January 2012

Charlene Abretske

Beyond Your Chair| Jayne Morehouse


Become Valuable to Clients

Up Your Value to Your Clients and Knock Out At-Home Services by Showing How Much You Care

Being the best stylist, colorist, nail technician, makeup artist, etc. simply isn't enough to ensure a full book every week any more.

In today's marketplace, it's a given that your technical skills are first rate. That means you need to be training constantly, reading daily and staying two steps ahead of your peers and your clients.

This month's issue of The Stylist takes a look two very important concepts -- Becoming valuable to your clients and competing with at-home services.

Interestingly, when you think about each topic, you will soon discover they intersect at every turn.

In other words, you compete with at-home services by becoming so valuable to your clients they cannot possibly consider doing their own hair, skin or nail services.

We live in a world that's becoming more transparent every day. Between the internet and social media, there's little mystique behind salon services any longer. Clients have access to most of the same or similar products and tools that you use.

While they didn't spend 15 months in beauty school, they have watched every cutting, coloring and makeup application on the internet and read how-to's in magazines like Allure. They've shopped at your competitors like Sephora and CVS, where beauty consultants show them how to do their own makeup for free or with a purchase.

In fact, two days ago, I was in my local super market, which had recently expanded its personal care products section. I was surprised to see a makeup artist doing demos and applications. Forget for a second that makeup and rotisserie chicken isn't the best match in my mind—the artist had a crowd gathered around her.

Just as beauty services are available everywhere, so are professional products. In addition, many mass retail beauty products are good enough in your clients' eyes.

The bottom line is this: You can't compete based only on your products and tools. You compete based on how your hands and your heart use those products to create beauty in your clients' lives.

So are you ready to up your game?

The women getting a treat in my grocery store didn't need to search out beauty — the makeup artist came to a convenient location where they were shopping and gave them a nice surprise. Do you have a better surprise to coax clients to your salon and make it worth the trip?

Yes, you do, and the secret is simple. All you have to do to up your value to your clients and knock out the thought of at-home services is to show your clients how much you care about them in every way possible.

Women can get good-enough single process gray coverage from a box or from 20 salons within four blocks of yours. What they can't find so easily is someone who applies that color with caring, kindness and empathy. Someone who listens and focuses on only them -- whether your boyfriend texts you, another stylist tries to chat or the next client arrives early.

Can it really be that simple? Yes, it can. We live in a very detached world. The client in your chair might have 800 friends on Facebook, a husband, three kids, a dog and cat. At best, the only one who listens to her is the cat.

That's what you can do that no one else can or will. I'm not talking about turning her appointment into a therapy session — in fact, I'm talking about the opposite — keeping the conversation positive, professional and focused on what you have planned to help her feel beautiful, special and alive for 60 minutes.

Here's how you do it. Start with a complete and thorough consultation at every visit -- both so you can provide the exact service she wants and you can demonstrate your expertise. Yes, I realize that's basic, but I can assure you as a client that it rarely happens.

Saying, "What would you like today?" or "Same thing as last time?" is not a consultation. Asking those questions is a guarantee that she'll start thinking that what you're offering isn't that special. Surprise her. Tell her you've been thinking about a specific style, color, service or product that you couldn't wait to share with her.

Give her what SHE needs. That does not mean asking her what services to perform. That means listening to her and then making a recommendation or offering suggestions. If she says she's unhappy with her haircolor, ask extra questions and show pictures to discover what she doesn't like. What you might discover is that she's super-stressed — what she really might need is an extra long scalp massage to help her feel calm and relaxed.

Be the perfect hostess. Take a new look at your beverages from the client's view. Sit in your chair and have someone offer and serve you in the same way drinks are offered to the client. Do you offer a nice selection? Is the presentation in line with your services and products? If you only offer water and coffee, don't ask, "What would you like to drink?" because she might answer tea, Diet Coke or orange juice.

Be accessible. Use email, texting, Facebook -- whatever she prefers -- to check in after this service and before her next one to make sure she loves it. Remind her about her next appointment, and don't forget to make it a two-way street. Let her know she's welcome to send questions at any time.

Whether she's your first client of the day or your tenth, treat her as if she's your only client. If an assistant will be working with you, make sure you introduce her and stay visible to your client while she's with the assistant. When Beth Minardi does my color, her assistant works by her side and is part of the conversation. If Beth has to step away, I don't think twice. In fact, if Beth isn't available, I book her assistant and know that I'll get the same level of service. However, when I visit other salons, I'm always wary of the assistant who appears out of the back room to shampoo me and comb me out without as much as an introduction. One impersonal experience at the shampoo bowl can devalue your relationship.

Share your expertise. Don't be afraid to share information and resources. Send her links to blogs, websites and your favorite magazines -- even to your product partners. My friend Suzie Bond, a salon owner in North Carolina, has quarterly parties where she introduces her clients to experts she thinks they'd find helpful, from plastic surgeons to makeup artists. Encourage your clients to share their favorite beauty resources with you, too. You are showing them that you value their opinions.

Be transparent and authentic. Brag about your expertise, but if you aren't familiar with something she requests, be upfront. Then learn everything possible before her next visit.

Jayne Morehouse is a columnist for Stylist Newspapers and the president of Jayne & company, a full-service brand communications agency for beauty companies and salons. Follow her on Twitter @JaynePR and @BeautyIQ and connect with her on facebook.com/jayneandco.