Jeff Grissler, Amazon Best Selling Author, Consultant and Educator
Jeff Grissler, Amazon Best Selling Author, Consultant and Educator

"They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything."Bil Keane

We have all been put in a position where someone comes over to say hello and leans in and hugs you. Not just a light hug but a big old bear hug. You try to get out of their grasp without offending them but they just don’t seem to let go. You are not sure how to react or what to do. Maybe you don’t know this person well enough to hug back. Could be, you never met them before and if you did they didn’t make a big enough impression on you to remember.

A simple smile or hello would have been more than enough. It is certainly an awkward moment when someone says hello or greets you this way. How do they feel if you don’t hug back? You feel weird if you do and weird if you don’t.

What’s the proper protocol when you meet a client for the first or second time, when you greet them at the reception area or at your styling station? What if this person reaches in for the big hug, are you one of those stylists who throws up your hand and gives a five high yelling give me some love or maybe a hip check and give them a little love tap? Do you lean in for a kiss? Is that how you would want to be greeted when someone says hello to you? There is proper protocol for everyone. You will have to use your judgment on which type of greeting you use when welcoming clients.

This is all part of the learning curve with customer service and sometimes the best judgment call is using good old fashion manners. If you are wondering if you should or shouldn’t, hug, kiss or high five, then don’t. If someone is coming close to you to embrace you or give you a bear hug, step back and put out your hand for a handshake. This awkward greeting stage feels like minutes are passing when in reality it’s only a few seconds. Your hand will signal the other person that the big hug is not appropriate.

Saying hello with a hug or handshake is a big part of meeting someone for the first time. What is appropriate is also sometimes confusing. Yes, you should show that you are a friendly person and you are happy to meet this person for the first time but remember they are clients. This is not a blind date or a get together with your BFS’s or a class reunion with your old high school buddies. Each of these may and should have a different greeting practice. But we have to understand that everyone and each circumstance is different. What is acceptable and what is not. When putting out your hand for a greeting especially with clients sets the tone for what is appropriate. This establishes the greeting so no one is caught in an awkward stage of not knowing what to do. Leave the hugs for latter if you both feel the need when your clients leaves the salon, spa or barbershop.

In many cultures hugging and even kissing are quite appropriate. How many times have you see people kiss on both sides of the cheeks. In the Parisian culture kisses are meant for close friends or relatives and may be acceptable with some but not all clients. In less you’re in Europe the double cheek kiss is a no, no. In America culture, some parts of the country do initiate a quick hug which is much like the Parisian double cheek kiss. This of course is reserved for someone that you know. One should not hug or kiss someone they do not know or met for the first time.

New Client Protocol

Handshake – The protocol and etiquette when in business begins and ends with a handshake, a firm hand to hand connection with two to three pumps. If you feel like you really need to give a strong hello reach over with the opposite hand and put it on top of both you and your customer’s hands grasping both hands. This shows a sign of power and authority that you are in touch with this person and will take control from this point on. No need to squeeze the life out of their hand. Unless your trying to show them that you have been pumping weights at the gym every morning make it a simple soft handshake.

A handshake is also a warm greeting. It opens as an introduction, an acknowledgement, hello, goodbye, job well-done, great to see you. The handshake is safe and warm, should never give the feeling that you are overdoing it by overwhelming someone with an inappropriate greeting. Not all people like physical contact so this provides an appropriate way to reach out and connect without encroaching on someone’s personal space. A pat on the back not behind may also be considered a little friendlier without breaking the business guidelines.

Hug  A hug is a warm embrace that comes in many different forms, depending on how well you know other person. Let’s look at the different forms of hugs. The big guy hug, the hey bro hug, the hey I miss you hug, great to see you hug, the screaming girl hug, the airport I miss you hug, the intimate hug reserved for our partners, the consoling hug and yes last but not least the obligatory hello hug.

According to the Hugs for health Foundation, proper hug etiquette consists of the following five rules:

  • Always respect another’s space
  • Ask permission before hugging
  • A hug is a compassionate gesture, hug accordingly
  • A hug is a gentle embrace, not the Heimlich maneuver
  • Be “in” the hug; don’t simply go through the motion

How can we tell if your client is open to a hug or prefers the handshake? In this case it doesn’t matter put your hand out when you meet them. This will eliminate any embarrassing moments of both of you standing their looking at each other wondering what to do.  Tough call however as we get to know people, you will learn. We have learned in business that we need to treat our customers differently. No two customers are the same. We need to identify their wants and expectations and then fulfill them. There are some clients that prefer a phone call to a text or email for an appointment reschedule or reminder. No different than the customer who prefers the big hug hello or nothing at all.

Knowing your customer  This is not groundbreaking advice. This is just simple knowledge that you will pick up with experience. As you grow into your position in the salon you will understand how each one of your co-workers, friends and clients expect to be treated and greeted. This comes with age and time and is part of growing up and maturing. There will be customers you adore and some that are more difficult and will require you to take a few deep breaths before you communicate with them.

The ones you adore will most likely feel the same way about you and will want the big hello and hug it’s the other that will most likely accept the handshake or just a simple hello. Its up to you to get to know all your customers well enough so that every time they see you they are so happy to be in the salon with you that they want to give you a hug.

Saying goodbye  In life saying goodbye can be happy, sad, gratifying or just plain old get me out of here I can’t wait to leave. There will be different goodbyes with each of your clients. If the service didn’t go as expected and the client is not happy please remember you are a professional and on your way to adult hood. You are no longer in cosmetology school. Stamping your feet, screaming, cursing and flipping your client the bird is not an appropriate way to end a bad customer experience.

The salon industry is a very small industry and it will amaze you that your actions may come back and haunt you if you act inappropriately. Always remember that the handshake and a simple goodbye is a professional way to end any meeting no matter good or bad. There always may be one exception to the rule, in the case when your client is satisfied with a great hair cut or new style or color. They may feel the need for a hug , kiss, high five, hip check, fist to fist or the tango as if you just won dancing with the stars may be in order but only if they initiate this happy ending.  

Check it Out  Handshake or hug

  • Always put your hand out first it will eliminate and awkward moment on who should do what when first meeting
  • A firm handshake will establish you are there for business
  • Leave the hugs, kisses and high fives for your friends

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