I am regularly asked by new clients and readers to explain why stylists behave a certain way or why clients tend to stay with a stylist who doesnít seem to listen to their client.
These are never easy questions to answer because they require that one be able to know the motives behind an individualís actions. When it comes to discussing the client to hair stylist relationship, you can only speak in
generalities and potentials, since the specifics are never easy to pinpoint, except by the persons involved in a given relationship.
So, in order to help the layperson get a better understanding of the dynamics involved, letís take a look at the client to stylist relationship and the very specific facets of this
relationship that make it unlike any other business relationship. After we examine the relationship between the client and stylist, weíll look at the things any potential client should pay attention to when looking
for a new salon or stylist. Now that we know what weíre going to discuss, letís get started:
The Client / Hair Stylist Relationship
There are many different service professions which we, as consumers, partake of on a regular basis. However, hairdressing is quite probably unique among these. If you need a car
repaired, you take it to a mechanic or bodywork specialist, and if the repairs are successful the car runs or looks as it did before it needed repairs. If you get sick you see a doctor, and if the doctorís services
are successful, you get better. Even the closely-related spa specialist has a different definition of ďsuccessĒ, since her goal is to make the client feel relaxed, refreshed and pampered. As long as the client feels
good when the spa service is done, it rarely matters what another personís opinion might be.
Yet the hairstylist provides a service whose successfulness is completely subjective, and can only be quantified by whether or not someone likes what was done. Generally, the
person who needs to be pleased is the client, but if the client is unsure of what she wants, or is uncertain of her esthetic judgment, she may be convinced that something she would otherwise be unhappy with is good for her.
Before we get into the concept of the clients being weak-willed and paint stylists as manipulative, we need to note that the client/stylist relationship itself is complex. An
individual goes to a hair salon professional because she wants to look her best. She may have chosen a specific stylist for any of a number of reasons: referral by a friend who is a client of the stylist, the stylistís
reputation or because she likes the work the stylist has done in the past, she may even have a relationship with the stylist outside of the salon (a friend who is a hairdresser). Each of these situations disposes
the client to defer to the stylist in matters of subjective opinion.
There are plenty of clients who are sure of their tastes and know what they want. These clients are determined to get what they are looking for when it comes to their hairdressing
service. However, they are usually in the minority.
Then there is the stylistís side of the matter. Most hairdressers choose their careers because they like working with hair and have a genuine desire to help others look their best.
But people want a stylist who is sure of themselves and what they can do.
So, in order to make the client feel comfortable, the stylist must project a sense of competence and confidence. The trouble is, in some
cases, this can become a false sense of self-importance. The stylist gets used to projecting the image of the ďexpertĒ and believes it extends to the esthetic rather than the techniques. In other words, some stylists
come to believe that what they think looks best is the ONLY thing that really matters.
When a client is unsure about a possible look, and defers to the stylist, that is fine, but when the client has definite ideas of what she wants, the stylist is supposed to
accommodate those wants if at all possible, and to explain why it isnít possible if that is the case.
Itís here where things start to break down. In every case with an unhappy customer, the problem can be boiled down to a failure in communication. Perhaps the customer explained
her desired look to the best of her ability, but the hair stylist never really understood what the client wanted. Maybe the client didnít explain her desires clearly and the stylist assumed that what the client wanted
was something else. Sometimes, the client wants something that is unsuitable for her face shape and hair type and the stylist changes the look to suit her own esthetic. And sometimes, the client asks for something
and the stylist does as asked, but the result isnít what the client expected.