It’s a beautiful day. You’ve settled into work after a cup of coffee. You have a full book and are looking forward to seeing clients…then you hear it. Your client drops one of the “dreaded phrases.” Your stomach knots, your teeth clench, and you grasp for what to say. With the help of veteran nail techs Maisie Dunbar, June Wilson, Laura Campos, Marti Preuss, and Amber Edwards, we are dissecting 10 annoying things clients say to you. It’s important to know all technicians are faced with hearing these things from time to time — it’s not just you. Don’t let it stress you out. It’s OK to have that smart retort pinging in your head, as long as it doesn’t cross your lips. By thinking ahead and practicing your responses, you won’t be left groping for the right words when your client annoys you.

What They Say: “It just fell off.”
What You’d Like to Say: Right, you probably picked it off.
What You Should Say: A simple, “I’m sorry, let’s see what we can do to fix it,” suits most clients. Clients are bound to break a nail from time to time. If they are particularly stressed, they may aggressively pick at the nail. At some point in the service, go over home care and what to do if a nail loosens or breaks. When the customer realizes there is no blame, she may just open up and tell you what really happened.

What They Say: “My kids won’t be any trouble.”
What You’d Like to Say: Not if they’re not here, they won’t.
What You Should Say: Granted, the salon poses unique hazards for unattended children. If you would rather clients not bring them, say so. Many of the techs we talked to place a statement in their brochure and on their website guiding potential clients as to what is customary in the salon. “I’m sorry, children can be a distraction for other guests who are receiving services,” works well if pressed to allow them to tag along.

What They Say: “Can I bring my own implements or supplies?”
What You’d Like to Say: Gee, I just love working with strange tools. Don’t you trust me?
What You Should Say: “It’s not necessary. We adhere strictly to state guidelines for sanitation and disinfection,” makes a nice lead-in to explaining the steps you take to protect clients. If you get this request a lot, consider adding a page to your brochure or website that outlines your procedures, endearing you to sanitation-conscious individuals in search of a great pedicure.

What They Say: “Sorry, I’m late.”
What You’d Like to Say: You should be.
What You Should Say: Things happen from time to time, and we all run late. Kindly let the client know you have a tight schedule. Depending on time, you may have to shorten the service or reschedule. Give her options such as, “Would you rather I omit the massage or the polish from your manicure?” This will leave the client feeling like you are interested in giving her the best service and doesn’t let on that you may be miffed.

What They Say: “Sorry, I didn’t call to cancel. I figured you would enjoy the break.”
What You’d Like to Say: Oh, no problem I love going to work and NOT getting paid.
What You Should Say: A gentle nudge is all most clients need to straighten up. Saying, “Breaks are nice. In the future, if you could give us a call the day before, we can alert clients who may be waiting for an opening,” shifts the focus from the tech to the world at large. You can bet the next time she is waiting for a cancellation, she will remember the kind people who call to cancel well ahead of their appointment time.

What They Say: “Can you squeeze me in?”
What You’d Like to Say: Sure, I’ll just whip up a fill in the five minutes before my next client.
What You Should Say: Let your client know you are booked and you will be happy to give her a ring if you get a cancellation. If you have a smaller time slot open, suggest a comparable service that requires less time. If another tech is available, give her the option of letting someone else perform the service. ---

What They Say: “I can get my nails done for half the price down the street.”
What You’d Like to Say: Well, why aren’t you there?
What You Should Say: If a salon doesn’t make a profit, it won’t stay in business. If you feel you must respond to statements like this, you may say something like “We try to offer the best service and highest quality products available.” This allows you to toot your own horn without lowering yourself to bad-mouthing the salon down the street.

What They Say: “Can you stay late for me? What about your day off?”
What You’d Like to Say: Why not? I don’t have a life or anything.
What You Should Say: This is one area where less information is best. Reply with a firm, “I’m sorry, no, I have plans,” then offer them the next available opening. You may also add, “Would you like to pre-book a few appointments, so you can get the time you want in the future?”

What They Say: “You don’t mind if I eat while you do my nails, do you?”
What You’d Like to Say: Did you bring any for me?
What You Should Say: Cross-contamination is the last thing on clients’ minds. While many salons offer light refreshments, the nail table is an awkward place to consume a Big Mac and fries. A polite “I would prefer if you finished your sandwich before we get started,” does the trick. If pressed, you may explain that oil or debris from food could contaminate the nail and prevent adhesion. You would be unable to wash the hands midway through the service. Mentioning that OSHA requires “food not be consumed in treatment areas where salon chemicals are used,” may also deter eating at the table.

What They Say: “Hurry, I have to be out of here in _____ minutes.” (half the time required)
What You’d Like to Say: Would you like me to do your left or right foot?
What You Should Say: Your client has over-stuffed her day. Now, the pressure is on you. Keep your cool. Let her know you will work as fast as you can, but some steps are crucial to the service. Sincerely say, “I can complete as much as possible in that time, or we can reschedule.” I can see you cringing. Yes, you may lose a bit of time if she reschedules. We live in a world of immediate gratification; chances are good she will choose what she can have done now.

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