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A telling experiment revealed how a whinging client can quickly infect others if you don’t deal with the situation swiftly and carefully.

Given the public nature of social media and online salon reviews this research is not good news for hair or beauty businesses.

Research shows customer complaints are infectious

Leading brand consultant Martin Lindstrom tells how four actors were hired to share a meal at a table in the middle of a restaurant. They all ordered the soup and after taking his first mouthful, one of the actors called for the waiter and ranted about the scalding temperature of the soup.

Lo and behold, as the soup continued to be served to the other tables, the complaints began rolling in. By the end of the dinner, 26% of the guests had made similar complaints. Each bowl had come from the same pot, so either they had extremely sensitive tongues or they had all been influenced by the initial complaint.

Airing complaints in public

Just substitute ‘restaurant’ for ‘salon’ in this experiment and you can see the looming dangers.

There are two situations where customer complaints have real potential to affect others:

Customer complaints on your salon social media

Dealing swiftly with online complaints is crucial. Here are my practical tips for dealing with grumpy salon clients on Facebook and Twitter here.

How to deal with complaints in salon and prevent them infecting others

  • Ensure your team understand that complaining clients can influence others. It’s easy to forget this when faced with a confrontational client at reception. But in this situation you’re effectively on stage giving a virtuoso performance to all your clients.
  • If space allows it makes sense to firmly yet politely take the dissatisfied client out of the salon to your office or an empty treatment room. Unfortunately this option is always available.
  • Listen carefully: don’t interrupt and let the client finish.
  • Start with a sincere, yet simple, “I’m sorry you feel like this” to help diffuse the situation. This doesn’t mean accepting blame – just empathising that the client feels that way. There’s a big difference.
  • Adopt a considerate and concerned tone. Ask plenty of open questions – what, where, how, when – so you get to the root of their concern and try not jump to conclusions.
  • Avoid sounding defensive and be aware of your body language. Remember, most of the time the client is not attacking you personally.
  • Empathise: show you understand and are on their side.
  • Focus on what you can do to help rather than what you can’t do. Suggest a couple of options to solve the problem.
  • Then deal with it there and then.

As the salon owner it’s important to understand why the complaint arose in the first place so a similar situation can be avoided in the future.

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