Getting What You Want

By Kim Taylor

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. We state what we want in a way that seems very clear to us, but we get something different than what we are absolutely sure we asked for. This happens all the time in our everyday lives; asking for no onions on your burger only to end up with double onions, requesting fifty single one-dollar bills at the bank and receiving one single fifty-dollar bill instead, texting your spouse to pick up the kids from soccer by 6:00 and getting a call at 6:15 from the coach asking where you are. All of these scenarios can be infuriating (some more than others), but none are uncommon.

As someone who seems to have an inordinate number of miscommunications in my everyday life, I could talk all day long on this subject, but I digress. Right now, I’d like to focus on communication in the salon and spa and how to increase your chances of getting what you ask for.

The Confession

I have had [and heard] countless conversations at the beginning of a hair appointment where a client states that they left their previous hairstylist (who they absolutely adored), because they felt that they could not get what they were asking for. It would be presumptuous of me to assume that none of my previous clients have ever had that same conversation with another stylist about me. In fact, I recently had a client “break up” with me for that very reason. I get it, I really do. After 23 years in this industry, several salon management courses, becoming a salon and spa owner, and trying so very hard to be introspective and honest about where success and failure happen in this industry, I still fall short at times. No one is perfect, but we try to be better Every. Single. Day.

The Truth

Being a provider of services is not always easy. The majority of professionals who choose to work in the salon and spa industry are people pleasers by nature. For most of us, there is an innate desire to boost confidence and make people feel great. When a client is in our care, our strongest desire is to provide exactly what they want and need. Incidentally, this is not always the same, which is one of the reasons it’s not always easy.

Being a client can be equally as difficult. I am not always a service provider; I too am a client from time to time. I love salon and spa services, yet even with my firsthand knowledge of what it is to be a service provider, I still find it challenging to convey my expectations at times.

The Question

We all agree that the end goal is to make each client happy, so how do we make the consultation process as foolproof as possible? How do we lay the proper groundwork for success?

The Answer

Good communication. This begins with a thorough consultation at the start of your appointment. Sometimes, when you are in search of a big change, or are not certain of what you want, a pre-appointment consultation is necessary. This is a 15-minute (give or take) appointment that helps us know how much time we need for the desired result and book accordingly. Having enough time to perform a service correctly is very important.

Professional Responsibility. It is the service providers responsibility to ask a series of questions in order to deliver the best result possible.

Some questions that might be asked include:


What do you like and/or dislike about your hair? How often do you shampoo, and what is your styling routine? What types of products and tools do you use for washing, conditioning, and styling? How much time are you able/willing to commit to styling? How often are you planning to come in for trims, color touch-ups, etc.? Do you have any known sensitivities?


What are you hoping to accomplish in this appointment? What is your routine at home- how often to you cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize, mask, etc. What are you currently using and are you happy with the results? How often are you able to come in for skincare treatments? Do you have any known sensitivities?


Are you using any acne or anti-aging products? Have you have been sensitive to waxing services in the past, are you recovering from a recent sunburn or any type of skin resurfacing treatment?

For most clients, waxing is a great way to remove unwanted hair. However, these questions are very important as some skincare ingredients are contraindicated for waxing and could lead to burning or removing skin. Honesty is imperative, and your privacy is guaranteed.

All of these questions are deliberate. They are part of an investigation, so that your provider can make realistic suggestions of what might work well for you. For instance, if you are only willing/able to come in 2-3 times a year, there are many colors and techniques as well as precision-based haircuts that will not look great for that duration. The same holds true for skincare- big, lasting changes cannot be expected without regular, routine care both at home and in the spa.

Client Responsibility. It is the clients’ responsibility to be honest in their answers. Be as descriptive and clear as possible when explaining and describing your expectations. Pictures of styles and colors you like, as well as those you do not like are helpful- even if there is one element of a picture that you don’t like, it will help your stylist to understand you better. A great example of this is they way we see different types of blonde.  What do caramel highlights look like to you? How light would you like your blonde to be? Do you prefer a blended, natural highlight or a more dramatic placement of color? Also, bringing in some of the products you are currently using might be helpful- particularly for skincare services.

The Bottom Line

It is understandable to be disappointed when your stylist or esthetician tells you that what you want is unrealistic. It’s a bummer for us too. Remember, we want you to be satisfied. As professionals it is our responsibility to steer you in the direction we believe is going to yield the best result for you.

Ultimately, this is your world and we want to make you happy. If you have your heart set on having a certain service done a certain way, we will do our best to oblige. We do however have a responsibility and obligation to decline services that we deem unsafe based on professional knowledge, experience, and consultation.

At Essence, we pride ourselves on being thorough so you leave feeling great. Nothing is more gratifying to us than a satisfied client and we are committed to always doing our very best to make that happen.