South African salon owners and/or managers are using the three-week national COVID-19 lockdown to attend to important operational and marketing matters.
Gina Gall of the Professional Skin Care Lab – a five-time winner of the Professional Beauty Award for Salon of the Year (4 rooms or more) – is currently updating her website and making sure that the salon’s operating system is correctly set up.
“We are also planning to reignite our Loyalty programme,” explains Gall. “All these things were already in place but needed to be refreshed. Having this sudden unexpected time has had it advantages!”
Gall says she is digging deep to think of new ways to connect with her clients during the lockdown. “This pushes me out of my comfort zone. I am learning how to do short videos with beauty tips, so I can keep our client base motivated to keep up their skincare routine. I’ve created a broadcast list on my phone and send these videos to them. They have been well received thus far.
“I think it’s really important to maintain contact, not just for the continuity of the business, but on a human level. People contact is vital to keep a perspective on life and to keep the spirits up.”
Gall is continually asking herself how she can be of service to clients during the lockdown and how to use her talents. “I have been contacting clients to see how I can fulfil their needs. In fact, I’ve asked them to take photos of their homecare products so we can go through them to put together a morning and evening routine, as well as weekly activities for mini home care sessions.”
Both she and her staff have been undergoing staff training with suppliers. “By listening to my staff, I’ve realised that not everyone is as optimistic as I am about getting through this, in terms of regaining momentum and being more focused and powerful following the lockdown. I’m trying to encourage them to face the challenges head on and keep motivated. Also, I have tried my best to instill a sense of security in them – they need to understand that they are safe, and that their jobs are secure.
“Leading the team during this upheaval hasn’t only been about making sure that staff remember their computers and client cards and everything they need to work from home. I keep in regular contact with all my team, trying to keep them motivated to handle this rollercoaster. But it’s also been about changing my own life, my perspective, and my approach to leadership.
“I am asking my staff to step up and keep working, to put in time and effort. It’s become evident that they appreciate that it is essential for us all to make the effort, be flexible and keep looking at the bright side of things. In my opinion, employees need to make themselves irreplaceable during hard times – they should not assume that their employers will always be able to bail them out. I have a small reserve available that I am dipping into now, regarding staff payments during the lockdown. ‘Saving for a rainy day’ is certainly very apt right now, to be able to keep our doors open. I will contact suppliers to discuss and set up payment arrangements. Communication is key during this time to let suppliers know where we are at. We are all going through this together, so working in a way that is beneficial for all is imperative.”
In conclusion, Gall says that she believes there are no challenges without opportunities. “My approach in my business has always been to focus on coming up with solutions and being present in the moment.”
What the Aesthetic Lab is doing
Heleen Marx, director and practice manager of Aesthetic Lab, a finalist in the Professional Beauty Awards, is using this time to update marketing strategies and review the way the practice does business going forward.
“I am also looking at shuffling therapists’ columns and their responsibilities to maximise their profitability and hands on working time. In terms of our clients, I keep in touch through WhatsApp and share skincare tips on social media. I am available as always on email and cellphone during working hours.”
She notes that it is fortunate that Aesthetic Lab is situated within a day hospital. “So the hygiene is always impeccable and, during the last two weeks before lockdown, everyone who entered the hospital had their temperature taken, hands sanitised and contact details recorded, as well as their travel history.”
Marx is conducting staff training over Zoom, specifically skincare knowledge and anatomy. In addition, product houses are offering training through webinars and Zoom.
She admits that it is tricky to keep staff motivated during these uncertain times but she is paying full basic salaries for as long as possible. “It is comforting to know that UIF can also be claimed for reduced working hours, as assistance to employees. I do believe that we will be busy once lockdown is over, so I’m making sure that everyone is prepared for working hard once we go back.
“It is important to use this time wisely and work out a strategy for our clients. For some it will be difficult initially to afford all the products they were buying before, as well as doing treatments. Affordability vs results and getting the best value for every rand spent will be key. History has proven that women especially want to look good during tough times, so let’s utilise that.”
Word from Savour Wellness
Jacoline Wentzel of Professional Beauty Award finalist, Savour Wellness, says that she and her staff are seeing the lockdown period as rest time.
Wentzel continues: “We have just come through a summer season and have been very busy, so my staff has used their leave owing to them for some of the lockdown time. We were also closing for Easter weekend in any case, so for us this is now being used as a time of rest. The health shop part of Savor Wellness was so busy during the two weeks prior to the lockdown that all our staff had to jump in and work shifts to limit our exposure. So the rest is actually welcomed.”
She is communicating with her client base on social media, with a daily health or beauty tip, just to keep them informed. “We are allowing them to pre-book treatments for after lock down now already as we know that post lock down we will be very busy. I think that once we are up and running, we might offer our regular clients a free treatment when booking for a certain amount.”
Wentzel is in regular contact with staff and has secured their basic salaries. “I’m fortunate in that over the past year I have been putting away a small amount into savings just in case of an emergency. Also, our landlord has been so gracious as to allow us a two-month rental free period for April and May, which has also been a huge help.”
She believes that the COVID-19 situation might endure through the whole of winter. “I think the challenge is to keep our expenses as low as possible and to keep communicating with clients to show them we care. Make it personal; pick up the phone to your clients and make sure they are well.”