Dealing with Difficult Clients in the Salon

By AHP Staff

When a client isn’t happy about the outcome of their haircut or color, you might feel their comments are a personal attack on you. You must find a way to build and maintain the relationship, no matter who is right or who is wrong. Even when they are full of complaints or have a difficult attitude, don’t let your pride get in the way. Do you know when you should work hard to save that client, or when to move forward and with firing a client? No hairdresser or barber wants to deal with constant negativity from the same client, so you need to know what kind of difficult client you’re dealing with before you make that decision.

The following six types of challenging clients are listed from least to most destructive. If you recognize any of your clients in the list, here are a few tips on how to handle them. 

The Prima Donna 

They’re a keeper. They love to have the best, the most, and the latest and greatest … because they know they’re worth it. They book regular appointments, buy lots of retail products, and delight in your compliments. If they like you, you’ll have a longtime customer. They’ll tell their entire social circle about you if they’re happy. This client can also be condescending and demanding, so be careful. If they’re unhappy, they’ll trash talk your business all over town and on social media. Impress them with your skills and creative talent. If they don’t get the results they want, they won’t be shy about making sure you know it. If you don’t heed what they’re telling you, you may be in danger of losing them to the competition. Keep in mind, they’re a sucker for glamorous products, “big-gun” services, and extra pampering.  

The Scrooge 

Although a little annoying, this one is still worth keeping. They will wait to book with you until they know you’re offering discounts on services or retail products. They are stingy about purchasing products and will only buy when they absolutely have to. This client may not complain about price directly to you, but inside they are screaming, “That’s too much money!” They are always thinking about getting more value for the money they spend. The services and products you recommend must provide this client with proven results for them to see the value of the product and continue to purchase it. To make this client happy, reach out and call them with specials you are running and pre-sale notifications. You’ll be able to keep them for a while—until a cheaper option comes along.  

client dissatisfied with hair color argues with hairdresserThe Grumbler 

Oftentimes, the reason someone gets upset about things is not because of the words spoken, but because of the tone used. Mind your tone when talking with this client. A grumbler could easily become a Nuclear Bomb (described below). Remember that complaints are really an opportunity for you to learn how to better serve your entire customer base in the future. Hear them out. Many times, this client just wants to vent, and just being heard will diffuse their moans and groans. If you are in the wrong, admit it, apologize, fix it, and give them something for free. This shows you’re making the effort and catering to their inner prima donna. It’s all about your reaction. If you can please this client, then they’re a client for life.

The Passive-Aggressive Client

This client is hard to deal with and can be very damaging. They passively leave your salon after the service, and then aggressively complain long after the service. They will never discuss the reasons they’re unhappy with you directly, but they may very well trash you on social media and within their social circle. If they give you a bad review on social media or an online review site, respond professionally and invite them to come back so you can have the chance to change their mind. This client is a lot of work because they don’t communicate with you face to face, but they may be worth the trouble. Bad internet reviews last forever, so you want to try to win them over. 

The Lukewarm Client

You might be thinking, “How can a lukewarm client be dangerous?” But, beware. This client could be your worst nightmare. When you ask this client how they feel about their service, they’ll say everything was fine, when in their mind they are NOT happy. If you’re lucky, they just won’t return to your salon; but, they could also complain to your manager, refuse to pay for the service, AND give you a horrible review on social media. You always ask your clients how their experience was, but if you get a lukewarm response, don’t let it dampen your enthusiasm. You might want to sweeten the deal and give the client a free service upgrade or a home care product that will give them immediate results and perhaps a more positive attitude.  

The Nuclear Bomb 

You cringe when this client books. They are all six difficult client types rolled into one. This client will always have a beef anywhere they go. No matter what you provide, they are never satisfied. They frequently don’t show up for their appointment, but then will demand free services or expect a full refund on an empty bottle of your most expensive product. You can expect the Nuclear Bomb to have one massive implosion. If you handle it badly, they’ll spread poison about you and your business to anyone and everyone. If you can manage to placate them, you may be able to keep them as a client—if you really want to!

How to Fire a Client 

You don’t want to thoughtlessly burn bridges. You don’t know if that client is just going through a hard time in their personal life that may even out in the future. But no amount of money is worth being treated disrespectfully over and over again.

Try to show compassion for the client before you decide to cut ties. You may be able to turn the client’s attitude around and see their behavior improve with some TLC. Your caring attitude may be the only bright spot in this client’s week. If you decide it’s best to part ways, tell them your place of business doesn’t seem to be a good fit for them, and you’re sorry to see them go. You may offer names of other hairdressers in the area who might serve their needs better. Then keep a close eye on what’s being said about you on social media.

Most of your clients are wonderful, but some can also be terrible or even ugly. Being able to recognize what type of client they are, and using these tips on how to respond, will allow you to make your salon a true sanctuary for all clients, with compassion, empathy, and extraordinary service. 


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