Alice Kirby from Lockhart Meyer Salon Marketing explains why it is so important to deal swiftly with grumbling hair and beauty clients and how best to do it.

Isn’t it great when a client sings your praises as they stand at reception paying their bill? But what about that unhappy client in reception grumbling loudly? How do they affect your business and what is the best way to tackle it?
Complaining clients are contagious

Research shows that a carping client will soon infect others within earshot if you don’t take immediate action.

Scientists arranged for a group of actors to have dinner at a table prominently placed at the centre of the restaurant. The actors ordered the soup. One of them ate a spoonful and immediately beckoned the waiter. He then ranted that the soup was too hot and had scalded his mouth.

And guess what? As the waiter carried on serving soup to the other tables the complaints began rolling in. By the end of the meal, over a quarter of the diners had complained about the scalding soup.

The researchers had ensured all servings were the same temperature and not overly hot. Clearly the guests were sub-consciously influenced by the initial complaint and had taken their cue from it.

Don’t underestimate the affect on your business

Replace the ‘restaurant’ scenario with your ‘salon’ and you can see the potential risk when someone starts whinging at full volume in front of others.

Your otherwise happy clients will be sub-consciously influenced and, as the experiment above shows, this is highly infectious.

Turn a grumbling hair or beauty client into a happy one

Step One: Educate your team. Talk to them about the research and its findings so they understand the importance of dealing with fuming clients swiftly.

Step Two: We all hate being confronted by an angry client. It’s embarrassing and difficult not to take personally. Give your front-line team training and a script to make life easier for them.

Step Three: Wherever possible politely and firmly lead the grumbling client out of the main salon and away from prying eyes. If you don’t have an office then a vacant treatment room works fine.

Step Four: The golden rule – always listen, never interrupt and let the client finish their rant. Most of the time the client just wants to be heard and to get it off their chest.

Step Five: A simple, but sincere, apology is the best place to start. It takes the wind out of their sails when you say, “That must have been very frustrating for you and I’m sorry you feel like this.” Be careful. Saying sorry they feel that way does not mean accepting blame.

Step Six: Asking open questions (who, what, when and how) will help you get to the nub of their problem. Don’t adopt their shrill pitch. Instead use a concerned tone of voice and neutral words. Show you understand.

Step Seven: It’s easier said than done I know, but try not to sound defensive – most of the time the client is not attacking you personally. Watch your body language too as this can be a giveaway. Keep your arms open and relaxed if you can. Avoid crossing them over your chest as this will make your client feel even more uncomfortable and more likely to escalate things.

Step Eight: People like choices. It makes them feel less boxed in and more in control. So if at all possible suggest a couple of alternative solutions. Another useful tip is to focus on what you can do to help them, rather than what you can’t do. Sounds obvious but it’s not so easy when faced with a seething customer.

Step Nine: Do it. Take action there and then. Let them see you’re as good as your word and customer service is your salon’s priority.

Step Ten: Thank them. Show them how important their complaint is to your hair or beauty business. Something along the lines of, “We really appreciate clients who let us know when things aren’t right. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to let us know.”

A handy reminder

Finally, here’s an easy way for your salon team to remember the main steps to take. It’s a great tool to use in your team training sessions.

L = LISTEN
E = EMPATHISE
A = APOLOGISE
R = REACT
N = NOW

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