As aestheticians work in a service driven industry, they must communicate with clients and consumers on a regular basis. Most clients are a pleasure to work with but, every now and then, a professional may run into a client who can make their job somewhat difficult. In order to continue making their business thrive, they must learn how to deal with problem clients. The following are some of the more common situations and solutions skin care professionals may come across while working with clients.
The Situation: The client comes in late and demands the full service she was booked for. She is a great client that spends a lot of money and refers several others. Unfortunately, you are booked solid and do not want to disrupt the other clients’ appointments. Cancelling the appointment or not completing the full service could upset her and could risk losing a client that brings in a lot of revenue.
How to Handle the Situation: Offer a treatment that would still be beneficial but that does not take as much time to complete. For example, a facial typically takes at least an hour, but a hydradermabrasion or chemical peel takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. If the client still wants the longer treatment, it may need to be cut short. Asking the client their main concerns will help determine what can be altered. For instance, if a client wants to see clearer skin, skip the massage and spend time on extractions. Otherwise, if the client is there to relax, forego extractions and spend the remaining time on the massage. This way, the client’s needs are met, while still adhering to the shortened appointment time.
How to Avoid the Situation: Send out reminder texts or e-mails to clients about their upcoming appointment times. If a client is continuously late, consider booking them on slower days or make them the last appointment. This client can also be booked for a standing appointment. This way, they know, for instance, that 3:00 P.M. every first Wednesday of the month is their time.
THE “I’VE TRIED EVERYTHING”
The Situation: The client has been to several other providers and has spent a lot of money on products and nothing has worked. Now, they are skeptical that the spa is only out for their money. They are afraid of buying more products and services and still not seeing the results they desire.
How to Handle the Situation: First, check the client’s expectations. If they are not realistic, it is better not to treat them. Empathy towards their frustration will show trustworthiness. Start out with a treatment that will offer instant gratification while focusing on their concerns. Avoid over-selling or add-on services on the first visit; this may scare them away. Samples of professional products will allow the client to see a difference in quality when compared to past experiences. They will appreciate the conservative commitment to their well-being. Documenting improvements with before and after pictures will help the client recognize positive changes taking place.
How to Avoid the Situation: Perform a thorough consultation to get to know the client and help to establish trust. Ask what the client has tried in the past, as well as what has and has not worked for them. Educating this client thoroughly is important so they can see that you are knowledgeable.
THE OVERLY FRIENDLY
The Situation: The client continually shares their personal life. The client’s over-friendliness is apparent in their gift giving. They now ask for favors and discounts.
How to Handle the Situation: In the intimate setting of the treatment room, clients may grow close to you. Others may actually be your friends outside of work. Do not allow friendship to interfere with business. Those that are not in the service industry may not understand that it is your income. However, you can still make the client feel special. There are other ways besides discounting that will show gratitude for the client’s business. Let them know about upcoming specials and reward programs. Add-on treatments are a great way to show appreciation, while still maintaining value in services. Do not discount services; you do not want to take money out of your own pocket. Also, document all gifts, cards, and phone calls in this client’s chart to be on the safe side.
How to Avoid the Situation: Always maintain a healthy and professional separation from clients. Never give the client personal information. Be friendly but always bring conversations back to their skin care.
The Situation: The client did not show up for their appointment and now they are trying to rebook without paying the cancellation fee.
How to Handle the Situation: If this is the client’s first no-show and they have a good reason, forego the fee – but only once. If they simply forgot or they are a repeat offender, it is necessary to charge them. If not, the client could end up taking advantage of the situation, which will ultimately affect revenue. Calling the client will let them know they will be held accountable for payment. Simply let the client know that just as you respect their time, they will need to respect yours. Reinforce the value of the services.
How to Avoid the Situation: Cancellation policies need to be put in place and enforced. Clients should be told about the cancellation policy when they book their first appointment and a credit card should be required. On their visit, have the client sign a document with this policy. Policies should also be clearly stated on menus, the website, and paperwork.
THE BARGAIN SHOPPER
The Situation: The client comes in for a consultation and tries to negotiate prices. They found similar services offered by another company through a daily deal website. This is the client that is always looking for a discount or trying to get something for free.
How to Handle the Situation: First, try to determine if the client has a budget they need to work with. If this is the case, work with them directly to set up a plan that stays within their means. Try to understand where their money will be best spent, whether it is on products for homecare or on services offered. If it is truly just a budget issue, consider treatments that do not cost as much money or offer package pricing. Make sure this client is on the mailing list so they can see upcoming specials. If the client does not see the value in the work, it is important to reiterate expertise and re-establish this boundary with them. Do not alter the price for one client, as it is not fair to others. This client is often pleased when offered packages instead of discounts, helping them to feel as if they are their getting money’s worth.
How to Avoid the Situation: Credential the business so the client sees the value. Have prices clearly stated on service menus and the website. The consultations will inform them of the services and products they need. The client will then seek these services and products elsewhere at a lower cost. Always charge a consultation fee, as time is valuable.
The Situation: The client comes in after receiving a chemical peel for hyperpigmentation and it is obvious that they have been tanning. The client is now complaining that their pigment is worse than before.
How to Handle the Situation: This client may blame the spa for the unexpected side effects. Let the client know that post-treatment care was discussed and sun exposure following a peel could be detrimental to the results. Do not put the blame on this client, even though it is their fault; they may feel threatened or attacked. Have a discussion about what went wrong. Pull up the before pictures that show the client’s skin was clearly lighter before their last appointment and that they must have been exposed to the sun. It is vital to explain clearly the huge impact homecare will have on the client’s overall results. Be clear with the client that noncompliance could lead to worsened skin conditions.
How to Avoid the Situation: Do not be persuaded to do a treatment if you feel uncomfortable. If it seems that a client will not be compliant, it is best not to treat them. Reiterate all possible side effects of the treatment and how to care for their skin at home following the treatment. Always take before pictures and make sure consents are discussed thoroughly and signed.
The Situation: The client had a treatment and is disappointed because they expected more significant results. They received a microcurrent treatment for skin tightening and, with five more treatments scheduled, they are not sure they want to continue.
How to Handle the Situation: While still being confident in your ability to deliver results, remind the client that outcomes vary according to many factors. Remind the client that to achieve results, it will likely take multiple treatments. This is a good way to sell packages, as well. Ask them about homecare; are they using the recommended products and protecting their skin? Look at before and after photos to show any visible changes in the skin. Discuss the benefits and long-term results that can be achieved by adhering to the treatment plan.
How to Avoid the Situation: Encourage the client to express their needs and desires. Always check expectations; if they are unrealistic, it is best not to treat them. A general rule of thumb is to always under-promise and over-deliver. Setting expectations low and then exceeding them is a great way to handle these clients. Get before and after pictures so clients can see the results that were obtained.
The Situation: The client comes in with rosacea and wants microdermabrasion, but this does not seem like it would be good for their skin, so a different treatment is suggested. The client says they have done their research and knows it is the best treatment for them. This client comes to the professional for their technical skills, not for an expert opinion and diagnostic skills.
How to Handle the Situation: Try to understand the client’s ultimate goal and thoroughly explain how it can best be achieved. Realize that if the client is given the treatment they want and it does not meet their expectations, they may fault the spa. On the other hand, if the client is given a different treatment and it does not meet their anticipated outcome, they may fault the spa even more. If another treatment is more suited than the one requested, explain the pros and cons of each with detailed specifics. Be sure they make the final decision, unless of course the particular treatment that they wanted is not beneficial or potentially harmful. Allow input from the client to help them feel heard. Professionally guide the conversation toward your intentions with their treatment; this is an important aspect of dealing with this client. Follow up with this client a few days after the appointment to see how they liked the treatment and if there are any questions that can be answered.
How to Avoid the Situation: Perform a thorough consultation and educate the client on their condition and the best treatment for them. Have educational materials available, as they will likely want to read up on the other services recommended. Also, provide reliable resources for them to research. Establish yourself as the expert from the beginning of the appointment.
THE “I WANT IT ALL”
The Situation: The client has achieved significant results with cellulite reduction treatments but is still unhappy with their body. Your professional opinion is that there is no more that can be done for the client; the cellulite is gone. However, the client sees something that is not there.
How to Handle the Situation: Do not take the client’s dissatisfaction personally. There is nothing more that can be done to achieve their desired results. This client cannot help but look at themselves in an unhealthy way, no matter what treatments they have received. Unfortunately, just about every skin care professional has tended to at least one of these clients and wishes they had not. Refer this client to a physician. It is possible to recommend the appropriate psychological help without upsetting the client. Restate your professional expertise as a skin care provider to help them understand this is out of your scope of practice.
How to Avoid the Situation: Perform an in-depth consultation. This client may be suffering from a medical condition resulting in a distorted body image. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a very serious psychiatric condition that needs to be handled by a medical professional. If it seems the client may be suffering from this, there are questionnaires available that can help better identify the situation. If you intuitively feel uncomfortable working on someone, trust your gut.
Most aesthetic training programs are geared toward technical skills and knowledge of the skin, ingredients, and more. Outside of technical training, professionals should be well-versed in client relations. Working as an aesthetician is a balance between making clients happy and running a profitable business. Skin care professionals will encounter a variety of client situations, some which may be problematic. No matter the situation, remember to be professional. Guide the conversations and take control of the plan for clients’ skin. Believing in yourself is the first step to helping clients believe in you.
Terri Wojak is a highly sought-after professional with over 20 years of experience in the aesthetic industry. Along with Steven H. Dayan, MD FACS, Wojak developed True U Education, a corporation focused on providing advanced education for professionals in the aesthetic industry. She is a respected authority on skin care in a medical setting, education, and business development on multiple levels. She has published two books, #1 Amazon best seller in skin care “Aesthetics Exposed: Mastering Skin Care in a Medical Setting & Beyond” in May 2014 and “Mastering Medical Esthetics” debuted in 2009.