Adapted from The Suites News, May 2021
Though a loyal base of regular clients is the dream for most Salon Professionals, everyone has to start somewhere. Perfecting the art of the consultation is what can allow a first time visitor to become a lifetime guest in a salon. A common mistake is believing that the initial consult is the only required one, as well. This could not be further from the truth: repeat consultations, albeit more succinct and perhaps less in-depth, are key to maintaining that healthy and happy relationship with a client that inspired them to become a regular in the first place. With that in mind, here are some tips for how to execute the perfect one so that new clients can become routine regulars in no time.
Not everyone wears their heart (or their hair, or their nails, or skin, etc) on their sleeve. Some need time and space to open up about how they really Giving clients an easy way to do that will halve the time and effort otherwise necessary to get them to and are hoping a professional can improve. To do this, fostering a comfortable environment is imper- ative: harsh light and loud music is probably not the most effective way to accomplish this. Consider having free beverages–like tea, coffee, or just water–available to give them something to hold and take breaks to sip from while they think about how to answer consultation questions. Make sure they know where the bathroom is early, so they waste no energy worrying about how and when to ask before settling down into the chair. Allow them the time and space to remove outer- wear and set their things down prior to sitting down. Little moments like these will pave the way for guests to feel relaxed enough to be fully honest and upfront about exactly the kind of things a professional needs to know before getting to work on what are often semi-permanent (and higher investment) procedures.
Read Body Language
It’s been said that approximately 80% of communication is nonverbal. 55% of that is body language; 38% is tone of voice. This means that only 7%of what gets communicated during a consultation has to do with the words spoken themselves. As important as overt conversation so–to pay attention to what is being said without being said. Following up on the previous point, if a seated client looks uncomfortable–say, is shaking in their chair–it may be a good idea to get the root cause out of the way early. Check if they need the heat turned up, something to eat or drink (low blood sugar?), or if they are just nervous about the consultation or procedure properly if they have significant needs that must be addressed first, and while one would hope they had their needs taken care of prior to coming into the salon, one never knows what they just stepped in and away from. Part of gaining repeat clients is providing them with an oasis from their outside stressors–which
Once the consultation itself begins, paying attention to whether they wince at certain suggestions or nod vigorously at others may sound like common sense, but can easily be missed in the more common, subtler forms these nonverbal cues can take. An eyebrow twitch, a one-shouldered shrug–all of the pieces must be considered part of the whole picture. That whole picture needs to be clear by the end of the consultation when aiming to accomplish the desired outcome.
Ask the Right Questions
With the limited amount of time a Salon Professional has with each client, it is imperative that each question asked has the capacity to produce the most helpful information with a single answer–no matter what kind of client answers it.A generic “What are you looking for today?” may not be a damaging ques- tion, but how helpful is it, really? What kind of answers does it invite, and are those as productive as they could be? If for every engaged guest who answers specifically, there are nine more who answer vaguely–”Just a trim” or “A manicure” — then there’s nine more clients who need at least double the questions to get the same quality of information. The list of consultation questions a professional keeps on hand need not be long, but it should be illuminating. Asking things such as “What were your best and your worst previous salon experiences, and what made them that way?” will help to highlight what it is exactly that is guaranteed to make a customer leave or stay long-term, with just a single inquiry. “What products are you currently using, and are you satisfied with the results of those products?” will immediately educate the professional on what does or doesn’t need a change in order to produce tangible, positive results that will last for their client, and keep them coming back for more.
Having to repeat themselves over and over again is a surefire way to discourage return customers. This risk can be mitigated by repeating back what a client has shared, for them–it shows how well they were listened to, which makes hands, as well as gives them a last chance to clarify changed their mind about. Getting ahead of that with gentle double-checks may easily prevent these avoidable issues from arising in the first place, as well as encourage them to come back to the salon where they feel truly heard.
Waste Not, Want Not
After all the time spent getting important information out of clients, it would be a shame to just lose it all the second they walk out the door. It can be a good idea to keep notes for each guest that can be revisited should they decide to return — if it’s their second time back in a salon, that the professional’s opportunity to prove their client made the right choice. Showing that not only were they heard, but hey and their needs were remembered, will go a long way to making a one- or two-time guest into a customer for life.
Loose Lips Sink Ships
Once a client has been secured as a regular, the only thing a Salon Professional needs to do is not mess it up. If a guest feels that their trust has been breached, this will almost certainly prevent them from returning to the same salon again. Every Salon Pro should ensure that their client data is stored securely–if it is hacked or otherwise leaked, it could be used to seriously harm the clients, as well word of mouth or worse, legal action. Prevent- ing data theft will prevent client loss. This includes smaller forms of information leaking–a client should never have to discover their secrets or insecurities that they entrusted to their Salon Pro have been spread around the salon or used as fodder for other client’s amusement. Protecting the client’s interests protects the professional’s too.
Knowledge is power; knowing how to gain even more knowledge is even more power. Mastering consultations will allow any professional in any field the ability to improve their relationships, their practice, and their business at large. It’s all about listening and responding, which aids any team endeavor. Co-creating with a client means working with them instead of in spite of them. Once the art of the consultation has been perfected, the artist can perfect the rest.