Barber Hacks: 10 Tips for an EPIC Consultation

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THE CONSULTATION

A consultation is one of the most important parts of your haircut. In this article I’m going to help you KNOW what your guests want before you begin your haircut, taking lifestyle choices, hair type, and more into consideration before coming to a mutual agreement about what you will deliver.

MAKE OR BREAK

A consultation will make or break you as a barber, if you can’t communicate with the guest in your chair, you will both have a POOR experience. I have seen an amicable interaction between two people go south very quickly all because lack of communication.

IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU!

To me, a consultation isn’t about you as a barber, It isn’t about the haircut that you really want to try on someone, that new technique or cut that you learned on YouTube, the consultation is about the person sitting in your chair, and how you can BEST go about making them feel more confident in themselves and their appearance. Barbering is about the person in your chair and being able to translate what they want. If you cannot translate what your guest wants, you will not be able to satisfy them, missing out on repeat customers.

90% KNOW WHAT THEY WANT

In my experience there are many different types of guests that will come into your barbershop. Some want to be told what to do, some want to control what you do, others pretend to be indecisive but know what they want. In the end 99% of people that sit in your chair know exactly what they want (whether or not they are going to tell you is a whole other matter), all that it takes is the know how to get them to tell you.

MAKE THEM FEEL COMFORTABLE

After a greeting (read last weeks post), sit your customer down and then introduce yourself. Don’t put the cape on them immediately, stand in front of them and have a conversation with them face-to-face. You don’t have to get into the consultation right away, sometimes you should just talk about a general topic to get your customer feeling comfortable and feeling at home with you. When you feel the time is right ask them, “What can I do for you today?”, and bring the conversation to talking about the service you are about to perform.

THE LIFESTYLE ANGLE

Talking about the guest’s lifestyle is a must. Where do you work? What do you like to do? Find out about their general lifestyle and style choices. And while you do this take the time to take a good look at your customer face to face without the cape draped on them. Take a look at their fashion, the way they hold themselves, and the like. Odds are if they’re in your barbershop they are there because they like the feel and the vibe of the shop and the look of the barbers cutting hair, or they’ve been recommended to the shop, but there are going to be people that sit in your chair that have no interest in that and just want a decent haircut. So feel them out, it doesn’t have to take forever, but it helps to take a couple of minutes to assess someone and visualize the type of hair that you might cut on them.

ANALYZE THE HAIR

From here steer the conversation to the hair. This is when I would take the cape out and drape my client, because now you might want get into their hair and see what you are working with. Now is a good time to ask them about haircuts that they have had in the past that they have liked, and ones that they haven’t liked. While you are doing these take a comb out and analyze the complete hairline from forehead to nape, looking for any disturbances (cowlicks, etc.) that may need you to allow length or take away length depending on the style that you are going for. If you are going to line up your client be sure to take a look at their natural hairline and take into consideration what you will leave and what you will take (the more natural the better). Be sure to add the crown into the mix checking to see if he has one or two crowns (or more), and (if the customer has straight hair) comb the hair to see where the natural part lies (if you don’t know how to do this, wet the hair, and comb it all back, and from the back of the head push the hair forward. Once you have done this, the hair will fall where the hair naturally wants to, giving you the natural part). Ask about sideburns, whether they want a certain length or a temple taper, ask about the nape of the neck, whether they want it tapered, square, rounded, or any of the other varieties, the length of the hair, what should stay and what should go, and always make make a show as to how much you would take off, your inch may not be their inch, your centimetre may not be theirs (metric or not?).

ASK ABOUT THEIR STYLING REGIMEN

Some guys want to spend three seconds on their hair, and some guys are better at blow-drying their hair than me (very very rarely), but this is something to talk in depth about. What type of product do they use? What style of brush do they have? Where are they styling it, at home or at the gym? If someone is not going to style their hair, help choose a style that requires little maintenance. If someone is going to spend some time with their hair, choose whatever style is suitable. Make sure when you are styling it later on, that you explain exactly how you are styling the hair. This guest is like a walking billboard, if you make them look good and teach them how to style their hair, they will bring you business.

LOOK AT SOME PICTURES

If the customer is prepared they’ll bring a picture, which is great. I’m a visual learner so I like to have a picture in the mix. Most of us have phones, if they aren’t a great communicator, take your phone out, and browse Instagram and google pics until they see something that they like.

EXPERIENCE PLAYS A PART

Now, this is when experience comes into play. The more experience you have, the easier it will be to know if someone can wear a certain style or not. Certain hair types will not allow for some haircuts, and trial and error are the only way that you can understand that. A combover will not look well on someone with two cowlicks on their front hairline...most of the time, it depends on the direction of the cowlicks and the length or hair...but you get what I mean. If someone shows or tells you they want something that you don’t think, in your professional opinion, is a good idea, lay out the truth and tell them that, try and persuade them to do something different. If they persist...perhaps this isn’t the haircut for you and you can ask someone else in the shop to do it, or refuse the customer outright, which is better than cutting a bad haircut.

REPETITION-REPETITION

Once you’ve decided on something, repeat what you are going to be doing step-by-step so that both of you know you are on the same page.

PROFESSIONAL TRANSLATION

And to make matters more complicated, sometimes what a customer tells you they want needs a little bit of professional translation to get them to a proper haircut. I say this because there are a lot of guests that come in asking for a “2 on the sides and finger length on top”. Does that mean that that is the haircut I give them? No, I think that haircut very rarely looks good on anyone. I’ll say sure and explain that I will also take an extra five minutes to taper the temples and nape, and I might keep the hair at the hairline and crown a little longer depending on how the haircut looks from a profile position. Just because you can do a simple haircut and make quick money off of it, doesn’t always mean that you should. In some circumstances I would say that it depends on how much you are charging someone for their haircut. If you are working at a barbershop that works in bulk, then perhaps you should keep the extras to a minimum, or charge extra if people want them, and if you are working at a higher end place with higher prices, you probably want to go out of your way to ensure the best quality that you can deliver. This decision is up to you as a barber. For me, I would rather charge more and deliver more because that is the type of work that keeps me interested. In the end it is up to you as a barber to make those decisions for yourself.

IF THIS DOESN’T WORK, FINESSE IT

Even so, the consultation may not always work and you may have to finesse a haircut to get a good result. I had a guest with long and super thick hair come in and we had a lengthy consultation about what he would like. He had mid length hair that reached down to the bottom of his ears and about two inches past the nape of his neck. After talking for some time, going through my regular consultation routine he had come to the conclusion that he would like ¼ of an inch off of what he had. I cut a ¼ inch off of what he had and we both looked at it and he said, “I think I’d like another ¼ inch off of the hair off.” I had already cut his hair once exactly as he had asked, and I could see that he wasn’t happy with it, and I wasn’t happy with it.  My consultation had been thorough, he had just been adamant that he wanted to keep the length. He had thick hair and it ballooned out in all the wrong places. At that point I told him that I didn’t think that the haircut would work and that I didn’t like how it sat on his head, and that we should take it down shorter, something I had recommended to him earlier. At this point he concurred, and showed me a picture of Brad Pitt in Fight Club that he had stored in his phone, and had obviously brought to show me. We cut his hair shorter and he became super excited. It had just taken me twice as long and twice the effort to get there, but in the end he was happy. Some guests are just not the type to come to change easily, and we are in customer service, but I am not in the habit of sending out a haircut with my name on it that I know doesn’t look good, so sometimes you have to finesse and spend some extra time in order to make someone happy, it all depends on the situation.

DELIVERY

Be able to do what you discussed. If you can’t do it, learn it. If you have to learn while you are cutting...odds are you will disappoint, but if that is what you do, make sure that you learn while you’re cutting, or that you have someone that can fix your cuts if you mess up in a spectacular way. No one is perfect all the time, and failure is the only way to success.

APPRECIATION

If you take the time with your guests, they will notice and appreciate you for this. I consult thoroughly every time I do a haircut, even with my weekly guests (especially with them, they are your bread and butter, they deserve the best) because it makes my job easier and keeps my customer satisfaction in a very high percentile.

IN CONCLUSION

When you consult with someone make sure that you welcome them, discuss their lifestyle, their grooming habits, and take a thorough look at their hair. Discuss options for different styles and, if you must, take a look at some pictures. Keep in mind though, that whatever your customer says doesn’t always have to be completely literal and through experience and sometimes finesse, you should be able to provide your customer with a haircut that you and your customer can both be proud of.


Thanks for reading this week, be back next Wednesday for more,
Martin
@crowbarber on Instagram
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Email Mjmartinejohn@gmail.com with questions or for joining a mailing list

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