One of the biggest challenges that I face on a daily basis is the balance of sharing basic, not too personal information and the eliciting of conversations with customers. The problem I face is not the sharing of information on my end, but the receiving of information from the customers.
How much information is too much information?
I'll admit that sometimes I get uncomfortable for my customers. There are some things that strangers shouldn't know about you. Take for example: Health issues in nauseating detail, messy details of relationships (my cheating, dirty, venereal disease ridden spouse), or horror stories of their own work... trying to bait me into sharing my own stories. I have them, but I'm not about to share them with customers.
Sometimes, people need to vent. They've had a bad day, week, perhaps life, and they just would like someone who cares to share their troubles. There is a long standing joke that hairdressers are the poor man's psychologist. On some level, we are. I'll admit it, there are times when I have offered constructive advice or helpful suggestions to people. I am not a psychologist or life coach or anything like that, but I like to think that I have been around the block enough times that I can throw out, if not solutions, ways to find the solutions for themselves.
Politics and religion...
There are some times when there is no way around a customer's desire to speak their mind about extremely polarizing subjects. Personal opinions aside, sometimes no amount of placating or trying to steer the conversation are available. This is when going back to the matter at hand is your only tactic.
In my business, I usually take that opportunity to turn attention back to the haircut. By the time the conversation has gotten out of hand, its time to check in about how they like the length of the haircut, or what they would like to do for the top/neckline/etc. Or, I'll even use it to share observations about their hair and scalp and to suggest hair product solutions.
Oh, the Humanity!!
A bad haircut happens sometimes... I've done it, my coworkers have done it, my bosses have done it... no one is perfect, and sometimes things happen. How a person reacts is often dependent upon the actions of either the hairdresser that cut it the first time or the one who is fixing it.
The calm center of the hurricane, the fixer, zen mode, whatever you'd like to call it, you have to be ready and super professional. Mostly, they want to be reassured and to know that they are valued as a customer and that they are important. Fixing the haircut, obviously, is priority #1. But if the haircut is fixed in the way that you think it should be, and without reassuring the customer that their satisfaction is important to them, then they won't be happy, even if they look amazing.
Something I like to tell my customers is that we want people to say to them, "Wow, who did your hair?" Not, "Oh, my goodness... what the hell happened to you?" That is really my goal, all joking aside. I want people to be happy with their haircut and with how they look.
Ooooh, who does your hair?
After all, if they look good, they feel good. But if they feel good, they look even better. Really, if I have a regular (I'm making this detail up as an example, though similar people do exist.) customer who loves to talk about her 15+ cats and how difficult it is to keep them all fed... then I will humor her and let her chat me up about them. If I can, I'll try and remember some of the details of their antics, because I know that she doesn't have the option of chatting with her cats.
Most people crave human contact. They want to be attractive and they want to feel good about themselves. If I can help them by making them look and feel a little better, then I will. But, if at all possible, I'll try and help them chat about less detrimental information. The weather is usually a good topic, for example. :D