The Language of Good Customer Service
The Language of Good Customer Service

Have you ever started a salon visit on the wrong foot? I have, especially early in my career. Once my consultation started going south, it wouldn't have mattered if I had done cartwheels. Nothing was going to work. I didn't know that my demeanor spoke louder than my words and never knew I could communicate true intention without saying a word. Here are the five salon body language rules I learned from that experience:

  1. The first few seconds of the consultation set the tone for all salon visits. This goes for new and repeat clients.
  2. Stay out of the way: keep the focus on the client's needs and what they might really want or might be trying to communicate to you. It's so much easier when it's not about you.
  3. Align your demeanor with the client's. If the client wants to talk, share or inquire, follow suit. That includes silence for the client who says nothing except the essentials.
  4. Be yourself, but be your best self. Remember that nobody does you as well as you do.
  5. Be consistent. If you are friendly, funny, and talkative, and maybe you bend over backward for your clients, you have to be that way all the time. Otherwise, clients assume you are having a bad day, and that usually means they won't like their hair.

Acknowledge the Client No Matter What

Salon visits that keep clients coming back start with a simple look of acknowledgment from you—not very different from the look you might give a loved one. A nice touch is to greet new clients while they're in the waiting area and tell them you will be with them shortly. The client expects this.

Notice the body language of your clients when they walk into the salon. The first thing they do is check for you. The client will bypass the friendly receptionists, magazines, tv monitors, and mints. So give them that look of acknowledgment regardless of how slammed you might be or how many times you've seen them. That first, quick look, followed by a great shampoo, is the start of a great salon visit. Clients want first to know you are present and grinding away. The hair? It's in the attitude. You know you can rock their world.

My Experiences as a Client

I've spied on my own hairdresser, Jason, as he casts that salon magic spell. Despite the fact that we know each other well, his customer service skills naturally shine during our time together. Some examples:

  1. Jason gives me the "I know you're waiting" look when I first walk in.
  2. The times I walk in exhausted? He's sensitive to that by being even more accommodating and also quieter.
  3. He always opens our discussion with this question: "How did your last haircut work for you?"
  4. He exudes an air of confidence in a non-pushy way, as if he's saying, "Chill. I got this."
  5. He is purposeful and quick. Jason doesn't waste time. He knows that I like the salon but don't want to be there any longer than I need to be.
  6. He is a smart listener and lets me do the talking while he works away and stays on time.
  7. His intent is never to impress me but to convey that I am important to him.

Then there's Lindsay at my neighborhood coffee bar. When I walk in, she glances up quickly and acknowledges me. Yeah, I’m a regular and, like your loyal salon clients, we like being seen as regulars. Despite all the lattes Lindsay pours, she squeezes in a quick glimmer of a smile amid plumes of steam. With minimum fuss and no sustained eye contact, Lindsay communicates her true intention of serving up another great cup of steamed milk—pronto. All with just a quick look and without saying a word.

Carlos Valenzuela is a veteran salon professional, a bilingual raconteur, and author of the award-winning novella Letters to Young Carlos, a coming-of-age tale about a gay boy along the US/Mexico border in the '60s. Visit him at

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