“Both stylists and guests are going through this crisis, but everyone’s perspective is their own.”--COLIN CARUSO
“You may be wearing a mask but you can still see the soul through the eyes."--CINDY FELDMAN
"As we work out what this new way of working looks like, we are trying our best to implement things that help us all feel a little bit more normal.”--ASPEN RAE TENGLER
“At the shampoo bowl, it could be very relaxing to have a warm, lightly fragranced towel put over the face as they enjoy an extra-long shampoo.”--STEPHANIE POLANSKY
As we write this, many states will be starting to reopen their economies. As stylists are reunited with their clients, they are coming back together in a changed landscape. Suggested, and in some states mandatory, protocols can create a barrier between stylist and guest, both physical (masks, shields, visors) and emotional (fear of the new and unknown). But providing a great guest experience can be achieved even in an era of social distancing.
“Both stylists and guests are going through this crisis, but everyone’s perspective is their own,” says Colin Caruso, artistic director of color for John Paul Mitchell Systems and owner of Salon Caru in Hoboken, NJ. “Some have been enjoying their time at home and connecting with their families. Some are very fearful, while others are somewhere in the middle. My guests are ready to return as soon as we open but they’re also understanding as we navigate these new procedures.”
One of the first things stylists must do, Caruso says, is to gauge “the fear factor.” A guest with zero fear factor who is ready for their usual hug needs a different approach than a guest who is wary of even walking into the salon. Either way, Caruso says that the stylist’s innate talent for knowing how to read people will be invaluable during this time of transition.
“It’s really our biggest gift, the ability to touch souls and to be able to connect to strangers. If my guest has been alone during lockdown, I could be one of the first people to touch them. This is powerful. We need to prepare ourselves to respond to that human element as well as the act of doing hair.”
Fear can be minimized for all involved through strong planning, clear communication and setting expectations. “Be reasonable about services you can and can’t provide and consider your needs as well as your client’s comfort,” he says. “It’s so important for hairdressers to worry about themselves, too. You can’t provide a great service if you’re exhausted and overscheduled. If you’re not going to do a blow-dry service, maybe you can provide a relaxing conditioning treatment, instead.”
At his salon, Caruso is booking cuts in the morning and color at night. He says with this schedule, he won’t have to rush himself or his guest. “We can put more hairdressers on in the morning (because cuts don’t run over time) and then at the end of the day we are bringing in our colorists,” he says.
As guests reenter Progressions Salon Spa Store in North Bethesda, Maryland, most will have already received personal notes from their stylists, letting them know how much they looked forward to welcoming them back. Owner Cindy Feldman says that they will be greeted by window messages of hope, welcome, and positivity, as well as a well-prepared team.
“When we reopen, our time spent with our guests will involve so much more communication,” Feldman says. “The dialogue will now be, I am here to take care of you and your safety means everything to me. It will be a much more intentional time together, very well thought out.”
Stylists will be with their guest from start to finish, moving them from one point to the next, and bringing everything to them so they don’t need to leave the chair. “It will actually be an elevated experience because the client will feel very well taken care of and pampered. We’ll even do chairside checkout.”
Aspen Rae Tengler is a member of Pravana’s Collective and the co-owner of two salons in the Denver metro area. She is making it her mission to achieve a sense of normalcy for her team and for the clients who visit her salons.
“Our guests are so anxious to get that time in the salon again,” Tengler says. “They want to have their color refreshed or their roots done and to get back to feeling like themselves. As we work out what this new way of working looks like, we are trying our best to implement things that help us all feel a little bit more normal.”
For new clients, and to help prepare for returning clients, Tengler and team are doing many virtual consultations to have an idea of what they will be working with and to have a better idea of how to order color and products. As a bonus, Tengler says this gives her and her team the opportunity to have a face-to-face interaction before you need to be mask-to-mask.
Global Director of Education and Shows at Sexy Hair, Stephanie Polansky has been speaking for months to stylists and salon owners who are feeling very positive as they prepare to swing wide their doors. She says they have put a great deal of thought, time and energy into reimagining services.
Polansky, herself a licensed stylist, says beauty professionals can reinvent ways to pamper their guests by incorporating special touches or by making existing services extra special as a way to connect with clients and make their appointments more meaningful and personalized.
“After you have both washed hands and sanitized, and while color is processing, a relaxing hand massage with scented lotion, maybe an aromatherapy or lavender blend, can have a calming effect on both the receiver and the giver of the massage,” she says. “At the shampoo bowl, it could be very relaxing to have a warm, lightly fragranced towel put over the face as they enjoy an extra-long shampoo.”
Tengler agrees. She is using music and its power to set a mood at her salons. “We’re making sure that the music choice is geared to the clientele we have in the salon,” she says. “We’re asking them before they come in for their appointment what they like to listen to, and we will switch it up during the day. The most important thing is to keep that fun and positive atmosphere that both stylists and clients are used to having.”
Ultimately, no amount of PPE can get in the way of a giving heart. “You may be wearing a mask but you can still see the soul through the eyes,” Feldman says. “I know that expressions will still come across and the welcome we have for our clients will always be felt.”
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