"I operate a small spa and can't afford to turn away business. But I have one client whose appointments I dread! She's impossible to please and, when she complains within earshot of other clients, I worry she'll drive them away. She always rebooks, so I must be doing something right. I just wish she was easier to deal with. Do you have any suggestions for pleasing difficult clients?" – Page F., Ontario, CA
We've all been there. Dealing with difficult clients is one of the hardest things about any job in which we work directly with the public. Such clients can drain your energy, affect your mood, and, worst of all, ruin the experience of your other guests. All of these results can have a serious negative impact on your business.
Here are a few truths about challenging clients and tips to effectively communicate with them. Just remember that, no matter what your feelings are about difficult clients, business is business!
1. TRUTH: Your attitude is the key to de-escalating a situation.
TIP: When a client is unhappy—especially to the point of anger—show genuine empathy. We've all heard the old saying, "The customer is always right," so why argue? Instead, take your client to the quietest area of your business possible, make her comfortable, and listen to the issue. When your client is speaking, maintain eye contact and don't cross your arms. Looking away makes you seem evasive and crossed arms are a defensive posture. When you take the time to listen in a quiet area where she feels comfortable venting, your client will believe you are concerned about the issue. This will calm her so you can offer a reasonable solution.
2. TRUTH: Difficult clients doesn't want to know what your policy states; they want to know how you can solve their problem.
TIP: Offer your client choices as you work to solve the situation. This will help placate her and help you get an idea of exactly what her expectations are. For instance, a client who is angry might be loud and disruptive in your guest area. So, instead of becoming agitated, simply ask, "Would you mind if I get someone to cover for me so that you and I can talk about this in detail? It's important to me that I understand the problem." It's hard to stay angry when you believe your adversary is trying to make things right.
3. TRUTH: You can't make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time.
TIP: Strive to provide the best guest experience for each client by setting expectations. It's just not realistic to expect that you can please everyone all of the time because you can't control other people. But you can control your interactions with your clients and, ultimately, you control your business. When proper expectations are set up front, the overall guest experience is better. Help your clients understand the culture of your business beforehand and they should naturally become a part of that culture when they come in for services.
Anita Lumpkin is the Director of Education for Universal Companies. She develops training manuals, videos, and classes to support products, treatments, and equipment. Anita manages the Learn & Grow section of the Universal Companies website, continuously providing articles, tips, and eLearning presentations for our customers. Also, she develops protocols for spas and assists with spa menu creation. Anita is passionate about teaching our customers how to succeed in their businesses.