What Your Clients Should Expect at Their First Visit

We all have expectations of what experiences we have when we shop at our favorite stores. Think about Sephora as an example. You know when you enter the store there will be someone there to greet you and offer you a mini basket. The lights will be bright, and the techno music will get you excited to have fun while you’re shopping.

Nordstrom’s does that quite often as well – they have a live DJ with techno music, and there is definitely something to that. It increases the heart rate, and by nature that makes us excited.

When you sit back and think about what your clients should expect when they walk in the doors of your business, what does that look like? What does it sound like and feel like?

The reason we come to expect this particular experience from Sephora is because that franchise has intentionally developed that plan as a process for each and every experience. What if you treated your company like a franchise, so there was a systemic process that your customers could rely on, regardless of whether it was their first visit or their thirty-first visit?

And if you’re thinking, “Well, we’re not a franchise…”, let me encourage you regardless. Even though you might not be a corporate owned company, you can still mimic their smart business practices.

There is a reason that these large companies are successful. Big businesses are just small businesses who did it right. So realistically, it will take time and it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

A great book I’d like to recommend is called “Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin. In it she discusses what she calls “adult rules”, and one of her adult rules is, it’s hard to make things easier. That’s so true! But once you do, your salon will begin to work like a well-oiled machine.

So what should your clients expect at their first visit?

While you’re working on a front-end process – which can typically take up to a year to become perfected – you should also be looking at your clients’ expectations. We recognize that every stylist or artist is creative and unique. But there should still be expectations that your clients have for your stylists, regardless of who they are.

You have to look at your creative department, your artists. Your clients should expect similar consistency, regardless of which stylists’ chair they’re sitting in.

So, what follows are the three main expectations that your clients should have on their first visit to your business.

1. They should expect you to have a vision

I think this is surprisingly a struggle for a lot of hairstylists. It’s a little hard for me to relate, just because this is one of the main reasons I entered this industry. I could look at someone and envision the hairstyles, hair colors and the makeup that would look the most attractive on them. I just naturally had a knack for that sort of thing – even things like styles and fits of clothes, colors, what types of fashion and patterns would look particularly good on someone, etc.

But while that aspect of it was very natural to me, what was not natural for me was the execution. I could see clearly how something could look, I could visualize the end result, but I struggled with all of the steps to actually getting there.

However, there are also the other group of professionals out there who are great with the execution. They’re precise workers, they know every step they need to take…but they struggle with the vision.

But remember, we’re called upon by our clients to offer our expertise. They’re looking for us to have a vision for them. And I get it: as professionals we are eager to please! But try to avoid asking your client, “Oh, what are you looking to do today?” You should already know because they have an appointment booked! So if they’re reserved for a hair color service, there isn’t a mystery to it; they want to get their hair colored. I hear this all the time and it frustrates me!

 You already know what they want: a hair color, or whatever it may be. But first and foremost, you need to start with a consultation, or a discovery session. That session is where you can identify what they struggle with their hair, what they love, and so on. [Check out the blogs on amazing consultations!]

Offer Your Vision

Here’s an example: You have a client named Nancy. Nancy is booked for hair color. Nancy has fine textured hair, naturally dirty blonde, with highlights that have grown out. And you’ve discovered that her hair is in fairly good condition, and she loves being blonde. But she doesn’t love how light her highlights are. So, from there you can say, “Based on what I’ve heard, it looks like you’re looking for natural balayage honey blonde, versus a platinum highlight. And that might not be clear, but let me show you examples of my work or some Pinterest photos that mirror my vision of your hair color for today.”

 And after you show her the pictures, you can follow up by saying, “Is this in line with what you were thinking?”

 That is absolutely the best question for people with supportive personalities, who are uncomfortable with “taking charge”. Some artists will be more dominant and have no trouble taking control, and saying, “We have to go this route. This is the hair color that will look awesome on you.”

 But any passion you bring to the table will excite her! Typically, unless she’s the wrong fit for you, she’ll think your ideas and passion sound awesome, and will be on board with your vision.

And in every consultation, one person is going to take control, it will either be you or it will be the client. But you are the expert. You should be the one in control. They should expect that you have a vision for them.

2. They should expect that you have a solution for them

You cannot find out what solution to offer if you don’t listen. You have to pay close attention when you speak to them; what are the underlying desires and messages you’re hearing from them? This is really going to feed off of the “vision” question from before. If a client comes in with a problem – which happens all the time – they should be able to rely on you to offer a great solution.

 And when you can offer great solutions to anything they’re concerned about, they’ll become amazingly loyal clients. Here’s an example: You have a client named Dan. He’s looking for a new haircut that’s easier to style. He tells you that he doesn’t have much time to blow-dry. And he really doesn’t know how to incorporate products. And he also reveals that his head itches, particularly in the winter with his dry skin, and it gets embarrassing if his dry skin is falling on to his shoulders. These are his frustrations. Your response could be, “From what I’m hearing, I recommend styles like [these]”, and you show him some of your own examples or examples online that inspire your vision. Maybe you show him some sporty, short cuts, and let him know that they’re as close as it gets to a “wash and wear” style, very low maintenance.

 And you also let him know that you’ll be using an exfoliating cleanser, followed by a rich, reparative moisturizing conditioner. You recommend that Dan uses the same vigor during the cleansing process on his own, as you’re using during your appointment, so that the dead skin can slough off of his scalp and the new skin can be rejuvenated. You also recommend that he uses some conditioner, because while this may be an added step in his morning routine, it will also bring some added relief. Ask him to use the conditioner and the cleanser faithfully for one month, and let him know not only will you follow up at his next visit, but that you’ll contact him – in the way he prefers – and follow up to make sure that he’s thrilled with the results. You should then also offer Dan a complementary clean-up in between appointments so that he’ll stay looking fresh.

 So here’s the outcome. Dan leaves with products that are the solutions to his challenge, along with an awesome haircut that won’t require a lot of styling, and a complementary clean-up booked for the future. He also leaves with two additional appointments booked: his next two future haircuts. Dan leaves, and is most likely thinking about how glad he is that he found your salon.

And if you want to make Dan’s life even easier, you let him know that he can always have the same day and time with you if he wants to, just by setting up recurring appointments for the rest of the year. And then you can send email reminders, and a list of the dates he set up.

All of this will make it easier for your client, ensures their loyalty, which of course is great for your financial security. You’re creating a demand by offering unwavering customer experiences.  

3. They should expect to be informed of the upkeep requirements

This can sometimes be oddly uncomfortable to talk about. But there’s also something much more uncomfortable if you don’t tell a client about the upkeep and maintenance plan. You might then run into that person in public, and of course they’ll be excited to see their hairstylist out and about. And maybe they’ll tell their friends or the people around you, “Oh, this is my stylist!” But what if they look terrible?! And the people around you look at you like, “I don’t know if I’d go to you if that’s the work you do…”. Because the person you’re talking to hasn’t done any of the upkeep or maintenance, and now their hair looks bogus. This is a dramatic example; I know ;)

All of you know what I’m talking about. You have clients that only come in every so often, and they love your work, but they need to receive your information about the specific maintenance plan for their hair!

And if they don’t agree, you can’t really control that. Some people might even agree, but then slack on upkeep or cancel right before a scheduled appointment…these things happen. But for the most part you have to get used to those types of conversations, even if they don’t make you feel totally comfortable, because they deserve to know how to maintain their hair.

Here’s one more example: Your client wants to go from blonde to red today. And let’s just assume you have the extra 3-6 hours available to make that happen! Prior to jumping in, you need to stand firm that if the client is open to this change, they need to also be open to the upkeep. They need to be aware of the necessary color protection products they’ll need to leave with, the rebooking dates, and the costs to not only continue, but also any demands in the future if they decide to be blonde again! So, just make sure they’re very aware of these things. Not to discourage them and make them change their minds; you want to get fired up with them!

“Okay, that sounds awesome! Just want to make it clear, if we do this today, there are some steps we’ll have to take. You have to be willing to come in in three weeks to do another round of semi-permanent hair color to freshen it up!”, or whatever the process is that you’ll be doing. Get excited about it with them rather than discouraging them.

If you truly think it’s a bad idea or a bad fit for them your best option is to show them some great alternatives. Then get them fired up about those options.

Or do it in baby steps. Start with one small step and then if they like that, take it a step farther. Be on board with what they like and what you think will be best for them.

So even though this conversation can be a cause for contention, it doesn’t have to be terrible! I recommend that you write down what you’ve recommended so that they’ve heard it from you verbally, but they’ll also have the reminders in writing. And you could email it to them, message it them, hand them a written note, etc. Just keep in mind that you should also have a copy for yourself as well.

Once you tell them verbally and give them the written reminder, they’ll be able to see how seriously you’re taking it. They’ll see that you’re a professional and you really do have a personalized plan for them. If someone puts that effort in for me, I think “Wow, I see what they’re doing and I totally respect and trust them.”

But let me also tell you this: Writing it down is as much for your benefit as it is for theirs. You know how busy you can get! So if you tell Dan or Nancy something today, you might totally forget what you said by the next time they’re back.

And most Point of Sale computer systems, where you book appointments and collect payment, are so savvy that there should definitely be some area to write notes. So you should be equipped to do that; just be on top of that for each client. That is taking it to another level, the master level.

Just remember that those who are masters of their craft take years to develop themselves. This journey you’re taking towards mastery, is a gift!

A Recap

The three things your clients should expect at their first visit are as follows. One, that you have a vision for them. Two, that you have a solution. And three, that you inform them of any upkeep requirements.

In the end, it really comes down to phenomenal communication. Great communication trumps some areas you might lack in skill-set. I really believe that relationships matter more than expertise.

Have you ever had a haircut from someone who was extremely talented and gave you just an amazing haircut, but you didn’t connect with them?

Now you’ve had a haircut from someone else. And even if it wasn’t the most flawless haircut you ever had, it was an amazing experience, and you left thinking about how awesome that stylist was. More than likely you’ll choose the hairstylist you connect with over the one that gave you better technical results.

Keep that in mind. It often comes down to basic communication, your ability to connect with someone and give them an amazing experience. People love to work with professionals who they believe hold similar values.

If you want to make sure that the right clients are sitting in your chair, check out MEETYOURSTYLIST.COM. It is the only tool available to stylists that provides you as an expert, the control to choose your own clients. You should definitely check it out and read some of the testimonials. I am thrilled to talk about it as an opportunity, because it’s been huge for the salon that I own.