Picture this: you’ve just spent the last 3 1/2 hours perfecting a client’s cut and color. You’ve matched the inspiration photo almost exactly and the finishing blowout is perfection. You hand her the mirror to see the finished product for herself and there it is…
- the furrowed brow,
- the tight lipped “almost-frown”,
- She’s not happy.
Even though you feel like you absolutely nailed it, the final look wasn’t exactly what your client had in mind. You know this, because she tells you and now you have to fix it.
Conflict resolution is tough and the temptation to get defensive when someone criticizes your work can be strong. When it comes to dealing with an unhappy client, there are a few crucial steps to take, in order to minimize damage to the relationship.
Check Your Ego.
Being a professional creative is really tough, vulnerable work. The very act of creating means that you are taking a small piece you yourself—your talent—and using it to put something new into the work. If someone has a negative reaction to that work, it can be really demoralizing.
The first and most important step in client conflict resolution is to take a deep breath and remind yourself that the complaint is NOT personal. One person’s reaction to your work is not an accurate reflection of your talent or skill level.
Your client’s reaction to the finished look that you created shows you the disconnect between what they were picturing and what you envisioned. That’s all. There could be a million different reasons why this disconnect occurred, and the only way to get to the bottom of it is to stay open-minded and curious.
Listen to Your Unhappy Client.
Not taking a complaint personally, and dropping the impulse to get immediately defensive opens us up to being able to really listen. When we are able to listen, we can ask constructive questions and usually find solutions to problems much quicker.
Chances are, your client is just as nervous to speak up about a negative reaction as you are to hear about it. Listening actively will put them at ease and foster a stronger relationship between you.
Tips for Active Listening:
- Position yourself at your client’s level. If they are standing, stand, if they are seated, pull up a chair. You want to be able to look them in the eyes when they are speaking to you.
- Be mindful of your body language. Leaning back and/or crossing your arms indicates defensiveness. Try to remain relaxed. If you feel comfortable, put a hand on your client’s hand, arm, or shoulder.
- Resist the urge to think of a response while your client is talking. Keep your attention on their facial expressions, body language, and words.
Stop, Breathe, & Thank
After listening to your client’s complaint, pause for a moment before responding. This could just be for a breath or two, but it will help you to shift from a reaction to a conscious action. This will be crucial for resolution and repair.
No matter how much it hurts to hear that someone did not respond well to your work, be sure to thank them for sharing their thoughts and feelings with you. It probably wasn’t easy for them to speak up and even though it’s hard, constructive feedback is really useful for growth. You may not feel it in the moment, but that complaining client will actually help you become an even better stylist. And that is something to be grateful for.
Make it Good.
The good news is that the hard part is over! If you’ve kept your cool and truly listened to your client’s feedback, you should have a pretty good idea on how to rectify the situation. This will also help you determine whether or not a client’s request for reimbursement is fair.
For example, if the complaint is that their blonde highlights were a little too warm, a request for an entirely new balayage is not in order. A complimentary glaze/toning service would fix the problem, without taking up too much more of your time. If you’ve already laid down the respectful foundation of active listening and thanking them for their feedback, then your unhappy client will be more receptive to your suggestion.
Having an unhappy client doesn’t have to ruin your entire day. By taking a few moments to understand their feelings, your reactions, and working together towards a solution, that initial complaint can actually make your relationship stronger.