When you work in the same environment every day, you tend to get very comfortable. It’s easy to forget the first time you walked into the space – how it looked, what it smelled and sounded like, and most importantly, how you felt.
But this is really something you should try to remember when you have people coming into your salon for the very first time on a regular basis. It’s a great idea to try to walk into your salon at the start of every shift with open, fresh eyes. Imagine you are new; look around, take it all in. Feel the vibes.
No matter what your branding or décor style, whether your business is more clinical or spa, we all want our clients to feel welcome, comfortable and safe in our space. For many clients, this is easily done with a friendly front of house staff member, comfortable furniture and a cup of tea. However, some of our more anxious clients may require a little more TLC.
With so many of us having been in lockdown for such a long time, both clients and therapists may be experiencing a little bit of ‘back to normal’ anxiety. Other clients may simply live their day to day lives with anxiety. And others may have anxiety around visiting clinics and spas due to previous negative experiences or associations.
Good therapists and stylists have a knack for reading people, and you may be able to tell when a client is more anxious than usual. Most clients who are visiting your space for the first time will likely be more nervous than on their subsequent visits. Or perhaps one of your regular clients is experiencing more stress in her life currently, so her anxiety is high.
Whatever the reason, whoever the client, there are lots of different strategies my team and I use to help our anxious clients feel more comfortable throughout their salon visit. Let me share with you some of my favourites.
1) The Welcome Text
For some clients, visiting somewhere they’ve never been before can be stressful. We like to send a welcome text to our new clients, outlining things to help them know what to expect. It might be something about parking, finding the front door, payment options or arriving makeup-free: think about questions or issues you’ve had come up in the past, either from your clients or your own experiences.
2) Introduce Yourself and Your Salon
Every time you meet a new client, you introduce yourself. But do you introduce your salon? Direct your client to the waiting area; show them where to take a seat when they’re filling out forms; show them where they can find water and the amenities if they need to use them.
3) Give Directions
Every client I see, even on their hundredth visit, is directed over to my bed, shown where to put their belongings, and invited to lie down and make themselves comfortable: it’s just my routine, now! Many clients will feel uncomfortable or nervous if they’re not sure what to do, so it’s best to just tell them.
4) Check Yourself
As therapists and stylists, we need to be very mindful of not only our body language, but also our paralanguage. Paralanguage is all of the elements of speaking that add meaning or nuance to our words: volume, pitch, pace, intonation and facial expressions.
Try to maintain a calm and steady speaking pace and a suitable volume – while we don’t want to shout, we need to speak just a bit clearer with our masks on these days. Even when giving directions for the eighth time of the day, say it with the same gentle pitch and softness in your tone as you did the very first time, and don’t rush your words. You might know the spiel off by heart, but your client doesn’t.
Work on keeping your body language relaxed and open. Give your clients plenty of personal space when you can, and even though your mouth is covered by your mask, still smile sincerely and warmly: it reaches your eyes and your voice!
As you’re working, it’s really important that you let your client know what’s happening. If you’re going to take their photo, let them know. If you are about to touch them, always tell them first. When introducing something hot or cold for the first time, or something that may cause discomfort, give them a warning. When people know what to expect, they will instantly feel more at ease.
For some treatments (such as a lash lift where your client can’t open their eyes for a long time), you may like to give your client a full rundown of the steps before you even start.
I always warn first-time clients for lashes that, once we’ve begun, they won’t be able to open their eyes until we are finished. This may be an issue for an anxious client, so it’s best to let them know before you start.
6) Ask Questions
It’s important to ask your client questions, and it’s even more important that you show that you are listening. Start with the basics – how’s the temperature? Lighting? Are they comfortable in their position? Demonstrate that you are listening by using body language (nodding, eye contact and facial expressions) or verbal nods if they have their eyes closed or have visual limitations. Once you’re satisfied that they are physically comfortable, then you can ask other important questions more specific to the treatment.
My absolute favourite question to ask before I begin applying lashes? “Is there anything else I can do to help you feel more comfortable?”
7) The Warm & Fuzzies
There are lots of little extras that you can add to your treatments and salon space to help all of your clients feel more relaxed.
It’s important to provide a comfortable place for clients to wait if they arrive early. Some clients will arrive early to their first appointment because they are nervous, and it helps them to allow plenty of time to travel, park their car, and find your salon. Even if you are a home salon with one room, a comfortable seat and a basket of bottled water outside your door is a simple solution.
Weighted blankets are another great tool, especially for treatments like lash lifts and extensions, or facial treatments, where your client lays in one position with their eyes closed for a long period. These don’t have to be enormous: you can purchase small, lap-throw-sized blankets which can be placed over the top of your normal sheets or blankets. The additional weight gives some clients a sense of safety and security.
For clients who aren’t touch-adverse, a hand or scalp massage while lash lift solutions are processing can go a long way toward helping them relax. It’s best to ask first.
Finally, just do your best to be your warmest, kindest and most authentic self. Many of us are in this industry because we care about people and want to help them through our own brand of therapy. Let that light shine through and your clients will feel comfortable and safe in your talented hands.