Client Conflict: How to Handle the Crankiest of Clients

Client Conflict: How to Handle the Crankiest of Clients

May 21, 2019

As a spa owner, you’re in the business of making people feel good - it’s why you got into the spa business in the first place!

But on the flip side, being a people-pleaser also means you may not deal with conflict very well.

Inevitably, clients, staff and owners come to the spa with their own personal "stuff" and at some point of the guest experience, conflict is inevitable. And this is why it's crucial you have a plan to deal with it logically, not emotionally.

It takes personal growth & a willingness to have awareness about how you react when conflict arises that determines successful resolution. As the owner, what’s your go-to response when conversations get spicy? Do you get defensive, or shut down? Are you a falling into the darkside of people-pleasing and giving them whatever they want to make them happy, even when it goes against your company’s values & policies?

None of the above methods are healthy solutions for you or your spa business when it comes to dealing with client conflict. The best way to minimize those issues is with a system.

When conflict comes up, I want you to get into a mindset where you can look outside of what's happening in that moment and ask yourself “:what's the real problem here?” You must get yourself out of your own issues and react from a non-triggered place, calmly and with grace. if you’re allowing your personal issues & conflict triggers to come into the equation, a problem that could be easily solved can blow up in your face.

System For Dealing With Conflict

Listen. Then Listen Again. – Sometimes, when a client isn’t happy, they just wants to be heard. But it's not enough to listen to the actual words you’re hearing; you also need to “hear” between the lines. Most people don't know how to communicate clearly & will react from their own bias. But when you are able to listen & apply critical thinking while in a mentally calmer place, you’ll likely be able to identify what the client actually is upset about and therefore you’re more likely to solve the problem - without feeling taken advantage of or like you’ve been through the emotional “ringer”.

What’s Your Role in the Problem - If you are an owner dealing with an unhappy client, you need to ask yourself, what part of this problem is your responsibility? Do you lack a system to for consistency and the client didn't get consistent service? Did you have a system but had there was a breakdown with a team member? You gotta own you’re part in this if you want to resolve the issue.

Clearly Communicated Policies - Cancellation policies are an excellent example of this. Is your cancellation policy adequately explained to the guest at the time of booking? Is it consistently displayed across all points of sale? Website, online booking, in person, on the phone? If not, it is your responsibility to go back and create better systems that will mitigate the problem.

Customer Service Scripts – Your reception, esthetics team and massage therapy team should not have to deal with conflict. Yes, they will be the front line, and you need to arm them with a script to deal with it, but there must also be a point that they have permission and a system for escalating the conflict to the owner or manager.

It may not seem fair that you don't get to say your piece, but as the saying goes; "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?"

You can't avoid conflict, but you can avoid or prevent a lot of the angst by thinking about how you want your client complaints processed. Conflict resolution systems are just another system, like a sales or training systems. Systems take the emotional charge out of the situation so you can be in your “thinking brain” rather than your “reactive brain”. It's your thinking brain that will allow you and your team to respond and act appropriately, which is ideal for everyone involved.

If you are struggling with your leadership in the area of conflict, one of the best books I have ever read is The Power Of a Positive No by William Ury. This book will give you confidence when it comes to saying no to others, saying yes to yourself, and setting healthy boundaries for the you and your spa business.

If you have any questions about client conflict or any other part of your business, I am here to help. Contact me, and we can chat about what you’re struggling with in your spa and to map a plan for your business to thrive and succeed. 

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