We’ve all had screw up’s in our business. I’ve had a few doozies. The worst one was 14 years ago when I took a week off to get married and a staff member waxed one of my client’s eyebrows even though she knew the guest was on Accutane. For those of you who aren’t estheticians, Accutane is a drug taken for acne but causes the skin to be very thin and is a dangerous contra-indication for waxing. What was the result of this brow shape? With each strip of wax coming off, so did her skin.
I was horrified. And scared shitless. I could have lost my reputation, my business & my personal finances if that client chose to act on her situation.
Fortunately, I was able to quickly contact my client, apologize for the disastrous treatment and make a plan to do right by her. Right off the bat I gave her a protocol to follow to help heal her skin and I paid for the necessary ointment. She was also given a complimentary facial for when she was healed and I followed up with a personal phone call a week later. This guest remained a client of my spa even after I sold it and continued to be one of our top revenue generators.
I would say that there are numerous events that happen in your business that could go sideways within the blink of an eye. Forgetting to book a client's appointment before her 2 week holiday, demanding clients who complain no matter what you do, the hot water tank dies, consistant client no-shows….the list can go on and on.
I have 3 recommendations you should follow to prevent gambling with your business's reputation.
1) Kill them with kindness.
This tactic has always worked really well for me, but it’s so hard to do when you’re blazing mad at a client who’s intent on pushing all your buttons. Find your compassion...you don’t know what else is going on in their life and you may simply be the poor doormat that’s receiving the brunt of their anger. Whatever the reason for their frustration, stay focused on creating a solution and don’t keep re-hashing the dirty details of what went wrong.
If you’re completely frustrated with this client and don’t wish to work with them anymore, it may be time for a client break upafter the crisis has been dealt with.
2) Keep hawk-eyes on what’s being said about your business on social media.
Social media is fast, but it moves at lightning speed when it comes to bad press. In the case of the US Airways flight 1549 that pitched in New York's Hudson river, social media was a full 15 min ahead of mainstream media. When the president of the company made his comments to the public 20 min later, he was criticized for taking too long. This is an extreme case, however, it speaks well to the fact that bad news travels fast online and the public expects your business to keep up.
There are scads of examples of social media gone wrong for companies, most being they weren’t monitoring their platforms and bad reviews went viral…the bigger the company, the faster it spread.
Moral of the story…keep on track of your social media platforms so you can address complaints or poor reviews quickly.
3) Publicly reply to all online reviews that are less than stellar
Review sites are an incredibly powerful tool to use for Client Attraction. One of my colleges was telling me she garners 12-15% of her leads from Yelp and openly asks her guests to write reviews.
“I’ve not yet received a bad review, but I have a plan in place if and when I ever do! It is a concern, but the benefits FAR outweigh any fear.” Kristin Cheyne, Facial Expressions Skin Care (Vancouver BC)
Some business owners are anxious about promoting online reviews at all. "What if someone leaves a bad review? My business will be screwed!" was a comment during a recent discussion on this topic. So what if you do get a bad review…how do you handle this public shaming?
Reply to the review with compassion and a sincere desire to repair the damage. I watch Trip Advisor and other review sites for how successful replies to poor review are done. Here's a great example:
It acknowledged that the guest wasn't happy, was professional yet kind in it's reply and has an offer to discuss the problem. Keep in mind that as a business owner, you want these review so you know what to fix!
What would NOT handling a review well look like? It definitely looks like this. Self-control, understanding the big picture and a plan will get you through the crisis.
One tarnished review will not be the kiss of death to your business, but if you don't have an great action plan to handle it, then you could be in for a rough ride. Ignoring the issue will not make it go away, therefore your best bet for damage control is to acknowledge the problem quickly and in a positive manner.
We all make mistakes. It would be ridiculous to think nothing is going to go haywire in your business. But if you handle it with professionalism, grace and compassion, your reputation will be continue to be rock solid. Not only that, but it's quite possible that an amazing, long-term client could be garnered from your business disaster.