Andrew Carruthers Guest Blog: When it Comes Time to Fire a Client

There will come a time in every hairdresser’s life when they will have to face the awful task of telling a salon guest that they no longer wish to have them as a client. This is rarely an easy decision, and even if the hairdresser is sure, it’s always an awkward conversation that requires finesse and compassion. Even when the guest is the subject of sweat-inducing nightmares, they still deserve to be handled with care.

Let’s start from the beginning: how do you know your relationship with the guest has reached the termination stage? Well, ultimately you have to define that boundary for yourself, but take a deep look at your motivation. Are they just a pain that you don’t want to deal with anymore, or is there something that is unacceptable, unfixable or potentially threatening?

Challenging clients are pretty much standar- issue in every busy stylist’s guest list. So, is that really grounds for divorce? Probably not, if they’re playing by the rules of the salon. If they’re making regular appointments, consistently on-time and not wreaking havoc across the salon, then finding ways to manage them could build character and bolster communication skills.

Now, where this group starts to find themselves on the old chopping block is when they can’t seem to respect the rules of the salon and stylist; they can’t ever be pleased, or they are truly leaving a disaster behind them after every visit. Consistently running late for appointments, not showing up at all, or asking for refunds and redos after every appointment are some examples that it’s time to start having a real conversation.

The first step is addressing the issue with very clear communication: Leave phrases such as “I’m sorry,” “kinda” and “sorta” behind. In the book Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott refers to these as emotional pillows. They are the words we throw around to try to soften the emotional blow of a direct conversation, but all they do is muddy up the message. The truth is, these conversations are not easy and dragging them out or complicating them with useless banter is not going to make it go any smoother. Based on Scott’s “Confrontation Model,” it’s time to:

  1. Name the issue: Be clear and specific – “Hi Anne, I’d like to take a moment to talk to you because I’m concerned I’m unable to achieve results that make you happy.”
  2. Give examples: “For the past 3 appointments, you have called back within a week asking for a refund and for me to redo your color.”
  3. Describe why it’s important to you: “I truly want every guest to be happy, and it’s discouraging to know that I’ve not been able to do that for you.”
  4. Identify your contribution to the situation (if applicable): “Perhaps I’m not understanding what results you’re looking for, or I may not have that specific skill set.”
  5. State what is at stake: “I’m not comfortable continuing to do your services if I’m not able to create the results you’re looking for.”
  6. Tell them you want to solve the challenge with them: “I’d like to create a solution with you if you’re open to that.”
  7. Ask for their opinion:  “What are your thoughts?”

This entire statement should take about 30 to 60 seconds to say, and the goal is to say it with kindness and respect in your voice. Then, be open to what they have to say! Really hear them out and do your very best to avoid becoming defensive.

So, what if this doesn’t work, and you come to a place where there are no solutions? It’s time to say goodbye.

To protect yourself from any repercussions, be sure someone else is present for the conversation. It should be handled with a phone call, not an email or text message. Again, regardless of how rude or disrespectful they have been to you, there is an opportunity here to take the high road and show that your business is fair, compassionate and thorough. Prepare a short, precise script that states:

  1. What happened, be specific with facts, not opinions: “Hi Ann, because there have been four appointments in the last six months that have been refunded and redone…”
  2. The result: “We have decided that we should no longer provide your color services.”
  3. Your intent to stay in good graces: “We would like to remain in good standing with you, and we hope you understand our reasoning for this decision.”
  4. State that you are available for any questions: “If you have any questions about this, I’m happy to answer those for you.”

Now, this can get tricky. In most cases, they’re not going to want to continue the conversation, so you can say “Thank you for understanding, and we wish you the best.”

But occasionally, you may have someone that wants to back pedal, apologize, and ask for another chance. It’s your call at that point, but most likely the challenge will resurface. You may need to hold your ground, saying something like, “I appreciate what you have said. We feel it’s best that we hold to our decision. I appreciate your time, and we wish you the best.” If it really goes south and they want to rant or name call, it’s time to say, “It is unfortunate that you feel that way, have a good day.” 

At all costs, do not get into an argument. Human nature urges us towards defense and rebuttal, but all that does is escalate the situation and put you at greater risk of enduring slander through the multitude of review sites. Remember, this is your business and your livelihood that you are representing. Allow your sense of kindness and confidence to override your need to be right.

This is an important decision, and it often comes at the cost of a bad review on Yelp, Google, etc. Take the time to be sure and have the courage to do it in the most positive, open and respectful way possible.

Oh, and by the way, if the bad review comes, the same rules apply. Don’t get into a public debate or feel the need to justify. That just drives more focus to that comment. Direct your energy to getting more positive reviews and building fans.

Love Life!
Andrew Carruthers, Education Director for Sam Villa

[Images courtesy of Sam Villa]

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