Have you ever had a client ask for a drastic change to their hairstyle? How did you handle it? Was it a success or did your client freak out when she saw the final result?
Early in my career, I had a very memorable client-freak-out experience. Even though I gave the client the exact short haircut she asked me to give her, I was not prepared for the reason and reaction behind her desire for a radical change.
It became a top priority for me to learn how to successfully handle situations like this so I was prepared for the next client that asked for a dramatic change.
To say I wish I knew then what I know now is an understatement, and that’s why I’m sharing what I learned with you today.
Keep reading to see how another stylist, Jan, handled a similar situation and learn 3 things you must do before you even pick up the scissors.
Do You React Or Respond?
Jan looked over her schedule when she arrived at the salon and was pleased that Ashley was her first client of the day. Ashley had been coming to her for several years, and she was the ideal client. She was kind, always on time, wore the same long hairstyle, and she was a generous tipper.
It wasn’t long before Ashley arrived, and as soon as she sat in Jan’s chair, she made a shocking announcement. She informed Jan she wanted to cut her long hair into a short pixie cut.
Jan did not see that coming and momentarily froze. She had already been coached how to handle situations like this but hadn’t experienced it yet. Obviously, this request had to be handled very differently than her usual appointment with Ashely.
Change Is Good…When You’re Prepared
When someone throws a snag in your schedule, you can’t just pick up the scissors and start cutting without a plan. Instead, Jan relied on her training and gave Ashley a comprehensive consultation to identify exactly what her client wanted. And more importantly, to find out the reasons behind this drastic change.
Has this ever happened to you? How do you pinpoint exactly what your client wants when they ask for something radically different than their usual style? And how do you know if the new look would even work with their hair texture and growth patterns? This type of change takes a lot of consideration and focus.
Become An Investigator
If you want to be successful at creating the perfect haircut for your client, especially when it’s a drastic change, there are three things you must do before you even pick up the scissors.
1. Ask Questions
Ask your client open ended questions. It’s a good idea to be prepared with open ended questions for all your consultations so you can fully understand what your client wants you to do. Clarity is key.
By open ended questions, I’m referring to questions that require an answer that isn’t yes or no.
An example of an open ended question would be: “How long have you been thinking about changing to a short hairstyle?” Her answer will give you a clue that she’s either invested a lot of thought into the change or that it could be an impulsive decision.
“Are you sure you want a pixie cut?” is a close ended question requiring only a yes or no response. This sort of question doesn’t give you much information in your investigation. She could say, “Yes, I’m sure,” when she actually made the decision on a whim while driving to the salon because she didn’t get the new job she really wanted.
While you’re asking your client the open ended questions about the new style she wants, notice her eye contact. Is she looking at you? Is she looking down? What is her body language? Is she fidgeting? Is she slumped? Listen to the tone of her voice. Is it unusually quiet and timid? Or is it confident and she knows exactly what she wants?
These observations will help you figure out whether or not she really wants this change or if she’s making a purely emotional decision that she may regret. It’s a fine line so try to stay neutral and encouraging while you help her talk it through.
Pro Tip: Even though Why questions are considered open ended questions, it’s best to avoid questions that start with Why.
“Why do you want a pixie cut?” is an open ended question, but it can make the person you’re asking feel defensive.
Think about how it feels to be asked “Why were you late?” or “Why did you eat that?” Right away, we feel like we did something wrong and have to defend ourselves.
Instead, the better way to ask your open ended questions is with How and What questions. Notice my question above was a How question: “How long have you been thinking about changing to a short hairstyle?” If you prefer, you could ask “What made you decide to change to a short hairstyle?”
2. Confirm The Request
Take the time to repeat back to her your understanding of exactly what she said she wants. Verify that you are both in agreement before you start cutting.
While you are confirming that you correctly understand what she wants, notice her body language. Her eye contact, or lack of it. Is her voice confident? You will know if she truly is ready for the change or if she’s still somewhat unsure.
3. Assess It Like A Pro
Look at her face shape. Check her hair texture. Exam her growth patterns. Evaluate her body shape to decide if the cut she wants will work for her. Explain the maintenance and upkeep of this new style. Be sure she’s properly prepared for this drastic change and has thoroughly considered the pros and cons.
If she seems unsure, you might encourage her to give it more time. Then if she still wants the pixie at her next appointment, you can give her the new style then. But if she’s 100% sure, go for it!
And be sure to provide lessons while you’re styling it so she knows exactly how to make her new do rock at home.
Extra Bonus Tip: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Make sure you have all kinds of pictures available in your Pinterest boards so you can easily pull up pictures of what you think your client is describing to you when they want something new. This is a great way to confirm that you both have the same vision for her new style.
The Final Decision
Now that you’ve completed your investigation and you’ve had a successful consultation - you’ve looked, you’ve listened and you’ve investigated – this is when you become the ultimate professional and you tell her what you can and cannot do for her.
Give your honest opinion (in a positive and encouraging way, of course) and let her know what style or styles you think would be best for her based on her hair texture, her facial features, her head shape, and all the other details you gathered during your phenomenal consultation.
Once she’s comfortable with the feedback you’ve given her, pick up those scissors and make some magic! And pat yourself on the back for handling the situation like the expert you are.
Pro Tip: Be sure to take Before and After pictures for your social media and advertising.
Did She Or Didn’t She?
So what do you think? Did Ashley go for the new pixie cut after her consultation with Jan?
Actually, in this case, Ashely decided to heed Jan’s advice and wait. As they talked, it became clear to both of them that Ashley was making a drastic decision based on emotion and it would be best to wait until her next appointment.
Ashley agreed to a shoulder length cut with some layers and face-framing fringe to prepare for the trendy pixie cut if she decided to go for it at her next appointment. She loved the new style and left Jan with a very generous tip!
How do you handle clients who ask for a drastically different hairstyle?
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