Beauty and consensus : practices for agreeing on the quality of the service in client-professional interactions



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This dissertation is a microanalytic investigation of professional communication in beauty salons in the United States and Japan. In particular, it centers on the analysis of a common, yet very important occurrence found in cosmetology sessions: what I call the "service-assessment sequence", in which service-provider and client determine whether or not the completed work in a given session is adequate. This is a crucial moment in the haircutting activity (and in other fields of the service industry) in order to bring a satisfactory closure to the session, as well as maintain a healthy relationship for future sessions, retain clients in general, and ensure client satisfaction overall. Using the methodological frameworks of microethnography and conversation analysis, I examine the moment-by-moment unfolding of interaction, focusing on how participants smoothly conduct the service-assessment sequence and how they achieve the successful completion of a service encounter through a number of tactics. The findings include: the participants' systematic coordination of talk and physical inspection through multiple second pair parts; the participants' coordination of talk and action to negotiate sequence closure; the participants' professional use of head nods in the middle of physical inspection and at sequence completion during service encounters in Japan; and the participants' employment of a unique combination of verbal and embodied actions to transform the event of revision into a mutual decision. These findings suggest several important aspects of professionalization in beauty salons. Notably, the professionals' ability to harmonize talk and action is a special trait. Also, despite the fundamental regularities, the service-assessment sequence is frequently adapted to specific circumstances of each beauty salon that may vary across different services and cultures. Finally, the production of professional assessments and agreements are achieved by the participants' constant work on dramatization through the use of various communicative resources. The study is applicable not only to the field of cosmetology, but to a range of professional-client interactions where people evaluate the quality of service with their subjective perspectives, enhancing our understanding of negotiation-in-interaction in the workplace and what it means to professionalize communication in such situations.