How to Deal with Difficult Clients in Your Salon
Hopefully it's not a common occurrence for you 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 always times when a working situation with a client can sour in the time it takes to remove strip wax. From an allergic reaction to waxing, to a conversation that turns ugly, to a habitually late or no-show client, it’s hard to know the best approaches to dealing with difficult clients that will let you stand your ground, while keeping them from going somewhere else or waxing at home.
In this article, we'll talk about being proactive and anticipating how to deal with difficult clients so that you can respond constructively in a problematic situation. We'll go over an appropriate balance of damage control and how to deal with common complaints in a salon while keeping your cool when things with a client go south.
How do salons handle clients?
It might sound silly, but it’s important to be aware and conscious of how you and your clients are feeling, and how to avoid any awkward or heated situations with them. 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 consciousness 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 or to heated beauty salon complaints. For example, you may not even notice when you may start to feel claustrophobic, or threatened when it feels like a client is coming for you in some way, or if they’ve insulted you in some manner.
How do you respond to stubborn clients?
As soon as you're conscious of a shift in your or your client’s mood, try to become hyper-attuned to the situation to maintain control over how you respond instead of reacting unconsciously. Reacting without thought 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.
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, got quiet and passive, or became like a deer in headlights? Don't forget what that felt like so that the next time things go south, you can be conscious of that feeling and get ahead 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 the wax you’ve used or you’ve taken too much off their eyebrow during a service 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 further solutions if needed.
Additionally, for their next appointment, offer to use Starpil’s hypoallergenic Starsoft Wax so they do not have to worry about an allergic reaction in the future.
How do you respond to difficult clients?
Even if you’re using the best 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 effectively 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 okay to feel negatively (part of fight or flight is to stop being uncomfortable - allow yourself to be uncomfortable for a moment).
- Now, get out of your head and maintain presence to separate the emotion from action.
- Actively listen to what your client is saying 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 imaginary) by repeating their statements back to them and asking follow-up questions.
Sometimes just listening to the customer 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 common complaints in a salon.
Critiquing your wax:
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I can understand why you would prefer a different wax for this service. You have very sensitive skin and ultra-fine hair around your bikini line, so I felt that using Starsoft would be most effective. However, I can definitely bring in my Celendula hard wax that is also amazing for sensitive skin types."
Not trusting your waxing process:
"I am very big on my pre and post wax care process. I will first prepare your skin for waxing with Pre Wax Gel to cleanse and remove excess oil. After the waxing service using my favorite wax, I will use Post Wax Gel and Post Wax Lotion to aid in soothing irritation, redness, and guarding against ingrown hairs."
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 correct?"
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. Ask yourself, what makes a great salon experience? If you’re allowing poor behaviors in your salon, you’re not just allowing your own boundaries to be violated, but are sacrificing the experiences of your other clientele as well who could be impacted by these behaviors.
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.
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 "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 alright? 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, hire a fierce but kind and fair front desk person to handle your dirty work!
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 some time, 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.”
It isn't always easy to stay balanced when dealing with difficult clients. These are just a few ideas on how to deal with a difficult 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? What are some common complaints in a salon that you’ve come across, and how did you handle them? Have you ever had to cut-off a long-time client? What happened? Tell us about it below in the comments - your thoughts only help the next esthetician that comes along!