That Could Make Or Break Your Business

How you respond to a client’s dissatisfaction says a lot about who you are as a hairstylist. Let’s be honest, it’s a sad day when a client returns to your chair and he/she/they are dissatisfied, and if you’ve been in the business any length of time, it’s happened a few times.┬áNo matter how long you’ve been styling hair, you never want to hear your client is unhappy with your work. Here are fifteen ways you can respond to a dissatisfied client. You choose.




Developing ownership, taking responsibility for what didn’t go well in our chair, and fostering trust are traits we should tend to all day long, every day. If the goal is to create a long-lasting client base, then we must work on ourselves and respond, versus react to them. This is the humanistic approach, and in the long run you and your clients will be happier.



1. Defensive: While this may be an easy way to respond to a client’s complaint, it doesn’t serve the overall goal of retaining clients. In fact, it shuts you off from really hearing your client, and immediately makes them feel unseen or unheard.

When you have the urge to defend, question yourself, “What am I afraid of?” See if you can’t back down, take a moment and excuse yourself, take a deep breath, and approach her again.

An article I read recently by the editorial staff at Mindtools,Body Language- Understanding Non-Verbal Communication,” says this about defensive body language:

  • Hand/arm gestures are small and close to his or her body
  • Facial expressions are minimal
  • Body is physically turned away from you
  • Arms are crossed in front of body
  • Eyes maintain little contact, or are downcast

2. Mad: Your way or the highway! Usually people who get mad feel threatened or powerless, and have tended to be rewarded by expressing anger. According to an article on Skills You Need, “Recognising Agression In Others,” some behavior and physical changes may be any of these:

  • Tightened lip
  • Body tension
  • Tone of voice
  • Walk away
  • Standing too close




3. Passive: Seething inside, but you let people take advantage of you. You steer away from confrontation, so others think they can walk all over you. There is no there there, and there is no opportunity to engage with a passive person. According to BodyLanguageTalk [link?], some signs of passivity are:

  • Collapsed body posture
  • Apprehensiveness
  • Minimal eye contact
  • Limp hands
  • Hesitant voice

4. Run: You avoid conflict at all costs. In difficult situations, you bolt! You don’t stick around long enough to gain resolution to your problems, leading to a lot of baggage in your wake. You’re not around, so it’s hard to know what your body language would be if you hadn’t left. However, it might be fair to say that your body is tense, jaw locked, and that deep down you are unhappy. More than likely it is difficult to have satisfying relationships because they tend to be disappointing to you.

5. Your Own Worst Enemy: You take the feedback personally, and take it as a sign of your incompetence, rather than using this experience as a growth opportunity, and listening to what your client has to say.

6. React Versus Respond: Busy mind! Your mind begins filling up with all the reasons why the service didn’t work out, and you react without thinking. Most of the time you don’t remember what you’ve said.


[tweetthis]”Building trust is at the very heart, and art of hairdressing.” REBECCA BEARDSLEY[/tweetthis]


7. Leave Your Body: Usually thinking about something else, you distract yourself with the client’s outfit, her shoes, or how something has changed about her. Or you are thinking about the film you just saw. Whatever it is you do when you disassociate, you are not present. So she asks, “Did you hear me?”

8. Disagree: You immediately refute what the client is saying, and this is a fast track to nowhere. Maybe you have your hands on your hips. This is not pretty folks. This is very invalidating and serves nobody.

9. Don’t Listen: You immediately shut yourself off and close down. You start yakking about some unrelated topic, and keep on moving the client along to get her hair shampooed.

10. Make Them Wrong: You tell them flat out they are wrong, and it’s the last time you will see them. No conversation, period. This reaction does not make for a successful business and results in always having to generate new clients, because nobody wants to do business with you.

11. Make Excuses: You go on and on that the color in the tube was mislabeled, or your husband or wife is leaving you, or you just weren’t feeling it that day. Clients can read through this one, and you won’t be able to get away with this for too long.

12. Lie: Flat out, over the top, goes right there without making excuses. You will stop at nothing to avoid facing the truth. Move on to a different career, folks. This one is based on honesty.

13. Refuse To Make It Better: You know you are wrong and the client is right, and you are going to punish them for speaking up. You are stubborn and holding onto your position for some sliver of pride. It never works. Generosity is always what you want to be remembered for.

14. Blame Someone Else: Oh, this is a lovely response, and very convenient. You will even blame your assistants or coworkers. This is low level and sneaky. The client respects you more when you are always up front with your mistakes.

15. Listen with Confidence Not Arrogance: By far, this may be the best response. Listen and learn why the client is unhappy. Assess what you think you can do to fix the problem. If that does not work, go to your management or to the owner of the salon and get help in steering the conversation.



Your client mostly just wants to be heard, and to have her hair look wonderful. She will be watching how you respond. She doesn’t want to have to bring up her dislikes about her hair. Yes, there are those who complain for the sake of complaining, and those who just want a free service. However, to be a Master Hairdresser it all comes down to treating people like we want to be treated. They are all worthy of our respect and our full attention.

The ability to respond to a dissatisfied client can be developed over time. Try different responses. You will be appreciated and will gain many returning clients by cultivating a place of safety for them to tell the truth.



Watch this video by Vanessa Van Edwards, Body Language of Experts for examples of how you can use body language. Even though she is talking about speakers, her tips can be useful behind the chair, or standing in front of your client.

If you would like help figuring out how to manage your difficult clients, click here.



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