How to deal with clients who cheated on you during the lockdown
Even during the height of the lockdown, some people decided that their roots and split ends were more important than public health and sought ways to get their hair done. Unfortunately, there were also stylists who illegally provided them with such services. You are aware of these shameful dealings – you watched some of your clients sharing photos with fresh colours and cuts while all non-essential businesses were supposed to be closed down. Now, when the reopening date is closing in, the same people are contacting you with appointment requests. You are boiling with anger and honestly feel like banning them from your business forever. Is this the proper way to deal with such customers? Let’s take a closer look at this issue!
Put your emotions aside
Let’s begin by stating one harsh truth – there is no such thing as a client cheating on a hairstylist. Clients are not your romantic partners. They are also not your business partners – they didn’t sign a non-competition agreement. They are free-willed consumers and you are a service provider. You don’t cheat on your favourite chef when you decide to eat dinner at a different restaurant for a change and you don’t see mechanics banning customers from their workshop because they did their last mechanical inspection elsewhere. While it’s natural that due to the very personal nature of the service, you get more attached to your regular clients than service providers in other industries do, that doesn’t change the professional backbone of your relationship.
It isn’t to say that you cannot feel sad about clients going to another stylist after years of being pampered at your salon – it’s natural and understandable! However, you cannot let your hurt feelings affect your business decisions. From a professional point of view, the only thing that should be of your concern is whether or not the condition of their hair and/or scalp has changed due to the service received elsewhere in a way that will affect the appointment with you.
Now, the discussion gets even more heated when it comes to clients who choose another salon over yours because you did the right thing and closed your business, while the other salon (or stylist) continued to operate illegally. Now it’s no longer the issue of hurt feelings over presumed lack of loyalty. It’s not even about the fact that you most probably were struggling to get through the difficult time, as clients have no obligation to support you in such situations – it’s more about the questionable morality. Ignoring the government’s restrictions and risking spreading the potentially deadly disease for pure vanity is a serious offence. It’s no wonder you may want to chastise such people by disallowing them to your salon. The question remains – should you?
Ask yourself – what am I trying to achieve?
Your answer to this question is going to be crucial here. What’s your priority? Is their behaviour an issue for you? How much do you want your moral code to affect your business decisions? Are you ready to face the possible consequences, such as negative reviews online? Will you be able to stand behind your decision?
I want to steer clear of any controversy and just make profit
Some salon owners prefer to keep their personal opinions out of their business. If a situation does not affect their business directly, they do not engage in discussion and simply continue to do their job. If that’s your principle, simply make an in-depth consultation with the unloyal client, as you would do with any customer who visited another salon before the appointment with you. Ask if their hair were chemically altered (colour, perm, straightening) and how much time has passed since. If their state won’t allow you to carry forward with the requested treatment, you can refuse service – but make it clear it’s about their safety, not you being mad that they had something done during the lockdown.
I want to refuse service to such clients and I admit it openly
On the other hand, there are salon owners that always follow their personal moral code and make it a part of how they run their business. If your approach is closer to this and you simply don’t want to provide services to people who consciously put their looks over public safety, it’s important to keep things clear, polite yet firm.
- Be open about your approach. It’s best that your potential clients are aware of what you think about such behaviour before they contact you.
- Be polite when communicating. Even if your opinions are quite rigid, you should still express them in a respectful manner. Remember that you represent a business!
- Be prepared to defend your decision. According to the law, as a business owner, you are in the right to refuse service (or entry) to anyone, as long as you don’t discriminate on grounds of sex, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation and religion or belief. Nevertheless, it’s always best to have a valid reason and be aware that you might end up in a position where you will have to explain and defend your way of thinking.
- Be consistent with your treatment of such cases. Unequal treatment of customers always looks bad. If you refuse service to one potential customer because they had a treatment done during the lockdown and then happily balayage another who did the same but you like them better, you are a hypocrite and public opinion can call you out on that.
Regardless of your approach and final decision, remember that while in contact with existing and potential clients, you represent a business and therefore everything you say and do will affect the way it is perceived. Refusing to provide service to clients who did something immoral sends an important message, however, you need to be aware that their reaction is unpredictable and in the worst-case scenario, you may get sued and will have to defend your decision in court. Make sure to prepare yourself for any course of action – and whatever you do, always keep things professional, polite yet assertive. You are in charge here – with all the rights and responsibilities!