In addition to standing behind the chair, I teach continuing education for my company. In fact, I just returned last night from Houston. We have a model we follow regarding the structure of the programs we teach. One of the things we DON'T do is introduce ourselves. No one cares who I am, how long I've been doing what I do, or anything else. It isn't about me. It's about them. They took time out of their busy schedules to do something to advance their careers. They care about what I came to share with them. What they do want to know is do I care about what I am there to share. So, we tell a personal story that illustrates how we came to have a personal testimony of our subject. This keeps the focus on them and it seems to work.
I tend to tell personal stories throughout the training to bring home certain points. At one point, we were discussing our responsibilities to our clients, the importance of all types of communication and first impressions. Here's one of the personal experiences I shared.
Not long ago on a typical Saturday - Clients were arriving late for want of parking spaces, dropping kids off, shopping, forgetting, eating, sleeping in, etc. Everyone was booked. No one was finishing early. No one was willing to give up a lunch, chocolate or smoke break. On days like these, when someone wanders in without an appointment, the salon coordinators come to me.
"Dana, we have a lady up here who needs a hair cut. Can you squeeze her in?"
Hmmm.. I have a haircut coming in about 5 minutes; one highlight processing, I'm applying color now on a third client. So, if I get the color client processing, rinse my highlight and apply a conditioner, do the haircut while those two clients process in 15 minutes less time...yeah, I can do it.Tell her I'll be about 30 minutes."
The walk in client sits in front and watches all the activity. My station, however, is in the back. She cannot see me from her vantage point. My plan goes as it should and I end up with a 30 minute block to cut her hair. For new clients I like 45 minutes but apparently she was insistent.
Keep in mind, they had checked with every other stylist. No one would squeeze her in. So, I walk around the corner. It's only about two and a half hours into my day and I have already done 7 or 8 clients. I walk up to the client, introduce myself, and invite her back to my station. When she realized I was the one doing her hair, her face dropped. I mean, her mouth fell open, she looked around to see if there was some mistake, and said, "Ummm, ok." Not as much enthusiasm as I like to see, but it's Saturday and I don't have time to dwell on it.
We get to my chair and I go through the usual; How are you? What can I help you with? blah, blah, blah... She nearly flinched when I touched her hair! Now, I understand that not everyone is going to like me. That's ok. I'm cool with that. I work with quite a few young, trendy, beautiful, intelligent, creative people. I don't mind if someone prefers one of them to me. Truly I don't. For every client that prefers one of those cute, trendy infants, there's one who thinks I'm a genius. I can live with that. This lady, however, didn't even TRY to be polite. She was openly rude. She answered my questions with one word grunts, eyes darting about the room as though she were looking for an escape hatch. It was like wrestling an alligator with this lady.
Usually, when we get one of these squirrelly ones, they are just nervous about a change. I can always win that type over. Not this lady. She clearly did not want me doing her hair. Due to the time constraint, I finally said, "You know what? I'm going to go see if there is someone else available to do your hair. (I already knew there wasn't) It's obvious that you are uncomfortable."
She said, "Well, I was assured you were good but, well, ummm..."
"No worries" I assured her. "We have lots of talented people here. Let me see what I can do."
"They already told me you were the only one available." she said.
Inappropriate comment #1 - "Well, they were wrong. I'm NOT available. I have three other clients going. I'm just the only one able (or willing) to work you in. But you are obviously uncomfortable, and I am sooo sorry but I don't have time for you to be indecisive. I don't feel comfortable doing your hair if you're not certain I can do a good job for you. Let me just go see what I can work out."
As I start to walk away, she blurts, "That's not the problem. I just usually look for the stylist with the best hair and that's who I ask for."
This stumped me for a moment. I was, in fact, speechless if only for a second. I looked over at my neighbor, who had been observing this whole fiasco. We both had that, "Did she just say that to me?" look on our faces. I turned and looked at myself in the mirror.
And it happened. Inappropriate response #2 - If you've read any of my other blogs about clients, you know what happened. I started to laugh. Out loud. Hysterically. Admittedly not the best response to a skittish, persnickety client. And, of course, the harder I try NOT to laugh, the more antic I get.
One of my better habits is to show my clients how to style their hair by styling my own. I show them how to do it themselves; Hold it like this; spray it like that. Well, even though I am surrounded by mirrors, I don't actually look at myself all that often. I realized quite suddenly, why this woman did not want me to do her hair. It looked like I had been spinning on my head! One side was flipped out with wee curls; the other side was sticking up where I had shown someone how to get more volume; I hadn't had my color done since the last time two of us had time at the same time so I had 2 inches of new growth which gave a sort of landing strip affect. That happens a lot. I just watch out for low flying aircraft and get it done when I can. My regular clients appreciate my choosing to do their hair over my own.
And since TWO inappropriate response weren't enough, as I was wiping the tears of hysteria from my face I said, "How curiously odd. Most folks look for the ones who DON'T have time to sit around and do their hair."
My co-worker and I repeated our earlier performance of "Did I just say that out loud", started laughing AGAIN, politely giving the client time to think about it. Curiously, she decided I might be onto to something and eased up. I then had about 17 minutes to cut her hair, as opposed to the preferred 45 but still managed to send her out the door looking positively smashing.
So much for first impressions.