What Is Conditioning?
Conditioning is a natural process in our brains. Our brains try to avoid situations that are painful or uncomfortable and will be attracted to situations that are enjoyable and rewarding.
For instance, if you’re given fresh fruit juice whenever you are in a beauty salon, you feel fresh and healthy. This positive feeling triggers the reward part of your brain and pushes you to continue to seek that rewarding situation. If you get fresh fruit juice every single time you are in that beauty salon, your brain makes a correlation between the services you are getting and the happy and healthy feeling of fresh fruit juice. This is called “conditioning,” meaning you have been conditioned to desire a beauty service that includes fresh fruit juice.
Conditioning Is Everywhere
Conditioning is all around us, and as a matter of fact, we are always living with conditioning. The arrangement of objects in our house, the colors we choose, the food tastes we like, and almost everything else in our lives are all kinds of conditioning.
Our brains make a strong connection between these situations and the rewards we receive from them. If there is any change in the object of our conditioning, we feel it right away and will react based on the new rewards or uncomfortable new experience. For example, if there is even a little change in the taste of our food, we will likely detect it. If the new change makes our food tastier, we accept it; otherwise, we reject the change and seek the old, familiar taste.
We can use this natural brain conditioning function in favor of our businesses and marketing. Let’s return to the example of fresh fruit juice. If you provide fresh fruit juice every single time the client is in your salon, it becomes the new normal for her brain, connecting the salon services with fresh fruit juice. The salon service will remind her of fresh fruit juice, and vice versa. If she is in a salon and doesn’t get fresh fruit juice, her brain thinks there is something missing, and she may be dissatisfied with the service itself. Scientifically, it is called “classic conditioning,” and it builds with time and consistency.
Raising the Expectation
When you condition your client to a service, you are raising her expectation to a new, controlled level. A controlled level means you are the one who set the new expectation, and you are the one who is delivering the new expectation in your own way.
How Do You Condition Your Clients?
Find a perk for your service that is tangible and that is not a necessary part of your service, and provide it every single time your client is in your salon. This has to be repeated every single visit so her brain makes a connection between a new, rewarding situation and the service she is rendered in your salon. For the brain to form a new habit or, as we call it here, be conditioned, the brain needs time and repetition.
The conditioning shouldn’t be part of the services you are offering in the salon because, after some time, the client will assume it is just a normal part of the service she is paying for. For instance, if you do a full foot massage with each facial, at the beginning, it may seem an extra service that the client appreciates, but after a few times, she assumes it is part of the service that she paid for. In the clients’ minds, there wouldn’t be any reason to appreciate or be excited for something they already paid for.
Additions that are not part of your service, or are not a service at all, are the best for conditioning your clients. This could be fresh fruit juice, a $5 coffee gift card, coffee with cookies or chocolate, a glass of wine, or a hot drink in a to-go cup. By using tangible rewards that are not a part of your service, clients will assume it as a favor or a bonus, and she will appreciate it. No one will assume fresh fruit juice is part of a haircut or facial, and not many salons will provide such a service for free. If you can find something unique and creative, that would be even better.
Customize Your Conditioning
Always look for ideas by asking your client about their interests so you can customize the conditioning object for your client. For example, ask what kinds of tea or coffee or juice she likes. Write this information down in her file, and every single visit, provide her with her preferred drink exactly as she likes it, or whatever it may be. Every time you provide her favorite drink, you “wow” her because, most likely, you are the only service provider who knows her favorite drink and supplies it without her asking for it—and for free.
Don’t Offer It; Provide It
Most businesses make the mistake of asking their clients if they want a specific complimentary service. For instance, they ask if she wants water. As part of conditioning, you should not ask; you have to provide a complimentary service as if she has already asked for it. You or your receptionist should go directly to the client and ask her if she likes her fresh fruit juice to be apple or orange. Make sure to put a note in her file about her favorite juice or whatever item to which you are trying to condition her.
Condition Client as Part of a System
Setting up a system in a beauty salon is tricky because there is always at least one human being (beauty technician, receptionist, etc.) involved, and humans are always subject to changes in mood and attitude. Conditioning clients is a good technique to incorporate into your business system. It is very unlikely that someone comes to your salon just because of fresh fruit juice, but it will undoubtedly help to increase customer loyalty.
No matter what kind of system you use in your salon, the beauty technician and others working in your salon are the key to the success or failure of your business.
Your Beauty Service as a Conditioning Agent
The very first aspects that condition your clients are the services they are getting in your salon. People want to get the same service every single visit, and it is one of the main reasons they come to you—they know they get what they expect. Big businesses like McDonald’s and Starbucks condition their customers, which is why they are so successful. No matter where in the world you are, you get the same food or drink with the same taste, in exactly the same amount and at the same price.
After a few repetitions, your clients will be conditioned to your service, and when they are in your chair or treatment room, they expect to receive the exact same service they have been conditioned or expect to get. Find your style and provide exactly the same service every single time, unless your client asks otherwise or you have already explained the new variation in your service. Set up a filing system, and record the exact style and what is needed to be done so the client receives the service she expects.
Service, Mood, and Emotion
One part of the conditioning agent is you as a beauty professional. The most important, yet challenging, aspect to keep constant in the beauty business is to portray the same mood and emotion whenever you see your clients. As human beings, we are packed with all kinds of emotions and feelings. It is not always easy to control them. You may have conditioned your client to see that you’re always smiling or an optimistic person. Your clients form a picture of you in their minds and expect to see the same personality whenever they are in your salon. There is no doubt that some of your clients come to you not just because of your service, but because of how you affect their emotions.
One of the best ways to keep emotional boundaries in your work environment is to continually remind yourself who you are as a beauty professional by posting some reminder stickers or signs in your working area. Remember, it is not a good idea to share your personal problems with your clients, as everybody has enough of their own problems.
Resistance to Change and Negative Conditioning
Overall, people resist changes in their old, well-established habits or, in our case, the objects of their conditioning; however, if the situation is painful or life-threating, the brain will, in a sense, short circuit and want to avoid that situation all together. For instance, if you provide the best service every single time, but on one occasion, you do a terrible job or—even worse—hurt your client, she will try her best to avoid you or will lose trust in you and your service for a time. In most cases, your interactions and her loyalty will suffer. Her brain has been conditioned to avoid terrible service, especially involving pain. This is called “operational conditioning,” and because it is related to safety, it doesn’t need much time to build; just one incident is enough to lose your client forever.
The Cost of Conditioning
There is definitely a cost involved with providing something extra for your clients. You can assume the cost of conditioning as part of your marketing expense. Keeping current clients is much cheaper than acquiring new ones, and conditioning clients is one of the easiest ways to keep current clients loyal to your business. Happy clients are the best and most valuable asset to any business. Happy clients will talk positively about you, and through word of mouth, it is the best marketing strategy for any business.
Like other industries, conditioning clients in the beauty business is one of the most efficient ways to ensure loyal clients. Conditioning raises the expectations of your clients to a high level that only you can satisfy. Conditioning clients is also the cheapest and most beneficial way to promote your business.