Addressing an unhappy client after a lengthy hair extension appointment is perhaps the worst situation you can be in as a stylist. You’re tired from installing a full head of hair, discouraged that your client is unsatisfied with the work, and most likely uncertain of where to take the conversation from there, especially if it’s your first time dealing with this kind of hiccup. But we’re here to help. Here are the “confrontation” and “de-escalation” tips and take-aways we’ve gathered from many years of working with hair extensions, stylists, and clients. We hope that they’ll prove useful for you!

Read the signs.
Not all clients will express dissatisfaction the same way. Some will come right out and tell you what’s on their mind, but many will convey only a facial expression, or respond with vague questions or statements that traipse around the edges of their feelings. It’s important that you notice these signs, read them for what they are, and articulate them to your client. It’s easy to ignore some signs of unhappiness, whether by accident or to intentionally avoid a confrontation or the possibility of more work, but the reputation of your salon and business is in the balance, so you want to make your clients as happy as possible. That means that, when faced with cryptic messages or gestures, you should straight-out ask your client what they think of their hair (politely), and ask them if there’s anything they’d like changed. Oftentimes the fixes will be simple enough. Maybe the style didn’t suit them and they want a few more layers, or waves, or what have you. Once in a while, you might need to schedule a damage control appointment. You just won’t know until you ask.

Address yourself, first.
Let’s say the misstep is a big one, and your client is seriously upset. You can tell that they’re worked up--but what about you? If you’re feeling a little foggy or angry or off-balance, too, you’re in no position to be engaging with an unhappy customer, since it takes water to put out a fire--not more fire. So step one is to perform an internal check-in. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” “Why am I feeling this way?” and really spell it out for yourself so you can put things in perspective. If you still feel like you’re unable to balance yourself after your internal check-in, ask another stylist or administrator for support.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes.
Once you’ve sorted out your own feelings about the situation, try to see things from your client’s point of view. Did they just spend a lot of money on this appointment? Do they have a history of low self-esteem, or problems with their body or general appearance? Was this appointment for a special event that’s coming up soon? Or do they feel like they’re going to have to pay for a mistake that you made, or settle for a look that they didn’t want in the first place? Oftentimes the client’s concerns are entirely valid, even if their behavior in reaction to those concerns is disproportionate or needlessly hostile. So invite them to outline their perspective to you, and let them know that you understand where they’re coming from.

Ask questions.
Once you’ve reaffirmed to your client that you recognize and understand their concerns, ask more technical questions about the hair itself. What is it about the product that they don’t like? At what point during the procedure did they observe things starting to go south? Let the client feel like they’re in control here, as this will help to alleviate some of their negative feelings about the appointment.

Provide clarification.
Now that you know what it is your client is unhappy about, you can quickly and briefly share your own side of the story. You made this decision because...you proceeded this way because...you weren’t aware that…etc. Maybe your client will understand some of your decisions, or recognize that you were acting on something that they had miscommunicated. If so, this step can help to absolve you of the full brunt of the blame, and restore your client’s trust in you. If not, you’ll at least have shared your thought process and demonstrated to those around you that you were not careless in your performance.

Propose a remedy.
Next, you should set forth a course of action. How can you and your client work together to achieve the outcome that they want? Is a re-installation in order? A color job? Something else? Create a battle plan with specific, actionable steps to correct the problem to your client’s satisfaction.

Remember your salon policies.
Ideally, damage control services should be offered for free. So long as the client did not drastically miscommunicate their objectives, leave out important information, or simply dislike the result that they had initially envisioned (outcomes that can be avoided with a thorough consultation session), the error in these situations must be attributed to the stylist. In general, the client only has so much control over the installation procedure, so unwanted results are not really their fault. That being said, you should consult with your salon’s policies before arranging free damage control services. If additional hair is necessary, it’s possible that the client would be expected to cover a portion of it, even if the installation of said hair is free. In these cases, consider paying for the replacement hair yourself. Even if you lose money at the end of this encounter, you’ll have established professional accountability, which is vital for maintaining a respectable salon and good client relations.

Act accordingly.
This is absolutely vital: if you say you’re going to do something to counteract a problem, actually do it. Follow your battle plan to a T--and, just to be safe, ask your client how they feel throughout the process. Because the only thing worse than a bad hair extension appointment is a bad follow-up hair extension appointment.

What are your tips for addressing an unhappy client? Do you have any memorable experiences to share? Let us know in the comments below!