I love being able to be open and honest with you, here and on every platform. I feel like it's why we trust each other. Being able to address seemingly "uncomfortable" topics with you is what helps us keep things that way, I think anyways. This post is exactly about just that; uncomfortable conversations between clients and service providers. I've done my homework here to get the opinions of both sides, so that I'm not just coming at you from the service provider point of view. The reason I'm going to share these with you isn't to make you feel bad or guilty if there's something in here you've maybe said before and definitely not to embarrass you, I'm just sharing because I care deeply about your feelings, my feelings and the feelings of humans in general, as well as how our words effect each other. I feel as though if I'm able to help bridge the gap between client and service provider communication, it could prevent a lot of future hurt and confusion.
Strictly from the service provider's perspective.
(I'm going to keep this fairly beauty industry specific because it's where my expertise is.) I've seen and heard a lot of interesting statements from client's of my own, as well as from friend's experiences in the industry so I'm going to try to not only give examples, but also to explain why these statements to topics may make your service provider uncomfortable.
Firstly, if you're choosing a new service provider, one of the hardest statements to tackle are comments like "I've been to so many stylists and nobody can get my colour right" or, "I've been to almost everyone around and no one can get it right." In this situation, it's most likely that either your expectations are unrealistic, you haven't stuck it out with a single provider long enough to get through the entire process and have to keep starting over, or what you want simply can't be done but so far all your service providers have been too intimidated to tell you. I know responses to these can fall anywhere from "well that's not fair they should just be honest" to, "well they're the professional they should know," however, not everyone has the confidence to tell you as it is right upon meeting you and a lot of people really just want to give it their all in the first sitting to make you happy. In the service industry as a whole, most aim to please, so it can be hard to either accept defeat, be blunt and tell you no, or to say that you aren't a right fit communication wise or specialty wise. It's always best to go in with an open mind, be honest about your hair history, say what you like and dislike and try to make a future game plan and timeline from there.
Another uncomfortable comment is, "I don't understand why it's so hard to get an appointment with you," or "why are you so busy?" This one I've experienced personally and it's a tough one keep your cool for. A lot of beauty professionals have a decent, loyal clientele base when you happen across them, this means they have clients who consistently re-book after every visit until their books are close to full. Many of us do our best to not "close" our books to new guests all together, but it makes openings few and far between when you're trying not to price yourself out of your market. Try to remember that if you are dying to get into see someone, it's likely because you think they're really good at what they do, right? Which means it's likely that many others have been thinking that for a long time before you. This statement is very similar to "well can't you just squeeze me in?" As much as every human would love to be able to move time and space to make you happy, asking someone to squeeze you in is really just saying "can't you just work later, or lose time with your family to fit me in outside of your schedule on your day off?" It's pretty offensive. It's very important to make sure you aren't crossing boundaries or else it's likely you won't be a good fit for that person altogether.
Some other topics that will often make service providers uncomfortable are talking about how much you disliked your last service provider. It's always good to say what you've had done in the past that you didn't like so to not experience it again, just remember the line between constructive criticism and gossiping/talking shit. A huge problem I see again and again in the beauty industry is clients ending up unhappy with their service and then going to another service provider to tell them everything that was wrong with it. The biggest problem... they never actually tell the last service provider what they were unhappy with or even that they were unhappy at all! No one can correct a mistake they don't know they've made. This means that if a client, service provider relationship ends with nothing being said, no one knows what went wrong. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest mistakes being made in the industry today, meaning if you're unhappy with something someone has done, just tell them so that they can at least learn from the mistake in the future.
This last specific example is one I've heard from too many friends that hurts my heart. "I just want you to know that if I have to tighten my budget, you'll be the first to go." Now, you know I'm here for being open and honest however, making it known to someone that they're at the bottom of your priority list for any reason, is a bit of a low blow. I totally get keeping to a budget, just remember that your beauty professional is a human too, with a family to feed, and that thing you're talking about "cutting first" is their livelihood.
A little bit from the client perspective.
Bear with me here folks, this one I've asked for a lot of help with, but I'm going to give you a little bit of my opinion on it too... obviously. I'm hoping this reaches the eyes of clients and stylists alike so that they can both hear the other side.
I have actually heard quite a bit from the client point of view on this which is beautiful but also a tad disheartening. Firstly, bringing up a client's weight/diet. This is a really rough one, that I don't think should ever be brought up unless the client personally brings it up in normal conversation and even then, you should tread lightly. It is never alright to address what you deem to be a "flaw" in another human whether you think you have "advice" to give or not. If it isn't your profession and it's not what they're there to see you for/they didn't bring it up, just do not bring it up period.
Another is realizing you know your client from your past. This is great, it means the two of you likely have lots in common. What it doesn't mean is that you should begin to gossip or talk shit about people from that person's past or bring up instances that may make them uncomfortable. Actually, for all you know, that person may have nothing to do with anyone from their past anymore. It's a strange way to make conversation unless it's coming from a loving place, in which case, I'd make sure you make that very well known.
One of the worst responses I've received on this topic is when a stylist makes a spectacle out of a previous job that was done on the client. Now, I've been in situations where I've had a client who's hair couldn't be "fixed" due to a previous mess up, however, I've usually ended up apologizing to that person that I can't make it right for them, even if it wasn't my mistake. At the end of the day, that client is already likely super upset/sad about the state their last service ended up in, so making a big deal and going off about how brutal it is, is not going to make it any better. It's actually just more likely that they're also not going to come back to you in the future, which from what I've heard is the general consensus.
Lastly, if you screw up someone's service, just admit it. One of the very interesting responses I got over and over again were along the lines of "I asked for red and my hair was black." We've all made mistakes, we all just also need to remember that when someone else's self esteem is at stake, we need to admit when we've done something wrong or missed the mark. Now, I'm not saying an outcome was perfectly achieved and then not liked, I'm saying when an actual mistake is made, we can't pretend everything is fine. It's super hard on the ego, but our clients aren't stupid and we need to stop actuating like they don't know what's up, because they do. I'm also not saying to beat yourself up about that one, hidden, half slipped foil that only you will notice when you move that exact right piece of hair, but remember that your client knows when something has gone horribly wrong. Just be honest, do what it takes to correct it, or make a plan to adjust it in the future.
I hope this gives a little bit of insight from both angles to help keep the peace and save some future heartache. A lot of the time all we need is to consider if what we're about to say would upset us in that person's shoes or is potentially crossing a boundary. Most importantly, it's best for us to always be honest, even when it comes to saying "that makes me uncomfortable, can we change the subject?" I also thinks it helps immensely to find a service provider that you feel you jive with on all levels and communicate well with because it's less likely that you'll run into communication issues like these. I hope that all of your future appointments are wonderful, in all the services you take part in or provide.