Do you dread dealing with unhappy clients?

In this post we explain how to deal with unhappy hair or beauty clients quickly and successfully.

Our Legal Lifeline recently advised a worried salon owner. Let’s look at the facts: A client came into the salon asking for a bob cut. She provided the stylist with a picture of what she wanted and the stylist proceeded to cut it into the style. The client left, seemingly happy, but rang up later somewhat distressed, saying it cut was too short. When questioned by the salon owner, the stylist accepted he did cut it a bit short. So what can you do?

Unhappy customer

Complaining clients: the legal situation

The good news is that from a legal perspective, this is not a claim for personal injury, damage or distress.

If the stylist had taken a nick out of her ear or if a colour had reacted with her skin then it would be a personal injury claim and one to refer to the insurers.

The problem here is the client has not had the cut she asked for, and this, therefore, technically could come under the sale of goods and supply of services regulations. The principal legal remedy she is entitled to is to have the cut rectified, and only if (after a reasonable opportunity) the stylist has been unable to rectify the cut would she be entitled to a refund or the cost of going elsewhere.

Have legal question about your hair, beauty or barber business? Our Legal Lifeline and Commercial Helpline are free to NHF members.
Save expensive lawyers’ – just call our experienced team for help and advice with any legal, H&S, employment or tax & vat questions you have concerning your salon business.

However, the last thing you want is a legal situation, so, how do you approach the problem in practical terms?

Does the client have a valid hair or beauty complaint?

First, remember that before making any decision you are always entitled to examine the client’s hair yourself to see whether the cut is as bad as you are being told.

Few of us relish confrontation. So try these practical tips to diffuse the situation:

  • Fix an appointment, at a time to suit them, but ensure they are seated away from other clients.
  • Let them vent their feelings and get it off their chest. Just listen and study their body language.
  • Now empathise with them; even if you don’t agree with the complaint, stay calm and controlled. If on inspection you don’t agree the cut is a bad one, still try to find out if there is anything you can do so she leaves a happy client.
  • Regardless of whether you feel the complaint is justified, you need to offer something: to improve the cut, a free next appointment, a discount or perhaps some take-home product to show you care about your salon clients.

An important question to consider: how long did it take for the client to come back to you? If it has taken a week or more, then clearly the problem can’t be that bad, unless there is some reason for the delay, such as a holiday or illness.

Need more advice on handling difficult clients? NHF Members can download our free guide “Handling Customer Complaints” here.

If you can’t resolve the complaint…

If you have tried rectifying the hair cut a couple of times and your client is still not happy, then it is time to accept with this client you are probably not going to succeed.

Legally, the client is entitled to either a refund or the cost of having it put right at another salon, if that costs more. However, she would have to be reasonable about where she goes and what she has done.

But the law is one thing and commonsense and commerciality are another. From a commercial perspective, look at the relationship between the stylist and the client:

  • Is she a regular salon client or was this a one-off visit?
  • Was she so distressed, or the cut so bad, it risks her not coming back or, worse still, telling people about the experience?
  • If she is a good, regular customer it is almost always worthwhile to go over and above your minimum statutory (legal) obligations and offer her something in addition: a voucher for a free styling or some product for the hair to win her back over.

A genuine complaint?

Sometimes, however, you can tell when a client has come in intending to moan in order to get a “free” cut. The bogus client may even try threatening your salon with trading standards or the local newspaper. If you have followed the proper procedure you should have nothing to worry about.

That said, sometimes it can be easier in these circumstances to offer a refund and write it off as a bad experience.

A happy ending

In this case, she was a regular client, reported the incident the same day (suggesting she was genuinely upset), and the stylist did accept it was perhaps a little short. The salon owner spoke to our Legal Lifeline then immediately offered a full refund with his apologies and some complimentary shampoo and conditioner.

The client has since been back to the hair salon so both of them are happy.