Every now and then, it’s simply going to happen. This is, after all, the customer service industry. Despite your very best efforts, there will come a time when you must deal with a dissatisfied, unhappy, or just plain irate guest.
Sometimes, it’s a very genuine complaint – a miscommunication, a rushed consultation, an unexpected outcome, or a day that you’ve been less than artistic and your guest noticed. Other times, you may have known early on in the appointment that you’ve been dealt a perpetual complainer who will never be pleased or an opportunistic client who is looking for a way to cause a scene that’s just fiery enough to land themselves a discounted or complimentary service. Yikes!
Regardless of the reason, it’s truly uncomfortable for everyone involved – you, the guest, your salon team, and other salon guests (and that’s not counting the potential for a full-blown social media rehash). While it can be extremely difficult to appease an angry customer, it’s definitely possible (most of the time) to provide a swift resolution that both addresses their concerns and secures their future business.
According to this article in Modern Salon, 96 percent of unhappy clients don’t complain when they are dissatisfied with a haircut, and 91 percent of these guests will leave and never come back. So, if we're looking for the bright side of this, at least we’ve got the 4% “front and center” so that we can work on reaching an amicable resolution immediately.
As such, here are a few important points to consider when you find yourself dealing with an upset guest:
Maintain Your Professionalism & Acknowledge the Angry Party Quickly
Anger will often be the most dominant emotion for a client when voicing their concerns about something that they felt went wrong with their experience at your salon. As such, it is imperative to keep your composure and diffuse the negative energy by remaining calm. Getting emotionally “hooked” and engaging with anger are not going to help, at all.
For instance, if a client is yelling at a stylist in the middle of a crowded salon, move the situation away from the audience. Invite the angry party to a separate room or office where the actions and raised voices do not distract the other customers enjoying salon services and employees who are trying to do their jobs. As a professional, you can take back control of the situation.
Listen & Gather the Details
When someone is truly irate, they’ve rendered themselves incapable of effectively listening to what you have to say, no matter how rational your argument is. To begin to calm the storm, you must gather as much information as possible through sincere, non-judgmental questions*. Also, let them answer as you really listen. It’s a good idea to take some notes as well. Have him or her recount the situation as you ask appropriate clarifying questions along the way to help gain a better understanding and to actively express that you hear what’s being said.
*Examples of Questions/Statements You Can Use:
“Nate, will you walk me through what happened today?”
“Please share with me why you’re upset, Bianca.”
When appropriate, the following phrases can help convey your understanding and empathy for the situation:
“I can understand why you are upset. I would be too.”
“What would make this situation right for you?”
Be patient. Your calm, professional demeanor coupled with a less public space and an opportunity to be heard will go a very long way in bringing the client back into a less combative way of being – a necessity in helping you determine an appropriate course of action to get the situation handled successfully.
Do What’s Right: Take Suitable Action
After analyzing the details of the situation, you will be able to discern where things began to go awry. If this type of situation (negative feedback from multiple clients) is becoming a regular occurrence with a salon employee that usually doesn’t have problems, it’s time to step in and have a sit down chat with the employee to see what’s going on. Without this very important bit of communication, who knows? It could be problems at home, health issues, lack of training (technical or communication), etc.
If consistent, negative feedback from multiple clients is the “new norm” for a stylist who you’ve already counseled with, then it’s time for further coaching and potential disciplinary measures.
After all, you wouldn’t want your usually pleased, loyal salon customers retreating to your competition simply because of a rude or incompetent stylist who is clearly not representing the salon or their craft appropriately.
Also, if the client is unhappy with a treatment or service provided by a particular staff member, you might want to revisit your training policies and help the erring employee brush up their skills to avoid future mishaps. In addition to this, you can offer to refine the cut or color personally (and immediately, if possible). Or, you schedule a refinement appointment at the very next available opportunity that's convenient for the client. Making it right goes a long way towards preserving a relationship.
Always offer an earnest apology to your client. If appropriate, invite them in for a complementary treatment, such as deep conditioning or clear gloss, to show that you value their patronage and want to compensate for the trouble caused.
*Special Cases: What If the Client is Always Unhappy
The sad truth is that every customer can’t be saved. There are those people in the world who will never be happy with anything and/or live their day-to-day in a constant state of negativity and anger. Furthermore, you’ve got a few individuals who aren’t truly unhappy with their service but use their ability to make a scene to create enough discomfort in hopes that they will enjoy discounted or free salon services so that you can just to get them out of the building.
Even if the customer seems to be the one making unreasonable demands, you must still apologize for the inconvenience caused and (secretly hope that you won’t see them again). Rarely (and we’re hoping never), if the situation escalates into something dangerous, incredibly over the top, physical, etc., then that client needs to be respectively walked to the door and invited to leave. If it’s become truly out of control & the guest refuses to leave, a police officer or building security may be necessary.
A follow-up letter mailed to his or her house or a short, professional phone call a few days later (important: by the stylist) thanking the client for their salon patronage, explaining that he/she (stylist) is unable to fulfill the client's expectations and may not be the best fit for his/her (stylist) salon services anymore. You could also recommend other salons that they may enjoy. You are the professional here, so end the conversation light and wish them the best.
Breaking up with a client is the last resort - something that’s done in only the most extreme cases after all other solutions have been exhausted. The better news is that it releases the client to discover their dream stylist and it leaves the current stylist with availability for a client who will adore her work.
Either way, it always helps to be humble about the whole situation and avoid aggravating the tense environment by being rude or careless about it. Remember, critical feedback is one of the most effective channels to recognize what you may be doing wrong in running your salon business. Studies show that it’s a great opportunity to fix any pitfalls before they turn out to be lethal for your brand’s reputation.
Truth be told, even rock stars have their off days (and aren’t we all rock stars in our own right, anyway?!). So, be professional, do what’s right, and know that tomorrow will be better.