March 20th, 2021 Having spent a lot of time in salons over the past 20 or so years I am regularly astounded about the breadth of knowledge beauty therapists possess. I have overheard conversations that vary from marital advice, the raising of teenagers, the buying and selling of cars and real estate, stocks and share portfolios, the latest local scandal, the problems in the local school, political opinion, not to mention the conversations on sex, affairs and knowing which male celebrity is hot. As impressed as I am at the intellect of today’s beauty therapists, I cannot help but wonder if our role should really be that of, confidant, confessor or counsellor. Now don’t get me wrong, I am the first to tell staff to build rapport with their clients. I agree that we need to be friendly and approachable. However, I really question the professionalism of regularly becoming involved in conversations that are not to do with the client’s skin needs. It’s about walking the fine line between friendliness and professionalism. More than ever our industry needs to project itself as a group of highly trained professionals in order to maintain our customer base and attract more men and women into our salons. In recent years there has been an influx of doctors, plastic surgeons, nurses and other professionals sweep into our industry offering an assortment of new and exciting treatments as well as encroaching on traditional beauty therapy treatments. Why is it that the public are turning to doctors to try peels, wraps, skin needling, laser, IPL and other treatments that are best done by well–trained and experienced therapists. I suspect it’s partly because of the professional approach these medically trained operators offer. After all, when you go to your doctor rarely does the conversation drift away from your medical requirements. Very clearly, we view these people as experts in their field and this in turn provides us with a sense of confidence in their abilities. Beauty therapists are also experts! They are experts in the skin and how to treat it. I wonder how gossiping about local events or people helps to portray this expertise to our clients. In fact, how hard are we concentrating on providing the very best care and attention to our clients if we are busy in idle conversation about things that we are not really experts in any way? Let’s try and concentrate on discussions about areas where we can display our expertise and build a public perception where we are seen as the best source for all skin care advice. I am not trying to be a scrooge here. I know that a little bit of banter helps cement relationships and break the ice with clients. It’s just, I wonder how much more productive we could all be if we could keep steering our conversations back to our area of professional expertise. Imagine how much better our skin analysis might be, how many more products we could recommend to our clients, how much more education about the skin and how we care for it could take place, or how much more home care information we could impart if we concentrated more on our professional conversations rather than socialising? For that matter, how many of us would keep our treatments on time instead of regularly running late and keeping customers waiting? So how do we put all this into practice? I believe that one of the easiest ways to maintain a professional conversation is to pre-empt what you want to discuss with your clients even before they enter the salon. I call this ‘doing homework’. This professional preparation simply involves scanning through your client’s history and looking for services or products that they have not yet utilised in your salon. For example, if Mrs Jennings has already purchased a cleanser, eye cream, day and night creams, then you might note that you should discuss the merits of a good exfoliant or home care masque. Similarly, if you note reports of ingrown hairs whilst waxing, you could prepare by demonstrating a loofah glove and body scrub. Or perhaps you can use their history to see if new products are due to be purchased because their current home care should be almost finished. You might discuss a pedicure with someone who has never tried one or the advantages of a lash tint with those who haven’t experienced this service. The point is, that the exercise will provide you with plenty of professional discussion topics as well as preparing you mentally for the sales process. But even if you don’t do homework on your clients, salons should have weekly or monthly focus products that they can introduce to all their clients. Or perhaps it is a monthly special from a newsletter or flyer that can be shown to customers. Even discussing common seasonal problems such as fine lines around the eyes or chapped lips during winter. Or perhaps summer sun damage and dehydration. At least our conversations are client care focussed and of a professional nature. It also allows you to direct and control the conversation enabling you to maintain the direction of your discussion topics, in turn providing you with far more opportunities to recommend products, up-sell services and add-on extras. The more we do this, the more we assist the client to achieve healthy, better-looking and feeling skin. Now I know that it is not that easy, some customers don’t stop talking from the minute they enter the salon. For others, they look forward to their regular chat with you. But even with these ladies, if we can just focus a little more of our conversation time on professional dialogue, then over time they too might change their perception of the professional image of beauty therapists. I am not suggesting that beauty therapists are not professional, far from it. However, I do believe it would help individual therapists develop professionally, improve your salon’s overall performance and change for the better the public perception of our industry if we could concentrate on focussing our conversations more towards friendly, professional skin care advice and education. I believe our clients deserve our commitment to deliver this level of care, each and every time they visit our salons.