Client Consultation Part 2 of 2: Control What Goes On in Your Chair
If you missed part 1 of the Client Consultation click here
When a guest comes back, I already have my client information card in front of me so I will not take as long with the consultation as I do the first time I meet a guest. If she becomes one of my regular clients, I’ll know even more about her. But in a way, the entire visit becomes the consultation because you continue to chat with the guest throughout your time together. I advise stylists to keep control of this conversation by dividing your topics into past, present and future:
- The past. Spend 15% on what you might consider to be the traditional consultation. This takes place before the shampoo. Ask pointed questions such as, “How did the volume I put into the crown work out for you?” Or, “Last time we tried a new shampoo to guard against your color fading, so did you notice a difference?”
- The present. Spend 70% talking about what you’re doing for her today. “In the nape area, I’ll cut it this way because…..” Or, “I’m going to use this treatment today, and here’s why.”
- The future. Use the last 15% to preview what will happen the next time you see her and to suggest products for her home maintenance. I also always add, “Before you leave, Clara, I want you to book the next appointment so that you can get in to see me when you want to.”
If you keep this formula in mind, your conversation will never get out of hand. When a client wants to chat about “life,” I’ll participate for a while, but I’ll still bring the discussion back to hair. For example, if she’s discussing a particular movie, I’ll talk about the movie but I’ll also say, “I loved the hair on the actress in that film.”
The guest who sits in your chair expects leadership from you as a stylist, so part of your conversation may involve moving the guest toward a style you think will be great for her. She will accept this if you guide her with confidence. To do that , you will have to sell yourself as a person—a professional who has genuine concern for her.
To make their guests like them, many stylists try being super-nice. They let guests come in late and throw off the schedule, talk on their cell phone while they’re trying to shape around the ears and dictate exactly how their hair should be cut. I see too many stylists going home stressed from having even one difficult person. They can’t talk to their families; they walk in and say to their husband, “Just hand me my glass of wine.” That’s why the “super-nice” approach doesn’t work.
When you’re stressed about a client, your body language speaks in the highest volume. I used to have guests ask me whether I was okay. I realize now that my body language was giving away how I really was doing. When you’re with your guest, you have to leave your personal stresses behind. I believe that I’ll win people over through my communication skills and my technical skills, not by bending over backwards and permitting them to do whatever they want in my chair. If establishing rules offends a client, then she won’t come back and I’ve eliminated a migraine headache for myself!
One of my policies is that the guest who follows this one deserves to have her service start on time. So I ask, “Clara, do you have a cell phone?” Of course she does. “If you want to answer your phone and have a conversation, I will step back and wait until you’ve finished your conversation. When my next guest comes in, I will continue to work on you in between working on her.” I emphasize the word “conversation,” because if the guest must talk for a few seconds, that’s fine. I don’t expect her to ignore a call from the babysitter or from someone monitoring a sick relative. But I will not continue to cut hair on a guest who’s conducting business on the phone or having a long conversation with a friend.
If for whatever reason I do run behind and the next guest arrives, I say to my current client, “Clara, I’m running behind. Just let me greet my next guest, and I’ll be right back.” Then I go out to the front, greet the guest and say, “Samantha, I’m running behind. I can give you two options. You can go run and errand, or remember that treatment we’ve talked about in the past? I can put it on your head and by the time you’ve sat with it, I’ll be ready to take you.” If instead I just let her sit there waiting for 15 minutes, she’ll think, “Sam gave me that big lecture on tardiness, but now he’s not taking me on time and I can see that he’s rushing the client ahead of me.”
Here’s another tip: beware of the client who wants a huge change! As hairdressers, we love to hear that a guest trusts us enough to say, “Do whatever you want!” But I’m very careful with that. Maybe this guest just broke up with her boyfriend and wants to start new with dramatically different hair. But what if she gets back with him? Then she may hate her new look. So if she says, “Just go ahead and cut it all off,” I’ll suggest doing it in stages. That’s the kind of judgement that gains her trust over the long term, not just over the short term because you bowed to her wishes that day.
Once you begin to show professional, genuine concern for your guests, you’ll be happier because you’ll be running your business in a way that’s comfortable for you. You’ll see a difference in yourself first, but then you’ll see a difference in how your clientele begins to build. Take control of the conversation that goes on in your chair, because communication builds wealth.