How To Handle Hard-to-Please Clients

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We’ve all been there: cutting and coloring a client’s hair to her exact specifications—yet somehow getting it “wrong” somewhere along the way. Whether someone is requesting a small tweak or an entire do-over, dealing with unsatisfied customers is never easy. So what’s a stylist to do? Juanita Perez, a member of our BTC community, was wondering just that: “If a client is unhappy with her hair, what is the best way to handle it? Should I send her back to the original stylist even if I’m not sure she can fix it adequately, or give her to another stylist (this particular client is overly picky)? What are the industry standards?” We posed this question to our BTC Facebook fans, and they came up with a few different options for tackling a tricky client.

Option 1: Stylist Fixes It
One popular way to deal with unhappy customers is to have the original stylist do their best to “fix” or improve the areas of concern for the client. These situations can serve as valuable learning experiences, about technique as well as the importance of successful communication. Bradley Neal Vaughn explains, “When a new client comes in with a complaint about their last stylist, I send them right back to that stylist and if my client has a problem, I try to do whatever I can to fix the situation. I do not critique other stylists’ work because I never know what happened in the consultation or what they were going for.” Anne Yvonne Ahnert comments,“By all means, never “bash” another stylists’ work in front of a client. A better solution would be to express that a different “technique” might have worked better.” Suze Conner agrees that professionalism is key: “I would send her to the original stylist, maybe giving her some hints and help (in private). You never want to make someone seem incapable, because that only puts a bad light on your salon. Be overly generous and accommodating. I find with unhappy clients, giving compliments and sharing knowledge goes a long way.” When you are open and honest with your customer about their concerns, solutions can usually be handled quickly and easily. When that’s not the case, it may be time to call in reinforcements.

Option 2: Pass Her On
Sherry Cheek poses a good question: “How can the stylist ever make [a concern] right with the client if she isn’t aware that there was a problem?” Touché, Sherry. Sometimes a stylist has done all she can and any “mistake” is purely subjective. Colbi Hayman said, “As a stylist, I guarantee my work. I would want the opportunity to be the first to correct it. But as a professional, I know that if I cannot correct (or please) the client, then I will ask for assistance.” It is in these cases that calling on a different stylist for back-up help might be the best course of action. “Some people are never happy, no matter what. Give her to another stylist and see if they can do something to please that client. If not, then it’s probably not the stylist—it’s the client,” says Miriam Cruz Syer. Lynne Romberger suggests that, “Unless [the clients] are ok with going back to the original stylist to have it corrected, always have someone else with a lot of experience fix it for them.”

Preventative Measures
Is the client still unhappy? Lisa Seabolt-Miller states it perfectly: “Sometimes the best defense is a better offense.” She continues, “If the client is rotating stylists in the same salon…most likely it’s not her hair she’s unhappy with. As a seasoned consultant/hairdresser, I’ve learned that a client will tell you whether or not you’ll succeed during your consultation. Learn to pick up on the negativity they bring, and if you’re feeling froggy, by all means, jump on it. Otherwise, save your headache for another battle.” Sandra At SalonDiva also stresses the importance of a thorough consultation: “In 32 years, I never had a client tell me they didn’t like their color. I am so thorough in my consultation that there is no room for complaints afterwards. I tell the client up front if the color will suit them or not. I also explain the cost and possibly how many times they will need to come back. My consultations are 10 to 15 minutes, and my motto is: “Never give the client what they want, because they have no idea!” Carrie Kay Moore says, “I think while you are consulting with her about her expectations, you should also have another stylist there as a “second” opinion. I have found that when working with “picky” people it’s best to have a witness.” Speaking of witnesses…David J. Ortiz says, “I have seen clients leave the chair totally happy and then come back because they see something or someone made a comment about their hair, for whatever reason. It has been my experience that these clients take advantage of their position as the customer just to get free services. With overly picky clients, I think that it’s essential to be aware of this person and their behavior, and be sure the manager is aware too, and knows when to step in.”

Other Circumstances
Sometimes, even the best stylist in the world won’t be able to make a client happy. It is in these cases that it’s important to hear the client out and try not to take their behavior personally. Brittney Costine had one such experience: “I have a client that has been coming to me for years—all of a sudden she became extremely picky. After every color service I would get a call to “tweak” this or add “that”. It really became a problem, because I was losing time and money. After several instances of this happening, I had a sit-down in private with her and I explained that it was not okay to do this, not only because it was imposing on other clients, but because it was damaging to her hair to redo “problems” that didn’t exist. She was upset and decided to try another stylist. Eventually, she came back and explained that she had some underlying issues that caused her to become OCD with her hair. Sometimes it isn’t the stylist doing something wrong, it’s the client trying to control something in their life when other things unrelated are uncontrollable.” Aleah Christofferson agrees that some situations simply have nothing to do with you. “I have a longtime client that ALWAYS makes me redo her color in some way. This last time she left loving it—I had recreated the photo she brought me to near exactness. She even left a huge tip and hugged me! But then she called me the next morning to say her boyfriend didn’t like that there was no gold in her blonde. I almost lost it.” Tameka White has learned to deal with such frustrating situations head on: “I had to tell a client once after a similar situation [to Aleah’s] that I need the person who makes the decisions to be present for the consultation.” And, if worst comes to worst, Sheila Marie Rodowicz has some sound advice: “Some people aren’t happy with themselves, so they will never be happy with their hair….break up with them as your client.”

The Bottom Line
It is no secret that a solid, loyal client base is essential to the success of any salon and stylist. But dealing with troublesome people can be detrimental to your morale and your bottom line. If you can’t fix the issue(s) yourself, don’t be afraid to call for back-up. A fresh pair of eyes (and scissors!) can sometimes be all a client needs to turn their frown upside down. To ward off problems in the first place, take your time on consultations and really listen to the client in your chair; what they want in their hair, but also cues as to what else could be going on in their lives. And if all else fails, sometimes it’s best to make a clean break from that client and start fresh with someone new. Do your best to shake it off, because sometimes it really is a case of “It’s not me—it’s YOU.”

Originally published here.

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