A good color means natural. Look carefully at a fistful of hair in the mirror. See how each strand has a different tone? Perhaps even different colors on one strand? These are the natural striations that Mother Nature gives each head of hair to work with natural lighting. A good "color job" must duplicate these natural highlights to be effective.
Another thing that's changed from when your mom used to color her grays away under the cover of darkness is the quality of the products available. It's been a long time since anyone has gotten even a whiff of any strong, offensive smelling products in salons. Those have long since disappeared or been replaced by gentler formulations that are free, or mostly free from ammonia, peroxide or other harsher chemicals.