How to Tailor Beauty Customer Service to a Multiculti Clientele

With shopper demographics changing, conventional counter techniques are due for a refresh. We asked top retail experts for their latest tips on how to tailor your approach to a multiculti clientele

As the Canadian population becomes increasingly diverse, it’s more important than ever to be aware of cultural differences that can affect your customer interactions. That includes grasping the preferences for certain product characteristics (e.g., consider the rapid rise of halal cosmetics, which are made without ingredients prohibited under Islamic dietary law, such as pork by-products or alcohol), and understanding the best type of sales approach.

For instance, when demonstrating an item, what’s considered an acceptable level of physical contact can vary by culture, and it may take time to gain a client’s trust. Mickey Tortorelli, CEO and founder of BeauteSchool, a Toronto-based online training program for beauty professionals, suggests maintaining a more formal tone when first getting to know your customers, and then adjusting as they begin to open up.

A language barrier may also pose a challenge. If English is not your client’s mother tongue, it’s important to “avoid using slang or buzzwords,” says Tortorelli, who estimates she has trained more than 25,000 beauty and fragrance advisors in Canada. “They can be easily misunderstood, and may not translate into the same meaning you wish to convey.” If your team includes bilingual/multilingual experts, enlist their help. Babylyn Flores, a beauty consultant at Sears in Toronto, serves a diverse pool of clients on a regular basis. “If a customer prefers to speak in a language that my colleagues or I are fluent in, I do my best to communicate, while being respectful of my surroundings,” she explains.   

Shoppers may not explicitly say how uneasy they feel, so tune into their cues. “Part of our consultant training includes reading a customer’s body language,” Flores says. “Being aware of these signals allows me to react with the most respectful communication method. I also ask qualifying questions to determine comfort level with various services.” Observing how close someone stands and their eye movements can help you gauge uneasiness. If you suspect your customer may be uncomfortable, Tortorelli suggests looking down to demonstrate a product on your hand and breaking up the direct eye contact.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Cosmetics magazine.