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.

You’ve decided to try a new stylist, but before you make the commitment, you call to set up a 15-minute consultation to interview him. You want to make sure you’re both on the same page about your color, your cut, the cost, the amount of maintenance, and a dozen other questions you have. Those 15 minutes determine if you book an appointment or thank the stylist for his time and call someone else. You’ll make a judgment about his knowledge, his personality, maybe even his skills. If he wins you over in the consultation, but forgets or ignores your preferences while he cuts and colors your hair, you’ll likely leave the salon never to return. And you’ll tell your friends.

Conversely, let’s imagine the stylist took those 15-minutes to listen to you, and then explained all the legitimate reasons your hair can’t “look like the picture.” However, he repeated back to you what you want: a maintenancefree style that looks breezy and natural. Then he offered an alternative style and a few products that would allow you to achieve a similar look. You’ll likely leave the salon with a scheduled appointment. And you’ll tell your friends.

The truth is, a stylist (or a nail tech) can be wildly talented and educated, but if she doesn’t make a connection during the consultation, the client won’t return. If you don’t take the time to listen to what a client wants and educate her about which products and services will best help her achieve her goals, she’s likely to walk away as disillusioned with you as you would have been in the story of the imaginary stylist.

Everyone has a story, and one of your responsibilities as a nail tech is to listen to your client’s story to determine how to give her the best experience possible. The client consultation provides the perfect medium to do this. When done well, a consultation feels natural, organic, even spontaneous. The information you collect allows you to better understand your client’s health issues, how she uses her hands, when she will want to come in for appointments, and why she chose you and your salon. The consultation “builds your wealth, knowledge, integrity, trust and honesty,” says Sam Villa, stylist and Redken educator.

A nail tech for 13 years and spa director at Salon Art-Tiff in Ephrata, Pa., Gina Burkholder still gives clients a consultation at every appointment. “I treat new clients differently than repeat clients,” she says, “but at each appointment I check in to see if I am meeting their expectations.” The consultation is an exercise in listening. Here you establish yourself as a professional who not only hears, but also understands. The consultation is not the time to talk personally about yourself. “Effective communication is 80% listening,” says Villa. If your client mentions she plays tennis, for example, launch into a follow-up response about the length of her nails, not an anecdote about your own love of the sport. Just as effective communication is 80% listening and 20% talking, so an effective consultation will be 80% professional and only 20% personal. The conversation is likely to last only three to fi ve minutes, so keep it focused.

Whether asked on an intake form or informally at the desk, the questions you ask help you determine which service is best for your client. Is the client in for a special occasion? Does she intend to continue maintenance? If so, how often would she like to return to the salon? Does she want enhancements, gel-polish, or a traditional manicure? Why? Is she on any medication? Does she have any health conditions? Is she in a lot of water? How active is she? Does she have kids and pets? What length is best? What shape? “Sometimes, a client’s wish doesn’t correspond to the lifestyle,” says Burkholder. Other times, clients use terms differently than techs would. For example, a client might say she wants a gel overlay, but she really means she wants gel-polish. Ask questions, listen, and educate.

Next page: Foot facts and handling expectations

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