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How Stylists Can Use Photos to Manage Client Expectations


By: Ashley Smith (SALT Administrative Manager)

It happens to all stylists from time to time: A client sits expecting one thing out of a treatment or service, but leaves feeling disappointed because the results didn’t quite live up to what they were expecting.

A part of this blame, of course, lies with the guest for having unrealistic expectations about what could be accomplished in a single session. But a part of the blame also lies with the stylist for failing to properly manage those expectations. Communication is the name of the game, whether you’re offering balayage, foilyage, color treatments, or really any service related to hair. Simply put, it’s the stylist’s job to help their guest understand what is realistic from a service and what isn’t.

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Taking the time to understand your client’s expectations, and managing them as necessary, plays a number of functions. On the one hand, if your guest has expectations that are beyond realistic, knowing this allows you to plot out a course of action that can help them get to where they want their hair to be, even if doing so will require multiple sessions. And because managed expectations remove the need for you to perform potentially drastic actions on their hair, this can also help you to retain the integrity of the hair during the treatment, which is incredibly important. 

Failure to manage your guest’s expectations, on the other hand, very often leads to disappointment and frustration, which can damage your relationship with them and potentially keep them from coming back to you in the future. This is obviously not good for business. 

One important way that stylists can manage their client expectations is by performing a thorough hair consultation before any work is done—each and every time. Doing so will allow you to inspect your client’s hair, understand their wishes, and explain what is and isn’t possible from a single treatment. 

But because your clients are not likely to be trained hair experts, it’s critical that these consultations are conducted in a way that they will understand. Using photos as a part of the consultation process is a great way of removing any confusion and ensuring that everyone is aligned.

Why Using Photos is Important to an Effective Hair Consultation

As stylists, we tend to speak very matter of factly about color. Strawberry blonde is strawberry blonde is strawberry blonde (for example) no matter who we are speaking to.

But non-stylists (aka, your clients) might have something different in mind when you mention a color. As someone who is not trained in color theory and who doesn’t work with hair each and every day, their idea of strawberry blonde could be very different from yours, even if yours is 100 percent aligned with the industry definition.

Having photos that you can point to as examples of what your client can expect from a treatment will remove all of this potential for confusion from the equation, making it crystal clear what can and should be expected.

Additionally, because your client’s are not trained hair professionals, it’s important to remember that they may have difficulty explaining exactly what they want by using their words alone. Just as photos help you communicate with your clients, they also help your clients communicate with you.

Tips for Using Photos to Manage Customer Expectations

If you’re new to incorporating photos into your client consultations, these tips can help you be more successful in your approach:

  • Keep a photo book in your salon: If you are in the practice of hosting your hair consultations in your salon (and you should) it’s important that you have an actual printed photo book of color examples (on live models) that you can both reference during the conversation. 
  • Embrace social media: Social media offers stylists a lot of other options for showcasing your work to potential clients, which can help them understand what they can expect from working with you. Instagram, for example, is a great place to start. And if you don’t have a portfolio of your own work, you can turn to Instagram or Pinterest for inspiration—just make sure you are not unintentionally passing off another stylist’s work as your own. 
  • Cover all of the bases: Your photo book and social media should be sure to include examples of work across a range of colors. Even if you specialize in blonding, for example, you should include a selection of brunettes, reds, blacks, and other tones in your materials. You never know what a client might come in requesting, and as long as you are willing and able to perform the service, you should have examples speaking to it.

Want more great tips about the role that photos and visuals should play in communicating with your salon guests? Check out our complete business bundle!

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