One of the most valuable things we can give another person is our time. Whether it's a hairdresser giving a consultation, or a guest giving their time and business, time is valuable. We also learn a lot when we give time to understanding and learning new information.
As hairdressers, we are constantly managing our time both in and outside of the salon. With the salon hustle, it's tempting to rush through a consultation in order to get moving on a service. On average, I would say most stylists reserve about 15 minutes for a consultation prior to starting a service. I would also estimate that most stylists do not have separate consultations prior to first-time services.
A consultation is an opportunity to listen to the needs of those who need our help and an opportunity to display some credibility. Here are couple of practices that I have put into place to build a clientele that I love working with and avoid unnecessary heartache.
Here's a truth we all know and understand: you are not for everyone! It's impossible to make everyone happy and you will have people in your chair that just can't understand the process, the maintenance of upkeep or the value of luxury salon services. I always try to keep a good pulse on the difference between my communication abilities, my skill set level, someone just not understanding my job and realistic expectations.
Avoid the Heartache
Whether I'm booking a first-time color service or someone I haven't seen in over six months, I MUST see them in person prior to booking out my time and theirs. I take complete control of my schedule by doing this instead of going in blindly when the client comes in for the first time. By handling the consultation this way, I have the best chance of scheduling appropriately for their service and don't wind up feeling cheated if we end up needing to do a different or lesser service. Setting up my consultations this way also communicates to my future guest that they have my attention, that they matter and that I work with purpose. By the time we are done consulting, I have a much better sense of what I need to do and and some cases, it gives me more time to think or even get a little practice in on a new technique.
Keywords and Familiar Behavior
Regulating the use of certain keywords has changed my consultation game and the relationships that I build with my guests. Here are my top three topics:
"Let's talk about realistic expectations." " Talk to me about your hair history, the products you use, medications you take." Or, " What is your lifestyle?" " What did you feel like you were missing from your last color or style?"
When it comes to expectations, I feel like I am always explaining the reality of major transformations, fantasy colors (including gray and silver) and redhead life. Most of our guests are not willing to drop $800 or $900 in an eight-hour period to make some of the transitions they are requesting.
It is also really important to me when we break into expectations that I am not coming across as irritated or fed up with their lack of knowledge. I have had to find the balance between patience and keeping the facts short and sweet without over explanation. It communicates that I am fully confident in the information I'm sharing without shaming the guest.
This is an Estimate, Not a Quote
I have learned this the hard way. After your guest has decided that you are the one they trust with their tresses, they are concerned about how much it's going to cost them and how much time they have to sit in your chair. This is an area that I stress the importance of flexibility. Sometimes, even after taking 30 minutes to talk with someone new and staring at their head, I still don't know what the reaction will be with product, exactly how many bowls of product I need, or additional toning or problems that might need addressed in the process.
Here's how I discuss estimates: "Please know that this is an estimate not a quote. Because I have never worked with you before, I am getting to know your hair, and sometimes what's needed changes." OR "On average, this service takes X hours. With longer or thicker hair, this can change." If their hair history indicates that a test rand is in order, I will schedule this is well.
Get Comfortable With No
I don't know about you, but I've been told more than once to say yes to as many opportunities as possible. While this might be true for most situations, let's take a good look into the power of the "NO" in a salon consultation.
Besides having to tell a guest that their dream hair might not be healthy or possible,, saying no can actually be one of the biggest indications of your credibility and integrity as a stylist. With most guests, something magical happens when you share your knowledge about what is possible and what could potentially be unflattering, damaging, or even disastrous. The truth of the matter is I am a stylist that cares more for my guests and the quality I produce than making a profit.
Inevitably, there will be people in either don't understand or are hasty and want it done anyway. Familiarizing yourself with behavior that goes against what you represent, can and will save you from ugly results, both on someone's head and by word-of-mouth. It is okay to say no.
Ultimately, be consistent, be educated, be confident, and love what you do.