Expert Advice

When Core Clients Hit Hard Times

Victoria Wurdinger | July 10, 2011 | 7:07 PM
Betting on Futures

Like many established salon owners, Damiano and Teri Guardino of Moda International in Forest Hills, New York, have benefited from a strong, local client base. Another neighborhood-salon similarity: Many of their clients work in a single, threatened industry: the financial sector. What do you do when core clients hit hard times?
"We're offering clients who are unemployed any services they want, gratis, prior to a job interview," says Damiano. "Even if they want a full head of highlights, the product cost is about $18; the alternative is to lose your clients forever."

Noting that the salon thrived for decades and it was give-back time, the duo presented the idea to the staff first. Even though it meant lost commissions, they were relieved and voted unanimously to approve the plan. Turns out, the staff had wanted to do something themselves. The preemptive move discouraged them from making home visits and relieved them of decision-making.

Next, the owners culled the salon's database and called every client in a "threatened industry" to see if they were okay. The much-appreciated contact allowed them to tell clients that if their jobs were lost, the salon would be there for them. Clients who were unemployed were also told about complimentary job-interview services. While time-consuming, the method encompassed support, dignity and privacy, something an "economic-stimulus promotion" can't do.

"About 20 percent of our clients are financial workers, affected or not," says Damiano. "But we also looked at families who are clients and the trickle-down effect of single-salary incomes. We discovered nearly 70-percent of our base could be affected in some way, which made action a must. Things will get better, and when they do, our clients will be more loyal than ever."

When Core Clients Hit Hard Times

Teri and Damiano Guardino.

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