What to do when clients refuse to follow your safety rules

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The world would be a beautiful place if clients would always abide by your salon rules. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. It’s an annoying situation on a daily basis, but during the epidemic, it gets even more heated. Now, more than ever, it’s important to promote responsible behaviour. What are your rights and responsibilities in this instance? How should you treat clients who either straight-up refuse to follow your protocols or seek excuses for not doing so? And how should you respond to online messages regarding this matter? What can you do to make the situation as clear as possible? Let’s jump straight into it.

Firstly: make sure your rules are appropriate

If you read our ebook on salon policies (and we encourage you to do so – you can download it for free!), you probably remember that businesses are in the right to establish their own rules and even refuse service to a client, as long as these rules don’t go against the law, have a reasonable explanation and are not discriminating (for example, you absolutely cannot refuse service based on a client’s age, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, race, religion or disability).

What does this mean in the context of the current situation?

The rule of thumb is to follow the government’s advice and make sure the rules you set are not in contradiction with it. If you feel like the government’s guidance is missing something important, you can always introduce additional salon protocols, but they should be sensible and based on concern for safety, not prejudices and paranoia.

To give an example – you are expected to define the limit of customers allowed in your salon at one time, so it’s perfectly okay to refuse entry to someone who wants to come in too early or wasn’t even appointed. However, refusing entry or service to someone because they are of other nationality and therefore you allege that they are infected is discrimination.

Keep yourself updated

It’s a fact that the advice on safety precautions is constantly developing. For example, while in most countries, face masks are (or at least used to be) mandatory, in the UK, covering your face wasn’t recommended for the general public at first, and now is only recommended on public transport and enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible. Moreover, you are advised to use self-made face coverings, leaving professional PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) supplies, such as surgical masks, to healthcare workers. However, these instructions may change once the lockdown eases. This is why following the updates is crucial.

Tip: Make sure to get familiar with the guidance for people who provide close contact services, including hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattooists and massage therapists!

Secondly: communicate your rules clearly

The importance of communicating your safety rules cannot be overstated. You do not expect people to follow rules you have failed to make clear. You need to provide clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival (for example by signage and visual aids), as well as written or spoken communication of the latest guidelines to both workers and clients. Moreover, you should inform your clients about all the changes in the salon’s operation – such as taking bookings by appointment only, taking prepaid bookings or credit card payments only or temporarily discontinuing particular treatments than cannot be performed in a safe way.

To ensure your clients are aware of your safety rules:

  • Print out protocols and safety rules you’ve implemented and hang them in your salon’s windows and/or doors. Clearly state your expectations for customers.
  • Describe your protocols and safety rules in detail on your website. If you don’t have one, consider using the Facebook Note feature. Whenever you submit a short version somewhere else, you can add the link to the full one for clients who want more details.
  • Consider creating a pop-up banner on your website.
  • Add a note regarding your rules and protocols on your booking webpage.
  • Publish informative posts on all your social media fan pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.).
  • Send a bulk email message to your customers, updating them on your latest changes. If you are using Versum, you can select your entire client base and send (or schedule) an email with everything they need to know.
  • Send a bulk text message to your clients, asking them to familiarise themselves with your new rules. It can either refer to the aforementioned email or contain a link to the rules described in detail on your website.
  • Mention your safety rules in the appointment reminders.

Thirdly: be prepared

The best way to ensure your clients follow your policies, especially ones regarding the PPE usage, is to provide them with all the necessary products. Of course, most probably you will be obliged by law to provide things like hand sanitiser and disposable towels – that’s given. However, if you decide to introduce additional safety precautions, it’s just as important to stock on the needed supplies. For example, if face covering will not be deemed as required by law, but you will ask your clients to wear one for their appointment anyway, it’s up to you to provide them with it.

It’s also wise to prepare for some clients getting very creative with excuses as to why they cannot abide by your safety protocols. Of course, some issues may be very valid (for example, a client refusing to wear a mask as they suffer from respiratory problems) but you are going to face some ridiculous notions as well (“I have dry skin and therefore cannot use a hand sanitiser”). For such cases, consider providing additional supplies, like sanitizable and reusable face shields, hand cream or disposable gloves.

Finally: be calm, yet assertive

Reading the available guidance from the government, you might have noticed that they are always worded in a very specific manner – you are supposed to “encourage” clients to follow your protocols and “remind” them how they should behave to minimise the risk of an outbreak. What does this mean in practice?

Dealing with clients arriving at your salon and refusing to follow your safety rules

You should always begin the interaction with the client refusing to abide by your safety protocols in a calm and composed manner – by pointing out the posters with safety rules, asking them to follow your instructions, showing sanitation stations, handling face coverings and so on. However, if your polite request is rejected, you are in the right to refuse entrance or service.

Dealing with clients questioning your safety rules online

It may also happen that your client starts questioning your rules when making their appointment, for example, during a conversation via Messenger. In such situations, it’s important to make it clear right off the bat that your policies are there for a reason and you won’t proceed with the service if the customer fails to follow them. If a client gives you a valid reason for their concerns (for example, the aforementioned breathing difficulties), discuss a reasonable resolution (eg. wearing a face shield). However, if they simply “don’t believe” in the safety precautions or the virus in general, simply let them go – not every client is a client worth having.

Being a business owner in these trying times is not an easy task – however, besides numerous responsibilities, you also have rights that allow you to manage your salon in a way you see fit. You absolutely can (and should) expect your visitors to abide by your safety rules – and even refuse service if they refuse to do so. It’s the last resort, but sometimes it’s just the right thing to do – health is always the highest priority.

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