Why in some cases the therapist doesn't always know best

I love the saying, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. It’s particularly pertinent to the beauty industry which, while creative, actually requires a certain amount of procedural protocol. Suppliers and manufacturers issue us with strict guidelines and procedures on their products’ usage, as well as application and prescription. The same applies to the myriad equipment we now find in our treatment rooms. 

We’ve all seen the horror stories in the papers where clients have reacted severely to a lash glue or brow tint, making allergy alert questionnaires a vital part of every salon’s admin system; adhered to without exception. No wonder medical practitioners are the only people adequately trained to administer certain treatments and the guidelines suggest therapists stick to those that are considered non-invasive. 

How much of the treatment should be tailor made?

When it comes to the core nail, waxing, facial and massage services that many of us provide, we all know an experienced therapist treads a fine line between delivering a treatment that adheres to the manufacturer’s protocol and using their expertise and experience to deviate slightly and get the best results for their customer. 

So, how can we ensure we’re getting it right? For every client that expects her branded facial to be identical whether she enjoys it in a high-street salon or on holiday, there’s another who wants the therapist to couple that standard service with a little bit of their own magic. 

But here’s the caveat – any good operator needs to know the service inside-out and back to front first. They need to ensure they know exactly how it should be done before tailoring it to make it their own. If they don’t, the client will know, and therapists can’t kid themselves that they won’t. 

We recently experienced this with a client. She wanted a facial service she’d had countless times all over the world from a particular skincare brand, but the therapist didn’t follow the “normal” procedure (a bit like a chef not following a recipe to the letter), deciding that her take on it was far superior.

The trouble was that in this case it wasn’t and of course the client complained. She knew exactly what the facial protocol was and no amount of fudging it was going to convince her that the therapist knew better. 

What should I include in the consultation?

My advice? Consult with your client first. Make them feel confident in your expertise before you suggest tweaks that go against the treatment protocol grain. Our clients are ever-more knowledgeable and while some will welcome a bit of personalisation to tailor it to their needs, others prefer to know exactly what they’re getting when they book.

Nobody splashing out on a luxury therapy is oblivious to what’s involved, and thinking they are will not only lose their confidence, but their potential spend, too. 

Hellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London, one of the most profitable independent salons in the UK. She is beauty ambassador for The National Beauty Federation (NBF)

Read Ward's articles on how we can get the beauty industry the recognition it deserves and successfully selling your salon or spa business.