The New Client Consultation: Key Questions That Will Win Customers Every Time

Written by Douglas Preston

No matter how excellent our technical skills, every aesthetician knows that the real key to a successful practice is client retention. While this may not be so important when working in a resort setting or on a cruise ship, those with stationary practices in a local community are highly dependent on attracting and retaining a client following. Repeat customers provide professionals with years of reliable income and word-of-mouth referrals, a skin care professional’s most valuable marketing resource. In my own aesthetics practice, my longest-term client has been scheduling with me for over 35 years, while many others are now passing the 30-year mark. These customers have filled hundreds of appointment hours, purchased bags full of treatment products, and referred a long list of new patrons. And, while it’s clear that these loyal people have been pleased with the service they’ve received over decades, it was the beginning of these relationships, the first day we met and consulted, that established the rapport influencing all subsequent visits.

For this article, I will focus on the client who is concerned with antiaging. This customer type tends to remain with the practice the longest, though realistically, acne clients are also motivated to clear up the problem and not continue treatment. However, many of my acne clients have turned into age management fans as the blemishes retreated over time and fine lines began to appear. Aestheticians are fortunate to have clients who may evolve from one need to another.

 

The successful outcome of a consultation with a new aesthetics client (an appointment booking and repeat visits), largely depends on the right questions asked in the right order. It should be understood that this consultation is not the same as the client history form that all new customers complete before their initial treatment. Although that important information will be referenced in the consultation, it does not represent the consultation itself. While consulting with the new client, we are exploring deeper into his or her primary motivations for seeking facial treatments in the first place, the thoughts and feelings driving this decision. Only when we learn exactly what has brought the new client to our treatment room can we select the best course of action to achieve a satisfactory, long-term relationship.

 

What are the main motivators for these new customers? My research, conducted through thousands of client interviews, has identified three dominant themes: concerns about aging, chronic acne breakout, and personal stress.

Let’s think about these for a moment. How does each motivator influence those who indicate them? Here’s some insight:

  • Concerns about aging have a potential (and often expressed) influence of embarrassment, shame, feelings of isolation socially and occupationally, fear of being left out, feeling unattractive (especially disturbing to single people, particularly middle aged or older), feeling irrelevant or overlooked, fear of being passed over in job interviews, and so on.
  • Clients who experience chronic acne breakout are often potentially influenced by shame or embarrassment (school, social situations, workplace), physical discomfort, diminished confidence or self-esteem, frustration, etc.
  • Skin conditions associated with personal stress are often influenced by fatigue, reduced career performance, irritability, sleep deprivation, depression, weight gain, patchy dry skin or hormonal breakout, and many other psychological and health side-effects.

These are powerful forces that trigger strong negative emotional thoughts and feelings. In turn, these responses may lead some individuals to look for sources of relief beyond the bar, refrigerator, or medicine cabinet. This is where professionals enter the picture.

 

So, what’s the best way to get the client information we need to make a great impression and win a new customer for years to come? Asking the right questions designed to uncover a client’s true feeling and motives. This strategy has been a mainstay in my own client consultation method for almost all of my aesthetics career. It has produced the best understanding of what it takes to please the customer and eliminates many potential mistakes in treatment and communication. In other words, the better you know your clients, the better you’ll please and retain them. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But, there’s more to just asking the right questions, there’s also the right order probing questions should be presented in to lead clients to conclude that you are the ideal professional to help them reach their desired results.

 

While the following example does not represent all of what I include in my client consultation, it does address the most important details: uncovering the emotional reasons a client has opted for facial care.

 

Me to client: “When you look at your skin in the mirror (I hand client a mirror), what are two things you’d like to see improve or not worsen?”
Client: “Well, I see lines appearing around my eyes and my skin seems dull.”

Me: “Okay, now when you see those lines near the eyes, how does that make you feel?”
Client (often frowning): “I don’t like it. It makes me feel old!” (We can assume what the feeling of “old” is without asking; typically embarrassed, unattractive, worried, and so on.)

Me: “Alright, I have that. Now, what about the dullness you mentioned? How do you feel when you see your skin looking dull?”
Client: “ I feel tired, like I’m worn out.”

Me: “Thank you for sharing this with me. So, let me see if I have heard you correctly, because I want to be sure I understand your concerns. You mentioned fine lines around your eyes and that when you see those lines it makes you feel older, is that right?”
Client: “Yes.”

Me: “You also spoke of skin dullness which makes you feel tired and worn out, is that correct?”
Client: Yes, it is.”

Me: “Okay, good. Now, if we can work to smooth out those fine lines and also bring the skin’s natural radiance back, would that make you feel better?”
Client: (always smiling) “Yes, it would!”

Me: “Great then! That’s exactly what we’ll address in our treatments together.” Notice that I said “treatments,” as this sets the expectation that there will be multiple visits needed to achieve the results expectations.

 

At this point, I go on to explain the treatment planned for that day and, following the facial, describe the schedule I would like to plan for the months (hopefully, years) ahead.

 

What have we accomplished in this course of questioning? We now know what has motivated the client to pursue professional facial care. And, what motivated the client, in this case, is not so much what she sees in the mirror, but how she feels about what she sees ― the negative emotions and sensations associated with those visual cues. This is, in fact, what we are really treating. Because we cannot guarantee the complete removal of surface lines or the permanent return of radiant skin, we can influence a client’s emotions merely by working on those stated concerns. We are not expected to produce miracles, however, our empathy and allowing someone to openly express themselves is perhaps the most powerful aspect of the customer/client relationship. Add these questions to your own consultation routine and see how much more beneficial it will prove to be.

 

douglas prestonDouglas Preston’s career spans over 30 years in professional aesthetics, spa management, and skin care career mentoring. His business articles appear in many of the top trade journals and magazines. He is a past president of Aesthetics International Association and former committee chairman for The Day Spa Association. His recently published book, “An Esthetician’s Guide to Growing A Successful Skincare Career,” is a top-seller among ambitious working skin care professionals. Preston leads The Inspired Esthetician, a membership-based resource for professional education and career and business mentoring. He also practices aesthetic skin care in his prestigious Los Gatos studio, Preston Skin Center. theinspiredesthetician.com, prestonskincenter.com, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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