The Art Of Client Consultations
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A thorough client consultation is an absolute must for every new client who sits in your chair or lays on your table. This is your opportunity to understand your clients’ needs and wants. It allows you to ask questions and really listen to prevent communication mishaps. As a professional, it is your responsibility to fully understand the hair, skin, nail, or scalp needs of your clients. The only way to do that is to give a thorough consultation.
We all start with the best of intentions and start our client relationships by giving great customer service but slowly over time, if we are not careful, familiarity creeps in that allows us to skip the formalities. It's sort of like dating. At some point, if we’re not careful, we get too comfortable: we stop greeting them at the door, assume they have what they need, and begin to slowly (not deliberately) take them for granted. We do something very similar to our clients. Did you know that most clients leave because of indifference from their service provider? What does that mean? You stopped caring. You no longer asked what they needed.
When your client moves past the new stage to a regular client, it’s important to continue conducting the consultation prior to starting their service. You don’t have to conduct a full consultation every time, however, checking in with them to ensure you both are on the same page is essential to client satisfaction.
Conducting The Perfect Consultation
The Needs Assessment is a series of questions to help you speak with your client about their beauty and wellness needs. It’s designed to encourage your clients to think deeply about what’s working and not working for them. By guiding the conversation with very pointed questions, you will uncover invaluable information you might otherwise miss. The Needs Assessment (consultation) also creates an environment where up-selling services and product is effortless because you are recommending based on your client’s needs. When asking these questions, sit down in front of your client and look them in the eye. It’s best to document their answers and keep them on file.
NEEDS ASSESSMENT/CONSULTATION Questions
- When was the last time you loved your hair, skin, nails? (repeat what you hear)
- What do you like most about your hair, skin, nails? (repeat what you hear)
- What do you like least about your hair, skin, nails? (repeat what you hear)
- If you could change anything, what would it be? (repeat)
- What products are you currently using? (repeat)
- Are you satisfied with the results of using these products?
- What I heard you say is… (repeat at least 3 things from above conversation)
- Would you like my recommendations? I recommend:
- Throughout the service today, I will be using and showing you XXX product. You can decide what you want to take home with you today.
- Are you ready to get started?
When you’re done asking these questions and the appointment ends, it’s time to assess how it went. After every appointment, tally:
- Products placed on the counter
- Retail Sold
Conducting the perfect consultation takes practice and practice makes perfect; you know this because it was with practice that got you where you are today. The Needs Assessment is a tried and true consultation format that works.
With your regular clients, it is equally important to check in with them during every visit. Ask them questions #2-#6 of the Needs Assessment, even if you think you know the answers. Your client may not have been thrilled with the last service but may not want to hurt your feelings. It’s up to you, as the professional, to encourage dialogue and the only way to do that is by asking questions. When conducting the needs assessment, here are a few tips to help you and your client get the most out of the consultation experience.
Listening doesn’t necessarily mean hang on to every word they say. It means observe your client, read in-between the lines, and pay attention to their lifestyles. Who is your client? Do they have children, are they always on the go?
Play it Back
After talking and listening, you may think you have a complete understanding of your clients’ needs, and you may, but it is extremely important to repeat back to your client what they stated and incorporate what you interpreted. This is where the magic happens; the meeting of the minds. You can either nail it or get lost in translation. No worries, if you listen more than you speak you will hit this right out of the park!
Insert Your Expertise
Do not hesitate to give your professional feedback and give your client another suggestion if they are requesting something that is just not possible or will compromise the integrity of their hair, skin, nails, or scalp. It’s so important to have real and honest conversations with your clients. Be sure you are looking at them face-to-face not via the mirror- this can’t be stressed enough. When speaking to your client during the consultation, be sure to use the correct terminology. Clients love it when you talk professionally to them. Make it your mission to educate your clients and they will love you for it.
Fix Your Mistakes
On occasion, and this happens less often when you include consultations in your service time, we get lost in translation. You know the moment you just didn’t hit it out of the park for your client. It’s okay; it happens and not every client who graces your chair is meant to stay and not every service will be flawless. Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone. That has nothing to do with your abilities as an artist. If you do make a mistake, always apologize and make a mental note to ask more questions in the future when you perform that specific service.
How to Organize Client Consult Information
Consultations provide valuable client information, but what do you do with it once they leave the salon, spa, or shop? The goal is to keep it detailed and organized. You took the time to collect this information, so it is equally important that it is at your fingertips for future reference.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Paper Client Consultation/Intake Forms
Yes, it might seem a little “old school” but, utilizing the traditional paper Medical History/In-Take Form can be an effective tool to help you gather key information. If you’re looking for a template, download this one. Much like when you visit a doctor’s office, you hand client the clipboard, pen, and attached forms. They then sit down and fill out the forms while you prep for their appointment. The forms are collected and either manually filed or electronically entered for later reference.
Mobile Client Consultation Apps
Thanks to technology, many salons, spas, and shops are going paperless. There are several effective mobile apps available to help you gather and maintain client information. It’s best to research client consultation apps for the beauty and wellness industry. There are so many out there, with varying degrees of customization, that it is wise to do your own homework and find what works best for your needs. The apps are great because you can either hand your client a mobile device and have them complete the questions or you can ask the questions and you complete the form for your client. Never substitute the app for the consultation; you will always have to review their answers and weave in the Needs Assessment questions to establish rapport and trust. The good news is once the form is completed, all the information is immediately stored and readily available for you when needed.
Make Love Notes
It’s understandable- when you’re performing your client service, you might not have time to stop and update their client information. That’s where “love notes” come in. Make notes to yourself on your clients work ticket. Jot down any new information related to your client’s service or needs. At the end of your work day, take a few minutes to update current records to reflect your “love notes.” A simple stack of sticky notes in your treatment room or chair will do the trick.
Ask The Question
To help you stay current on your client’s consultation forms, simply ask your clients if anything has changed since their last service. Take a few minutes to review what records you have on file and make updated notes if needed. Remember: it does you no good to have outdated information. The goal is to have current information on hand to help you provide the best service for your client.
There are several effective systems to help you get organized and maintain and keep your client’s information. The key is to find a system that works best for you and will meet your salon, spa or shops policies.
The Importance Of Product Recommendations
If you are not recommending product to your client throughout the consultation and service, you are doing a major disservice to them and to yourself. Your clients use beauty and wellness products, they buy beauty and wellness products, and if they are not buying them from you, then they are buying them for someone else. It’s important to remember your clients are coming to you for your professional recommendations, not only for services, but how to duplicate the look or feeling you provide for them at home. Filling out a Product Prescription for your client’s home-care regimen will not only increase your revenue, more importantly, it will communicate to your clients you are an expert and a professional resulting in greater client retention.
To effectively integrate Product Prescription Pads into your current service cycle, try on one of these approaches.
During the Consultation
Complete the Product Prescription Pad while you’re performing your client consultation. You may change your mind during the service, but this gives you an opportunity to find out what your client is using at home.
During the Service
As you use product on your client, place it on your station in front of client, or a table near them and casually tell them about the benefits of using the products, a few features, and how much they should use. Product recommendations are a great opportunity for a teaching moment. This approach ensures that you have completed the Product Prescription Pad for each client.
At the End of Service
At the completion of your client’s services, let your client know you are going to jot down the products you used on them and how they will want to use them at home. Be certain to jot down when to use the product and the amount of product your client will want to use to ensure the best at home results. This approach helps in closing of the sale because the client understands the value of the products you have chosen just for them.
Consultations are as much part of your service offerings as shampooing your client’s hair or taking off their nail polish. Don’t skimp on this part; it can make or break your client’s experience. Practice the Needs Assessment until you can recite it in your sleep and then conduct it with every client, every time. Give your clients 100% of your attention and focus on clear communication before, during, and after the service.