3 ways to deal with angry customers

Spas and salons provide a happiness service, so you wouldn’t necessarily think you’d encounter many difficult clients or situations, but unfortunately they do occur and you and your team need to be prepared for them. Some of the most common challenging scenarios you could be faced with include:

1. Abuse and violence

If a client has a complaint about poor service, the normal way to raise it would be to speak to the therapist, receptionist or another team member. The staff member would then try to address the complaint to the satisfaction of the customer. However, it’s not acceptable for the client to become abusive, threatening or act in a way that is upsetting or even frightening for the staff member dealing with the complaint.

As an employer, you have a duty of care to protect your team against violence and abuse in the workplace. You should have a written policy for such scenarios and make sure everyone is trained on it. The policy could, for example, be that if a member of staff feels uncomfortable when dealing with a client, they should immediately get their line manager. Your managers should also have specialist training on how to handle abusive or violent clients.

This could be done by sharing best practice or sending them on a course for how to deal with these types of situations. Although there is a cost attached to specialist training, your business will be much better protected if you have managers who are confident in dealing with these issues. All incidents should be logged, so you can efer to them, and in case any follow-up is required. If, for example, you need to call the police, they will want a record of what happened. 

2. Fraudulent claims

A client has a treatment in your spa; there are no complaints, she even says how much she loves it and leaves a tip for the therapist. Then, a few weeks later, you receive a letter from a “no win, no fee” lawyer claiming their client had an allergic reaction, injured herself or became ill as a result of her visit to the spa and is looking for compensation. 

This scenario has become increasingly common in recent years, leading to revenue loss for businesses, driving up insurance costs and making it harder for valid claims to be dealt with correctly. The best way to prepare for a fraudulent claim is to make sure that: 

 • Your processes and procedures are followed rigorously 

• Your paperwork is in order

• Your staff are well-trained and can handle any incidents that occur 

• You contact your insurance company early on, when something happens. 

Don’t forget, your consultation form should include questions about any pre-existing conditions that might affect treatment. If an accident does occur, make sure your accident log is filled in and signed by all relevant parties – even if there are no obvious signs of injury. This ensures you have a clear record of what happened and will help you identify and resolve potential issues before they turn into something bigger. 

3. Serious illness

Although it’s rare, there could be a time when a client genuinely becomes seriously ill in your spa. As a business, you’re 

responsible for everyone visiting or working within your premises, so you need to equip your team with the skills to cope with all kinds of scenarios, including someone falling ill. 

Make sure you have a list of important phone numbers in a prominent place, including numbers for senior management, your insurance company, local police, doctors and hospitals. Also list the key holders and people responsible for health and safety. If your spa is located within a larger complex, like a hotel or shopping centre, there may be additional procedures you need to follow. 

Ensure staff are aware that they need to complete an incident report if there is an accident – it’s a legal requirement. You should also review your incident log at least once a year, and look at your health and safety provisions. Are they adequate or could anything have been done to prevent any accidents that occurred? By regularly reviewing your processes, you can make small improvements that will hopefully reduce the number of future incidents. 

Overall, my advice would be that if you’re faced with a problematic client incident, share that experience with your team and make sure everyone learns from it. The more your team knows about dealing with challenging circumstances, the more confident they will feel in handling such situations in a calm way, minimising the negative impact for themselves and the business. 

Becky WoodhouseBecky Woodhouse is chief executive of Pure Spa & Beauty, which offers beauty and spa treatments in seven locations across Scotland, and one in London. She has a background as a chartered accountant and previously worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers. 

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