Customer Service

The Art of the Client Consultation

Client consultations give customers an opportunity to build trust and verbalize expectations. Learn why they’re important and how they improve the overall client experience.


Consults with pedicure clients would include questions about footwear, and health issues such as cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure. Is the client pregnant? A tech may need to ask further questions about dry heels, calluses, pincer nails, ingrown nails, or even fungus. Gather as much information as you can about a client’s history and condition and document all the information. “We have a way to tell the front desk to add notes to a client’s file,” says Burkholder. “This way, the notes show up on the work slip at the client’s next appointment.”

“When a new client comes in, I have a consultation while I’m doing the pedicure,” says Lourdes Castillo, owner of Lourdes Nail Studio in Sarasota, Fla. “I look over the feet and begin to ask questions to decide what the client needs.” Castillo has taken classes in podology, so she uses the consultation time to talk about any conditions she sees, and also to educate her on which products she needs for at-home care. If she learns the client is diabetic, she opts for a special fi ling machine that cleans and shortens the nails and will not cut the skin.


Once you learn about the client’s health, lifestyle, and hopes for her nails, take the time to educate. “The consultation is a good time to let clients know what to expect and when to expect it,” says Burkholder. For example, explains Burkholder, a client may come in and want acrylics removed, and she wants perfect nails after the removal. She says she will acknowledge the limitation in being able to achieve that, but suggest an alternative. This could be gel-polish, or it could be a natural nail treatment the client would purchase for home care. During the service, Burkholder educates clients on the purpose and benefits of the products she is using. She revisits the conversation she had during the consultation. While applying strengthener, for example, she may say, “You told me your nails are weak, so I’ve chosen this strengthener.” She then teaches the client the importance of applying it every day and starting fresh at the end of the week. “I also have to tell clients to use the whole bottle,” says Burkholder. “Otherwise, they’ll use it once or twice and not see a difference and conclude it doesn’t work.” Gather information at the consultation and use the service time to educate and manage expectations.

Castillo agrees. “I was talking with a new client who said she wanted gel-polish on her toenails and regular polish on her fingers.” After asking a few more questions, Castillo convinced the client she wanted the reverse. “Sometimes I hear a client tell me what she wants, and I say, ‘No, that’s not what you want.’” laughs Castillo. “They really appreciate it when I suggest something that would be better for them.” Castillo uses the example of a nail biter coming in and wanting long acrylic nails. “I explain to her the nails will fall off, and she won’t be happy. She won’t be happy about the nails coming off, and she really won’t be happy when I charge her to put them back on!” Instead, she will apply short
enhancements and let them grow into the long nails the client wants.

Castillo and Burkholder have the experience and skill to conduct consultations as part of the first steps of a service. For this reason, they don’t schedule extra time with new clients. However, new techs would likely benefi t from cushioning the appointments of new clients with a few extra minutes. First, so they can listen fully and write down answers where appropriate. Second, new clients could take a little more time since they will require brief moments of consultation a number of times during the appointment. Burkholder says for new clients she will shape one nail, then stop and show the client. “I tell her to look at the length and the shape and let me know if that’s what she likes,” she explains. The learning curve of the new client could make the appointment last longer.

You’ve gathered the information, you’ve listened to your client, and you’ve educated her on products while you were performing her service. Don’t miss this crucial step to establish yourself as a knowledgeable professional: Pull retail items off the shelf and recommend steps for at-home maintenance. “We use baskets at our salon,” says Burkholder. “Any retail item we think a client should use at home, we gather together and place in the basket.”

Find out if your clients have any relevant medical conditions or allergies before providing services.
<p>Find out if your clients have any relevant medical&nbsp;conditions or allergies before providing services.</p>

Burkholder will say something such as, “While you were here, we talked about XYZ Products. I’ve put them up at the front desk for you.” And leave it at that. What do you do with all the information you’ve gathered, including which product recommendations she refused? As a stand-alone tech, you may be able to keep things organized on your computer or tablet. You could even create hard copy fi les on 4” x 6” client cards that contain all the information you need. In a larger salon, it’s likely you’re a step removed from the process and all the information is added into the computer by the front desk staff. If this is the case, make sure you have a way to add notes to the fi le, as Burkholder does. Ultimately, your client will expect you to remember the little ways you personalize her nails. 

The consultation is a deciding point in your relationship with your client. Use that time to set yourself apart. You’re not just a pleasant conversationalist and talented nail artist. You’re an educated professional who can discover the goals of the client, and you’re in a position to help her meet her goals as you keep her hands and feet beautiful and healthy. Once you’ve established yourself as an empathic listener and a nail expert, you’ll earn her trust and loyalty.

Download a sample client consultation form here.


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