Talking is a definite part of the stylist job description, but not everyone is a born conversationalist. If you're on the shy side, it can sometimes feel like a huge chore to get to know your clients outside of their hair - especially when your client is also more reserved. The good news is, if you can give a great consultation, you can easily get to know your clients.
Having a go-to stack of questions you can turn to when you need to break the ice with a new client saves you from that in-the-moment panic of not knowing what to say. Consider options for different types of clients - young professionals, men, moms, etc. - to cover your bases. In addition, spend time each week coming up with some timely questions about news and events in your city and pop culture. Read the local paper or check out the top headlines every morning. Have a few go-to blogs to peruse for topics. Talk to other stylists and friends to get a feel for the latest buzz. The more engaged you are with things going on, the more you read and watch, the more prepared you are to have something to talk about.
2. Ask open-ended questions
It's age-old advice for a reason. Asking too many yes or no questions can quickly lead to dead-end conversation, especially if a client is shy. Sometimes they can't be avoided, but if you do ask one, have a follow-up. Example: Did you see the Oscars? Which award was most surprising to you? Who is your best dressed pick?
3. Listen, listen, listen
The biggest communication skill isn't speaking, it's listening. When you give a consultation, you ask questions and listen to their hair needs so you can give them the best service and know to recommend them that Wella Curl Craft Mousse. It's the same with conversation. Ask questions but step back and give your clients the reigns to speak. A little back and forth is good, but dominating the conversation will be a turn-off. Listening makes a client feel respected, and it also gives you an opportunity to ask them more personalized questions that branch off of things they say. You might even consider writing down a few topics they bring up or notes about things you can follow-up on the next time they sit in your chair.
4. Give a compliment
Everyone loves a compliment, but it's also a quick and easy way to launch a conversation. Telling them you love their earrings/shoes/purse/shirt will often lead a client to tell where they got it or a story behind it. If they don't, ask.
5. Avoid polarizing topics
Religion, politics and passionate beliefs on everything from human rights to diet are great, but don't use your client appointments as a chance to take a stance. If a client brings up a touchy subject or one that could lead to a war of words, politely steer the conversation in a different direction.
6. Don't engage for long periods with other stylists
There's nothing more awkward than being in the stylist's chair and having your stylist start a conversation with another group of stylists - especially when it's an unprofessional topic. As a client, I've personally heard stylists complain about co-workers and bosses, gossip about other clients, and unload personal problems about their husbands or kids to each other - all huge problems that just make the appointment uncomfortable. If you're feeling uncomfortable and need to talk to another stylist, keep it to a minimum and keep it professional. Also use topics the client feels comfortable jumping into, like the latest hit movie or the new store opening down the street.
7. Read the situation
Not every client wants to talk. If you try to engage in conversation and the client sticks to yes or no answers, or they focus their attention on a magazine, their phone, or other distraction, let them. Some clients see the salon as a chance to get a little "me time" in and not have to make small talk. It's nothing personal, and indulging them in that desire will win you points.
Developing client relationships is a process. If the first appointment has it's awkward moments, don't worry! It doesn't mean it will always be that way. As long as you're friendly, professional, and give them the amazing service you know you're capable of, you'll build a solid relationship in no time.