When Do You Fire a Client?
How many “chances” should you give yourself to please a client? I read somewhere to never fire a guest but continue to accommodate them. I don’t call my clients guests, I call them clients because the relationship I have with them, although friendly, comes down to the exchange of payment for a level of client service and satisfaction—and I work very hard to get there. This relationship is not like anything you would expect from a guest in your home or elsewhere.
Well, I fired a client today. We all agree there are obvious situations to break up with a client such as not showing up for appointments, showing up continuously late, cancelling at the last minute, abusive behavior, etc. Today, I am adding one more and calling it indecisive passive aggressive behavior.
Let’s call my client Patsy—she is a polite, educated woman in her fifties, with medium fine, light brown tinted hair a little past her collar, which she always puts up in the back with a banana clip. Patsy is a referral from a great client, so I was excited to meet her. I take my time, probably too much time, with my initial consultations. I should have guessed I would have an issue with Patsy because she basically asked for something different but not much of a haircut. When I asked if she blow-dries and can use the iron at home, she answered yes. On her first visit, she asked for shorter bangs, she got a trim, shorter bangs, a blow-dry, and I curled the ends of her hair with an iron—she freaked with the length of her bangs. Not really noticeably shorter, but she thought they were, which is all that matters. I apologized. She sat in my chair for a long time lamenting her longer bangs and went home unhappy. I stressed and ran late for the rest of the day.
Four weeks later, she comes in beaming saying everyone loved her hair, her bangs, her everything. Now, she would like her color a little lighter, so I suggested tiny caramel lights to go with her level 6-7 light brown hair. Upon completion she thought the lights were too obvious. They were exactly the color I showed her on the color chart. She sat and argued her point again running me late for my next client. I politely suggested she bring in photos of what she feels she wants her hair to look like.
Fast forward four weeks, she felt the lights were not visible enough. So, I highlight a little heavier. At the end of that service she argued they were too bright. So, I toned them down with a demi-permanent level six. I woke up at two in the morning to take my tinkle break and then couldn’t get Patsy’s dissatisfaction out of my mind. I must have slept two hours. Does that ever happen to you?
Today, she decided she wanted to go back to the tiny lights—with no red anywhere. I retouched her gray and handpicked the wider lights and covered them with a level 6.5—not very dark. At the end of that service she claimed her hair was now black. I explained how the absence of highlights automatically makes the hair look darker. She insisted her hair was black and argued her point again making me late for my next clients. Fourth time is a charm, I thought.
“Well, Patsy. There’s no charge for today and I suggest you visit another hairdresser. For some reason, we can’t communicate, and I don’t like to argue with my clients. I really worry that I can’t make you happy. I can’t seem to understand what you want. I’m sorry. Thank you for your patronage.” She was startled, which was never my intention, and said she really loved what I do, and did not want anyone but me, but there was no turning back. She was fired.
Some people feel a client is always right. But you know what? The client is not always right—we make a client feel right by bending the rules and overlooking unacceptable behavior. That’s our job and I accept it, but when do you say, “The buck stops here?”
What would you have done? Have you had to fire a client?
Carlos Valenzuela is as a Hairdresser/educator, ex-salon & school owner, author and corporate spokesperson with forty-five years of beauty experience. His focus today is raising wellness awareness and assisting salon professionals in developing a fulfilling career via his podcast “Tiny Steps for Salon Pros” www.anchor.fm/carlos-valenzuela and at industry events, seminars and in-salon workshops.