Try as you might to avoid it, you will always have customers who complain – whether it’s about the service they receive, the wait they have to endure, the product that doesn’t perform, or their general unhappiness with their nails. If the technician can assuage the complaining customer, rectify the situation, and get the client back into the salon after the incident, she will gain a client more loyal than one who never complained in the first place. So rather than look at complaining clients as necessary evil of a service business, look at them as an opportunity to engender greater client loyalty and thus more word of mouth advertising, more clients, more business.
DEVELOP A SYSTEM
Ideally, there should be a uniform system of handling customer complaints that is understood by all members of the salon, from the owner to the receptionist. You may want to incorporate complaint resolution training in an orientation session with all new employees. Go over typical scenarios with employees and outline the salon’s policy in handling them. Be specific about what types of problems may arise and exactly how to handle them. You might also find it useful to do some role-playing at staff meetings. Technicians will relish the opportunity to play the witch, and it will give everyone a better understanding of how to handle difficult situations.
Current management theory suggests that the individual employee be empowered to handle the complaint on the front line; that is, whoever receives the complaint should be able to handle it without referring to a higher authority. That sort of crisis managements acts to assure a client that her compliant is taken seriously, is of concern to the entire salon, and that it has urgency. The client will only become more aggravated if she must wait for her technician to talk to her superior, or if she has to pull rank and ask to see the owner. When training employees, make it clear which situations can be handled immediately and which should be brought to the owner or manager’s attention. Employees should be able to handle most complaints themselves and certainly should be allowed to deal directly with their own clients in all but the most dire situations. This sort of personalized attention will also help forge a stronger bond between the client and the technician.
You may want to discuss any complaints a technician has received during the technician’s review. While sheer numbers of complaints (or lack of complaints) do not tell the whole story of a technician’s competence, they may reveal a pattern that needs to be worked on. If a particular employee has several clients who complain of her unkempt station, you will be able to address the problem directly. If an employee regularly receives written raves about her on-time appointments, you might want to ask her to share how she manages such promptness.
Every employee will have strengths and weaknesses, and a complaint/customer service record will help you bolster the strengths and diminish the weaknesses.
TACT AND DIPLOMACY
When faced with a complaining client, resist the impulse to defend yourself. Don’t take the complaint personally. Sometimes the simplest solution is just to ask the client what she wants. If she is returning something, she may just want a new product. If a nail has chipped and she feels it was improperly applied, she may just want it repaired.
On the other hand, she may not know exactly what she wants, except that she wants it now. In these cases, work quickly to diffuse her anger. Your goal is to keep the client in the salon. If she needs to see a technician, do some juggling so someone can tend to her broken nail or handle whatever the problem is. Sometimes you may need to fix the problem by throwing in something extra for good measure. As she leaves with her repaired nail, hand her a bottle of new polish and tell her to try it, on the house. You don’t need to give away the store, but often a small gesture, like a free product, completes the process of complaint resolution.
Don’t reassure a complaining customer by telling her “That always happens.” She will not be relieved to hear that she is in the majority, and she will only be annoyed that you did not have the forethought to prevent the problem in her case. Don’t blame anyone for the problem either. The loyalty of your staff or fellow employees is of greater value than a quick solution to your complaining customer.