Over recent years I have noticed a huge shift and change in the client/service providers attitudes towards each other. As a salon owner myself over the last 22 years and a contributor on many forums, I have seen an increase in unhappy clients and equally unhappy service providers. Are clients really self entitled, demanding divas, whom we can never actually please? Has client loyalty and empathy become a thing of the dark ages? More importantly, are service providers simply giving up providing a customer experience that your clients expect?
So who is in the wrong? And what has gone wrong that causes such hostility between client and service providers, and is there really such a thing as a bad client, or just bad customer service?
Clients are not your friend!
This is the one main important fact you need to realise right now! No matter how many times a client visits you, or she buys you a Latte on her way to her appointment or she tells you her inner most secrets and love affairs. SHE IS NOT YOUR FRIEND! She never will be your friend and what she/he is to you and your business is a simple business transaction. Your client does not care about your life, in fact the first thing we are taught in college is to remain professional. Once you cross that boundary and you add them on social media, and you go out with them once on a birthday night out, or talk about your personal life, you have lost control. What will surmount is a client that realises she can run late, because you don't mind, cancel at the last minute, because you're so laid back and forget their purse when they can't afford to pay. One day the client will up and leave. You will see on social media she now attends the new salon in town and you are left pondering what you did so wrong!
I am not advocating you to be a monotone therapist having stripped away your personality, however you need to set the tone to make your business a success. How much money do your 'friends' cost you a week because they run late, or no show or forget their purse or stay around chatting for ages after the treatment? Create your boundaries, dress like a professional, be professional, and remember the client is a business transaction and nothing more.
If you have children then you know that in order for them to behave you need to create boundaries. Clients are no different, and therefore you must outline your boundaries as best you can. Establishing a set of rules, a walkthrough of every procedure you have, a set method of how you operate, all contributes towards your boundaries of a client/service provider relationship. These boundaries need to be clear and concise, they need to be consistently undertaken and the client MUST be told along the way what will happen and what is expected of them.
Create a client/service provider contract or charter. This can be a set of simple rules that both client AND service provider should meet in order to ensure an amazing customer focused experience. This may look like the following:
You (the client) understand that the treatments or services provided cannot always be guaranteed and several sessions may need to be undertaken in order to reach your desired goal. Our therapists/hair stylists will perform a full consultation whereby you have the opportunity to discuss your needs or wishes and your service provider will set out the treatment protocol and what you may expect and/or how many sessions may be required and all expected costs. However we rely on your upmost honesty, hiding information such as previous treatments, medications or illnesses that may affect the treatment outcome and can cause undesirable outcomes. This may result in unwanted results or unexpected costs and additional salon visits or worse case scenario for example; a loss of hair due to damage. Please be honest with us, so we can provide the best possible service for you.
Respect and professionalism go hand in hand. Our team prides themselves on providing exceptional services and exceptional customer service at all times. We understand that sometimes things can occur on either side, you may become sick, or our service provider may also be sick on the day of your appointment. Where possible we always try to fit you in or offer an alternative that works for us both. We do ask clients to pay a 50% non-refundable booking fee. Providing enough notice is given (48 hours) to rearrange your appointment, this fee can be transferred over to your next appointment. Should you fall sick or be unable to attend on the day for any reason, then due to the nature of our business, we will be unable to refund your fees. In the same respect, should our service provider fall sick, we will try to give you as much notice as possible to rearrange with another suitable day/time, either with the same service provider or another member of our team. If for any reason we unable to offer you an alternative appointment, and we have cancelled less than 48 hours prior to your appointment, we will not charge you for the final 50% of your appointment. Please let us know when booking in, if the appointment is for a special occasion such as a party that day or a holiday etc. This will allow us to ensure your appointment is top priority. Our salon wants to make your experience a good one from start to finish. If you have any questions pertaining to your service or you need to rearrange or make a booking, you can do so via our 24/7 online booking system. Should you wish to speak to us in person, please call us on xxxxxx or send a text or message to xxxxxx and we will contact you back within working hours to assist you. Please note due to the many platforms of social media, we may not always see your messages or comments, for a quicker response within our working hours, please contact us on the following email xxxxx and phone number xxxxxx. Our opening hours are xxxxxxxx and we respond to all queries, phone calls and emails within this time. Whilst we have salon mobiles these are left in the salon during closing hours. We ask respectively that you do not add or contact us on personal social pages or contact any of staff directly. This ensures we can keep your personal data safe.
Complaints are taken seriously at our salon. Whilst we endeavour to provide the best service possible, sometimes things can go wrong or situations may occur that our out of our control. We appreciate your custom and understanding that as a small business we do care that when things go wrong it not only affects you as our loyal clients, but us as a salon as well. If for any reason we didn't meet your expectations please ensure to let us know so that we can try to put things right. Our complaints procedure is to ask you to return to the salon so we can speak to you in person and if needs be come up with a way to rectify the situation. Please note, that as a service provider you pay for our products and our time and therefore we have a strict no refunds policy. We will however offer to come up with a way that enables us to provide you with the service you expect. Working together is the best way to eliminate problems and come up with a solution that suits both parties. Our staff will be compassionate about your complaint and we expect our team to be courteous and polite at all times. Whilst we understand that a situation may be upsetting for you, we ask that you refrain from shouting, making threats or using profanity towards any member of our team. Clients that do so, will be asked to leave and may be refused further treatments. On a positive note we appreciate all feedback that helps us grow as a business and provide the customer service and treatments you expect. Please let us know of any feedback at xxxxxxxx.
Another way could be to bullet point the client/service provider relationship charter, then refer the client to your consultation and acceptance of your full terms. And yes you can ask them to sign this prior to offering a service. Bullet points may look like this:
Undertake a full consultation with you prior to treatment to ensure suitability and clarity
Be honest and clear over pricing before we proceed
Respect and treat you in a professional manner at all times
Protect your client data by not contacting you via our private social media
Only contact you during salon opening hours.
Give clients as much notice as possible should we need to move or rearrange an appointment
Listen to any complaints and feedback and work towards resolving them where possible
Be honest and upfront during your consultation so we can provide the best service outcome for you.
Ensure you have the means to pay before you come for your appointment, nothing worse than a fresh blow fyr and having to dash to an ATM in the rain!
Respect and treat our staff in a professional manner at all times
Protect your personal data by not contacting team members personal social media accounts.
Use our 24/7 booking system for finding an appointment time outside of our opening hours, or please leave your contact details on our Voice mail or email and we will call you back during opening hours.
Give us at least 48 hours notice of cancellations or appointment rescheduling so we can ensure you keep your booking fee safe for the next appointment.
Let us know of any complaints straight away by phone or email so that we can provide a solution for you.
As you can see, providing a list of expectations, you can teach clients what you expect of them and how you expect them to behave. Keep it professional but balanced, otherwise it comes across as though you are telling the clients off before they make a mistake.
Provide the right information along the way!
When you follow a certain procedure or protocol with every client you begin to eliminate problems. A list of your protocols will include:
Only accept dealings with your clients during YOUR opening hours. If you are a sole trader, set aside 10 minute slots throughout your day to attend to clients enquiries and bookings. Dealing with clients outside of this gives them permission to contact you at any time!
Keep a work number/email/mobile. Keep it in the salon or turned off when you are not working.
When booking clients in, refer them to your booking fee conditions and then send them an appointment reminder with the booking confirmation and link to your full terms and conditions.
Confirm the clients appointment at least 3 days before the appointment and remind them again of the booking terms.
At the appointment your staff should be dressed smart and behave in a professional manner. The client should be addressed by their surname unless they state otherwise.
Do a full consultation, include the terms and conditions or client charter, what they should expect, get your before pictures, perform patch or strand tests and allow the client an opportunity to ask any questions. Create a treatment plan on your consultation form and both you and the client should sign this. This can come in useful later down the line, for example if the client states her hair did not lift light enough and you never informed her of this. Having the consultation forms allow you to both see what was discussed and what the predicted outcome would be. This allows for a fair advantage on both sides.
Do not post personal grumbles online about clients. Do not even engage in conversation with clients on social media. Take the client off social media and on to a call or email. This creates a more formal approach. Never use kisses or emojis in messages!
Post treatment, take photos and get client feedback and update the client consultation form and get your client to sign it too! This again protects you later down the line if they should complain.
Deal with complaints off of social media and in the salon. Take a conflict management course if need be and learn how to deal with irate customers.
Stand your ground. If a client is inappropriate, rude, needy or constantly oversteps your boundaries then stop booking them in!
Avoid clients sending multiple messages on social media by using auto-responders. Explain on there your opening times, how the client can contact you sooner (within these hours) and how they can book online. Include links to your website and booking system. Explain that the client should leave their contact details and you will call them once you are free or they can call you on the salon phone. State that messages are dealt with chronologically, oldest message to newest. This means multiple messages may move the client to the back of the queue for an appointment. This helps prevent the dreaded ??? or 'did you get my message' messages!
Use Facebook messenger bots to answer some of your more commonly asked questions. This allows clients to get the information they need quickly and easily!
The client is always right! Right?
The saying the client is always right seems to give customers a certain privilege that they can behave in a certain manner towards service providers. We are in an age where the client has so many other options of salons to choose from that they will complain over almost anything! There is a point I listen to client feedback and assess if they are in fact right! Is the stylist rude? were the staff talking over the clients? was the salon too cold? Did the client have to wait for too long prior to her appointment?
Creating a wonderful customer experience can make the difference between a client getting the service she expects over the service you think they deserve! If you are underpricing your services then your customer experience diminishes. You may be able to provide a service to the client, but will that service and the customer experience meet their expectations? It is true that if you receive amazing food at a restaurant, you may forgive the long wait times, or the shoddy appearance of the restaurant. If the food at the restaurant is mediocre, but you receive exceptional customer service at every meal, then you again over look the fact that the food isn't perfect. The salon service is just the same, however you have to work out what part of the experience is important. For example, you may be the worlds best masseur but if the room is cold, the towels are dirty, the treatment room loud, no ambience in the room, would the client return? Turn this around and offer a mediocre massage, in a beautifully ambient room, soothing music with no external noise, soft fluffy, clean towels and super soft blankets, little touches like hot towels, candles, herbal teas, home care kit of a bottle of water and an incense stick and holder or another small gift - would the client return? More than likely!
The service is always the main focus, get that right and the clients have little room to complain. Add in the extra touches for an amazing customer experience then you will gain client loyalty.
Always proceed any appointment with a thorough consultation with your client. Knowing why they chose the particular treatment, understanding their expectations, finding out what underlying factors may prevent meeting the clients expectations are all key to ensuring your client is aware of all eventualities. Keeping written records of conversations and giving written aftercare and even following up a week later by phone to see how their skin is feeling a week on, or if they are managing their new hair style are all ways to improve the customer experience.
Sack that client!
Clients are not easy to find, loyal ones are even rarer. Trying to acquire new clients is costly and reduces salon profits. However sometimes it is worth refusing business if you feel that you and your client are not a right fit! Would you welcome a vegan customer at a steak house that has no vegan options? There are times when you have to admit that a service will not be suitable for a client, their expectation too unrealistic or that their behaviour is affecting their overall customer experience. If a client is troublesome, constantly disrespects the boundaries or makes you or your team feel dread over treating them, then it is ok to sack the client!
Sacking clients is always a last resort and it should always be done in a way that allows the customer to understand why they are being turned away. If their treatment expectations are not realistic, explain why and offer an alternative solution. If they feel that they still wish to proceed, they it may be best to suggest another salon might be able to meet their expectations. Rude clients can be simply refused future appointments, explain that they have overstepped their boundaries, wish them all the best and send them on their way!
It is vital that salons break the chain of what is becoming an ever increasing problem. Taking a zero tolerance approach to clients overstepping their boundaries will eventually change client behaviour. Over time the client may be refused service at a number of salons and it is then that the attitude will change towards service providers.
Bargain basement prices, brings penny pinching customers
Over the 22 years in business I have seen an increase in the number of annoyed clients, negative reviews, poor loutish behaviour from grown women and service providers either bowing to the clients every need or taking a too aggressive approach.
If your clients buy on price, then you will find these will be the problem clients. If they come in on special offers, or they negotiate a lower price, they will have a higher percentage of complaints. The first way to eliminate price hagglers and bargain basement clients is to be concise over your pricing. When salons post amazing before and after pictures of anti ageing treatments or drastic colour changes, it will spike interest and an increase of calls or messages. When listing your pictures from now on in, don't just post a before and after, explain why the client needed the treatment, what was used on their hair/skin before coming to you, how many sessions did it take or how many hours, what home care did they use and more importantly what did it cost! Creating clarity allows your clients to understand their own expectations, understand the process and more importantly the anticipated costs to achieve the results they want. This has a three pronged approach; firstly your customers will expect the costs and/or buy into your home care if they are expecting them before they visit! Secondly, clients that see the before and afters and can't afford the treatment, won't contact you! This prevents penny pinching clients, because they know what you are charging. It also means they can compare their own situation with that of your previous clients. And thirdly, it saves you time and energy dealing with clients, giving them information and prices for them to then say they can't afford your services.
Combining all these factors together, you should reduce the amount of energy you spend on negative or poor clients. Set up a client charter as soon as possible, outline your expectations of a client and what they should expect of you, be professional at all times and stop being over friendly. Show clarity on your pricing and how you achieved certain objectives with your before and after images. Improve the customer experience in the salon and finally, sack any client that oversteps your professional boundaries.