Making The Cut

By Scott and Jennifer Fontana

Making The Cut

Making the Cut: Developing Professional Relationships with Clients

In the salon world, developing friendly relationships with clients is one of the most important things a stylist can do. It can lead to referrals, positive reviews, and is imperative to building a client base. However, in order to sustain positive client relationships, there must be clear professional boundaries. While not always easy to establish at first, professional boundaries are necessary for any company or business to grow and thrive.

What are professional boundaries? Professional boundaries are clearly established limits that allow for safe connections and communication between service providers and clients.  For example, you can be friendly with your client without being friends. Asking about their family is fine, but joining in on the family vacation shouldn’t happen. It’s important to remember that no matter how relaxed the atmosphere, your job is to provide a service and ensure that your client leaves happy with the service. Here are a few more recommendations regarding boundaries in the workplace:

Why are boundaries important? Boundaries help you to avoid the “rescuer” role and keep you focused on your responsibility to your client. You don’t want to become burnt out by talking with your client about very personal issues, which could negatively affect the service you give them.   Or worse, you provide advice that does not work for them and they harbor negative feelings toward you.

What are some risks of poor or loose boundaries? If you work in a team environment, a personal relationship with the client may cause issues and splitting. Knowing personal information about someone requires confidentiality.  The client may feel abandoned or betrayed if you accidentally leak their personal information. Remember that one employee’s actions can affect the whole business.

What are some signs that boundary issues may be present in your workplace?

– Referring to the client as a friend when talking to others.
– Receiving or sending personal gifts to the client or vice versa.
– Communicating in a more relaxed, casual manner.
– Providing home phone numbers or other personal information not related to work.
– Inappropriate behavior at client social functions (e.g., don’t get drunk and pass out)
– Revealing excessive personal information.
– Offering  assistance outside the normal scope of work (e.g., housesitting and carpooling)

What are some techniques to create healthy client relationships? When first meeting the client, establish some clear agreements about your role as a service provider. Make sure that they know your availability, the best way to contact you and what you can do for them professionally. Know the warning signs of boundary issues and address them with your client, while still being sensitive to their feelings. Remember not to become the client’s therapist, which is a big part of hair styling, – i.e.: listen but don’t give advice. When having a personal conversation that makes you uncomfortable, transition out of the conversation by acknowledging that this must be a difficult time and steer to a conversation you’re more comfortable discussing. The only advice a  hair stylist should provide is in their expert field of beauty and hair  – not family and relationships.

When stating something personal, make sure the information is related to the client’s goals. Also, if you’ve had a personal relationship with the client before becoming their service provider, use judgment when interacting with the client outside of the workplace.

While you don’t want to come off as cold, robotic or someone who is only interested in business details, you also want to maintain a professional standard for both yourself and your company. Finding the balance can do wonders for your small business’ reputation and for the relationship with your client.

How do you maintain professional boundaries with your clients?

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