An open letter to a hairdresser ...

Monday, 15 November 2010



When I made my first visit to a hairdresser for blogging purposes last year, I wrote this:

"I find the thought of trying out a new hair salon pretty terrifying, I've been known to hang around outside salons for ages trying to pluck up the courage to actually walk in and make an appointment!   As a result, it's entirely possible I don't visit the hairdresser as often as I might."

And, even this year, when I've been to many hair events, met many hairdressers, and even judged a national hairdressing competition, I stand by those words.  I've met, talked to, and had my hair done by many amazing hairdressers this year, and for every individual who has worked miracles with my insane thatch, sadly, I do still find the ones that reduce me to a quivering jelly of inadequacy and incoherence.  In fact, I do - still - find the thought of walking into a new salon absolutely terrifying, because, not only do I live in fear of the Bad Haircut, I also live in fear of the Bitchy Stylist.


In all honesty there is only one thing worse in a hair salon than the Bad Haircut/Style/Colour and that is the hairdresser who, if you draw their attention to the problem, makes it feel like it's entirely YOUR fault.


This, therefore, is an open letter to every hairstylist who has ever belittled a client in the name of protecting their own reputation:


Dear Hairdresser,


In today's recession-hit times, a new hairdo becomes an even bigger investment of both time and money for your clients. A new client walks over your threshold in a strange mixture  of anticipation of an hour or three of pampering, and utter terror that things will go wrong.  We save up our pennies, and hope that this time - oh, this time - will be the time we come out of the salon with the haircut of our dreams, that we will, in fact, come out looking like Nicole Kidman, Nigella Lawson or Kate Moss, and not like the frumpy knackered accountant who walked in.  Ironically, we all know it won't happen, but, under the circumstances, we'll generally settle for "looking better than we did when we walked in".  It's a compromise we'll usually all be happy with.


Occasionally, things do go wrong, and, when they happen, I'd like to suggest the following steps not to take when the disgruntled customer walks over the threshold:


1) Do not greet the customer with the words "What did you do?".  Nine times out of ten, the only thing the customer will have done is exactly what you told them to do.  The only thing this question will elicit is the feeling that you have assumed the customer is an incapable idiot.  It will also make them anxious, and, also, make them defensive.  Things will not go well during the conversation if you make the customer uncomfortable just for walking through the door.

2) Do not, whatever you do, sneer at whatever the customer says in response to the question posed in step one.  It's bad enough that you've already made the customer feel incapable of looking after their hair, do not then compound that feeling by making your dislike of the poor creature with the terrible hair you created plain to see, as well.

3) Do not then use any of the following phrases: "well, it's not ... horrendous/dreadful/terrible/disgusting/awful/as bad as you think".  What this phrase actually means is that whichever adjective you've chosen to describe your clients hair as "not" being, is the first word that sprang to your mind, and now you're denying it to yourself.  If your client has plucked up the courage to complain about what you've done to their hair, and the best thing you, the stylist who created the situation can think of to describe it is "not horrendous" then, well ... it suggest that actually, you've got a pretty dreadful hairdo, to be honest.

4) Please, please, please at this point, do not patronise the client.  If you've already committed the errors in points 1), 2) and 3) then patronising your client at this point will just put the tin lid on things.  Calling her love/darling/sweetheart or anything of that ilk is just going to make your client angry.  You know her name, please use it.  Also if you can possibly avoid it, try not to contradict your client at this point too.

Things you might want to do:

1) Apologise.  No one wants a disappointing haircut/style/colour.  But, if your client has taken time out of their day to come show you their disappointing hair, then the least you can do is apologise for them having to come back to see you.  Clients, particularly upset ones can indeed be a pain in the backside to deal with, but I guarantee that the majority of people who do complain are in genuine distress about their hair, and it would be nice to show you have some empathy with them.

2) Listen to the client.  Why are they unhappy?  Is it something that can be fixed quickly, there and then?  If it is, offer to do it.  Are they unhappy because it genuinely is something that went wrong, or is it something very simple that won't take much to sort out.  If you do not listen to what your client is telling you, and assume that everyone who comes back into your salon is purely after something for nothing, then you are just going to make the clients with genuine problems very, very unhappy.  Remember that no one knows their hair like the person attached to it, and if they say there is a problem with the condition, then it's likely that they are right.

(We all know the statistic that a happy client tells one person about a good experience, but an unhappy client will tell seven people, right?)

3) Be prepared to offer the client a second opinion.  And if you do, be prepared for that client to want the person who offers a second opinion to fix the situation - particularly if you went through the stages 1-4 above.


4) Be gracious.  Please don't treat a complaining customer like a criminal. 

5) fix the problem.  I think this one is fairly self explanatory.

Love and kisses,
Lippie xx

An open PS to clients: Don't be a pain in the bum when complaining, stylists are only doing their job, remember?

So there you have it.  Does anyone else have anything they'd like to add?

5 comments:

  1. Hairdressers scare me for the same reason waiters scare me - for the havoc they can wreak (trashing my hair or spitting in my food). I had a great one for years, but I moved interstate six years ago and have not been able to settle on another. I always feel like I'm being lectured or endlessly pushed to buy something.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd quite like to print this out and hand deliver to all my ex-stylists who have ever made me feel like this (almost all of them) and any prospective future stylists, just to give them the heads up.

    I haven't been to a salon for over a year due to the last time a stylist made me feel small and worthless - not only did they make me feel wrong for complaining, they blamed my pregnancy hormones!! A big no-no when I was literally weeks from giving birth and wanted to feel glamorous and well groomed going into motherhood. They'd actually given my rather bloated, round pregnancy face a super short graduated bob.
    I also have naturally curly hair, to boot.
    No wonder i'm afraid to enter into a relationship with a hairdresser ever again.

    Excellent post xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. YES! You've stated and said EVERYTHING that I've been trying to say in one of my failed blog posts...I think...LOL
    I dread going to salons bc of the terror I've experienced...and I hate it when it does come out horrid when it wasn't my fault...goshers...I'm so glad to hear someone finally and clearly explain this whole haircut terror...

    <33 Rena

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well said, I've actually been delaying going to the hairdresser for some of these reasons. I hate it when I complain about how long or thick my hair has gotten and they agree in a really patronising way >_< I've been cutting my hair myself recently, and am now doubly worried that if I go to a hairdresser they'll be like 'who is responsible for this catastrophe?!'

    ReplyDelete
  5. How very true all of this is! I adore my current hairdresser, she seems to 'get' me and what I want so well, it's like a mystic experience! I think it helps that we have similar tastes in clothes/make up etc too - I can't imagine someone totally different to me would ne able to do the same.
    Is this post prompted by your recent brazilian blow dry? Did you go back and complain?

    ReplyDelete

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