Articles > Brilliant Consultations: Take it From the Top
July 22, 2008

Brilliant Consultations: Take it From the Top

Any salon professional worth her weight in tips knows that the key to a successful service is an effective consultation. A few minutes of quality time with your client before you pick up your shears can make all the difference between an ecstatic customer and “clientzilla.” Here are four approaches to the consultation, each offering a unique perspective on this essential element of the salon service.  However, each expert agrees on one important thing: always consult eye to eye with a client, never via the mirror.  This is the only way to establish trust and a significant connection.


The Five Point Consultation
Shauna Raisch, Twiggs Salon Spa, Wayzata, Minnesota

Shauna developed this exclusive strategy based upon her background in art.  (She referred to it when she appeared on “Split Ends” on The Style Network.) The consultation is included as part of each service at Twiggs, and is conducted at stylists’ stations. “You need to incorporate art principals when considering the face, like how it is affected by light and dark,” she says.


The Five-Point Consultation includes these elements:
1. Analyzing facial shape to determine how to create a balanced oval look. “Here, we determine what we are working with, where we need to increase or decrease width and what we need to emphasize or de-emphasize,” Shauna says.

2. Determine how to use color to enhance or detract. “For example, you need to add lightness any place where you need to increase width, or darkness to decrease width,” says Shauna. “If a person has a triangular (or pear) shape to the face, you would add a light color around the forehead and dark toward the bottom to create balance.”

3. Decide what treatments may be necessary to improve the integrity of the hair. “We figure out what the hair needs to be healthy,” says Raisch, whose salon offers at least 10 treatment options. “This is very important to the overall look.”

4. Consider the eyebrows, which Raisch says are the frame of the face. “Do you need to shape or color the brows to fit or enhance the shape of the face?”

5. Finish with a color cosmetic consultation. “Our stylists discuss how make-up will enhance or detract from the facial features,” she says. “At the end of each service, the client is taken to our make-up artist for a complimentary touch-up.”


“Who Are You?”
Stephen Falvo, Art+Science Salon & Spa, Philadelphia

This is the name of a five-question form that Art+Science clients are asked to complete during consultations. “The way they answer the questions tell us whether they are an introvert or extrovert, and it’s fun for them,” Stephen says.


Here are the questions and what they reveal:

1.  When you go to a party, do you hang out on the sofa waiting to be spoken to or are you the life of the party? (Indicates if they are introvert or extrovert)

2.  When you are shopping do you like to be helped or do you say, “No thank you?” (Open to suggestions or their mind is made up.)

3.  When you get dressed for an event in a little black dress do you put on a lot of accessories or just one simple piece? (Likes their hair to speak volumes or prefers subtler looks)

4.  Do you plan your vacations in advance or do you wait for an E-Saver and head out that weekend? (Indicates whether or not they will prebook and keep to a good maintenance schedule)



5.  If you had a choice, would you choose a classic Cartier tank watch or the newest trendiest watch by Ebel? (Lets you know if they prefer trendy or classic hairstyles.)

In addition, Stephen and his stylists always ask permission before touching a client’s hair and never use the word “no” during the consult. “If a client says they want black hair and we know it won’t look good on them, we offer alternative suggestions. If you say ‘no,’ it invalidates them and they shut down,” he says. Stephen believes in letting the guest speak 80 percent of the time during a consultation. They also offer three options for the service that, as Stephen puts it, range from “a whisper, talk or shout.”



If a client brings in a photo, the staff blacks out the face because they often find that what the client really wants is to be the person in the photo. “With the face blacked out, they usually don’t like the hair as much,” he says. “We give them a magazine and ask them to show us three things they don’t like. This gives us an idea about what not to discuss and saves time.”


Consultations In Advance
Leonard Gugliotti, Gugliotti’s Salon & Spa in Rocky Hill and Hartford, CT

Gugliotti schedules consultations a few days ahead of time, during the slower, early part of the week. “We make a half-hour appointment prior to the service so that we can determine the length of time we’ll need,” he says. During the consultation, the stylist examines the hair thoroughly to look for growth and cross patterns, the direction of the hair when wet and dry, texture and color needs. The staff charges half the price of a haircut for the consultation appointment.


“The consultation is about more than just the service,” says Leonard. “It’s a connection between the stylist and client. You get an idea of how far you can take the client by reading body language, getting to know them, and seeing where they are coming from.” During the half-hour slot, stylists also find out about lifestyle, product usage, goals, how often the client is willing to come in for maintenance, and they examine the client’s body type. “You need to consider height, weight, facial features, shoulders; it all has to work together,” he says.


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Needs Analysis
Bob Steele, Bob Steele Salon, Marietta, GA

Bob’s Needs Analysis approach involves asking clients open-ended questions to determine what they really want. Questions include what the guest likes and doesn’t like about her hair; what she wants to accomplish during the service; what challenges she faces with her hair and how much time she spends on her hair each day. “We never ask, ‘What are we doing today?’” says Bob. “We ask them when the last time was that they loved their hair and why, and we say, ‘If you could have any type of hair in the world, what would it look like?’ Then, after all of this, we conclude with, ‘May I make some recommendations?’”


And remember, says Bob, consultations are not just for new clients. “With ongoing clients, you need to do follow-up consults to find out what works and what doesn’t. Hair changes over time; you need to keep up with it.”