Ask the Experts: The Best Way to “Fire” a Bad Client?
What's the best way to "fire" a bad client?
"I've have had to âfire' clients," says Adam Broderick, owner of the two Adam Broderick Salons and Spas in and around Ridgefield, Connecticut, "but it's not so easy. The emotional cost to the salon owner and stylist is huge. It's disturbing and heart-wrenching every time."
Your first step, Broderick says, is to figure out if you can save the relationship. For the chronic canceller, for instance, "The computer really helps to separate fact from fiction. It's easy to document the cancellations or tardiness, and we can call her and let her know that we will only accept her appointment if she leaves her credit card, which will be charged 50 percent if she doesn't show up."
Dealing with the client who is abusive and complains persistently about the quality of work, yet returns to demand constant do-overs requires some empathy. "What you have to realize is that many clients are reacting to fear," says Broderick. "They are afraid they don't look their best and want to blame someone. Unfortunately, that someone is often behind the chair."
When it gets to the point when you just want it to be over, "I've found that the best thing to say is, âMaybe we aren't such a good match anymore,'" says Broderick. "Saying it this way also gives her an out, which is often the best way to handle the confrontational or unreasonable client." The goal is to be non-aggressive and to soften the blow.
Of course, there are those people that are outright hostile. "I had a client that was so abusive I had to ask her to leave," Broderick recalls. "She refused. When I told her I was going to call the police, she said, âGo ahead.' When I called her bluff and picked up the phone, she finally left."
After the client's exit, Broderick realized he had to get right back on his feet and not let the disturbance affect his staff and the clients who witnessed it. "Bottom line, I have a business to run."
The key, he says, is to anticipate as many situations as possible. "Communication is most important. We all know there are clients that are unreasonable. As you become more skilled and have more experiences, you learn to read between the lines.
"The upside is that for every client that doesn't work out, we have thousands of success stories...the wonderful transformations and the great friendships that develop with our clients. Interestingly, even those that seem like they're not going to work out sometimes turn out to be the best!"