Barber Hacks: 5 Monumental Lessons To Learn From Being A Customer
VACAYI took a vacation this week (hence why this post is a week late), and while I travelled I went to an established barbershop in a big city. Therein lies this weeks lesson.
I’ve been in the hair game for a long time, and have become accustomed to quick and dirty haircuts after work.
I’m lying a bit, I work at a barbershop where the barbers are quite wonderful at attacking my long shaggy hair, and they are patient and attentive to the fact that I am a picky client and want a proper haircut. But I have worked at establishments that I have gotten quick and dirty haircuts after work.
It doesn’t matter though, up until a couple of years ago it had been a very long time since I had paid someone to cut my hair, and experienced what it was like to be a customer. I think there are a lot of us in the industry that haven’t been on the customer side of the chair in a very long time.
A couple of years ago, I started going to see barbers whenever I went on vacation. Sometimes I would tell them I’m a barber and sometimes I would lie about my vocation, tell them I’m a tax attorney or some such thing.
Being a customer has changed the way that I do business. Here are five ways that being a customer has changed how I view barbering.
BAD HAIRCUTS ARE NOT FUN
It’s been a while since I’ve been really unhappy with my haircut. There have been a few missteps here or there, but overall I’ve been happy with how my hair has been cut, faded and the like, by my colleagues. Having walked into barbershops that don’t know my hair and how it grows, and asking for haircuts that haven’t always been in vogue (a flat top), I have had some questionable haircuts. I have forgotten what a bad haircut is like, what it does to you, how it diminishes how you walk, and how you act.
Having a bad haircut made me realize the power that I hold in my hands, and how I can ruin someone’s day, week and month in the matter of a half an hour. After I paid 40 dollars for a bad haircut that I had to fix in my hotel room, I checked myself.
I can’t imagine living with a bad haircut for a couple of weeks, but we have the power to make or break someone. Think about that the next time someone sits in your chair and you’re in a rush to make some money, get out the door at a certain time, or just couldn’t care about your job.
I’ll never really understand a barber that just does this for the money and doesn’t take the time to hone their craft and just bashes out bad haircut after bad haircut for the sake of the almighty dollar. It makes me intensely sad just to see and have to fix the odd haircut that someone has butchered.
Take the time you need to do a good haircut and make sure that you listen to what the person wants. If the two of you don’t communicate well, there could be mistakes made that the customer will never get over.
HOW YOU TALK TO A PERSON MATTERS
One of the most pleasurable experiences I have had came at the hands of a barber in his seventies. This barber could barely stand, had shaky hands, and I was not holding out hope that I wouldn’t be carried out of the barbershop in a body bag due to blood loss.
Not only did I get a good shave, I was entertained the entire time that I was in the chair. Communicating with, and entertaining someone is just as important as the haircut.
I know that I’ve gotten caught up in the cutting of the hair without the personal side of the cut. This is especially true when I’m working on perfecting a new technique, and I generally don’t have repeat customers when I’m in the middle of doing this.
The interaction between a barber and the person in their chair is important. Pay attention to names, to stories and reference what you hear in the conversations you have. Tell stories, have a personality, and try your best to be amicable.
A GOOD SERVICE MEANS SOMETHING
Being on the receiving end of a good service is incredible. Everything goes turns out proper, and there are smiles all around.
A thorough service, a good service can mean everything to the person in your chair.
I notice when I’m not given a thorough service and I don’t know if that is because I’m a barber, but I imagine that a customer coming through your chair can notice it as well.
If you don’t know what customer service is take a look at the busiest barber in your shop and do whatever they do. Are they shaping everyone up with a blade? Are they including a mini facial along with a shave? Odds are there is something that they are doing (on top of the haircut) that is adding to their services.
If you can provide extra value to your customer (on top of a good haircut) you will be appreciated.
PRICE DOESN’T MEAN BETTER
I’ve got mad respect for everyone in this game, doing it at every price point. Price doesn’t mean you’ll necessary get a better haircut. Some of the best barbers I’ve ever worked with have been barbers that are giving their services away for under 20 dollars.
I’ve gone to high end barber shops over and over again, and while there may be a busy barber in the front of the shop that is killing it, a great interior and a shot of nice bourbon and a beer don’t make for a great haircut.
As barbering crawls out of charging 10 dollars for a haircut and starts actually charging living wages (unless you’re doing 80 heads a day for 10 bucks, in which case, go get em), I am constantly reminded just because you being charged a good price for a haircut it doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily get one.
Charge what you’re worth. Don’t be afraid of losing customers, you’ll find more, and if you don’t, those cheap bastards that left you when you started charging more will always be champing at the bit to get you back.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
I judge a book by its cover. I’m shallow like that. And I know that I get judged by how I look all the time. I am a classic styled barber working in an urban barbershop. I don’t dress like a lot of my customers. I get judged based on how I look every damn day.
If I had a dollar for every time someone new asks me if I know what a skin fade is I wouldn’t have to work.
Despite that, I show up every damn day looking and feeling as though I’m on top of the world. I walk with confidence, and I know that I can kill any type of hair that walks through the door.
You can’t fake that.
I can spot someone that is going to give me a good haircut or a bad haircut from across the room. I can tell you exactly the type of barber they are, and I can tell you the weaknesses they have...99% of the time.
I imagine that at least 50 percent of modern men can do the same thing, if not more. With YouTube and the internet leading the charge, men are more informed about how they want to look. They can probably tell you tidbits about your job that you don’t even know.
Don’t stop learning, because you’ll get that one person in your chair that doesn’t want your specialty and you won’t be able to fake yourself through it.
The moment that you stop learning is the moment that you die. If this happens choose another profession and get out of this one, because we don’t want you.
I take pride in failure because it keeps me motivated to be better.
When I am in a shop that is killing the game, when I’m surrounded by the best people in the game, I want to be better, because otherwise I feel like I’m a failure. I know that there are thousands of barbers that are better than me, and I love the challenge of self improvement.
Being in a new shop and seeing others like me, it makes me so incredibly happy. It makes me happy to be a barber, to take pride in my job, and to know that I have so much left to learn.
Getting out of your shop and getting into others can be inspiring. It can show you so much about what you want and what you don’t want in your own career. It can remind you about what it is like to be a customer again, allowing you to render a better service to those coming to your chair. It can remind you how fun it is to get your hair cut well, and how horrible it is to receive a poor haircut.
Try it out.
Thanks for tuning in this week.
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