When I returned to working behind the chair a year ago, I set a goal to really understand who my client is, what they want, the time they spend on their hair, and what makes them happy and feel beautiful. Overshadowing this goal, like a tent in a big three-ring circus, was perhaps the toughest of goals: my desire to listen without an ounce of judgment.

I listened to their lives, their challenges and insecurities—because no matter the professional distance you choose to keep, clients will undoubtedly tug at your heart strings on the day they ask to be squeezed in because their loved ones suddenly passed away. You do, and from that moment on, and forever, you will never be just their hairdresser—and, so it goes.

Recently, when a client said to me, “You have a gift of quickly understanding what I am trying so poorly to explain,” I knew I had arrived. You can build and maintain a clientele following two rules:

1)   Know Your Client--The opposite of love is not hate—it’s indifference. Therefore, knowing what makes your client tick is the most sincere form of appreciation. I confess to not getting into very personal detail, but am attentive to the broad strokes of client lives. I listen to my clients while I work; I try to be a safe haven where judgment and criticism don’t exist.

Do this, and soon, you develop clairvoyant skills to anticipate client needs. This connection is really what makes them stay. Nothing else.

2)   Give Great Customer Service—I know, I know you have heard this over and over, but it works. There are many programs on customer service, I will boil it down to one simple sentiment: act like you are really trying to please —not doing a favor, not threatening with attitude, or telling anyone what to do. Just plain and simple working hard on their wishes. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not—this is what they want.
After all, the secret of looking good is believing that you do. Respect that belief.

When I train educators, they are often nervous to stand up in front of a crowd. I always bring up this classic rule: it doesn’t matter if you aren’t perfect; audiences reward you if they see you really trying--they really want you to succeed. Salon clients give you a chance and want you to excel at your skills. They want to be your proud client.
Bring it to them.