When Clients Ask for a Discount
As hairdressers, we all have pricing for our services. It takes years of experience and training to get to a certain level, and as we all know, it does not come for free. On top of all of that, we have to stay current with techniques and trends so that we can always offer the latest looks for our clients. The more established we are, the more confident we tend to be about our worth.
Although it’s not in the nature of our business for our clients to haggle over price, it does not stop the occasional request for a price break. For the client or would-be customer that asks for a “friends & family” discount, simply but politely ask why they believe that they are entitled to a discount. Without directly saying yes or no, you have directed the question back to your customer, prompting them to consider what they're asking for and why. Most will back down and pay your current rate, while others will have a range of justifications. Here are some of the more common:
Sometimes, people lose their jobs or suffer a financial crisis. If they are already your client, chances are they will tell you about financial issues anyway, even without asking for assistance. In such a case you can decide as to whether or not to help them out - as long as it’s your decision, not theirs. When someone is out of work, for example, they’ll need help to look their best for a job interview. If you step up and help your long-term client in their moment of need, they’ll likely remain loyal once they’re back at work and can pay your regular rates.
The other type of haggling is usually the new or first-time client who is trying to get the lowest possible rate for the sake of trying. They attempt to talk you into a lower price and often promise to continue as a client if they like your work. Some even resort to putting your salon's work down saying it’s not worth the rate. The reality is that this type of haggler usually just wants to see what they can get out of you. They have likely never paid full price for anything nor will pay your regular rates.
If you are new on the floor and see the benefit to take the haggler’s request, then do so. Sometimes the discounted work is better than nothing. Just remember that it’s highly unlikely that this person will return unless they get the same type of discount the next time.
If you’re an established salon professional with a steady clientele, you may want to pass on this potential client. Suggest one of your salon’s assistants or new talent should their rates fall in line with what the customer is willing to pay. Better yet, try and sell them a membership, should your salon have an appropriate one in place. Otherwise, politely thank them for the offer and decline without thinking twice about it.
A different type of haggler is the celebrity client. Many learn early on that they can use their fame to get drastically discounted if not free services. If they’re asking for a discount or a freebie, they’ll likely never pay your rate. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it or not to take up their request. If you do so, make sure that you clearly define what you want out of the deal up front. Consider asking for a selfie with the person and permission to post it on social or use it on your salon’s website. If they are happy with your service, also ask for a review or shout-out on social through their network. That way your efforts are more likely to be worth your time.
Another discount ask is for charity or work done in exchange for credit. Fashion shows, editorial shoots, even fundraising events sometimes present an opportunity. In many cases, there’s a chance to gain a little press, which can add to your credibility in the salon and possibly gain notoriety in your community and beyond. Just weigh out the benefits before committing.
When it comes to offering discounted rates, you’ll need to learn to differentiate between a serial haggler who will never pay full rate and someone who is worthy of the investment. Otherwise, stand your ground and assert your worthiness. You didn’t work this hard to give your services away.
About the Author: Jim Bower is the founder of SalonInteractive, software solutions for eCommerce and digital supply chain management. He is a former salon and spa owner with over 30 years of experience in the industry.