The client consultation is just about the most important part of a hair appointment. Get it right and you can more or less guarantee the perfect end result. Fail to ask the right questions or, worse still, not listen to the answers and you could have a problem on your hands. Here are some of the biggest mistakes hairdressers make with their client consultations and the ways you can avoid them.
Missing The Opportunity to Take Control
All too often the consultation ends up being led by the client and that’s when unrealistic expectations can arise. Taking a sensitive but authoritative approach enables you to gauge what the client wants and make sure they understand what can be achieved. Speaking of unrealistic expectations, have you read our article on the reality of clients' false colour expectations?
Not Finding Out What The Client Really Thought About Their Hair on The Last Visit
Rather than saying 'did you like your hair last time?' use an open-ended question such as: 'How did you get on with your hair last time?' It is going to give you a much better feel for what aspects of the style they liked, what they didn’t and how they got on recreating the style at home.
Not Getting to The Bottom of The Client’s Lifestyle Needs
Does the client have young children? Do they have any hobbies that mean they need to regularly tie their hair back? Do they spend a lot of time travelling which restricts how often they can get into the salon? These are all tell-tale signs that a high maintenance hairstyle isn’t going to be the right option for the client in your chair.
Not Learning How Much Time a Client Has to Spend on Their Hair
Would the client rather stay in bed for an extra half-hour than blow-dry their hair? If you’ve got a wash-and-go client, then you’re going to need to create a style that works with the natural movement in their hair and falls into place.
Giving The Client a Disinterested Impression
If you use the mirror to talk to your client at the consultation, make sure it is the client you are talking to. All too often the stylist spends too long glancing up at themselves. It’s simple body language, but can give the client the impression you care more about you than them. It’s a problem that is easily resolved by sitting down on a styling stool and talking to them face to face.
That The Client’s Expectations Aren’t Realistic
You can tell a lot about a client’s hair just by looking at it, but you’re not really going to know how it’s going to behave or what hairstyles are going to work for them until you play with it. Touch it, feel the texture, work out if they have any unusual features like a double crown or a widow's peak, as these are all going to impact what can be achieved.
For another handy guide, check out this article on finding the right hairstyle for your clients' hair type.
Not Recognising the Client’s Personality
From the moment a client walks into a salon, they’re going to be giving you little clues about who they are. The way they dress, their accessories and their make-up (or lack of make-up) should all give you clues about who this person is and what is going to suit them. Even if you are busy and running behind, never let someone else gown up your client and sit them in your chair, because you might miss a tell-tale sign about what they are going to like.
The Condition of The Client’s Hair
Split ends or over-processed hair can usually be spotted straight away, but it’s another reason to actually play with the hair during the consultation. If you discover the hair is in poor condition during the consultation, you have an opportunity to upsell a treatment when they are at the backwash.
Not Asking Which Side The Client Parts Their Hair
For most clients the parting is going to fall naturally, but not for every client. If you’re not sure where to part the hair, always check with them before you cut it.
Not Using Visual Aids
If a client brings in a celebrity photograph to show you the look they want, that’s a perfect starting point for discussions. If they don’t, seize the initiative. Grab a magazine from the salon or use iPad apps like Pinterest to make sure that you both share the same vision. Or why not take a look at HJ's Gallery for some inspiration?
Not Asking About Colour
‘Are you having your colour done too?’ Such a simple question, but one that so many hairdressers either forget or feel too embarrassed to ask. Your job is to make the client’s hair look the best that it can and enhancing the colour is essential, so don’t miss the opportunity to upsell.
Not Asking Whether The Client is a Regular Swimmer
If your colour client loves a swim, you might need to tailor your colour choices. At the very least you will know to recommend a shampoo, conditioner and mask that will protect the hair from colour fade and chemical damage.
Not Reading Body Language
If a client is saying yes, but the shrug of their shoulders is saying ‘I’m not so sure’, think about other ways to ask the question. If you’re not confident that you have a clear understanding of exactly what the client does want, take them to the backwash. Let them relax while they have a shampoo and head massage and then re-ask some of the questions when they return to the chair to clear up any uncertainty.
That ‘Not Sure’ Didn’t Mean ‘No’
Ever been in the situation where you have in mind a style that would look just perfect on a particular client? From your consultation you know it would suit their lifestyle too so you suggest it, but they seem underwhelmed and non-committal so you take it as a no and explore other possibilities.
Well here’s the thing ‘I’m not sure’ doesn’t necessarily mean no. It might mean, ‘I don’t understand’, it might mean ‘can you show me what you mean’, it might mean ‘I’m nervous of leaving my comfort zone’ or it really might mean ‘I’m not sure’. Use visual aids to show them what you mean and get them to tell you what they do and don’t like about the hairstyle to discover what they really meant by ‘I’m not sure’.
What Products They Currently Use
This is a great way to get an understanding of how much effort someone puts into their hair and how much they are willing to invest in looking after it. When it comes to styling the hair, it’s important to use the products that will create the best finish, but if you are able to demonstrate that you have listened to their preferences it is a great way to build trust.
Not Getting a Feel For The Client’s Budget
This is one that needs to be handled sensitively - and you might need to use visual cues such as their handbags and shoes to help you - but what’s the point in giving full-head highlights to a client who isn’t going to be able to afford to come back for months? While you’re usually going to base your product selection on a client’s hair type, you need to be realistic. It’s not fair or helpful to recommend a premium price point product if their budget isn’t going to stretch to it.
Asking ‘Are We Doing The Same as Last Time?’
This is the consultation of the lazy stylist who is in a rush. It says ‘I can’t be bothered to find out if anything has changed in your life or whether you’d like something new’. If you’ve reached this place with a client then you might as well say ‘I think it’s time you find a new hairdresser’ as you have clearly run out of ideas.
You’ve carried out a fantastic consultation, you’ve asked all the right questions, but did you really listen to the answers? Some hairdressers only hear the bits they want to hear or jump in with suggestions before the client has even told you what they want which leads to a breakdown in communication.