Regardless of Coiffeurphobia, clients don't always communicate what they want.

Regardless of Coiffeurphobia, clients don't always communicate what they want.

Photo: Carlos Valenzuela

My mother would visit the beauty salon every Friday for her regular wash and set. I remember her being cautious around her hairstylist, who had a reputation for being temperamental. She worried about how her hair might turn out if she ever upset him.

This memory made me ask my friends if they ever feared going to the salon or barbershop. I discovered that Coiffeurphobia is a thing. It's the term used to describe the fear of hairdressers, combining coiffeur," the French word for hairdressers, and "phobia," signifying fear--just in time for Halloween.

In all my years of hairdressing, I never once thought, "Are you afraid of me?" when greeting a client. But I should have thought of it. Being nervous about getting a haircut or coloring your hair, especially with a new hairdresser, makes sense. Regardless of Coiffeurphobia, clients don't always communicate what they want. They either don't know or can't express it. Not knowing what a client wants, you might unintentionally give them something they don’t like. Not everything your clients convey is spoken. In many cases, especially with male clients, preferences remain unspoken. 

Then There's This:

Only 7% of the message's meaning is attributed to spoken words. The tone of voice, pitch, speed, and intonation accounts for 38% of the meaning. The remaining 55% of the meaning is attributed to nonverbal cues, which include body language, facial expressions, gestures, and other non-verbal behaviors.

Unspoken Expectations:

Here is what every client expects from their visit to you and often won’t communicate:

  • They want the service to begin and end on time.
  • Impeccable cleanliness and sanitation.
  • Your attitude and energy make them feel welcome.
  • They want to feel heard, appreciated, and valued.
  • They need to see tangible action taken regarding their requests.
  • They want the process to feel easy and happen without friction.
  • The result should make them feel better about themselves.
  • They need to think that you would like to see them again and again.

How Clients Speak With Their Feet

Unhappy clients won't necessarily communicate it to you. They quietly walk away, holding in their disappointment, and never walk back; often, you never know precisely why. This silent behavior is why you must track your client retention numbers. They are an excellent indicator of your abilities as a hairdresser.

Carlos Valenzuela is a bilingual writer and former global beauty educator with a master's in international business. His work on positivity and success appears in Modern Salon and on his blog, He's the award-winning author of Letters to Young Carlos and its sequel,   Camaleón, The Lost Years Living in the Closet.

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