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We Are Sunshine

Changing Perceptions: Salon protocol impacts your business, community and industry

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

Part of the American Suntanning Association’s mission statement involves “engaging in higher-level discussion about UV exposure and indoor tanning.” The industry association aims to provoke reasonable discussion, involving both sides of the scientific argument, with a goal of finding political solutions that benefit small business and the health of our communities. It’s been an effective approach, and most government officials respect the sensible approach and our industry’s commitment to moderation and smart tanning protocol.

Behind the scenes, it’s now become more important than ever for tanning businesses around the country to embrace the idea of also “elevating the discussion” in their salons and their communities. Your business is a piece of the backbone of industry leadership’s discussions on Capitol Hill and in statehouses around the country, and it’s vital that we continue to practice what we preach in order to keep that backbone strong.

Practicing what you preach is, of course, first and foremost. Our clients’ safety is always the No. 1 priority. But, it’s also important, in this day and age, to preach what you practice. It’s not enough to just do things the right way anymore; in a climate with more scrutiny than ever on UV, it’s necessary to make it a priority to make sure your clients understand the education and protocol behind a professional tanning business’s operations.

Whether you’re walking the walk or talking the talk, your ability to impress clients and act as a positive influence for your industry comes back to training. Your staff not only needs the necessary knowledge to handle every client properly, but also to develop the critical thinking skills to handle the most unusual circumstances and the ability to differentiate between what clients need to hear and what you can and can’t tell them.

You know the tanning experience in your professional indoor tanning business is far superior than the tanning bed in someone’s basement, apartment complex or extra room in a gym. You know that research shows the health risks of non-salon tanning is much higher than tanning in a professional salon. Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of this. Many of your customers don’t know, or at least haven’t grasped the significance of tanning in your salon versus other venues.

Knowledge is power, and the more you have, the more you can share. That’s why it’s so vital to seek education and training that goes far beyond basic UV science. When you and your staff have the right knowledge and know how to use it, you really can make a difference for your business, your community and the industry.

Hitting Home

It might be hard to wrap your head around the idea of your business being able to make a difference on a national level, but it has to start somewhere, right? When every customer interaction is a carefully calculated process, at thousands of professional salons around the country, the implications can become very real.

If the idea still seems a little too abstract, try thinking about it differently…even a little more selfishly. In an age of ever-growing scrutiny of UV light, careful control of customer interactions is an absolute must for your salon to remain viable. If you’re not helping your customers understand the lengths you’re taking to get them the best results while minimizing sunburn, you’re going to lose some of them as they continue to be pelted with misinformation and attacks on tanning outside of your salon.

Unfortunately, regulations prevent us from saying many of the things we’d like to in order to combat attacks on tanning, but that’s all the more reason to be knowledgeable about what you can and can’t say. You need to make it clear that sunburn prevention is your No. 1 priority, and the proper protocol is in place to ensure that they have the best experience possible.

Don’t assume that because you are well educated and know what you’re doing that the customer understands and appreciates this. You need to make sure they are fully aware of what differentiates you from other, less professional, tanning venues. Making your UV protocol clear and detailed for the customer is the best way to help them understand your level of knowledge and professionalism. Evaluating every customer, every time they enter your salon, and then determining a carefully prescribed exposure schedule based on that analysis is the most important way to show your customers that you take great care in exposing their skin to UV light.

This is the most tangible difference between what we do as professional salons and what customers would experience at an untrained gym or apartment or other privately owned sunbed.

Your dedication to education must go far beyond the initial consultation with a new client. Each and every interaction throughout the client lifespan needs to include a thorough analysis resulting in a carefully prescribed exposure schedule. If you’re the salon in your town that’s known for practicing these higher standards, you’re going to develop a reputation that make consumers feel more confident in continuing UV exposure in your salon. And that’s a much bigger issue today than it was in the past.

Trickle-Down Effect

The American Suntanning Association is doing its part to educate politicians on both the federal and state levels. Hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill and in statehouses over the last few years have certainly produced results. The repeal of the Tan Tax is firmly entrenched in attempts to overhaul healthcare. Even if that never comes to fruition, there are multiple avenues by which the tax will eventually be abolished. Senate and Congressional leadership have communicated quite clearly that the tan tax is unfair, unjust, and has failed in every way possible making the tan tax repeal a priority in future legislation.

ASA leadership has also opened discussions with the Small Business Administration, which, under Trump appointee Linda McMahon, is getting back to its roots of helping small businesses negatively impacted by government. We see our industry as the poster child for that movement, and SBA officials are already offering their assistance in helping our industry from government overreach. Dozens of meetings and communications with SBA leadership has helped the SBA understand the details of the previous administration’s unfair attacks on tanning salons and they have opened their doors to help us.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of ASA’s day-to-day operations, but no matter what the ASA does in D.C., it’s still up to all of us to be the backbone of these discussions. When ASA Scientific Advisor Joe Levy steps into a statehouse to fight unfair state regulations, or when ASA President Melinda Norton meets with high-ranking Senators about the Tan Tax, they’re telling these officials about the professional standards practiced in professional tanning salons.

Trained to Succeed

In today’s highly scrutinized market, effective training is more important than ever for more professional indoor tanning operators. That’s why Smart Tan has completely redefined indoor tanning training with its latest behavior-based UV Tanning Certification.

“Professional operator training in the tanning market today means something totally different than it did in the 1990s,” says Levy. “Back then, it was enough for your staff to have general knowledge about tanning. But in today’s market, your training has to impact your operator’s correct behavior. Does your staff really understand the nuance of properly serving a fair, Skin Type II tanning client? Does your staff really understand how IPD and DPD affect exposure times? Does your staff know how to approach exposure times for the first, second, third and fourth session for different clients?”

Smart Tan’s latest UV Tanning Certification has a strong focus on interaction between employees and customers. It goes beyond the old knowledge-based training you might be used to and focuses on key learning objectives that your employees will utilize in real-life salon interactions. It teaches your employees the facts about UV light, how tanning works, how to tan customers effectively and many other skills they need to know to operate a salon.

Taking place in a new, interactive online classroom with videos, animated graphics, quick quizzes and role-playing segments, the new certification uses a smooth, narrated online multimedia platform, interactive exercises and role-playing to deliver training directed at actual learning outcomes and behaviors critical to professional salon operation.

At the forefront of operator training, consumer perceptions and political implications is the idea of sunburn prevention. Our clients need to know that they are not going to be burnt in our professional salons. The media, our critics and politicians need to know that as well. That’s why everything we do as indoor tanning professionals is based upon the underlying premise of sunburn prevention.

It’s a big part of the reason why all operators are trained in UV science, why we skin-type our clients, gradually acclimate them to increasing levels of UV with an exposure schedule, and why so many of our clients come to us to help them develop a base tan before their sunny vacations. And, in exceptional salons around the country, it’s why operators are dedicated to teaching proper sunscreen use and sun habits outside of the salon too. When we do our jobs correctly, tanning facility owners and operators are at the forefront of proper skincare education, indoors and outdoors. It truly is your job to reduce the incidence of sunburn in your community!

Sunburn prevention is an important issue that needs to be addressed in every salon. Not only is it important to you, your clients, and your business, it’s also vital that everyone in the tanning community does their part in continuing to improve the reputation of the industry as a whole. It’s more important than ever that we, as professional tanning salon owners and operators, continue to show that we’re part of the solution, not the problem.

Can I Say That?

As businesses that provide tans for cosmetic purposes, we know there are certain things we can’t tell our clients about the tans we provide. So, how can we educate our clients properly when there are so many limits on what we can say? And how are we even supposed to know where the limits are when the rules are so vague? As an indoor tanning professional, you must be aware of the sensitive nature in which you and your staff communicate with customers about issues surrounding indoor tanning. It’s all about balance, and knowing what you can and can’t say.

Besides having the industry’s only behavior-based UV tanning certification training, Smart Tan has also created the industry’s only training teaching operators what they can and can’t say in your salon. Smart Tan’s “Customer Communications,” with tracks for managers and employees – will help operators better understand how to effectively communicate the nuances of the sun care message with your customers.

We’ve been teaching this for years, in different parts of our programs in different ways, but with so much information and misinformation floating around today, the Smart Tan family of salons told us they needed this training in an easy-to-understand format.

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about UV light today, and many people are confused. That’s why a tanning salon’s communications and messaging must be carefully scrutinized to ensure that the salon and their representatives are balanced and not misleading customers in any way.

The key to a balanced message is to present a fair and honest representation of indoor tanning without misleading customers to believe they are free from risk or have benefits that can’t be justified. You must be sure that the information your staff is sharing with customers is factual information approved by your salon business to pass on.

There are risks with almost anything we do in life and indoor tanning is no exception. It is the responsibility of any business to inform their customers of any risks that may be associated with their product or service.

As you know, there are many anti-tanning groups that have blown the risks of indoor tanning way out of proportion. Some groups have compared suntanning to arsenic, mustard gas and smoking. Though these claims are false and ridiculous, as indoor tanning business representatives, we must be cautious not to counter these overstated claims by downplaying the potential risks of indoor tanning.

Just as important: We can’t combat overstatements about the potential risks of UV exposure by making health related claims about UV light and tanning. No matter what your clients hear from sources outside of your salon, your tanning business needs to know how to steer clear of making any therapeutic claims, and how to answer questions from clients about the therapeutic aspects of UV.

These training modules teach owners and managers how to manage all external messaging from your business, while teaching line-level employees exactly what they should and should not say – with short, structured answers to the 10 most common and difficult questions that convey balance and responsibility.

Given the ever-growing importance of expressing our industry values and protocol without delving into legal gray areas, this type of education is vital for every tanning business employee that interacts with clients.