How to Become a Great Hairdresser: What Hair Clients Want

Here's What Women Want - From Their Hairstylists, That Is!

Hairdressers need to know how to read their clients' needs.
Hairdressers need to know how to read their clients' needs. | Source

Are You Keeping Your Hair Salon Customers Satisfied?

Do you want to build a large and faithful group of clients for your hair salon?

Some hairdressers wonder why they lose clients, or why they can't seem to grow their business.

Although there are many reasons women leave relationships, there are only a few main reasons why women leave (or don't return) to a hairdresser.

If you know what a woman wants from her hairdresser, she will be a loyal client for years to come and will refer all her friends.

Follow these tips to keep your salon clients happy, and keep them coming back for more.

How to Listen to Your Hair Salon Clients

You may be an expert in hair styling, but the only person who is an 'expert' in a particular head of hair is the woman (or man) who wears it.

Listen to what your client tells you about her hair, and believe her. You may have been taught in stylist school that a certain cut or blow-dry angle will produce specific results. But the person sitting in your chair knows how her hair behaves, and it may not fit the cookie-cutter mold you were taught.

Few things are more annoying to a hair client than having a hairdresser tell them they're wrong when they try to (helpfully) let you know the tricks and stubborn behaviors of their own hair.

Not all fine hair is the same, not all curly hair behaves the same, and one person's straight hair may not respond the way others do.

Similarly, color formulas aren't one-size-fits-all. If your client tells you her hair goes red, believe her. If she says she has a lot of breakage (or feels like she's 'losing her hair,') take care when timing the color processing so you don't make matters worse.

If your client asks for a certain style or cut, you can suggest some new ideas, but don't overrule her. I once asked for a certain style, and the hairstylist overruled me and said she didn't want to do that; I let her push me around, but I regret I didn't have my hair styled the way I wanted it for that particular event.

Perhaps your client isn't explaining herself in a way you understand (she hasn't learned the lingo you know, remember?). Take a few minutes to make certain you heard her correction. Phrase her statement back to her in slightly different words. For example, if she says she wants more streaks in her hair, ask her, "Are you saying you prefer the highlights in your hair to be more distinct?"

A few minutes of close listening can ensure good results when she leaves the salon, and a return visit the next time she needs a cut and color.

Good Hairdressers Sell Themselves, Not Product

Women want to believe they can still get the great results you just gave them when they go home, but try to avoid pushing products on them that they really may not need.

Ask your client what products she still has at home before telling her she will magically reproduce your skills if she only buys a tube of this or a bottle of that. Respect her budget, and offer suggestions on how she can use up one of the zillion bottles she has in her cabinet before investing in yet more of the stuff.

Tell her to bring in the products so you can give her tips on using them - this personalized service will go a long way to building trust and loyalty.

Most woman have dozens of jars, tubes and bottles of unused or partially used hair products; they really don't need to buy more goop, but they do need some guidance on how to get the best results with what they have on hand.

How to Improve Your Service to Hair Clients

It's common practice for hairstylists to book clients on top of other appointments and try to work in a cut or blow-dry while another client's hair is color-processing.

This can work, but it can also backfire. If you leave clients under the dryer (heat processing) as a babysitter while you are doing cuts for other clients, you're probably overusing the dryer and damaging her hair.

If your client tells you she has breakage and worries about the heat, honor that concern and don't put her under the dryer to process. Sure, this means you may have to attend to her sooner than you planned, but, after all, she is paying you for your service, isn't she?

Don't engage in conversations with others while you're cutting or applying color to your client. Some hairdressers treat their salon like a party room and allow anyone to interrupt them while they're working on a client. This is rude, inconsiderate, and sends a message that you don't respect the person in your chair.

If others try to interrupt you while you're working, ask them to wait a few minutes so you can finish what you're doing.

What About You?

Have you ever had a bad experience from a hairdresser?

  • Yes, and I never returned!
  • Yes, but I kept going back
  • Rarely, but it has happened
  • No, I have been lucky!
See results without voting

Hair Clients Don't Like to Wait

Monitor your pace and set your appointment book to reflect the amount of time you actually need for each client.

If your clients mention they've had to wait, it's a sign you may be overbooking or getting distracted while you work. Listen to the clients and you'll see where you need to tweak things or adjust the timing of your appointments.

Chances are, your clients took time off from work or family needs to make their appointments. If you consistently run an hour behind, it costs them money. Respect their time, and they'll respect yours.

Never, ever, show preference for one clients time over another. I once saw a hairdresser ask one client (who had arrived early and been waiting patiently) to wait while she took another person who had just arrived, by saying she could 'give her better service.' The hairdresser had arrived late and clearly showed preferential treatment to Client #2, who was a wealthy business woman but had just arrived.

The hairdresser lost the business of the first client, and other staff members reported the incident to the salon's investors.

If there's been an unavoidable delay, acknowledge it, apologize and offer some small consideration to make up for it. Give her a bottle of product (a few dollars of shampoo or a jar of scented cream may save you hundreds in lost business), or reduce your fee slightly for that day.

Your apology will let her know you care about her as a person, that you realize her time is valuable, and that delays aren't your normal way of doing business.

Do You Charge Too Much for Hairstyling?

Every market and every salon is different, and every stylist can command his or her own fees.

But, we are in a time of bad economy, and if your fees are already pretty hefty, don't raise them needlessly.

Some people have left good hairdressers to whom they have been paying high fees (which makes it appear they don't mind paying for expensive services) when there's been an increase. If you raise your fees by $20 and drive off three customers who come in every six weeks, and who refer customers to you, have you made a good business decision? Probably not!

Learn the Latest Hairstyle Tips


Keep Your Hairstyling Skills Current

A huge issue for many women is when they go to their hairdresser wanting a new color technique or a style that is currently popular, and the hairdresser has not yet learned to do it.

You may have clients who love the same style they've had for years (and they could use an update), but don't assume that the way 'you've always done it' works for everyone.

Most women will want their color applied with foils rather than a cap, for the obvious reasons that there's less breakage, less pain, and more flexibility in creating certain effects with the color.

Sure, those courses are expensive, but they will pay off in betting sales to your clients, and in continued business.

You would not want to go to an accountant who was not up on current tax law, so why would you expect your hair clients to go to a stylist who doesn't know how to keep up with the trends?

Comments 20 comments

AWESOME STYLIST 6 months ago

Just to add to my last rant:)) we are all human:)

If you want a good haircut/stylist, and you are out and about, and you see a cut and or color that you love, please stop and ask that person who their stylist is, more than likely they will be willing to share.. This way you have already seen a sample of their work and have a bit of an idea as to what to expect! This is how I have built my clientele, one at a time. A clients hair -is a stylists advertising! Pick a stylist that is INTO their work.. and someone who is willing to "give" you a 15 minute consult BEFORE you book your appointment so you can decide if this is the stylist for you. Also, they are not there to make friends and chat you up. A serious and thorough consultation is needed, and hopefully they are understanding what you are saying, so make sure communication is absolutely clear. Repeat yourself if you feel its needed. your stylist should understand and be patient. Communication is key!! If your stylist is chatting too much when cutting or doing a complicated color, kindly say to him/her that you would appreciate it if they would not chat.. I know it tough to do, but it is for your benefit:) I personally find it a lot easier to not have to entertain while I work.. it is multitasking. If you are cutting a fabric for a tailored dress, would you be waving your arms around and talking about the new cabin at the lake.. or whatever??? Highly unlikely!! There ARE good Stylists out there... Good luck in your search everyone!

Lorie Nny. 12 months ago


I am a hairstylist, extremely seasoned, this has been very helpful. I do not claim to be a hair artist, if that was the case I would take your cut hair and frame it. We are sales people, that provide service. I like that you all of you are saying listen , listen, listen,,. you have given us the golden key. Now we just have to apply, the only hair cut I don't prefer to do is the mullet, but if that is what you wan to wear, by all means do. It's your hair, not mine.

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth Author

Hi, oohlala! It's great to get a comment from someone who's been there and understands! From what you've said here, I can see your clients are very lucky to have found you. Many thanks for commenting!

oohlala 3 years ago

I am a humble hairdresser and can say I love this. I too cut my own hair and I own a salon. I train my girls however to listen and will be sharing this with them tomorrow. It's important for us to remember where we came from. There are no hair rock stars. Only artists... Be humble and listen. .. then they will come back. ;-)

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth Author

Thanks Just Ask Susan - hey, wouldn't it be interesting to keep count of the number of hairdressers various people have walked away from after just one visit? And wouldn't it also be interesting to know how many other potentially loyal clients have walked away from the same hairdressers for one reason or another? We should form a club or something. BTW - I've had issues with hair that holds the red, too, and have had many hairdressers more or less ignore my cautions. And then I've had to live with the red for weeks & weeks.

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Have had a few bad experiences. Once when I was getting streaks put in and I told her that I have a lot of red in my brown hair and need the color removed before the blonde goes in. Well she didn't listen and the streaks came out red. I lived with it but I never went back to her again.

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth Author

Hi, DDE - I know what you mean - I went through a period of several years when I cut my own hair, because I'd gotten so frustrated trying to find a good hairdresser. No wonder the hairdressers who are skilled and who pay attention to what people want get loyal clients who follow them from place to place.

DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

It can be frustrating in finding the a good or correct hairdresser the one who would style your hair the way you want it or like I fully understand. i sometimes cut my hair on my own as well.

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth Author

Yay!!! Congrats, Watergeek!

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth Author

Oh, I have definitely heard the "I know best" line, GoodLady! I sometimes think people need therapy when they've been subjected to that sort of controlling experience in the name of hair styling. Thanks for the votes and the share!

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth Author

Oh my - I am trying to picture how someone would use pipe cleaners to perm hair!!?? That sounds like a scary experience - and the ear infection could have been a disaster, Melovy!

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, Carol - when a hairdresser messes up, you have to live with it for quite a while!

watergeek profile image

watergeek 3 years ago

Hey Marcy - My "a" is green! :D

GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 3 years ago from Rome, Italy

I do hope every hairdresser in the world reads your hub! They are such a frustrating lot with their 'I know what's best for you' attitude (and scissors). Every time they make a mistake with my hair, it takes a year to grow back.

Maybe they do know best, but they aren't wearing the hair.

Voting and sharing and FBing too!

Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK

I've had my fair share of hairdressers who didn't listen or did things I didn't like - the worst by far was when I worked as a fashion designer and agreed to be a model for a hairdresser to experiment on. They permed my hair with pipe cleaners, shaved my fringe (bangs) off and managed to get perming lotion in my ear which gave me an infection. But it was different to the way they'd done it on the last model, so they were happy. And luckily, working as a designer meant looking a bit weird wasn't the same issue it would have been had a worked in a bank!

Still, I was glad when my hair grew in again.

For years now I have lovely hairdressers who used organic products, and listens to what I want - or to what my daughters want.

Here's hoping your hub helps produce more of the latter type of hairdresser! Voted up.

carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

Some really good information here..and I would hope hairdressers would read this. I can vouch for many of these issues and why I made changes.

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth Author

I think we may know some of the same hairdressers, Watergeek. I asked one stylist not to blow-dry my hair a certain direction, because it was so curly and would stay that way. She argued and said, no, it would give me 'lift' when brushed the opposite way. I explained that my hair doesn't work that way, but she kept at it. Afterward, it did exactly what I said it would, and took me weeks to 'untrain,' it. And the cut was the worst I've ever had.

Too bad more hairdressers don't realize clients speak with their pocketbooks.

watergeek profile image

watergeek 3 years ago

You are so right, Marcy. I had three experiences with hairdressers that turned me off. I went back to the first one, but not the next two.

The first one would not cut my hair the way I wanted it. She argued and finally asked the hairdresser next to her, when I wouldn't give in. He told her to do what I wanted. When she finished, she was surprised that it looked good and complimented me. That one I went back to.

The second one cut my hair totally differently from the way I'd asked for. It looked good, but didn't fit my lifestyle, requiring a recut every month or so. I couldn't afford it, so I just never went back to that salon.

The third one asked if I wanted color. I said no, just a cut and shampoo, so he shampooed my hair with a shampoo that made it look grey. I was savvy to marketing tricks and ticked off. A few days later when I shampooed my own hair, it went back to its normal dark blond color. I never went back to that salon either.

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth Author

Oh, Nettlemere, I know the feeling! I have cut my own hair in the past, but it just won't work for me to do that now. I firmly believe God gave us chemistry to protect us from knowing what our real hair color is. So I do use a hairdresser now, but I do understand the idea of giving up on the hassles and cutting your own!

Nettlemere profile image

Nettlemere 3 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

I can't cope with having my hair hair dressed at all, I used to so dread going, partly for some of the reasons you outlined, that about 18 years ago I bit the bullet and cut my own hair. Problem solved!

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