As a stylist I have developed a few consultation techniques as a result of failing to thoroughly communicate with clients. We’ve all been there. We all learn from our mistakes. We also learn from other stylists’ mistakes and from them informing us of situations where they made a mistake. Situations also occur when a stylist asks a few more questions or picks up on subtle clues. Today I want to share some of my consultation tips that I’ve learned and fine tuned through the years.
First tip: do more than a 15 minute consult. A lot of stylists will say that if the consult takes more than 15 minutes, you should pass on the client as the client probably can not be pleased. I have found that clients (whether they are new to the area and looking for a stylist or are a referral) don’t want to feel rushed. When consulting on color, the client’s hair language is not our language and it can take some time to decipher what they want. I’ve had clients who have come in saying their hair was too brassy even though it was on the cusp of being violet. Turns out, their definition of brassy is cool instead of warm. In cases like this, the reason why the client has been to everyone in the tri-state area is because no one has taken the time to figure out exactly what is wrong. I personally book consults for 30 minutes. They do not all take 30 minutes, but I’d rather have more than enough time especially with a new client. During a consult, we talk about the desired look, the price for the current service, maintenance price, maintenance schedule, length of appointments, etc. After discussing it all, I repeat back our agreement and take notes on it all. I have found that not rushing through a consult results in fewer communication errors and can make the client feel more relaxed.
Use your swatch book! When doing a consult for color, I use my swatch book. I know a lot of colorists do not. Let me explain why I do. I love red. To me, there is no such thing as too much red! But to someone else, gold might be too “red”. I will tell the client “I’m going to show you some colors. I want you to pick out colors that you like, whether you want to see it on your hair or not. If you see a color that you like but it’s too dark or too light, let me know.” We then start at the beginning and work our way to the back. Typically clients will pick out all cool colors or all warm colors. They will also inform you what levels are too dark, what colors are too warm or red, etc. Many times I’ve had someone bring me a picture of a red color and then tell me they do not want red but love the picture. I show them the swatch book and ask them what is red to them and it’s typically gold or copper. I’ve also had a client tell me she wants “almost black but not black”. I’m thinking a level 4 (black not black), I show her the swatch book and she picks out a level 7. Because she was light, her black was a darker blonde. Had I not shown her the swatch book and gone with a level 4, she wouldn’t have paid or rebooked. I’ve had a client come in tell me that her highlights are always brassy, yet her hair was very cool. I showed her the swatch book and asked her what colors were brassy to her. She picked out all the cool colors. I asked what colors she liked and she loved the golds. She had a hard time finding a stylist because her hair vocabulary doesn’t match a stylist’s hair vocabulary. I nicely informed her that in the hair world, the word brassy means warmer colors, and that’s why she was having the issues. Once I establish what colors the client likes, I will pick out 2 or 3 colors, discuss with the client and then inform them that I will be mixing a couple of colors together to make the color unique for them and also to better fix whatever issue is happening. More often than not, a client may really like one swatch but it may be too gold or too dark or too light. Maybe the client likes a level 6 copper but wants to see some gold in it as well. Or maybe your color line doesn’t have a level 6 copper but it has a level 5 and 7 copper. So your client may ask “this one is too light, this one is too dark is there something in the middle?” I have also found that with pictures that clients bring, they still say ” I like this but it’s too gold,” or ” I like this but its too dark.” I’ll bring out the swatch book to see what “too gold” and “too dark” is to her. For me, showing the swatch book gives me more information and helps me decode the client’s hair language.
Have client bring in multiple pictures! I also like for clients to bring in pictures. When I have a client who wants a new look, I will tell them “Bring me at least 4-5 pictures. You are not going to find one picture that has the cut and the color. If you see a picture of someone with all over blonde, but you like the color of blonde bring that and let me know that’s your highlight goal. If you see a picture of a girl with shorter hair but you like her bangs, bring that to me.” This is very helpful because I can’t be told “I like her bangs but I want them shorter and more to the side, and I want more highlights than she has also more lighter and maybe more cooler….” and the next thing you know, what she’s describing is nothing like the picture. And if you do the picture, she won’t be happy because her highlights are lighter, and if you do what she describes she won’t be happy because it does not look like the picture. When she brings in multiple pictures she can’t focus on how the model in the one picture looks. A lot of clients want to look younger and more fit (don’t we all), so they bring in their ideal look. The ideal look isn’t just about hair, it’s the whole package. Having clients bring in multiple pictures not only helps nail down the exact look – length, bangs, layers, base color, highlights, and low lights – but also helps keep the client focused on the hair of each picture instead of the model’s body. If the client does not bring pictures or they have only one picture with multiple things they want different, I will ask questions about how they want to style it. “Do you want to blow dry this style?” “I know you said you wanted to wash and go and you want more volume. In order to get the volume you want like in this picture you will need to use a root lifter and blow this dry.” “Do you still plan on blow drying this new style the same way as you blow dry now? If you want this look, you will have to style it differently than you are used to.” Clients see a picture and think “oh I love this!” but maybe their schedule doesn’t allow them to spend an hour blow drying and curling a new style. Or maybe they’ve always blown their hair back and now they want a style that has to be blown forward. They may not realize that it has to be blown a different away or may not be able to blow it forward since for 30 years they’ve blown it back. I also ask “How often do you want to come in to maintain this look?”. If she wants a root to end blonde, but only wants to come in every 12 weeks, I need to explain why we need to discuss a different color style. I may discuss ombre, or highlights under her part line.
I want to make sure that no matter what look I create for her, the client can style it at home.
Talk about pricing during your consults! If it’s a corrective color, figure the price at a higher point. If you estimate that if would cost $200 if all goes right, figure what that price might be if all goes wrong. Or add an extra $100 to the price. I may figure the color will be $200 but I will quote at $300. I will say “I’m going to figure high for the service, $300. That will be the most it will cost. ” I do this because I have, in the past, quoted a firm $200 and then things happened that I didn’t expect. But, since I had already quoted a firm price, I couldn’t charge any more. The extra $100 is a safety net for me as the stylist. Quoting high for the client prepares her and her finances for the service. If you do not talk about price prior to performing the service, your client may not be prepared to pay $250 and will be upset. If everything is absolutely perfect until she goes to pay and she is unprepared for the high bill, the perfect experience is now a sour one, and the chances of her coming back will be slim. If you quote her $300, and she informs you that she can’t spend that in one appointment but her budget allows $200, you will need to have other options for her. Instead of a full head of highlights & lowlights, you can suggest either a full head of highlights or a partial head of highlights & lowlights. Do not let her walk out of your salon without giving suggestions for alternatives. Don’t confuse giving other options with lowering your prices. Giving other options is just that, suggesting other services in her price range. It is not doing $300 worth of services for $200. After pricing her for the big service, give her prices for future appointments. It may cost a client $300 to fix her color and have her leave with a base color, highlights, and a cut, but it may only cost $150 for a root touch up and cut 6-8 weeks after the big appointment. Let her know that. She may think you will charge her $300 every 6-8 weeks and that may be a turn off. She may be willing to pay the $300 for the color correction if her maintenance price is less. Inform her of how long it will take for the first big service and then maintenance services. It may be she can’t schedule a 5 hour color correction on a Friday, but she can schedule her 2 hour maintenance appointments on Fridays.
TAKE NOTES! Please take notes! Write down what her hair looked like when she came in for her consult, her desires for her color and style, your plan of action, the estimated price for the initial first service, future/maintenance prices, estimated time for service, etc. I have learned the hard way about writing down prices. Please write down the prices you discuss with your client. This keeps you and her honest. I’ve had clients say that I told them it was a certain price when I know I did not but had nothing written down. If you decide to charge for a partial highlight but take the foils down to her hair line in the back because she has very fine, thin hair, write that down to jog your memory. Write down how her color looks prior to the service, after the service and her reaction. If you haven’t had the experience of someone being so in love with their hair that they are crying tears of joy and hugging you, only for them to talk to your salon manager or owner the next day demanding their money back, you most likely will at some point in your career. Having notes that she was happy helps your owner and manager handle things in a better way that may not involve in a full return (depending on your salon’s policies). You can never take enough notes. Seriously. If you only take away one thing from me today let it be the note taking. Note taking covers your butt. It jogs your memory, it keeps everyone honest, it helps you formulate, etc.
These are just things that I’ve learned over the years that work for me. I hope these tips are insightful and helpful to you!
If you are a stylist and have other helpful tips please leave a comment!