How to Deal with Challenging Clients

17 Jul, 20


Hopefully, for you, it's not a common occurrence to have clients that try your patience, but it can happen. It doesn't matter if you're using the best professional wax for hair removal (like Starpil wax beads, of course!), there are numerous ways a working situation with a client can go sour in the time it takes to remove strip wax. From a client getting an allergic reaction to waxing or a conversation that turns ugly to a chronically late or no-show client, how should we respond in a way that keeps our clients from switching to a home waxing kit instead of rebooking with you?


In this article, we'll talk about getting in front of reaction so that we can respond constructively in a problematic situation. We'll go over an appropriate balance of damage control on how to deal with challenging clients while keeping your cool when the sitch hits the fan with a client.


Keeping conscious with your clients:

At the risk of sounding hippy-dippy-doo, we’ve got to remain conscious. Consciousness just is another word for awareness, as in, what are you conscious or aware of when having an awkward client moment? It seems effortless to go on autopilot as you set up your salon supplies, wipe down your salon bed or prepare for an eyebrow waxing, but practicing being conscious helps us be aware of how we're feeling at any given point so that we can better handle our awareness when things aren’t as chill. It's important to know what's happening when we start to feel defensive, taken advantage of, or downright angry so that we can be in control of our response to an uncomfortable situation. For example, you may not even notice when you may start to feel claustrophobic, threatened, or "turned up to 11" when it feels like a client is "coming for you" somehow.


As soon as you're conscious of a substantial shift in your emotions, you can become hyper-aware to maintain control over how you respond (with purpose) instead of reacting unconsciously. Our minds can immediately go to eradicating the potential "threat" by first projecting what it thinks is happening based on past experiences, deciding if it needs to go into fight or flight mode. It often leads us to behave in a way that either leaves our client offended or us feeling like we should've spoken up for ourselves.


So right now, imagine the last time things got weird with a client? Think about how you felt physically. Did you become hot around your neck or jaw, or immediately start to make excuses and defend yourself against what the client was saying? Or did you feel like you were falling down a tunnel, get quiet and passive, or become like a deer in headlights? Don't forget what that felt like so that the next time things "get weird," you can be conscious of that feeling and get in front of your reaction so that you could constructively respond in a way that meets both you and your client's needs.

When you’re in the wrong:

Let’s say that your client has an allergic reaction to waxing with strip wax or you’ve taken too much off during their eyebrow waxing and they’re upset. Apologize immediately for the bad experience they’ve had and offer to comp their service (or as many as you feel the need to rectify the situation), and do everything in your power to right the wrong. Follow up with this client and offer VIP solutions. 

Keeping your cool with angry clients:

Even if you’re using the best professional wax for hair removal, sometimes we can’t escape a snafu with a client. Sure, people say to "keep calm," "don't take it personally," "don't go to their level," or, "it's not about you" when a client is angry or upset, but how do you put those words into neutralizing the situation? This is where consciousness can help. It's not easy to maintain being present in sticky situations. It's a practice, so don't judge yourself too harshly if you fall short of who you'd like to be when things get tough.


When things start to shift toward the negative try the following steps:

  • Be quiet and don't react.
  • Take a few seconds to internally acknowledge how you're feeling physically and emotionally. "I'm angry and feeling hot around my neck."
  • Remember that it's OK to feel all the negative feels. Allow them to stay there. (part of fight or flight to stop being uncomfortable-allow yourself to be uncomfortable for a moment).
  • Now, get out of your head and maintain fierce presence to separate the emotion from action.
  • Actively listen to what your client is saying by being still and allow them the space to vent.
  • Acknowledge that you have heard and understood them and let them know that you're focused on solving their problem (even if it's imagined) by repeating their statements back to them and asking follow-up questions.


Sometimes just listening to them without defending yourself is all you need to de-escalate the issue. Even if you need to clarify something to make them understand your choice, listen to their needs first. Here are some sample responses to awkward client interactions.


Critiquing your wax:

"Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I can understand why you would prefer hard wax vs. soft wax for this service. You have very sensitive skin and ultra-fine hair around your bikini line, so I felt that using my best soft wax would be more effective. But I can definitely bring in my hard wax warmer if that's what you'd prefer."


Talking politics:

"I differ in opinion, but that is a thought-provoking point you make. I'd love to talk more about how you are liking the blue wax beads we're using right now. It's the best professional wax for hair removal that I've tried." (Obviously, you don't have to shift the conversation to Starpil Wax, but we would!)

Starpil wax

 Other key phrases:

"What do you need right now?"

"How can I help make this better?"

"What's your biggest concern?"

"What I heard you say is‚...; is that accurate?"


If you can't turn it around, ask if they would like another technician to help them with their service.


"I don't think I'm the best person to meet your needs. Would you like Sandra to come to take care of your eyebrow waxing?"


 When you feel like you're being taken advantage of:

Sometimes it's hard to stand up for yourself. We're in the service industry, so disappointing someone can be difficult. Often, we can forget that allowing clients to take liberties actually impedes our ability to serve other clients or take the best care of our employees. When we continue to let it slide for clients that are repeatedly late or no-shows, or constant complainers trying to get a refund or discount, we allow them to perpetuate our bad habits of not respecting our very own boundaries.


Reassure your client but hold your ground:

Remind your client that you love them and appreciate their business. Stick to the facts and don't bring a lot of emotion to the situation. Don't apologize and flatly state how you will proceed if they would like to book with you.


For example:


If your client is more than five minutes late (more than once)

"You know that I value you so much, but I'm not going to have enough time to give your bikini line and leg wax the time it deserves, we’re going to have to rebook your appointment."


When it If happens again:

Repeat the above and state the "If you'd like to rebook, I will have to charge you in full for the missed appointment." 


For clients who miss their appointment:

"Hi there, I'm calling about your missed appointment today. Is everything OK? Let me know if you didn't get the confirmation text. If you want to rebook, let me know how you'd like to pay for the missed appointment. I will also need to charge you a 50% upfront booking fee for the next appointment. Let me know how you'd like to proceed." 


Use your best judgment:

Only you know when a client is being sincere or is going through a hard time. Use your judgment on how to proceed with no-shows or late fees but do acknowledge the issue so that the client doesn't think that this isn't a concern for you. It's also essential to have a clearly stated late or cancelation policy to refer to so that you can put the focus on the business without getting too personal. If you genuinely have a hard time setting boundaries with your clients, and can hire a fierce but kind and fair front desk person to handle your "dirty work,” do it!


When to cut your losses:

We need to protect our growing businesses, and sometimes that can be a challenge, don't let a chronically taxing client make it more difficult than it has to be. If a client is just way too extra and you dread working with them in any capacity, it might be time to cut your losses. It's up to you to decide how to handle the conversation. Allow your client to have a dialogue with you and feel free to give valid reasons behind your decision, but don't relent and stand firm behind your choice.

Whether you do it in person, over the phone or by email, here are some tactful ways to say goodbye.


It's not you; it's me:

“It's been great working together, but due to personal reasons, I'm no longer going to be able to take care of your waxing needs. Thank you for your understanding and support.” 

The direct approach:

“Over the years, I've noticed some problems with our working relationship. It isn't easy for me to say this, but I think that another wax salon may be a better fit for your needs. Thank you for understanding. I do wish you the best of luck.”


Final thoughts

It isn't always easy to stay balanced when put in a challenging situation. These are just a few ideas on how to deal with a challenging client, but it's always important to do what you think is best for you.


How have you dealt with a challenging client or a difficult situation like an allergic reaction to waxing, for example? Have you ever had to cut-off a long-time client? What happened? Tell us about it below in the comments.