We all agree that a great salon consultation is crucial to doing your job well. But every hairdresser is unique, and so is every client, and the conversation can take unexpected directions. At the end of the day, it’s about clear communication, creating connection, and making sure that you’re both on the same page before heading to the New Wash bowl.
We asked hairdressers here at Hairstory Studio – Jason Devastation, Jikaiah Stevens, Dustin Heath, Wes Sharpton, and Jennifer Bowers – to describe on camera their consultation styles and how they approach talking with clients, both new and familiar. Watch the video and read the edited excerpts on common themes that follow.
Jason: “I like to engage people in a conversation about their lives, and what they like to do, and how they like to live, and I don’t let it drag on for too long; it’s really important to me that a consultation stays relatively brief. If you spend too much time, it can build a bit of anxiety in them, and I always want to keep a certain level of control. It’s like we’re starting a new relationship, and it’s good to smile and laugh with them, but 5-to-10 minutes max is my sweet spot.”
Jikaiah: “I take a really long time. I actually book an extra half an hour into my appointments for consultations because I find it to be one of the most important parts of the appointment. Clients don’t always know how to articulate exactly what they’re looking for. So I like to allow enough time to look at images, talk about their past experiences and what they loved, what they hated, and why they came to see me. During that time, we can really try to connect my visions and theirs and create what’s best.”
THE HUMAN TOUCH
Jason: “I usually have people looking in the mirror, but I sit behind them and if it feels right, I might put my hands on their shoulders. I definitely touch their hair just to establish contact and a connection.”
Jikaiah: “The environment that I like to create during the consultation is one that’s very kind and very supportive. I also practice Reiki and I like to touch their shoulders or their head even if I’m not actually practicing at that time to let them know that they’re in a safe space, and I’m here for them.”
Jason: “In order to create this space where people can let down their guard and show me who they are, it’s important that I make eye contact and maintain a solid presence.
Jikaiah: “I like to look at them directly in the eye and get my fingers in their hair and see what we can bring.”
Wes: “I need to know if you’ve started a new job. I need to know if you are newly single or if you are getting married. I need to know because it actually affects the outcome. I know that sounds crazy, but there have been times when I have worked with people who have gone from being an assistant at work and moved into a larger role, and I say, “Well, we need to visually transform you so that you can command a certain level of authority.
I’ve had people say, “I just had a baby,” and cutting their hair off seems like a very logical solution for them in that moment, but maybe with their particular hair texture, it’s going to be a lot more work. So I ask, ‘Do you really need another project right now while you’re only getting three hours of sleep?’”
Jikaiah: “It’s really important to me that we’re not just doing an emotional haircut that they might regret later, and that we are able to talk about where this is coming from. Cutting your hair can be really cathartic and liberating and I’m more than happy to be the one to help celebrate that.
I also know that we can be reactive, and I like to talk through that; if I know the person and I think that this isn’t the right time, we’ll do an in-between haircut and work towards something greater next time if they’re still into it.”
Wes: “I have found one of two things: Either something emotionally has changed and they need to represent that to the world; or they want something to change emotionally and they want to use the hair to push them forward. You have to really look, listen, and assess what’s really going on in their life. It’s a big responsibility.
There have been times when people say, “I’m going through something and I want to cut all my hair off,” and normally, that’s amazing. But sometimes I have to look at them and go, ‘Today is not the day for that.’”
WORDS & PICTURES
Jikaiah: “I encourage photos. It gives me insight into what they’re drawn to. Obviously, I can take my educated mind and hands and help redirect what suits them best. It’s fun getting to know where they are in their lives and what this haircut is about.
Jennifer: “I can give you something that looks fabulous here, but that doesn’t mean you can maintain it at home. So, I really like to hit on those points that are specific to what’s going to work for them when they leave my chair.
Product is sometimes part of my consultation. If they want a specific style or color, they have to know the tools to maintain those things. You can’t say, ‘I want this, but I’m not willing to use that.’ Then I know that I have to recommend something else.’”
Wes: “I’m also thinking about their actual lifestyle. That can be basic stuff like having it go back in a ponytail, or never picking up a blow dryer – what they’re willing to do and what they’re not willing to do. That’s the mechanics, the product, the execution, how the hair will respond. It not only has to work this one hour in the chair, but for the duration of this haircut.
Jason: “People let down their guard when you actually show them that you see them as attractive, that you can see their beauty, that you can point out the special parts about their eyes, or cheekbones, or hair color. If you can show them that you see something special about them, then they start to feel more comfortable dreaming a little bit more about who they could be.”
Wes: “What is hidden and how can I reveal it? If we bring a bang up, am I going to be focusing in on the eye? If we cut away something, do I get more cheekbone? Do you have an amazing jaw? I like to have conversations about what’s amazing so that we can go about the business of revealing it.”
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