Reference photo only. Tom does not photograph clients.
"I just need a good haircut." This is something which has been stated countless times at the start of a client consultation. While this certainly is a reasonable request, it is often an emotional one too. A lot of that has to do with what appears to be a notable difference of opinion. It's fair to say that every single haircut a client had prior to sitting in my studio, their hairdresser thought that they had performed a good haircut. If you're reading this right now, chances are you probably disagreed with that assessment. This is exactly where the frustrated and at times emotional plea for a good haircut comes from.
It needs to be stated that many hairdressers probably came to their conclusion because they styled their cut perfectly. Therefore, it must be a good cut. From a clients perspective though, which is the only perspective which truly matters, this couldn't be further from the truth. It is also the subject of an earlier post. From the sheer volume of Google searches, emails and first-hand experiences I hear about, it seems like what is perceived as good is entirely subjective. In fact, sitting in yet another chair and requesting a good haircut really seems like an unlikely way to achieve that goal. It's akin to playing Russian roulette with scissors. Perhaps a client thinks if they just try their luck enough times, maybe one day the stars will align and they will be happy. Well, I can tell you that getting a good haircut isn't based on luck and it takes a lot more than simply requesting a good cut to get one.
Like most productive and effective interactions with another person, it all starts with communication. Easier said than done is the likely response here and that is certainly a valid argument. A client likely doesn't know how to initiate the process or navigate through these waters themselves. They are also probably nervous and don't know the most helpful words to use. They likely find the whole process a bit intimidating while simultaneously understanding its importance. A client knows it's indeed possible to get a good cut, yet they have no idea how to actually to arrive there. This is probably where the straightforward request for a good haircut originates from. To be clear, it shouldn't be this way. The blame lies completely with the attending hairdresser. Unfortunately, the conventional salon environment places very little emphasis on consultation and effective communication. So often their staff are double or triple booked and an apprentice will whisk a client away to the basin before the hairdresser has uttered more than a passing greeting. At best, a new client is lucky to have a hairdresser spend more than 2 minutes talking with them prior to their service commencing. As written about previously, this typically all starts with the salon owner and subsequent hairdresser education.
It is so vital for anyone working in this industry to take the time to unpack specifically what each individual is trying to communicate. What wasn't good about the last haircut is often the place to start. Was it not behaving in a flattering way once the client got home and washed it? Did it grow out too quickly or poorly? These are all important questions which help to assess each individual's specific situation and needs. Establishing and reinforcing positive communication also builds trust and empowers both client and hairdresser to feel confident in one other. All of it helping to avoid the type of mistakes which directly come from assuming things. A thorough consultation should realistically take about 15 minutes, particularly with a new client. If someone is particularly anxious, has specific concerns or challenges, this can and should be extended. Body language and positioning are paramount. It's imperative to consult while seated across from the client, not standing behind them communicating through the mirror. Sitting at an equal height and reasonable distance promotes equality. The positioning balances the power dynamic which is vital to helping any anxious feelings. It is equally important to use words carefully. Clients come in to feel good and supported and it's imperative to be mindful of this. Admittedly, some of my first-time clients sometimes are confused by the practice of sitting and talking with them. Within a few moments, however, their demeanour instantly transforms as they realise the point of the process is to help them feel heard.
Every client wants a good haircut. Who wouldn't? Beyond actually giving them one though, it is important to show them, through example, the proper way to communicate about their hair needs. This will ultimately empower them to use the knowledge to have a greater chance of 'good' being something which they and the hairdresser both agree on. To that point, a good haircut has so little to do with the results achieved and feelings when a client leaves the salon. A well-designed cut should and will continue to deliver from the time a client leaves, until their return. Communication and effective consultation are essential to success in this endeavour.
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