March 2012

Charlene Abretske

Beyond Your Chair| Jayne Morehouse


What Are We Going to Do Today?

Opening Questions and Client Education Will Make the Difference in the Perceived Value of Professional Services

Imagine you're at your doctor's office for a sore throat. The doctor enters the room and says, "What are we doing today?"

You respond, "First, I'd like you to take my temperature, then, please look at my throat and ears and do a throat culture."

"Your chest sounds raspy," she says. "Let me listen."

"No need," you say. "My sister says it sounds fine."

"Need antibiotics?" she asks. "No thanks," you respond. "I'll pick up an over-the-counter product when I'm at the drugstore."

Sound silly? Of course it does. Then why does a similar conversation happen between stylists and clients over and over?

Many stylists greet their clients with, "What are we going to do today? Same thing as last time?"

Those two questions, asked in thousands of salons across the United States, tens of thousands of times a day, are irreparably damaging the perceived value of the professional services and products stylists are recommending—no matter how great their technical skills.

That can result in fewer referrals, declining service and product purchases and ultimately, the loss of clients to other salons and even worse—to mass beauty retailers and services they do themselves at home.

Why? Because the second you invite your client to take control of her appointment, you've ceded your professional credibility and authority to her. That devalues your service and your expertise, which, in turn, devalues how much she's willing to pay for it.

What's more, with so many tutorials, how-tos and other information available on the internet, many women think they know at least as much as you do about hair, makeup, nails and other beauty essentials.

The key to changing that misperception? Be your client's personal beauty authority and educate her about every step in your service and every product you use.

She wants the information, and she's going to get it somewhere. If you don't make it easy for her to get that information from your salon, then she's going to get the "dumbed-down" version from magazines, the internet, television and other media. They're all in business to make hair care look easy and promise results "just like you'll get in a salon"—so people will buy their products. Once she buys into that promise, your value begins to erode.

Enter client education. Chances are you believe if your client loves the results of her service, that's enough.

But today, it isn't. It's your responsibility to educate her about just how special and personalized your service is. Once she sees that there's more to creating her gorgeous shiny color than just mixing a single formula, she'll begin to understand the value of your professional knowledge about formulation, dimension and placement.

Let's go back to our example of visiting the doctor. It takes a different turn when she asks, "What brought you in today?" You answer, "I have a sore throat." Now, the goal you've identified is to cure the sore throat.

To arrive at a goal for your client's visit, replace, "What are we going to do today?" with some of these questions:

Her responses can start a conversation that opens the door for you to make suggestions for services and products on this and future visits to give her the look and the control over her hair that she would love to have. As you can see, you are asking for her input in the results she wants to achieve. You just aren't asking her to tell you how to get her there. The key is to explain every step in terms your client will understand.

For example, discuss how the cut you've planned will achieve the results she asked for. "I'm removing some weight here to give you the volume you mentioned you'd like. I'm placing three small foils on either side of your part to give you a sunkissed glimmer, then lowlighting underneath for added depth and richness."

Finally, once you map out your plan, get her commitment to both the time and the budget that will be required to get and maintain her look.

So what are we going to do today? I'd love for you to share your action plan and favorite consultation questions with me for a future column.

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