Hairstyling is a service profession. Clients want a relationship built on trust, so good communication is essential, it can make or break a hairstylist’s business. The ability to speak, write and listen effectively is what turns first-time customers into permanent clientele. Even a master with the shears knows, making personal connections with customers is the key to success.
The Importance of Communication for Hairstylists
Building rapport with clients through good communication is the foundation of customer service. It breeds success by increasing repeat business, enhancing relationships with colleagues, impressing managers, and boosting sales.
Increasing Repeat Customers
What clients want most from a hairstylist is a trusting relationship, a mutual give and take in which they feel free to share their needs while getting advice they can depend on. Why?
Personal appearance is important, but it’s also a sensitive topic. Only when clients feel comfortable discussing their looks will they accept honest, professional counsel. It takes time to cultivate that level of trust and build a loyal customer base, but it’s worth the effort. As a rule, return customers generate a third more revenue than first time customers.
Enhancing Relationships with Colleagues
Some hairstylists are independent, but most work in salons with colleagues that can either support or sabotage their success. In a group atmosphere, open communication ensures resources are equitably shared. When hairstylists support each other, it reduces workplace stress, improves client experiences and boosts the bottom line.
Whether a hairstylist is renting a booth or working for a company, wowing customers with excellent service makes the salon more profitable, and managers take note. Impressing supervisors can help hairstylists increase referrals, favorable time slots and better booths. With experience, a hairstylist who can clearly articulate their business goals may qualify for advancement.
Many people say they’ve made impulse purchases to thank a hairstylist for a great cut. It could be scheduling a color with their next trim or purchasing gift cards and personal products. It’s a golden opportunity to increase earnings.
Hairstylists who communicate clearly with their clients understand their styling needs and can confidently recommend shampoos, conditioners and appliances. Value-added product sales can boost a hairstylist’s income annually.
Communication Techniques for Hairstylists
Good communication is nuanced, and hairstyles differ, but they all share these distinct characteristics including active listening, open-ended questions, a positive attitude, affirming body language, open-mindedness, compassion, realism and flexibility.
The best communication begins with active listening, a technique professionals use to clarify what clients want, focusing attentively to what they say, and paraphrasing their comments. Paraphrasing the request, “I want a completely new look” by saying, “So, you’re looking for both a cut and color?” lets hairstylists get to the bottom of what a client really wants. In the hair business, results matter. Hair grows back, but clients are unlikely to return to hairstylists who make mistakes because they weren’t listening.
A closed-ended question elicits a short answer. It’s an essential communication tool, but it doesn’t encourage clients to elaborate on their wants. Open-ended questions create an opening to exploring broader topics, such as options for a whole new style.
Knowing where to start with a new client can be tough to pinpoint, and asking, “What do you have in mind today?” garners the hairstylist more information than a closed question such as “How much are we taking off?” A good rule of thumb is to discuss the big picture first and then narrow down the scope of questions to get the details.
A Positive Attitude
Hairstylists build customer confidence by setting a positive tone. A friendly demeanor and a warm welcome engages clients and encourages communication, the attitude is contagious.
It’s not always easy to smile through a tough day, but a client paying for services expects a positive experience. If they get it, they’re more likely to book again and feel confident referring friends.
Affirming Body Language
Non-verbal communication, or body language, can speak louder than words. Whether intentional or unconscious, the use of posture, facial expressions, gestures and eye movements offers insight into what someone is thinking.
Some researchers believe body language is more meaningful than verbal communication, so for beauty professionals, it pays to be mindful of it to avoid conveying negativity. For example, slouching suggests a hairstylist is disinterested in performing services, while smiling and making direct eye contact conveys enthusiasm. An upright posture and square shoulders suggest a hairstylist is confident in their work.
Most customers walk into a hair salon with an idea of what they want, but sometimes it’s not the best aesthetic choice. Perhaps the client wants an unusual hair color or a cut that’s not a good fit for the shape of their face.
As a professional, a hairstylist needs to share their thoughts about requests and be honest about drawbacks. But ultimately, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the client is in the driver’s seat. Be open-minded about their choices.
Compassion is seeing events from a client’s point of view. It helps hairstylists remedy the physical and emotional barriers that affect how they perform services, such as accessibility, medical conditions, and financial issues.
Accessibility – universal design, spaces and furnishings that accommodate people of all shapes, sizes and physical abilities, is widespread in healthcare facilities, but it’s just catching on in the hairstyling community. Some clients are still unable to get cuts in salons because of it. Clients in wheelchairs may not be able to transfer to a sink chair, and large clients may not fit comfortably in standard seating.
Medical Conditions – chemotherapy patients may have unrealistic hopes about a hairstylist’s ability to make their hair loss look better, while some clients with health concerns may have to defer services altogether.
Financial Issues – regular haircuts are out of reach financially for some clients, so requests for cuts that are easy to maintain are not unusual. It’s sometimes hard for people to admit they can’t afford the latest style if it needs a professional trim every six weeks to stay looking sharp.
The best way for a hairstylist to build an extensive client base and maintain a good reputation in the community is to approach these issues compassionately and strive to meet all clients’ needs.
There’s an adage in the service industry, always find a way to say yes. But occasionally, a client may have an unrealistic request. As the expert, it’s incumbent upon the hairstylist to perform only those services they’re competent doing and to ensure clients are informed when results can’t be guaranteed. Softening the bad news that someone doesn’t have the right type of hair for the latest Hollywood style with a positive suggestion helps.
Being familiar with a few primary styles of communication helps hairstylists react appropriately to clients of all types. A flexible approach makes it easier to get along with people who are challenging but pay a stylist’s salary.
Assertive communicators are confident and expressive. They know what they want, but they take responsibility for it. If they request a short cut, they won’t blame the hairstylist if they don’t like the result. If they’re already loyal clients, chances are, they’ll be back.
An aggressive client can be abrasive and intimidating. They’re self-important, and they’re not shy about expressing it, requesting quick service at peak times and demanding special accommodations. A little TLC keeps them happy.
Submissive communicators are quiet and apologetic. Their posture is stooped, and they rarely make eye contact. They believe their hairstylist’s suggestions are more important than their wants, and if they get a cut they’re not happy with, the hairstylist will never know. Communicating with submissive communicators should continue throughout the hair service to ensure both the client and the hairstylist are on the same page. Twisting, fidgeting and a blank facial expression suggest they’re unhappy.
Passive-aggressive customers are sweet but sarcastic. They may compliment and complain in the same sentence. Parlaying for advantages, such as discounts or extra services, they may suggest a hairstylist can “show appreciation” for a referral by offering them 10-percent off.
Like aggressive communicators, passive-aggressive clients expect deferential treatment, but once given, demands are likely to increase. Hairstylists should be respectful and accommodating but within professional boundaries.
Communicating with Social Media
Part of effective communication in the electronic age is creating a community on social media. Most customers today shop online for personal services, and without a digital presence, a hairstylist will be left behind.
Social media has a unique advantage over other forms of communication, it offers a multidimensional experience. Clients can review a hairstylist’s services, see photos of their work and read positive comments from other customers. Hairstylists can answer questions, book appointments, learn about potential clients and leave a trail of information that gives consumers a good feel of what to expect from a visit. Meanwhile, the entire community is tuned into what’s happening in real-time, and seeing others engaging generates excitement.
A social media presence also helps a hairstylist build customer loyalty. While happy customers appreciate a business’s services, loyal customer go out of their way to promote them. It requires regular communication to build that level of trust, but social media makes it easy. Hairstylists can contact individual clients with appointment reminders and promotional offers or reach out to the community with a special deal to fill downtime. It’s a win-win.
A successful hairstylist does more than cut hair, they make their customers look and feel amazing by understanding what they need. Excellent communication is as important as talent with scissors and comb.
Do you have the gift of gab? Enjoy watching YouTube videos on hair, beauty and wellness? Earning your diploma in Cosmetology may be the next step in your career? Meridian College offers a Cosmetology training program in Florida that prepares you to deliver high–quality beauty and hair services to both men and women. Meridian College offers a hands–on Cosmetology training program giving you the skills you need to start an exciting career and become a leader in the beauty industry.
Contact Meridian College today to learn more about becoming a hairstylist.