As a world renowned platform artist and educator for manufacturers including Redken, Matrix, Keune and Ergo, Shannon King finely honed his technical skills over several years. When he and his wife Allyson (former vice president of Salons for Ulta and CEO of Dessange Group North America) opened their dream salon, Hair & Co. BKLYN, in 2015, they had the opportunity to curate their clients’ experiences.
For King, that means an intensive consultation and keeping the advice going throughout the service.
“Once the client shows up, the game is on, and you can adjust and edit as you go, but you have to have a good plan,” he shares. “I utilize our client travelers to see what my day looks like and plan out my time and find spaces where I can add services before we open our doors.
“For example, if a client is booked for a hair cut and highlights, I look at what’s my opportunity,” he continues. “If she wants a service that is a little more spa like, I’ll offer a deep conditioning service with a warm towel and massage. Or if her hair is dry, maybe I can upgrade her to our hydrating hair cut—we did so many of these with Goldwell’s Dual Senses that our distributor ran out of product for a bit.”
When going with an upgraded service, King is sure his client understands the adjusted price before proceeding, to both get their consent and avoid any alarm at checkout.
King’s vision for his clients extends beyond the day ahead, he actually starts planning their next several visits. He’s fond of crafting what he calls game plans.
“I start by asking them their goals and how their hair has been feeling and what their challenges are when working with it,” he says.
For example if the client’s hair is on the dry side and they are interested in going blonder as summer approaches, King will talk to them about the importance of doing a treatment to repair the moisture and infuse more protein into the hair now, before they tackle highlights later.
When existing clients return, King will approach them with some ideas for their upcoming appointments.
“For example I might say, ‘I was thinking about your hair and living coral is the new color of the year and we’re seeing a trend of mango and coral accents in the hair. Here’s a picture of what that would look like—what do you think? As late spring/summer approach, I was thinking of keeping your hair a little longer, playful and brighter. Then based on trend predictions, in Fall I’d go for a richer color and tone down the highlights, while raising the length and going for a little more geometry at the perimeter. What do you think?’”
King then hands the client multiple images for inspiration and they map out a game plan for upcoming visits. Not only does having a long-term plan create excitement for the client at each appointment, but she’s more likely to prebook visits throughout the year and less likely to stray to another salon.
“Our society has a microwave mentality, it’s about hot, fast and now—but slow roasting is when you keep all the nutrition and the flavor,” King says. “Offering a client a game plan means you have to constantly understand what’s new and what’s trending, but it’s also an opportunity to take back some of the artistry of our craft and stop taking orders like you are serving at a fast-food place.”
At each appointment, King keeps the consultative style going past the game plan and throughout the entire service.
“I always offer them a product lesson. I’ll pick a product I haven’t used with them before, talk about it’s benefits and why it’s my current favorite,” King says. “For example, I’ll say: ‘This product offers shine, heat protection and volume with memory that will last three days. If you don’t mind, hold out your hand—see how I shook the product and then put a dime-sized amount in your palm. If you end up with a dab that’s a quarter size, you need to take away 15 cents. OK, now put your hands together and emulsify the product like this, then put your hands in the hair at the back of your head, massaging the product in as you work toward the front.’”
While guiding the client, King has them work the product into their hair so they’re more likely to use it correctly when they get home. After the product lesson, the collaborative journey continues, as King walks the client through a styling lesson.
“For example, I’ll say, ‘Now we have the product in your hair, let’s section your hair. Do you section it at home before styling? No? Let me show you exactly how I do it,’” he says.
Then King demonstrates how to hold the brush and the dryer, and completes a section of the hair. He then hands the brush and dryer to the client, inviting them to tackle the next section.
“The best question you can ever ask a guest is, ‘Could you please share with me how you get started with your own blow dryer?’” King says. “If you coach them how to hold the brush so the airflow goes down the cuticle, it promotes smoothness, shine and healthiness and they’ll be happier with the result. The styling lesson will take a bit longer, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. Your goal is to have them looking their best between appointments and to keep them coming back because you offer them knowledge along with your cut and color services.”
King’s fear is that if stylists don’t offer clients different services, products and finishing options along with their knowledge, then the industry will start becoming robotic and stylists will be in a box, and that box won’t change and their income won’t change.
“I don’t want to be in a box—I want to pursue what’s cool and exciting to me, while offering my clients opportunities for change,” King says.