Never underestimate the importance of building client relationships. Ultimately, it separates us from the guys down the street — which is critical in today's nail industry.
Give the client your total attention. It’s not always easy to be totally focused on a client with the distractions in a busy salon. “I remember to be attentive to clients during their time slot. It’s all about them,” says Nicole Berhaupt, a nail technician at Re-Nue Spa in Altamont, N.Y. “It isn’t the time to have conversations with coworkers or talk on the phone. I try to put myself on the other side of the table. I treat them the way I want to be treated.”
Rhonda Kibuk of The Purple Pinkie Nail Salon in Ford City, Pa, adds, “I always stress the client be greeted the moment she comes in the door. If we are on the phone, look up, smile and wave to her. I also stress the client is given your undivided attention. We have our cell phones off while working and if we are with a client, the answering machine picks up all calls.”
Remain professional at all times. Most of us take pride in our professionalism, but do we always meet the challenge? “In a salon atmosphere, it is very easy to dress too casually,” says Betsy Ayotte, a former nail tech and founder of Nailite Inc. “The way you dress affects the relationship you have with the client. As in any profession, your appearance affects the way you are perceived.”
Professionalism also extends to how you conduct yourself while you are with your client. “Don’t gossip or speak badly of anyone,” says Faith Glionna, a nail technician at Cuticles in Indialantic, Fla. “If clients hear that, they won’t want to come back and they won’t trust you.”
“You don’t expect your doctor or dentist to swear or talk about off-color subjects, so don’t think your clients would accept that from you either,” adds Ayotte. “It’s easy to feel relaxed in the salon environment and talk about subjects that could give off a negative perception.”
Building relationships with clients is similar to building friendships, but you need to maintain a distinction between the two. “I usually don’t socialize outside of work with clients — only with a few clients I’ve built up a friendship with over the years,” says Glionna. “This is mainly because when your client becomes your friend, somehow you feel guilty charging them. Sometimes you find they are a better client than a friend.”
Always give first-class service. Your service might be the only splurge your client gets. Her visit to your salon should be one she looks forward to eagerly.
Colleen Van Durme, a nail technician at Premiere Hair Salon in Dansville, N.Y., says: “My clients come back to me because of the professional services I provide. I make sure I am always on time and I make each and every one of them feel welcome and special. When time allows, I spend a little more time during a service. They get more than what they pay for and they appreciate that.”
“Remember, the client is not just here for results. She is also here for the experience, pampering, and cherished time away from her daily routine,” says Lauren Parks, a nail technician at Tri Be Ca Salon in Greensboro, N.C. “Treat her as a guest in your home — offer drinks and snacks. Make the experience ultra comfortable.”
Having first-class service means not keeping clients waiting. “If you aren’t on time, apologize and perhaps give her a paraffin treatment or oil treatment while she waits,” says Ayotte.
Be passionate about what you do and have fun. As a client, would you rather go to a nail tech who is positive and passionate or one who’s bored and unhappy? “Clients feel our passion and desire to please even if no words are exchanged,” says Anna Joseph, a nail technician at B*Dazzled in Leamington, Ontario, Canada.
“Clients often comment that I take pride in my work and it shows. I think that’s a great compliment and incentive never to fall by the wayside no matter what,” says Van Durme.
“In this business, personality is 85% of the reason people come to you and talent is 15%. You can do nails that are not spectacular but if you have a great personality and treat clients well, they will keep coming back to you,” says Kibuk.
Foster open communication. Open communication is a critical step in building client relationships. Your client should feel comfortable letting you know if she is not happy about any aspect of your service. A truly open communicator will be able to accept negative criticism and come up with a solution to make the client happy. “I let all clients know that I never want them to feel unsatisfied with their service,” says Berhaupt. “I ask that they please let me know if there is something they don’t like or want different. From nail shape and massage techniques to lotion scents, they can speak up and I will fix the problem to the best of my ability. I want them to know they are important and not just a slot in my appointment book.”
“Don’t take criticism personally,” adds Ayotte. “If a client thinks her nails are crooked or if she feels a little rough skin where you don’t, just make an effort to get the problem rectified. Re-file a bit or gently file off the rough skin she thinks she feels. Sometimes clients can see things you may not at first glance.
“Also, remember, clients are people, too. They can have good days and bad days. If it seems like she is taking it out on you, don’t let it get to you. It’s unprofessional to react negatively to that. Smile and nod your head a lot.”
Think of a client as a person, not a paycheck. This seems obvious, but do we really get to know our clients and do we really care about them and their needs?
Janice Owens, a nail technician at Salon Bella in Ocean Springs, Miss., explains: “When I get a new client, I have her fill out a simple 3” x 5” card with her name and contact information. After she leaves, I note the things I learned about her on the card. Before her next appointment, I pull the card out to refresh my memory. I like my clients to know I know them. We like to feel special and remembered, and our clients are no different.”
Glionna finds it helpful to introduce new clients to staff and show them around the salon. “Make them feel at home. Tell them to feel free to call if they have any questions,” she says.
“My clients are like family to me,” says Tina Ciesla, owner of Blooming Nails Salon in Hoover, Ala. “All of my fellow techs would agree they feel the same about their clients. We make it a point to get to know each client on a personal level.”
“I think a relationship with a client starts with letting the client know about you,” says Berhaupt. “I found that new clients are interviewing you. They want to know how long you’ve been doing nails, if you have a family, and how old your kids are. They want to see if their personality meshes with yours.”
Maintain trust and honesty. Clients want that warm, comfortable feeling that comes with trust. To develop and maintain that trust, Owens spends time getting to know her clients and letting them get comfortable with her.
“I spend time with each client before her service finding out what her expectations are. When I do acrylic nails, I spend time discussing the client’s lifestyle as well as her expectations of nail enhancements,” she says. “Many times I end up recommending she not get the enhancements due to lifestyle. Clients seem to really appreciate my honesty. I think that if your goal is simply to do good work, you will end up much more successful in the long run.”
“Always tell your client the truth. Don’t try to sell her something you don’t believe in,” says Ayotte. “It will show and she will know you are only trying to sell her something to make money. The same goes for services — don’t sell her extra services you can’t justify as something she really needs.”