Illustration: Lucie Crovatto/Piranha Presents

Illustration: Lucie Crovatto/Piranha Presents

For this month’s On the Couch, we turn to Bonnie Canavino, nail department and spa manager at Maxine in Chicago. Canavino oversees 11 nail technicians, four massage therapists, and six estheticians and is also responsible for ordering products, scheduling, handling client complaints, and developing new services.

One Tough Customer

I had a call from a new client who was unhappy with her service. She complained that het manicure and pedicure took forever, that the price was too high, and that the polish was coming off. I had a hard time getting the whole story from her because she was screaming through the entire conversation. She asked for her money back and I’m not sure what to do. I’m confident the nail tech did a good job, despite the fact that she’s new and does work slowly. Should I refund the entire amount 01 just for the polish job? Plus, in general, how do you handle a screaming client? I don’t want to have to talk to her again.

Dear Shouted Down: First, I would listen quietly, and then I would assure her that if she would trust meand give me the opportunity, I would make her next visit the perfect experience. I would give her a full refund and a gift certificate for a return service at her convenience. I would also ask her to call and ask for me so I could book her personally. I would end by saying, “This is important to me and showing you that we care is important.”

As for the new nail technician I have a helpful sugges­tion. Clients like to get pampered but time is important. For the first three months I have a new nail technician booked 45 minutes for a manicure; it’s the polishing that makes them nervous and they need the time. They need to be allowed the extra time to breathe and not feel rushed. Have your reception team tell the clients how long each service is booked. This will allow the client to make the choice of time that’s perfect for her.

Have all new nail technicians polish until they are blue in the face for the first three weeks. Have them bring in family and friends and practice, practice, practice.

Hands Off

I often come into work to find my things spread all over my disk. It’s not the other techs. My table is near the hair area and when I’m not there, clients will sit and do their own nails while they wait for their colour to process. They don’t just file, they put on tips and mess with my expensive brushes. The owner doesn’t think it’s a big deal, but I do. How do I get them to keep their hands off my stuff?

Dear Peeved About Pilfering: Protecting your supplies and implements is important for the safety and sanitation of you and your clients. Salon policy must support this by advising all staff members to respect space and sanitation policies by never using each other’s stations unless they are receiving a service. You also need to lock up all your supplies and implements. Leave your nail station completely clear except for a sign with your hours of service. If you do not have a nail station that can be locked, purchase a small cabinet that locks and place it in a supply room or management office. Make sure everyone in the salon is educated on the sanitation and safety regulations so they can educate the clients. This will give your salon a point of difference for perfect client experiences.

Bah, Humbug

I am the only nail tech in a small salon that has six hairstylists. The salon is in a remodelled house, so I am in my own room. Last Christmas, all the hairstylists dressed up and went out to a two-hour lunch and gift exchange and I was not invited I found out about it only by accident. I was pretty upset and am wondering how I should handle the situation this year. Thank you for any advice you can give me.

Dear Grinched on Christmas: Being physically separated from other areas of the salon presents a challenge not only in terms of your own relationships with coworkers, but for salon clients as well. It’s essential to remind everyone that you play a vital role in building clientele and establishing loyalty to the salon. Put together a total salon marketing plan that addresses this issue and stick with it. The plan should include:

  • Framed signs that identify each department and its location at the reception desk and on each floor and stairway.
  • A salon tour and promotional cards for every new client.
  • Mini-displays throughout the salon with colorfully designed information about you or promotions.
  • Daily interaction between you and the salon staff. This could include offering services to the staff during downtime or being visible when you’re not busy. Try giving staff members a gift certificate for their best client (only those you have not serviced yet).
  • Have mini-meetings to educate your coworkers about your newest services and promotions and troubleshoot any business concerns. This will start the talking and will build an interactive relationship and stimulate new ways to grow everyone’s books.


I’m in a booth rental salon with five other techs. One of the techs talks so much and so loudly that I can’t concentrate on my work or on what my own clients have to say. When she’s not talking to her clients, she’s talking on the phone. She’s actually very sweet and I don’t want to hurt her feelings. What can I do?

Dear Tired of Listening: Teamwork is what it’s all about in any department whether it’s a large salon or rental situation. Start off, if possible, by having a general meeting of all six and technicians with the purpose of discussing what environment is expected for themselves and the client experience.

The discussion should include business hours, services offered by each technician, phone numbers being accessible, decor, and, finally, client experience. This is where you can address the problem and be discreet by inviting” everyone to create their own definition of the ideal client experience. The definition must face the issue of whether you have a beauty shop or a professional nail salon image.

If you cannot get this dialogue going, the best way to solve the problem is to talk directly and privately to this technician. If this doesn’t work, look at making a change for you and your clients

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.