Sometimes you have to wonder if clients believe the salon door opens to an alternate reality that transforms them into the center of the universe, where time stands still, and where every preference they have is possible — and free. Instead of getting mad at perceived slights in client demands, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and try to see it from their perspective. That gives us a better idea of how we can change our natural response to the professional one that will help them realize we’re all subject to the laws of nature and time.


1. “Sorry I’m late. Can you still do me?”

(Might also be: “I’m in a rush, can you do a mani/pedi in 15 minutes,” or “I know I’m booked for a mani/pedi, but I’m busy, so can you just give me a polish change and I’ll reschedule?”)

Client profile: She’s busy, overbooked, and hoping you’re going to save her. This could simultaneously be your best and worst client. Best because she is a regular and full of energy and great stories. Worst because she is often late and doesn’t understand the time-is-money concept of the appointment book. How you respond could determine if you’re to build — or break — a habit.

You want to say: Rude. Rude. Rude. That’s so rude! Why didn’t you call so I could get someone else in/run errands/do my own nails?

You do say: I understand our schedules change, but since you didn’t call to let me know, I’ll need to charge you for the appointment we had scheduled. You can decide if you want a polish change now or when you return for the full appointment.


2. “Let me help.”

Client profile: She is motivated by the desire to make your job easier. She wants to wiggle her toes as you put on her shoes for the pedi polish, prop her hand up at what she imagines is the perfect angle you need to file, and spread her fingers to make it easier for you to polish. Try to confirm you appreciate her thoughtfulness, while reinforcing she helps best by letting go.

You want to say: Relax! Stop moving and let me do my job.

You do say: Thank you for trying to help, but please just relax. When you look at your hands and feet while I work, I can’t see what I’m doing. Let me move your hands (or feet) where I need them to get the angle I need. I’ll show it to you when it looks perfect.

3. “My polish chipped.”

Client profile: This client has the mistaken belief that chipped polish and broken nails leave no evidence trail. She may legitimately be unaware something she did caused the calamity, but like a detective evaluating a crime scene, nail techs have the ability to analyze clues that allow us to see and know.

You want to say: Yes, the chemists are still trying to understand what causes polish to arbitrarily chip.

What you do say: Something light-hearted to jog the client’s memory, such as, “How interesting. The polish on every finger is affected and dirt is trapped under the free edges. If I didn’t know better, I’d conclude you were using your fingers to scoop dirt while you gardened without gloves.”


4. “I glued it.”

Client profile: She is a problem-solver with a can-do attitude. But, she could cause more problems than she solved if she doesn’t clean and dry the nail before she glues the pieces back together.

You want to say: Solid choice. I’d probably do something like that myself.

You do say: Glue can trap water, which could create green spots and eventually even stain the nails. If a nail ever bothers you and you don’t have time to come in, just file it off. We’ll fix it at your next appointment.


5. “I’m on my way to the gym.”

Client Profile: This client thinks she’s done when you cap the polish. Give her an estimate on a reasonable time to wait after the top coat goes on, or go for the upsell of a gel-polish so she gets the mobility she craves.

You want to say: Don’t blame me when you have sock marks in your polish.

You do say: No problem. I’ll make sure you’re done on time, but sit and wait at least 15-30 minutes so you don’t ruin your gorgeous polish when you put on your shoes and socks. If that won’t work, let’s give gel-polish a try today. Once you realize how convenient it is to have dry nails immediately, you might give up on traditional nail polish forever.


6. “I don’t like this color.”

Client profile: She’s a believer. She wants to believe she didn’t make the wrong choice, so she stays silent hoping the second coat — or the top coat — brings it home. This dreaded phrase may be prevented if you get a repeated buy-in along the way.

You want to say: You didn’t want to tell me that at any point before the top coat?

You do say: Great color choice! This polish has a milky finish (or transparent, or dries into a brighter color, etc.), which surprises some clients. Let me put two coats on one finger/toe to make sure you like it. I won’t have time to remove and re-polish if we paint all 10 nails with a color we’re uncertain about.


7. “Do you care if I take a conference call/eat my lunch/FaceTime my friend?”

Client profile: This multi-tasker sees her time in the salon as an opportunity to catch up for the day. Her hour appointment may be the perfect time for her to reset, but don’t let her ruin the experience of other clients — or get you off track because you don’t have access to her hands.

You want to say: Are you kidding me? Get off the phone and stop getting greasy food on the nails I just prepped.

You do say: I can see you’re trying to get a lot accomplished during your appointment, but I want to remind you of salon etiquette. We ask people to use their phone in silence during a pedicure, and to provide complete access to your hands during the manicure.

8. “Can I get a discount because …”

— I only have four toes.

— I brought my own polish.

— I booked for more than one service.

Client profile: This client is a negotiator. She feels better whenever she gets a bargain. The trouble is, none of the reasons she wants a discount actually make a difference in the amount of time it takes in your schedule.

You want to say: Are you seriously this cheap? Please don’t disrespect me or devalue what I do.

What you do say: I don’t discount my services. You’ll get 100% of me, 100% of the time, and that isn’t dependent on the number of toes I’m polishing, whose polish I’m using, or how many services I’m performing.


9. “Can you cut out my ingrown nails?”

Client profile: This client is blissfully unaware of state licensing guidelines and looking for the easiest way to end her pain. While it’s flattering to realize your client has complete confidence in your abilities, let her know her condition might need a doctor’s visit.

You want to say: “Sure. I take Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

You do say: Let’s take a look. If it’s a frayed nail causing an irritation, I will take care of it. If it’s a serious problem, I’m not licensed to treat it, but I’ll be happy to refer you to a doctor.


10. Can you come in on your day off/come in early/stay late since I am leaving for vacation/going to an event?

Client profile: She views the time she spends with you as a visit with her girlfriend, so finds it easy to blur the lines between work and personal hours. Though you may make exceptions, it’s generally wise to remember poor planning on someone else’s part does not mean an emergency on yours.

You want to say: There is no way I’m going to be late for happy hour because you didn’t bother to book an appointment for your event.

You do say: How exciting! That sounds like a lot of fun. I can certainly add you to a list of cancellations, but right now, there’s nothing available. Let’s get you on the book for your next few appointments so this doesn’t happen again.

PS: Don’t buckle if she begs. You can always say you have an appointment of your own you need to make; and you do — even if it’s an appointment with yourself.


An Opportunity to Educate

We’ve all been asked to shape nails with no free edge into stilettos, create long, gorgeous nails without using “chemicals” or enhancements, and to use enhancement products that are certified organic. Our natural response is to say, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.” But don’t stop there. Though you may have encountered these sorts of requests multiple times over the course of your career (or multiple times today!), each and every time you respond, you have the opportunity to educate the client on the why of your response and position yourself as an authority in her eyes. That helps build loyalty because you’ve earned her trust, and in the end, that’s the reaction we want to receive from our exchanges with clients.


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