How to Handle Unhappy Clients, Offline and Online: A Step-by-Step Guide For Personal Grooming & Wellness Businesses
Personal grooming and wellness businesses such as spas, salons, and barbershops are some of the most people-centric businesses out there.
Unlike inventory-based stores, client satisfaction hinges largely on the quality of your services and interactions—the two most crucial bits of great business experience. Being a service provider requires ample facetime and keeping your clients satisfied during the several minutes (sometimes hours) that you spend with them is critical.
The happier your clients are, the more likely they are to come back and refer their friends. It’s also more cost-effective to retain existing clients than to keep finding new ones. Industry data shows that customer acquisition costs five times more than retaining existing customers. What’s more, it’s easier to sell to current clients than it is to convert new ones. Research indicates that selling to existing customers has a success rate of 60-70% while selling to new ones has a 5-20% success rate.
Needless to say, the more customers you keep, the better, which is why striving for 100% customer satisfaction is vital.
That being said, the reality is that you can’t please everyone. Unhappy clients are part of the territory of running a business, and you need to be adept at dealing with these situations.
To help you do that, we’ve put together a guide on how to handle unhappy clients.
We’ve divided the post into two sections: the first is all about dealing with upset clients in person, while the second is for how to do it online.
Let’s get started.
- How to Deal with Unhappy Clients in Person
- How to Deal with Angry Clients Online
How to Deal with Unhappy Clients in Person
Some clients choose to voice their grievances in person. An unhappy client could come in the form of someone who comes back to your spa complaining about back pain and saying that your massage caused it. Or maybe it’s someone who accuses you of sabotaging her hair and makeup.
So, how would you handle an upset client? Consider the following steps.
Step 1: Take the situation to a private area
If a client is highly confrontational and is being loud or disruptive, try to take the situation private immediately. Lead them to a part of your location that isn’t privy to the public eye and take things from there.
The last thing you want is to have a confrontation in front of your other clients. Not only does this destroy the vibe and experience in your space, but it could ruin your brand and reputation if things turn south.
And with people having smartphone cameras and internet access in their pockets, it’s all too easy for these unpleasant situations to end up online.
Avoid all that by privately dealing with the customer.
Step 2: Listen
Stephen Covey, author of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, famously said that “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
It’s tempting to immediately come up with a retort if you feel like you’re being attacked (as is the case when dealing with upset clients). But resist the urge to do so. Take a step back and listen to what the customer is saying.
When dealing with difficult or unhappy clients, the best approach to use empathy and understanding.
Doing so will benefit the situation in a number of ways:
It shows the client that you’re willing to hear them out, which can help them calm down. For the most part, customers who complain do it not because they want to attack you; they simply want to voice their concerns.
By showing them that you’re actually listening to what they have to say and giving them the opportunity to let out their frustrations, you’re fulfilling their need to be heard. This may not solve the problem completely, but it can calm them down and redirect the conversation to something productive so you can hash things out.
It allows you to calm down. If you’re starting to get upset, stepping back and holding your tongue helps you calm your own nerves. It also gives you the opportunity to empathize with the client, and seeing things from their perspective can help you come up with an effective solution.
Step 3: Discuss and try to resolve the situation
Now for the tricky part. There aren’t any one-size-solves-all tactics for resolving client concerns and disputes, because every situation is unique.
Maybe there was a miscommunication of expectations.
Perhaps there was an error on the part of your team or your client.
Or the situation could be entirely subjective, in that the client is upset because they don’t feel like they got their money’s worth.
It’s different every time, which is why listening to the client and assessing the situation (see step 2 above) is critical.
That being said, here are some general recommendations to help you resolve difficult client situations:
Show your appreciation. After hearing the customer out, express your appreciation. Thank them for being a client and for sharing their feedback. These positive actions can go a long way to defusing the situation.
Empathize and apologize. Let the client know that you understand how they feel and you sympathize. Statements like “I’m so sorry this happened” or “I’m sorry you feel that way” can be helpful. If the issue is due to an error on your part, then you certainly should apologize for it.
Have your documents ready. If you or your clients don’t seem to be on the same page, refer to any documentation that you have about their appointment or service. Your store policies, contracts, and other agreements may come in handy, depending on the situation.
For example, if someone is upset that you charged their card even when they didn’t show up to their appointment, then you can show them your cancellation policy.
Step 4: Make it up to the client OR fire them
Depending on what takes place in step 3, you can either take steps to keep the client happy or let them go.
Let’s start with the first option. If you’re in the wrong or if the client feels dissatisfied is still willing to work with you, find a way to make it up to them. You can do this by trying to repair the damage.
So if an unhappy salon client comes in and isn’t thrilled with how her nails turned out, offer to redo the service.
Giving the client their money back is an option, but only as a last resort (i.e., if the damage is irreparable). Unlike products, services can’t be “returned.” You’ve already spent the time (and products) to administer the service, so you could incur major losses by issuing full refunds.
The best thing to do is to weigh the situation. If the issue is your fault and can’t be fixed, then a refund or possibly a gift certificate may make sense. On the other hand, if the client is upset simply because they changed their mind or didn’t understand your business policies, then find a way to resolve the situation that doesn’t involve the return of money.
Now, let’s talk about firing the client. This is something you may want to consider if the customer is being unfair, rude, or obnoxious. Remember that it’s ok to be upset, but if someone is expressing their anger by being abusive to you or your staff, let them know that you won’t tolerate their behavior. If they still refuse to calm down, consider asking them to leave.
Step 5: Close the loop
This step applies if you and the client worked out a solution to their issue. If you offer to redo the service, for example, make it a point to close the loop. Have a conversation asking if their standards have been met and if they’re satisfied.
Taking this extra step shows the client that you value them, which boosts satisfaction and gets them to come back.
How to Deal with Angry Clients Online
Social media and review websites such as Yelp and Google give customers another avenue to express their dissatisfaction. You need to monitor these channels regularly and stay on top of the reviews and comments that you receive.
Step 1: Understand and assess the situation
Think of this as the virtual version of listening. In the same way that you would resist the urge to immediately respond to an upset client offline, you need to apply the same practice when dealing with negative feedback online.
Don’t just type up a response to counter the client’s argument; take a step back to thoroughly read their review so you can understand them. When you’re coming from a place of empathy, you’ll be able to handle unhappy clients in a more pleasant way. This review on Yelp is just an example of how a thoughtful response can change your client’s perception of your business.
Step 2: Come up with the right documentation
Part of understanding the client’s situation is to look up any documents or information about their appointment. Before responding to their review or comment, see to it that you’re aware of the service, staff member, or appointment that they’re referring to, so can come up with an informed response.
Step 3: Respond with care
Once you have the right info, come up with a response to their comment or review. Note that your reply will be public, so keep things civil. Consider using variations of these sample unhappy customer response letters:
- Hi [NAME], thank you for your feedback and we apologize for [INSERT ISSUE HERE]. Client satisfaction is our top priority, and we want to make it right. Feel free to call us at 555-5555 or send us a direct message to chat.
- Hi [NAME], we appreciate your review and we sincerely apologize for what happened. We pride ourselves on having high standards when it comes to our services, and we want to make sure you’re happy. Please contact us at 555-5555 at your earliest convenience so we can make it up to you.
Some key things to remember when crafting your online response:
Address the client by name. Ironically, saying things like “Dear Valued Customer” makes the client feel even less valued. Remember that clients (particularly those who complain) want to be seen and heard. The best way to show a client that you acknowledge them is to address them by their name.
Apologize and sympathize. Just like with in-person interactions, a sincere apology coupled with a dose of empathy can reduce tension and help steer the situation towards a more pleasant direction. It’s also important to note that your responses will be seen by others, so writing a compassionate reply puts your brand in a good light.
Tailor your response. There’s nothing wrong with using a general template with your replies, but don’t copy and paste the same thing for all your responses. Personalize your reply by referencing the specific issues brought up in the client’s review.
Offer to resolve the issue offline or privately. You don’t want to go back-and-forth with the client in a public forum. Take things offline by asking the client to give you a call or resolve the issue in private by using direct messaging.
Yelp, Google, and Facebook all have tools that allow customers to communicate directly with businesses, so encourage them to use these platforms to reach out.
Step 4: Discuss the situation directly with the client
Once you’re communicating with the customer on the phone or via direct messages, strive to hash things out. The same pointers that we’ve listed in the offline section above apply here. Tell the client that you’re grateful for their feedback and apologize. Then if necessary, refer to your business documents, policies, and agreements.
Step 5: Offer to fix the issue or let the client go
Depending on the situation, you may need to make it up to the client. Typically this would involve a redo of the service so that they’re satisfied. In some cases could provide a free service, a gift certificate or offer a partial/full refund (last resort) if the issue was caused by a mistake on your end.
If you can’t come to an agreement because the client is being overly difficult, abusive, or unfair, consider letting them go.
Step 6: Follow up if necessary
For situations that involve you redoing the service or the client coming in to redeem a gift card, make it a point to follow up. You can have a conversation with them in person while they’re at your location or you could give them a call / send a private message to see how things went.
Doing so will impress your clients and show them that you value them and their feedback. And who knows? It might even result in a positive follow-up review.
Facing unhappy clients is never pleasant, but it’s one of the challenges that come with running a business, particularly one that is focused on services. The good news is that there are steps you can take to resolve these situations, and in some cases, you can even turn a negative client experience into a positive one.
Also, remember that unhappy clients give you the opportunity to learn and grow. No matter what situation is, strive to find lessons you can apply in the future.
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