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How To Deal With Difficult Salon Clients image

Working in the service industry, there is always going to be that person whose vibe may not mesh with yours on a given day, resulting in an unpleasant experience. We are taught that “The customer is always right”, which leaves us wondering how to go about finding a resolution. 

Consider this: every client experience, good or bad, is a learning experience. We learn how to interact and engage with people of all personality types, with different preferences and expectations. 

Can we be malleable enough as beauty professionals to adapt in any situation and be savvy enough to create an outcome that feels good for everyone?

In-House Horror Clients

Salons, even independent salons, can be filled with horror stories, which means you likely have at least one, if not a few, of them! Horror clients are the type to have an attitude throughout the session, tell you how you should do your job, and then cause a scene over the “terrible” haircut they received and, not ask, but demand their money back.

As beauty professionals, we might get swayed into thinking that we are the ones at fault, that we didn’t deliver on the service we promised. Remember that every salon must have policies and steps to deal with a client that is unreasonably unhappy. You must establish and maintain your boundaries in these circumstances. 

At which point are you willing to give in to the chaos? And what will you give? Just as important as standing your ground is to be professional. The last thing you want is a client, involved or not, catching you in the act of letting your anger and frustration boil over. You are responsible for any experience that occurs in your salon. Your goal is to put out the fire, not add to it. 

Active Listening

A great method to practice when a client is truly upset is active listening. Active listening is the practice of making a conscious effort to hear, understand, and retain information that's being relayed to you. This is a learned practice. In active listening, it is crucial to not interrupt a client, whether they are expressing their gratitude or their anger. Rather than looking at it as inauthentic or repressing your voice, consider this: you are savvy

Everyone wants to be heard and understood, which is why a conversation can feel like it is running in circles as each person tries to defend their perspective. In those moments, try to breathe and remember this - listening is the first step to creating a finish line. Sometimes, however, listening is not enough. Depending on your body language, you can imply that you don’t actually care, which is where being savvy really comes into play. Be mindful of your body language, and try to focus your attention on them, by utilizing active listening. 

Active listening uses the practice of repeating back to a person what you hear them saying, basically acting as a mirror. For example, “I hear that you are frustrated because you don’t like the haircut, is that right?” Repeat their words back to them, starting with “I hear that…” This not only makes an upset client feel seen and heard, it also trains you to be present and calm. 

Oftentimes, a client will feel happier throughout the conversation, just feeling that you are listening. Repeating their words back to them dearmours them, as they feel understood, so they do not feel the need to reiterate or exaggerate their point. 

When They Show Up On Your Reviews

There is a high chance that at some point in your career, someone will have something to say, not to your face, but online. So how do you handle a bad review? Don’t ignore it! Respond with an apology and/or accept fault if the situation requires that. Replying to a review with a response is going to show your presence and grace to any potential client browsing reviews. 

When you do respond, show some gratitude for the feedback. Consider the review a learning opportunity and a chance to serve future clients the best salon experience. 

Do not go deeper into conversation over the review platform with an angry client. If the conversation gets hot, ask them to please call the salon to further discuss the situation, so that the conversation can be had offline. When, or if, they call, return to the active listening practice. 

A bad review or two can make a big difference in ratings, but do not let it get you down. Continue to hone your craft and expand your clientele, and the positive reviews will naturally come to drown out the negative ones. Do not let the haters get you down. Sometimes building a reputation takes time, and that is ok. You’ve got this! 


We recommend never fully refunding a service, unless you made such an egregious mistake that the service is truly valueless. It is not necessary that you offer a discount on any services, no matter how disgruntled the client. Remember that it is your right to get fully paid for your services, and somebody’s opinion of your work is not reflective of the value of your services. 

And while it is true that not every complaint deserves a refund, you may find it easiest to extinguish the heat with some kind of discount if you have a client truly hellbent on getting their money back and/or destroying your reputation online. 

It is helpful to outline policies for yourself that cover: 

  • What can you offer to a disgruntled client? A percentage of a refund? A discount on future services? 20% off of a session to fix up something they didn’t like? Etc.
  • What is the minimum your client is responsible for? Consider the price of overhead - products, time, etc) 
  • What are the starting refund or discount rates? What is your maximum discount rate? Start here and work back until your client is satisfied or you reach your minimum. 

Once this policy is in place, again, stand your ground and always return to active listening

Remember to ONLY offer a discount for worst-case scenario clients, or situations in which you truly feel at fault - ie. you made a mistake, the client was overcharged, something terrible happened during the service, etc. 

Soul Clients

It is important to never take anything personally. Sometimes people are just having a bad day or even a bad year, and they are taking their unhappiness or insecurities out on you. It is not your job to hold their projection of you. As a beauty professional, and as a creative, you will need to have thick skin. 

In many circumstances, a client is simply not a good cultural fit for you and your salon. Remember that not every beauty professional is right for everyone! Allow the wrong clients to move on to make room for the soul clients of your dreams.  

Soul clients are the type of clients that make it easy to love to do what you do. Soul clients are the ones that show up excited for your services and leave happy. Soul clients spread the word to their friends and leave glowing reviews. Soul clients are a joy to have in your chair. They are the backbone of your business. 

Let the difficult and unhappy clients fade to the background. You are here to serve your soul clients, that is your top priority.