Dec 8, 2020

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The 5 Key Steps to Dealing with Unhappy Clients


A client stands with their hands behind their head, their wavy blonde hair falls over their hands and their back. Text reads "how to deal with unhappy salon clients"

diffuse even the toughest situations

Let me take you back to the fall of 2014. I had recently moved to Calgary, after selling my home and my salon in another province, and the only person I knew was my boyfriend. 

I was two weeks into running my home-salon in my basement. I was pretty excited to be getting new clients booking in. 

On this fateful Wednesday, I had one client in my chair finishing up, while another (a new one) sat patiently on my pink couch waiting for their appointment. 

I felt pretty great about how my client’s hair turned out as we walked up the stairs together … until she said this:

“I mean, it just looks awful and nothing like what I wanted!”

I tried to remain calm but I could feel my anxiety creeping up “Okay …” I managed to squeak out, “I think if you go home and get used to it for a couple days you’ll start to like it.”

“NO…. I hate it! What is this?!”  she picked up a piece of her hair as her voice got louder and more aggressive.

I tightened my fist to try to keep the tears back … 

I was already feeling pretty defeated by this situation. I would’ve done anything to make her happy with her hair. Then as she walked out the front door she yelled:

“Is today too soon to go somewhere else to get this fixed?!” And yes, it was loud enough for not only my neighbour to hear, but also my new client who was waiting for their appointment. 

I was so mortified. I felt defeated. All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and never come out. 

That was my first unhappy client in Calgary. 

Dealing with angry, irrational, and unhappy clients is something I’d like to avoid for the rest of my career.

I cried a lot that night and the icing on the cake was that she called me that night and left a voicemail apologizing. 

Anything about this situation sound familiar? 

I know that you’ve dealt with unhappy clients before too. You’ve felt that same defeated embarrassed feeling that I felt, and you’ve wanted to crawl into a dark hole too. 

Believe me, I get it. 

I wish I could’ve paused time and had someone to call and ask “what the heck do I do here?” 

Being taken off guard makes my anxiety spike through the roof. I panic, then freeze, then go completely blank. 

I’m sure to that client I looked like a deer in headlights.

The reality is that we can’t avoid these situations, as much as I wish I could tell you you could. The exciting thing is that there is a way to navigate them and I’m here to help.

Knowing what to say and how to say it can diffuse and even win over the toughest, most angry, unset clients … or have them leave peacefully.

And I’m breaking it down into 5 simple steps for you. 

The 5 Steps to Dealing with Unhappy Clients:

Step 1: Empathize

This can be difficult when you’re dealing with someone who’s unhappy with us, or causing frustration and annoyance. It’s common for your defences to go up when you’re dealing with an unhappy client. But empathy can be an amazing tool during those moments. 

Humans, at their core, want to feel seen, heard, and valued. Empathy can be this magic wand that really helps diffuse an unhappy client. Simply saying “I understand” can be huge.

Step 2: Make eye contact

When people are going off they’re usually all over the place. Sitting quietly until they make eye contact with you can remind them that you’re also a human who wants to help.

Step 3: Ask them what would make the situation better

Oftentimes we are willing to bend over backwards to make an uncomfortable situation better. (Hello fellow people-pleaser!) But asking for your client’s input on what they think is fair in the situation can make them feel seen and heard, and a lot of the time what they ask for is less than we would have offered them. 

Try these phrases with your clients:

  • “What would you feel is fair in this situation?”

  • “What would you like to happen in this situation?”

  • “Moving forward how would you want to approach this?”

Step 4: Decide how YOU want to move forward

Now that you have the information on how your client wants to move forward, you can decide if that feels right to your business and the situation at hand. Examine the facts and decide what’s best for your business. There’s no right or wrong answer. 

Step 5: Execute your decision with grace and compassion

You don’t want your clients to feel like you’re doing something at them or to them. It’s important to show them that you’re doing it *for* them. 

BONUS STEP: Be proud of yourself

This is not easy work. I want you to give yourself a good ol’ pat on the back for doing it. 

When dealing with an unhappy client you don’t want to get too caught up in the logistics and all the tiny little details. Focus on them being content and happy. It takes an amazing person like yourself to do it. 

I know you’ve got it and you’re gonna do it. I know you’re capable of it and I’m here to cheer you on. So next time an unhappy client comes in, I want you to shoot me a DM over on the ‘gram @dawnbadleyhair and let me know that you’re walking through the 5 steps. 

I want to cheer you along. You’ve got this. 

If you want to know dive deeper into building your dream business with only the best clients check this out

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I am just a small-town, Canadian gal from the prairies who teaches thousands of creatives around the globe how to earn 6-figures stress-free!

Hey, I’m Dawn!

“Rock Your Business” Course Creator, Host of “The Anxious Creative” Podcast. Named by Salon Magazine as Canada’s #1 women of influence.

Get to know me! :-)

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