennial clients. Surveys are a great way to learn what people think, feel, need and want. Use MailChimp or Constant Contact to reach out to your clients. Choose your more loyal millennial clients and ask them how they would solve a specific problem you’re having and make it fun, like a contest. Provide a raffle opportunity for every participant and 1-month free membership, for example, to the winner of the contest. Talk about engagement!

Millennials are high-achievers. They’ve probably been put in career tracks since grade school. While Baby Boomers made their mark in the humanities and arts, millennials are leaving theirs in science and math. However, they care about balance between work and life. They are healthy-minded and actively seek out potential employers that offer fitness and wellness programs for their employees.

Because they are high achievers, they don’t like to waste time. When it comes to in-store experience, millennials will instantly grab their cell phones to do their own research about a service or product.  However, if the in-store experience can provide the knowledge they seek faster and better than it would take for them to browse their cell phones, that would prove to be a real value to the millennial.

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Salon: Having well-trained and knowledgeable employees is very important if your target market is Gen Yers. 

Millennials are adventurers. This is also the generation that has traveled the most. They consider business travel is an opportunity to explore a different place. As the adventurers they are, they crave new discoveries even within the daily and mundane. Shopping is no longer for “needed” items. They want the whole experience: the lighting, the colors, the textures, the music, the scents, customer service, testers, demos, and if possible, the history of the product or service and how the product or service is helping sustain our planet! They want to feel pleasure inside the store. They want to talk about it and share their experience with their peers (remember, they’re group-oriented). This is, in part, the reason why cuisine in America has become so eclectic, from expensive fusions to cheap messy food trucks. Millennials are always searching for the new, exotic, memorable, and even perhaps, dangerous experience.

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Salon: Because millennials are so keen to traveling and to new experiences, providing regular new experiences will keep the millennials’ interest. These experiences can range from product launches to workshops to surprise monthly “late night” hours. Get creative – the options are limitless.

As I’ve said before, millennials are a highly social, group-oriented generation, and they socialize over every single experience, offline and online. They are the experts on social media. They live, eat, breathe social media. It would only make sense that businesses that want to target millennials have all their knots and bolts in place to provide exciting, engaging and up-to-the-last-minute social media campaigns. Have you heard the saying “You snooze; you lose?” If you just can’t keep up with DIY campaigns or can’t afford a social media marketing company, there are other very affordable ways you can accomplish this. A highly recommended, trustworthy VA (Virtual Assistant) could become your savior!  If you’re not active on social media, you become irrelevant to millennials, who are quickly moving to the next and best thing in seconds.

 

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Salon: It is important to bring social media into the store. First, you can let millennials know where you are online by posting decals from Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Yelp, Foursquare, StumbleUpon, YouTube or whatever social media networks you use. Ask them to “check-in” and provide incentives when they do. Foursquare offers ways to earn badges and win freebies or discounts (incentives) for check-ins that you can control.

Millennials were born in the digital era; so when it comes to technology, they expect it to work flawlessly, period.  From home computers to internet to cell phone texting to online gaming where millennials interact with others, to sharing music – the world is at their fingertips and they expect the information to be available exactly at the moment when they need it. Millennials, for the most part, don’t watch TV, don’t go to church, rarely smoke and hardly sleep. A Pew study concluded that 80% of millennials sleep with or near their cell phones. Not only is the cellphone a way to communicate (call or text), but it’s also a way to learn the latest gossip and news, to hook up, to make new friends, to remind them of tasks or appointments, to recommend travel experiences and to research information about products, read their reviews and compare prices while shopping. They also post reviews and share their experience with a particular business or product IRT (in real time), so they feel they are part of the collective decision-making. Millennials even donate to charities through their cellphones!

Because millennials are all about convenience, making it easy for them to pay for your products and services is key to successfully close a deal with a millennial. This may require an upgrade to POS terminals and add the necessary software to make all transactions as easy as possible. When it comes to Loyalty Programs, there was consensus, at a recent Microsoft Envision Conference, that it must be digital in order for the program to succeed.

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Salon: It would only make sense to make your website and create fun apps that are mobile compatible. Include Loyalty Programs and Discount Coupons that are easily scanable with your POS terminal. For example, you could have the technology in place to safely store clients’ data, including credit card information.  Consider using NFC (near-field communication) contact-less payment options like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Venmo. Even Facebook is beta-testing their contact-less payment app. It would also be advisable to have quality WiFi in your store – a huge convenience for millennials in exchange for your lack of flexibility…

In summary, the fact that you are a small, local business gives you an edge. But don’t stop there. Sell unique products and services and help support a cause by engaging in fundraising events or providing online or app charity donation ability. Make it easy for millennials to see, feel, taste, buy, use, research and review your product or service. Give your salon employees the option to download your payment app (Square, PayPal, Venmo) so that they can more easily check out your clients. Provide an outside-the-salon experience by having an engaging website, online appointment with easy self- rebooking and cancellation, preferably with texting capability. Create your very own business app. Consider upgrading your POS terminal and necessary software such as CRM (Client Retention Management) and accounting system, as well as offering easy access WiFi and cellphone charging station. Have all your social media accounts updated and managed by a professional. Virtual Assistants are an affordable way to go, especially when you need to be on alert to manage your online reputation. Offer Loyalty or Perks programs, memberships and the ability to purchase gift cards and eGifts (www.Yiftee.com) through their cellphones. Provide surveys and opportunities to provide testimonials to make millennials feel part of your business. Offer virtual consultations through Skype or FaceTime and offer express services or technology-based services including the use of ProScope (microscope for phone on-the-go skin analysis) and a SkinScope Scanner for skin analysis. You’ll have them at…hello!