Sacking clients/letting go of clients can be a hard thing to do, but it is necessary for your own state of mind, the reputation of your business and to get rid of negative energy.
I had to sack a client today... I think it's been around 4 years since I had done it last time, so it's not often that it happens...but when doing so today I thought to myself
"I wonder if anybody else is unsure what to do, if they have had to do it themselves before... or have they been too afraid to do it in case they got a bad review or lose potential business?"....
so I decided to write this blog. It's been a while since I have added a blog to this website... I didn't realise how log it had actually been... time flies.
I'll give you a run down of the client and the situation... before I go into what I did and how I think firing a client should be handled.
A client gave me a call to book in a spray tan last week... She had had a bad experience at another salon, her tan turned orange, it was streaky, uneven. She went into detail regarding her experience, putting down the business, the tanner, the result of the spray tan and even the room where she got tanned stating it was old and dirty.
To me this was already a red flag to begin with.
It's not uncommon for a client to be unhappy with a spray tan elsewhere at times, and ring my salon to book in with me the next time they need a tan... but there are many factors as to why a result can happen unfavourably... and it's not always the spray tanners fault... but to go into such detail regarding the business, descriptives of where she was taken to be tanned (ie into another section of a business which she described as a tin-shed), belittling the spray tanner and business and having a negative vibe all-round does not make a great start to a potential business relationship with this particular new client.
Normally when a client rings up to book in a spray tan because they have been disappointed elsewhere I normally like to go through the reasons why it could have happened and explain that it is not always the business'/spray tanners fault the outcome wasn't what they wanted. That there could be a variety of reasons why, and I like to spend time with them on the phone running through everything so that they have an understanding of what may have happened previously and what to expect they need to do for an appointment at my salon for best results.
I think I spent around 20 minutes on the phone with this client going through what may have happened, going through the proper prep that she needed to do, ensuring her that I was qualified enough to be able to give a good result, and generally getting her confidence up enough to book in with me. I informed her that proper prep was about 80% of the result, so if she was to book in with me she needed to follow my instructions to a tea regardless of what she thought she had to do.
On the day of her appointment she came into the salon. Right off the bat she was annoyed as I couldn't greet her instantly at the reception desk as I was on the phone with a client booking her in for a spray tan. When I got her into the tanning room she reiterated her disappointment in her previous tan, saying how horrible it was, that it was orange, streaky, uneven and again stating she felt uncomfortable at the previous place because she was taken to a different area of the salon (which she called a tin-shed) for her tan, and didn't think it was professional at all.
I then went through my normal consultation with a new client, asking her her expectations of the tan, what she was wanting the tan for (it was a trial for a future wedding she was attending). I reconfirmed with her about her prep and whether she had used products on her skin the day of her tan and/or showered within the 3 hours prior to her appointment.. both of which she had done even though I had previously instructed her to not to do so. The confirmation email even has a link to my website with my tanning tips in case they forget what I have told them on the phone, and I instruct them to read them when they receive the email. If they have booked in their appointment directly via my online booking system, they have to tick a box to state that they will click on the link in the confirmation email, so there is definitely no excuse for them not following the instructions correctly.
When more mature clients come into the salon I like to try and explain (in a very kind way), that results are variable because of the age of the skin. That as we get older the skin thins and the acid mantle becomes damaged, which means as the acid mantle is thinner less amino acids are being created and the less chance we have of the tan developing to it's full potential. Normally with more mature skin their standard pH of the skin is sitting outside of the normal range, which can lead to varying results. With her not following the proper prep and with the age of the skin it was challenging to select a solution that both suited what results (depth of colour) she was expecting and wanting and what I knew she could achieve.
I mean I have seen the results of spray tans change with me compared to when I was getting spray tans 10-15 years ago and I'm not even 50 yet. This client would have been around the age of 70, so her skin is very different to the average client that comes into the salon for a spray tan. It is a lot harder to achieve desired results with older clients compared to those clients in their teens and 20's, 30's... who's skin is still quite young, vibrant and fresh.
The client also mentioned to me that her doctor stated that the skin on her arms was very thin and that she would bruise easily, so I mentioned to her that because of this the arms may be an issue with holding the tan, so we will review once the tan developed to see what happens.
The way that I spray tan I do two light coats, and I start on the back, then tan the left side of the body, the front and then the right side last.... so I am basically turning the client once in a circle in an anti-clockwise rotation... When I was tanning the client on the front of her body she insisted that I had missed her right side and her right arm, but I hadn't even got to that side of her body as yet as that is the last side I do to complete a full coat of solution. She really made me feel like she thought I didn't know what I was doing, and was questioning everything throughout the appointment. The fact is... I have been tanning for over 10 years and have done the exact same technique for the whole time I have been tanning so I could actually do it with my eyes shut. I'm very confident with my technique and I'm sure if there was an issue with it it would have been brought up with every client... but it hasn't.
My intuition kicked in and I knew instantly then that I would get an unfavourable email/call or text the following day or two about the tan, and that she would mention something about the right side of her body... and I was right!!
I completed the tan, went through all of the aftercare with her... stipulating that she needed to do a quick rinse in the morning (she got tanned at 7pm) without using any body products ie. no bodywash, no soap, no moisturiser, and she could have her full proper shower at the 24 hour mark, and could start using products again then. I was confident that she understood everything that was required as part of the aftercare and even gave her a pamphlet which was basically the written version of what I had discussed with her, so I was extremely confident that I had done everything I could to ensure she did the correct aftercare information.
The next day I received an email mid morning stating that the tan was very uneven, that it was streaky, that it was dark under her arms and that her right side was lighter than the left side.
I knew this was coming... but I still had to take a deep breathe, relax... take a second before I responded as it's so easy to respond emotionally and for defences to come up... especially when it relates to business and/or services that you have done on a client. It's at this time that you need to remember empathy towards the client, even if you don't want to give it.
I responded by saying:
I hear what you are saying and I can understand how this must be super frustrating for you... especially as this is the 2nd place you have been to where you haven't been happy with the results.
I do want to check with you that you have followed all of my instructions correctly so we can rule that out first and move onto discovering what may have gone wrong during your appointment.
As you slept in your tan, first I would like to confirm that you slept in appropriate clothing (ie long pants, long top... [by the way Qantas Pyjamas are the best thing you can wear after a spray tan or sleep in as they do not allow any skin on skin contact]. Secondly I would like to confirm that you only had a quick 30 second rinse in the morning (after waking up) with no body products... ie no bodywash, no soap, no moisturiser. As the tan is still in it's development stage, and colour will still be developing up until the 24 hour mark I would like to review the colour again later today to see if anything has changed for the better. Some parts of your body may be reacting quicker than others, so the colour may even out once the DHA has stopped reacting with the skin. I am more than happy to review the tan in person and fix anything that need to be fixed, so please let me know how the result is later today. It's best not to respray anything until the colour has fully developed (24 hour mark) to ensure that we don't over-saturate the DHA on your skin and send you orange.
I then had a very busy day of tanning, so I didn't see that the client had emailed me a couple of hours after sending that email to her.
She had stated that she hadn't showered yet, insisted that I had told her to shower after 24 hours so she still had the solution on her skin, even though I hadn't said that and the pamphlet I gave her stated the same as what I told her, so she also had what she needed to do in writing as well...
This means that the streaking, the darker and lighter areas, the uneveness was based on the bronzer still being on the skin, not from after her first initial quick rinse, and not based on the result of the development of the spray tan so far.
When I messaged her back I explained to her that I had gone through my standard ritual of explaining the aftercare and that I had asked her to quick rinse in the morning and that she could have her first proper shower at the 24 hour mark... I also said to her that the pamphlet I gave her went over all of this as well.
Asked her to have a shower and let me know what the tan was like once she was able to rinse.
Look... we all make mistakes at times, but I can guarantee you that I always give the same spiel to new clients... my regular clients laugh and say that I'm like a broken record as I say exactly the same thing, with the same tone of voice in the exact words every time, and they could repeat what I say as they hear it so often.... so I know I gave her the correct information.
The most time you ever need any solution on the skin for maximum results is 8 hours... after that time it's like "dead" solution sitting on the skin and it's left on just for convenience sake.. you don't get any further absorption into the skin after 8 hours, and the tan will develop anywhere up to 24 hours (sometimes 36 hours), but the longer you leave the solution on the skin the more drying it can be... so around 12-14 hours at most (for convenience sake) is what time it should be left on the skin if sleeping in it overnight.
Throughout the day I checked to see if she had responded so by the time I had got to the end of my day int he evening I had sent 2 other emails asking her how the results were after she showered, but I heard nothing back.
Today I got a response from her stating that she showered last night at the 24 hour mark (even though I had asked her to shower ASAP as the solution had been on long enough)... she stated that the tan was still uneven, that the colour had washed down the drain, that the right arm and leg were lighter than the other side, and that her tan had gone orange and was patchy...
This is the time when I came to the realisation that no matter what I do or say it's not going to change her opinion of me, my business or the results of her spray tan, and it was a client that I needed to let go. I didn't think it was fair that she was judging the tan when in the first instance the bronzer hadn't even been washed off the skin and she hadn't followed the correct aftercare. Even if I had resprayed her she was the type of client that was never going to be happy, so I thought it was best that we cut ties and she find another spray tanner. I know I did the best I could do for her... without sounding "big-headed" the results from my spray tans speak for themselves, the reviews I receive, the fact that my client base is growing very quickly and my return rate of clients is extremely high, shows that I know how to spray tan and get amazing results... but at the same time I know that you are never going to have a 100% success rate with clients, and not everybody is going to be happy... BUT... you do need to know which clients are going to be worth the fight and which you need to let go before further damage is done.
I decided to respond to her via email and advise her that I am sorry that she wasn't happy with the results, but I think it may be in her best interest that she find another spray tanner. My response was this:
Thanks for emailing me.. and Happy Easter to you too! :-)
Unfortunately it's impossible to judge the outcome of the tan fairly and get a true indication of what the tan result should be like when instructions weren't followed and the tan was left on a lot longer than instructed before doing the first initial quick rinse off.
Your happiness matters to me and I want to make sure that you get a great result from a spray tan for the wedding you are attending, and I don't think you will get that result from me from what you have described as the results of your spray tan today.
My technique doesn't change and I have sprayed the same way for the past 10 years with very successful results, but for some reason it just didn't work with you.
I want to make sure that you are taken care of in the best possible way, that you feel comfortable and walk away happy from an appointment, and that you are happy with the results once the tan is fully developed, so I have listed below a couple of reputable spray tan businesses in this area that will be able to accommodate you.
Both of these places have a great number of positive reviews, and they both use other solutions to what I use. I am certain you would be in very capable hands with either of these businesses, and they will be able to get your desired results for you.
It's unfortunate that I was unable to achieve what you wanted, but I do wish you all the best in locating a new spray tanner who is more suitable to your needs, and I hope that everything goes well with the wedding that you are trying to get the perfect tan for! :-)
Of course what I wrote above in the email was different to what I really wanted to say, but I didn't think it was necessary to go through every point she listed that was wrong with the tan and explain why it could have happened, especially as I thought it was best she get spray tanned elsewhere... It wasn't really concerning that I was losing a client as I already have so many loyal clients who deserve my time, and who collectively spread the word about my business in a positive way. When letting a client go/firing a client you have to do everything with kindness, compassion and empathy... Showing your clients that you aren't doing something TO them or AT them, but rather FOR them is the way to go.
If you are comfortable being up front with the client, you can point out the issue in a neutral, factual way that allows them to save face, but this isn't a bitch session, it is not a vent of all the problems, it is facts relevant to how you can service them adequately.
If you are suggesting another professional for your client to go to, you may be able to avoid any hard feelings when you part ways. Sacking a client is not necessarily leaving on bad terms... It is just not the right fit for you now. Where possible, you want them to still hold you in high regard, even if they are not using you.
To keep your dignity in tact, sacking a client is a business decision. As hard as it is, you need to take the emotion out and review the facts.
Sometimes clients may not like the fact that you were the one that decided to break the business/client relationship first, and they may retaliate with a bad review. Is that a bad thing? Definitely not.
If a bad review is written, take a deep breath, relax and give yourself a moment before responding. A bad review can easily be turned around in a positive way if you respond the correct way.
You need to respond in a professional manner, explain your side of the story, and show that you did what you could to get the issue resolved, even if the best result for both was to help them find somebody more suitable for their needs.
I will write another blog about how to respond to a negative review shortly.
Hope you have enjoyed this subject. It's been fun writing again, and it's been way too long in between blogs...
Any questions with regards to the above or if you have any comments you would like to add please post below and I will respond as soon as I can.
Thanks for reading! :-)