How to Manage Salon Client Complaints

By Liz McKeon, Salon Business Expert and Founder of the International Salon Business School

Service Recovery is what we do when things go wrong:

  • How we rescue the situation
  • How we handle complaints
  • How we satisfy the dissatisfied client.

How do we define a client complaint?

“When a client feels strongly enough that her expectations have not been met, she may make a complaint”, or
“A complaint is when a client brings a problem to the attention of the business and expects some redress, probably over and above simply supplying the original service or product that was the cause of the complaint.”

Things don’t always work out according to plan.  With the best will in the world, and armed with your best ‘quality care’ client skills, mistakes can still happen.  It may be something out of your control, or a mistake made by one of your team, but whatever the reason, when relations break down between the client and your business, it is time to take action. 

Once a client’s problem has been identified, the recovery process must begin immediately.

Here are 6 practices to implement when handling salon client complaints:

  1. Empathy:  Understand that before you contact the complaining client, you can’t win.  Complaints are really just degrees of losing.  Put yourself in the client’s shoes, so that you can get a better understanding of their perspective.  Reassure them that you care, understand and are listening to them, by allowing them to explain their situation.
  2. Respect:  Staying calm sends a message that you have respect for them, and it can be difficult to do this when an angry client is yelling at you.  Remember, their anger is not about you, they are upset about their situation and are taking it out on you.
  3. Apologise:  Offering an apology, regardless of how you feel or what you can do about the situation, will alleviate some of the stress the client is feeling.
  4. Take responsibility:  If the mistake has been made by a member of your staff, take full responsibility and assist the client so that their problem is solved.
  5. Settlement:  The hard part is the settlement of the complaint and you will have to do some work here.  Since you are going to lose by something, the degree of loss is up to you.  Most likely, you will end up giving away product, treatments, full refunds or whatever it takes.  You and your client have lost regardless, but you owe it to yourself and your salon to salvage some type of relationship.  Try to agree on an equitable solution, where hopefully you will still retain that client for life, thus adding to the bottom line in your business.
  6. Appropriate follow-up action:  Such as a letter of apology or a phone call to make sure that the problem has been rectified.  For your own peace of mind – get closure, as an unhappy client is a dangerous client.

On a practical note, time is of the essence, if you want a positive outcome from a complaint:

  1. Notify your insurance company, by phone, immediately.
  2. Document the incident in writing for your insurance company.
  3. The insurance company may then send you a claims form for completion.

After you have dealt with the complaint, next on the agenda is to have a ‘service recovery staff training session’:

  • Explain the consequences of a treatment/service going wrong.
  • When something goes wrong with a treatment, carry out practical training, ensuring that confidence is not lost – all staff members must know how to handle complaints.
  • Carry out staff training about how to deal with complaints, emphasising that complaints must be handled courteously, sympathetically and swiftly.
  • Introduce a company complaints/incident report form.
  • Role-play your salon established procedure for dealing with complaints.

Complaints are to be welcomed!

Look at it this way: if they walk away, you may never get the opportunity to make things right. They may take their custom elsewhere and badmouth your business. Whereas, by choosing to bring the problem to your attention, you are provided with a golden opportunity to correct whatever has gone wrong. 

When handled correctly, complaints can win a client back and you can then keep them for life.  These clients are to be valued, as they are bringing you a gift, an opportunity to step back and appreciate that something has gone wrong, they are telling you that there is room for improvement in your salon….

Complaints are golden opportunities to:

  • Right the wrong
  • Listen and empathise
  • Rescue the situation
  • Win the client back
  • Improve your service
  • Build long-term relationships
  • Say ‘thank you’.

The client may not always be right, but they are always the client!

To learn more on Liz McKeon, visit here website here.

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