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Ethical Behavior in a We-Kill-Hair World

3 Nov

Many people face ethical issues every day without consideration of it being “ethical” or “unethical.”  An example would be when you drive in your car:  Do you never speed?  Do you speed a little or speed a lot?  One person would never, ever consider breaking the speeding law, while another thinks nothing of speeding “a little” – but would consider speeding “a lot” as wrong.  This collection of ethical situations stems from many years of watching, listening, and reading what others do or say about ethical behavior in the hair removal industry. 

Ethics is a system of beliefs which allow us to determine the right and wrong actions in our everyday lives. The word “ethics” comes from a Greek word meaning “custom” or “habit.”  The habits we practice influence our own perception of ethics, and we view other’s behavior by comparing them to ourselves. For many, the level of “wrongness” is the determining factor in their feeling bad or good about their own behavior while sometimes judging others harshly for similar ethical actions.

Spend a little time on Facebook and you will be asked to take a survey to discover your hippie name, your animal spirit guide, which ancient philosopher best represents you or which character are you in the Hunger Games movies?  The survey for this article provided none of the fun results but provided an interesting story on the perceived ethical behavior and self-reported ethics of 100 hair removal professionals.  The breakdown of respondents is as follows:  44% practice only electroepilation (electrolysis, thermolysis, blend with needle/probe); 44% perform waxing; 4% perform IPL hair removal; 3% perform laser hair removal; 1% performed threading; and 4% practice equal amounts of electroepilation and one other method of hair removal.   

beauty

Hair removal services are a booming business in most cities. An article in Entrepreneur Press names ELECTROLOGIST in the list of “employees you’re likely to need for the day-to-day functioning of your new business.”  Salons, spas, and hair removal clinics offer various methods of hair removal.  These small businesses rely on advertising to bring in the clients and as a result they hire employees and pay taxes.  When consumers interact with a hair removal business, their first question might be about the cost, but they should want to know if this individual is providing excellent work and if they are being honest about their credentials and the results of their offered services.  Consumers might not care to learn if their service provider is a gossip or if they are cheating on their taxes.   

Four questions were at the core of this survey on ethics in the hair removal industry.  1.  How important is it to practice good techniques and skills?  2. Are respondents promoting themselves, their skills and businesses in an ethical manner?  3.  Is gossip and disparaging speech a problem within the profession?  4. Are respondents honest when claiming income and paying taxes?

For this survey, respondents were first asked if choices they make should be considered a measurement of professional ethics.  Over 90% of respondents considered the choices they make in performing services (94.95%); advertising and promoting services (93.94%); and dealing with or speaking of colleagues or competition (96.00%) as a measurement of their professional ethics. 13.27% said that choices made in reporting income and expenses should NOT be considered a measurement of professional ethics and 7.14% were not sure about this subject.  (Note that 79.59% of respondents considered choices made in reporting income and expenses were a measurement of professional ethics.)

When asked their opinion about the action of other hair removal professionals, 79% of respondents stated practicing poor techniques and skills reflected negatively for the whole profession. The survey allowed respondents to comment on behaviors they witness, and practicing poor techniques and skills was frequently mentioned as a problem.  Word-of-mouth reviews can make or break a business, and often, the negative word-of-mouth for a service offered in one business can cross-over to other similar businesses.  Twenty percent of respondents answered that practicing poor techniques and skills reflects negatively for the individual, and one percent were not sure.  Two-thirds (66.33%) of respondents answered that other’s misrepresentation of themselves reflected negatively for the whole profession and over half (55.56%) answered it reflects negatively for the individual when speaking negatively about colleagues or competition. When it came to under-reporting income, 49% answered that it reflected negatively for the individual and 19% answered, “I’m not sure.”

When asked which types of unethical behavior they believe exists in the hair removal industry, a long list was provided for respondents to select from.  The most commonly chosen answer was “Using unacceptable infection prevention practices such as double dipping and lack of sterilization/decontamination.” Other selections included a list of other poor skill practices; types of misrepresentation of education and training; speaking negatively about others; and stealing product, equipment or business from others. Respondents were not asked how often these actions occurred. One respondent wrote, “I know of all the above I’ve checked, but I don’t think it’s an industry standard.”  Another answered, “I think some of these things are done out of ignorance rather than maliciousness.” 

The survey asked, “Which of the following best represents you?”  Respondents were asked if they were more, just as, or less ethical than others. Sixty-two answered they were more ethical than others and four of those respondents answered NO to the first question of the survey: “Do you consider the choices [you] make in reporting income and expenses as a measurement of professional ethics?”  According to NOLO.com the most common way people cheat on their taxes is by deliberately under-reporting income.  Oscar Vela, Ph.D. concluded in his 2008 dissertation on “Tax Compliance and Social Values” that taxpayers stay honest in reporting income largely since that honesty keeps them from losing income, and professions which place the greatest significance on integrity are the least likely to cheat on their taxes. 

The writers of Freakonomics featured theft of wood from the Petrified Forest in several of their podcasts. It seems four times as many visitors stole wood from the forest when there were signs stating “Many past visitors have removed petrified wood from the park, changing the natural state of the Petrified Forest” than when the sign said “Please don’t remove the petrified wood from the park in order to preserve the natural state of the Petrified Forest.”  Amazingly, less wood was stolen when there were no signs.  Robert B. Caldini concluded in his article “Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment” that public service communicators should avoid sending messages that a targeted activity is socially unacceptable but widespread because it causes people to believe that “a lot of people do it, so I can too.”

This article is not written to change the behavior of hair removal professionals, but to propose the definition of an ethical member of the hair removal profession would be one who has character traits that foster the principles of integrity, fairness, compassion, honesty and kindness.  It is a privilege and obligation as a member of this industry to obtain the best education we can and to continue learning – even when licensing and training does not always exist where we live.  It is a privilege for us to speak honestly and fairly about ourselves and others – even though it may be a tough habit to change.  It is an obligation for us to follow the laws of our local, state, and federal government – especially since we are not populated with law breakers.

How do we define our own ethical boundaries?  How do we perceive levels of ethical behavior in other people?  Anyone who has watched Les Miserables can see the “crime” in sending the starving Jean Valjean to prison for stealing a loaf of bread. After prison, he can only live by stealing, but once shown the compassion from a good man becomes a good man himself.  In Breaking Bad, Walter White decides to make and sell meth in order to secure his family’s financial future after a cancer diagnosis.  While both of these men are considered criminals, we sympathize with Jean Valjean, and while we might root for Walter White in some ways, his choices should make us uncomfortable.  In the end, Walter White admits his crimes made him “feel alive.”   Are ethical behaviors simply a way to feel good about ourselves, i.e. not cause ourselves guilt, to feel superior to others, or are ethics a gray area?

If you think ethics is bunk, but perhaps wisdom is your bag, visit this TED Talk where Barry Schwartz talks about using wisdom but not teaching ethics or watch this PhilosophyBasics video on YouTube. 

There’s No Business In No-Shows

16 Jun

INTRODUCTION

This article provides a snapshot of statistics, attitudes and policies on the subject of appointment no-shows reported by a sample population of electrologists from around the world.  The survey was available to electrology professionals in several social media settings.  The problem of no-shows is a universal problem – it does not just happen in the hair removal industry.  Most consumers respect their electrologist enough to provide appropriate notification if they cannot come to an appointment.  It’s only a small percentage of consumers who seem to be disrespectful and cause financial loss to their hair removal provider.  The biggest problem with no-shows is that lost revenue can result in an increase of overhead which contributes to increased prices for all clients to cover that loss.

NO-SHOW DEFINED

A NO-SHOW is a person who makes an appointment and neither shows up nor cancels.  Appointments are made upon the request of the consumer and it is the consumer’s responsibility to show up or cancel with appropriate notice.  Many personal service providers, including electrologists, make a living from appointment driven businesses.  These scheduled appointments establish an agreement or contract for purchasing time, which if missed by the client is time that cannot be sold again. As a result, the service provider experiences a loss of income that cannot be made up.

OFFICE POLICIES     

An appointment no-show policy is one of many boundaries a business must establish.  These boundaries should be clearly communicated to each client before they receive their first treatment.     Electrologists were asked if they had a written policy on no-shows and how their clients learned about these policies.  Nearly 30% of respondents reported they did not have a written policy for no-shows.  However, those respondents were not lenient when clients failed to show up for appointments  – the client paid for the missed appointment or they were not given future appointments. More than 70% of respondents reporting having a written policy for no-shows. Half of all respondents utilize several methods of communicating their no-show policy.  59.9% provide consumers a written copy at the first appointment; 31.82% display it on their website; 27.27% have it on their business card; 18.18% explain it during a phone consultation; 13.64% include a link to their policy in each email confirming the appointment; and 4.55% provide a written copy at each appointment. Generally, clients are considered a no-show after 10 to 15 minutes.  Most electrologists (77.27%) will try calling the client within this time.  Here are some of the messages electrologists reported to send a client upon a missed appointment:    

Watching the Watch

Missed You!

“I tell them I was sorry that they missed their appointment…”

“Want to make sure you are ok since you missed your appt.”

“We were expecting you in for an appointment at … time. We would like to remind you of our cancellation policy. Please contact us when you get this message in order that we can reschedule your appointment.”

“Hi… , I have u booked with us today at… and it is now….  I was wondering if you are on your way, or are experiencing difficulty attending your appointment. Pls call me back on… to let me know.”

“I wanted to make sure we had an appointment today. I had you down for 11am, but perhaps there was a misunderstanding. Just wanted to make sure you were not thinking of coming another day, as I may have a client already scheduled. Please let me know that you are okay.”

LOST REVENUE

There is a difference between the client who misses one appointment out of many and the client who has repeated difficulties getting to their appointment.  We all make mistakes, but the client who repeatedly fails to show up causes a financial burden to the business.  The frequent no-show client should probably reconsider their priorities when it comes to making that appointment. A few respondents take a hard-line when clients fail to show from the beginning.  Nearly 5% require that after one no-show clients are expected to pre-pay for all future appointments.  One electrologist wrote, “They are warned about my lost income and told they will pay for any missed appointments in the future.”  Nearly 15% require that clients will pay for every missed appointment from the beginning; over 18% warn the client about the lost income and expect to be paid for any missed appointments in the future; nearly 14% allow a certain number of no-shows before firing the client; over 27% allow a certain number of no-shows before charging the client; and under 5% do not consider no shows a problem, so the client is not penalized or fired.

ADVICE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL

Here are some tips gathered from your colleagues: 

  1. Consider letting the first missed appointment go without charging the client.   Make it clear in your written policy that “events can occur unexpectedly and, therefore, a one-time missed appointment will not be charged.”
  2. Consider implementing a “three strikes you’re out,” rule and terminate clients who are chronic no-shows.
  3. Excuse missed appointments if the client has a true emergency.
  4. State that future visits may not be scheduled until the missed appointment fee is paid.
  5. Make sure your clients know your office policy on no-shows and late cancellations. 
  6. Confirm, confirm, confirm.  Give clients the chance to give you notice. Confirmation can be in the form of a reminder call, an email, or text message. 
  7. Reward the good client.  They get priority over the “bad” client. 
  8. Train your clients into behaving better.  Ask that client who is always late or is habitually standing you up, “Are you making me a promise you’ll show up at that time?” You’d be surprised how that stops people in their tracks.
  9. Gift your clients with a calendar.

DEALING WITH THE NO-SHOW CLIENT

One respondent shared her message to clients who become habitual no-shows:  “As an electrologist my livelihood is made by making and keeping appointments for my clients. When a client repeatedly fails to keep their appointment then the time and income are lost forever unless they agree to pay for each missed appointment.  For that reason, some clients will be declined future appointments.”

  1. Have the client call on the day they wish to come to see if there is an opening. (No pre-booking.)
  2. Make this client the last appointment of the day.  If they fail to show, the evening starts sooner.
  3. Fire them.  Be firm and polite in letting them know their needs might be better met by a different electrologist.  This client isn’t just wasting time – they are costing money.

ADVICE FOR THE CONSUMER

Remember that most electrology practices are owned by women who help support their family.  These businesses require a significant amount of training and the maintenance of expensive equipment.  The relationship between client and electrologist must be one of trust.  The client trusts that the electrologist will use their best skills to provide permanent results in the shortest time possible and the electrologist trusts that the client will follow the recommendations for treatment, which includes showing up for every scheduled appointment. The “rules” for clients are simple:

  1.  Know the office policy on no shows and late cancellations.  If you can’t live with the stated policy, select another provider.
  2. If you aren’t sure, confirm or decline the appointment.  Permanent hair removal takes a commitment on your part, but remember that postponing treatments will postpone completion of your treatments.
  3. Keep it or cancel it.

CONCLUSION

During the time I’ve taken to put this blog together I have had some very significant no-show losses, which almost made it seem like my focus on the subject made it happen! (I know, I know…it was simply a coincidence.)  Then a colleague wrote she was so embarrassed – she’d slept late and missed an appointment with her eye doctor.  She was thinking she wouldn’t call and could never go see them again.  For me, this was the moment of clarity, as the day before I had two no-shows.  My clients receive an email reminder 48 hours in advance of each appointment so they have no reason to give me less than 24 hours’ notice to cancel.  One client had two four-hour appointments a week apart and 36 hours before the first appointment she responded to my email reminder, “I have to cancel.  I am very sorry.” My response was, “See you next time,” but a week later she did not show, so I called to ask, “Are you on your way?” as she still had time to come.  No response.  I then emailed “missed you,” (which sets the appointment as a no-show in my scheduling system). No response. The other client received the “missed you” email and she immediately texted back, “I’m so sorry!”  The clarity came to me when I realized that an apology for missing an appointment goes a long way in my feeling charitable towards the client who misses.  Did the first client mean to say she was cancelling both week’s appointments?  It certainly wasn’t clear to me, and because of her failure to communicate I don’t want this client to return, as she does not respect me or my  business.  The amount of time lost doesn’t help me forgive this client, but an apology would have gone a long way.

Who Wants To Be An Electrologist???

10 Feb

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In over 30 years of practice, quite a few of my clients told me they would like to become an electrologist.  I believe they viewed doing my job as an opportunity to be their own boss, to have flexibility and freedom from the drama of working with others, and to be able to spend quality time with family.  Being an electrologist does mean you have more control of your life, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

When I decided to write this blog I thought about all the electrologists I know. A vast majority of electrologists are women who work without employees, and as a result they wear all the hats associated with owning and operating a small business.  Being a “solopreneur” encompasses a large amount of responsibility for one person. Not only do electrologists provide hands-on care to their clients, they also run a business and often juggle a family.

To learn more about who becomes an electrologist, I surveyed electroepilation (electrolysis, thermolyis, and blend) practitioners from social media settings that serve the United States, European and Commonwealth Countries. One survey asked how they decided to become an electrologist, about their views of the profession as time passed and if they would share their personal stories. In another survey about demographics 50% of respondents stated they were the sole support of their family, over 40% share financial responsibility with a partner and less than 10% do not support themselves or their family with income from providing electroepilation treatments.  Nearly 90% of respondents were female; more than 5% were transgender, and more than 5% male.  When asked what they believed the gender of the profession the averages were:  female 89.13%; transgender 6.44%; and male 4.44%.  This survey was taken by a small sample of practitioners and does not represent the actual numbers of electrologists in practice.                    

Attending a school for electrolysis and setting up a business could be one of the least expensive and quickest of professions to enter. The obstacle for many is the fact that there are few electrology training facilities to be found, so leaving a family for the time it takes to receive training may be out of the question.  An individual with a good credit rating should be able to borrow the money to attend school and finance equipment to get started in the business, but again, if your life is already in motion, it is difficult to stop that motion to obtain the education needed to become an electrologist.   

WHO BECOMES AN ELECTROLOGIST?

Electrologists come from many walks of life.  A small percentage of electrologists grow up in the profession, having had family members already in practice.  Over 40% of respondents came to the profession because they had been seeing an electrologist and they wanted to help others in the same way.  One electrologist added that she decided in the 6th grade that she would become an electrologist after having been herself “the original mustache lady.”  Of the electrologists surveyed, 44% of respondents came to the profession from an unrelated background. Fifteen percent of respondents came from the beauty industry, with some developing an interest after receiving mandatory training as part of a beauty therapy program.  Twenty-one percent of respondents came from the medical industry with one-third of those coming from dental hygiene background. Over 10% of respondents came to the profession at a very young age and while some had other jobs this has been their only career.  A small number of respondents reported to have stumbled across the profession accidently, and never looked back after getting into practice.

HOW SOON CAN I MAKE A LIVING?

When respondents were asked how quickly their practice became self-sustaining more than a quarter answered that it took 2 years. Over 20% reported it took more than two years; over 7% said it took a year; and nearly 20% reported it took 6 months to become self-sustaining.  This would indicate that most new electrologists could safely project a three year plan to become established.     

DO I NEED ANOTHER JOB?  SHOULD I CONSIDER OFFERING OTHER SERVICES?

Over 55% of the responding electrologists provide other types of treatments; however they report electroepilation services as providing 85% of their business income.  Many electrologists also provide esthetic (skin care) services.     

WHAT KIND OF HOURS CAN I EXPECT TO WORK?

The average electrologist works between 31 to 40 hours per week providing electroepilation services.  36% of respondents work 1 to 30 hours per week and 33% work more than 41 hours per week with 5% of respondents reporting to work more than 60 hours per week.

OBSTACLES FOR THE NEW ELECTROLOGIST

Respondents were asked what obstacles they had when they were a new electrologist in practice.  Over 70% stated that getting clients to come was their biggest obstacle.  The cost of equipment was a factor for nearly 30% of electrologists surveyed; under 20% found it difficult to find a training facility or apprenticeship; and under 20% believed it difficult to select a location for their business. Less than 4% of respondents believed their young age was a negative factor when they started in practice.  They believed it contributed to lack of support from other electrologists and the fact they had to work other jobs during their start-up years. 

OBSTACLES FOR THE ESTABLISHED ELECTROLOGIST

Being established does not prevent the electrologist from experiencing obstacles to practice.  Fifteen percent reported the cost of advertising was their biggest problem after becoming established.  Over 10% reported advertising by other hair removal methods as their biggest problem.  One electrologist wrote that inaccurate marketing of laser and IPL misleads people to expect complete permanent (hair) removal and in turn, this creates a misinterpretation of electrolysis as archaic and lengthy and only useful on small areas.  Another complaint about “competition” had to do with seeing poor results from nearby colleagues, which they believed caused a “guilt by association” response from consumers.  Over 10% reported being isolated from colleagues and opportunities for education as their biggest obstacle. Less than 10% of respondents stated client retention was a problem after their business was well-established.  One electrologist stated, “Convincing some people to stick with it when they have a lot of hair to remove,” was her biggest problem after being established.  Nearly 15% of respondents stated that they had too much demand, and their obstacles had to do with finding staff to help, or finding staff they could trust.  The cost of doing business was mentioned with respondents listing licenses, location, and advertising as part of a financial obstacle.  The electrologists were not asked how old they were, but 20% of respondents saw the need to take more personal time because they were seeing changes in their stamina due to age as their biggest obstacle to practice.  It is a well-known and recognized fact that electrologists are an aging population with few new electrologists coming into practice.    

JOB SATISFACTION

Electrologists were asked, “Are you satisfied with your decision to become an electrologist? Is there anything you would say to encourage someone who is looking at becoming an electrologist?” The following quotes are just a few of the responses. 

“Yes, very satisfied. The ability to change someone’s life by treating and removing distressing unwanted hair is very rewarding. No day is the same so I never get bored. Just love my job!” Mandy Painting, C&G, BIAE, CPRE

“It was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I would encourage anyone to take the plunge and stick with it.”

“Yes! Making people feel better about themselves is definitely rewarding. Sometimes you see their whole outlook on life change or they create a more positive environment for themselves. It’s amazing!”  Mary Patno, L.E. http://www.clearchoicenh.com

“A very nice way to be self-employed. Clients are appreciative and excited once they are cleared.”

“Yes. I tell people it’s a great way to work for yourself and that there is a need for skilled electrologists.”

“Yes, I’m satisfied. I can’t imagine a more rewarding profession – you literally change people’s lives by giving them back their confidence. You see people coming to you at first with their hair falling over their face, wearing a polo neck and they won’t look you in the eye because they feel so bad about their hair problem. As treatment progresses you see them coming in with their hair tied back, their head held high and looking you right in the eye – there’s nothing to beat the feeling that gives you, knowing that you are the one who did this for them.” Helen Graham. MBIAE [British Institute & Association of Electrolysis. http://www.about-face.co.uk

“Yes, if you love to help people this is the career for you.”

“It is a great satisfaction to get people to have serious results, but it is very hard sometimes the customer is satisfecho. Necesitas much positive energy, tenacity and self-esteem, because they will require ‘impossible’ and have to do it ‘possible’.” Concha Miralles Diplomada desde 1973. España

SUMMARY        

The aging population of electrologists would indicate the need for a new group of recruits in the profession.  Becoming an electrologist doesn’t happen overnight because it takes planning and time to build up an electrology practice.  Connecting with other electrologists can help with referrals, and networking will help get exposure for a new practice.  Physician referrals are a great to have, but the very best exposure is word of mouth from happy clients.

Skills are important when it comes to being an electrologist.  The training will vary according to the laws where you intend to practice.  Obtaining training and the scarcity of training opportunities may be the most difficult part of becoming an electrologist, but developing good skills is the most important part of the process. The savvy practitioner will continue building on their training by reading, participation in hands-on events and attending continuing education opportunities after they start their practice.

Communicating accurate information to consumers and making the public aware of a electroepilation practice should be expected for the duration of one’s practice.  Even the well-established electrologist will want to continue evaluating their communication skills and practical techniques and treatment results. As time passes better magnification and lighting may be needed to help aging eyes. Upgrading equipment and decor, and checking for “coffee spills,” will make sure the practice surroundings and appearance is acceptable to clients.  Maintaining one’s health will enable the electrologist to continue an ongoing practice.   

Electrologists are included occupational employment statistics for the related profession of skin care specialists (esthetics).  According to U.S. News, “Esthetician” is the 29th of “The Best 100 Jobs,” and 19th in “Best Health Care Jobs.” Skin care specialists are also listed in the fastest growing occupations on the U.S. Department of Labor website.