I came across this image on The Shade Room’s Instagram page and it raised a question that should be discussed: How long is too long for a stylist to respond to new or existing clients? There is nothing more disappointing than reaching out to your stylist, or potential new stylist, only to receive a delayed and lackluster response.
Like most black women, I don’t play when it comes to my hair. I’ve tried several stylists in my adult life. Up until finding my current stylist, I’ve run into the same issues more than a few times. How many of us have experienced the following:
- You make an appointment, go to the salon, and find another client in the chair, leaving you to sit and wait 40 days and 40 nights to get your hair started.
- Your stylist shows up to the salon or your house hours late with no explanation or apology.
- Your stylist cancels your appointment less than 24 hours in advance or, even worse, the day of.
We often feel stuck and obligated to stay with that stylist because we all know how hard it is to find someone we trust to tame and train our mane.
But what happens when you are fed up? When is it OK to break up with your stylist?
I took a poll on my social pages, posing the question: “How long is too long to wait for a response? If you don’t get the response you imagine, do you continue in a stagnant relationship with the stylist you already use, or begin the dreaded search for a new one?” Unsurprisingly, I received mixed reviews.
One IG respondent explained never waiting more than a day and that she refuses to communicate with a new stylist via text as she considers it unprofessional and impersonal if it’s a new stylist/client relationship.
In terms of remaining with a stylist you aren’t necessarily happy with, for whatever reason that may be, that debate garnered mixed reactions as well. Lauren R.D. Fox, a fellow contributor of Real Beautiful, says,
“I once waited five hours just to get my hair trimmed. I've known my hairdresser since I was 11 and although we are close, I get highly annoyed when she knows I have nowhere to be. She'll ask me to get food for her or she'll have phone conversations while she’s doing my hair as if she is in the house. I remain loyal because she gives the best hair advice and styles.”
Just as Lauren, many of us will stay with our stylists for the same reasons. As much as we may be fed up, we are comfortable. It’s unfortunate and disheartening for me that this remains an issue because a stylist-client relationship is one of the most important relationships in a woman's life. Although there are hundreds of potential new stylists available, I am sure that many would prefer to remain with the one they have if some small changes were made.
To keep things balanced, I asked a few stylists for their thoughts on the matter. We all know, for each time a stylist doesn’t come through in the clutch, there are the same amount (or more) clients making crazy, last minute requests like this:
My stylist has over 300 clients and being as booked as she is, I can understand a slight delay in responses for any client or potential add-on to the roster. Philadelphia stylist Anika Smith feels there is a grace period stylists should have when it comes to returning inquires:
“I try to make sure that if I can't respond within the same time they text or call, that I respond at least by the end of the work day (latest 7:30-8pm) or the following morning. I say 48 hours is a good time frame to set for responses in case of something happening [sic] and you're unable to respond immediately. Clients have to consider we are working ALL day on someone's hair and shouldn't be near our cell phone for obvious reasons. Anything after 48 hours is unacceptable.”
Another respondent, also a stylist, had this to say,
“I suggest you have a conversation with your stylist and explain why you aren't happy. If things don't get any better, move on. There's too many stylists out there to settle on one you aren't happy with. But I think it's important to have the conversation for two reasons:
1) It makes the stylist aware and presents the opportunity for her to improve. [She or he] will learn to adapt to different clients needs and desires
2) It benefits you to use your voice, and saves you from bouncing from stylist to stylist.”
After hearing from both sides, I came up with a few suggestions on ways to improve an already existing client-stylist relationship before considering a breakup:
- Stylists should have several means of contact. Whether it be strictly digital with online booking systems, email and social media or the more traditional route of a phone call and/or text. I like the idea of traditional phone calls and text messages with a digital system as backup, such as online booking and email confirmation.
- Just as important as it is for clients to be satisfied, stylists have to be protected as well. I've experienced last minute cancellations of appointments but clients cancel as well. A great way to protect both the stylist and client is to set up a deposit and refund and/or discount system for incidentals. Stylists should always require a small non-refundable deposit in order to book an appointment, this leaves little room for clients to cancel at the last minute. In turn, stylists should provide incentives for cancellations or rescheduling to the clients to account for their time.
- Remain in constant communication with each other...about everything. Hair goals, hair needs, appointments and everything in between. Don’t sit idle and allow things to fester no matter how big or small it may seem. After all, the goal is to have a lifelong stylist and not hop from person to person. Take the time to invest in each other.
I have gone through the good, bad and ugly with stylists and have always had the fear of moving on. Today, I would not consider forging a relationship with a stylist who didn’t have an acceptable protocol from the beginning. Like I said before, a stylist-client relationship is important. Stylists are responsible for keeping us looking beautiful! Let’s make it a point to value that relationship a little more.