How to Handle Unhappy Clients

These are some top tips to deal with unhappy guests and, in some cases, turn the situation around.

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Ah, the inevitable unhappy client—someone who will hopefully pop up only rarely but is sure to cross your path at some point, nonetheless. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if your staff does everything right, from greeting the guest to maintaining the spa’s cleanliness and beauty, to a visit that culminates in an exquisite service delivery by the therapist; someone out there will find a reason to complain. The Society of International Nitpickers has a robust membership and will never go out of business.

The training of staff in every department doesn’t just encompass treatment protocols, reception skills or general housekeeping, but also recognizing the signs of a potential problem and intercepting them before they metastasize into a major issue. Of course, employee training is a must to minimize the damage of guest incidents or complaints, but it’s also important to know that you can often turn these into a winning situation for the business.

Chain of Command

When a guest makes a complaint, it’s critical that spa workers get a manager involved right away. If it happens in the treatment room, with the client indicating that they’re unhappy with a treatment already in progress, the therapist should ask the guest if they would like to speak with the manager straight away. If the answer is yes, the therapist should politely excuse themselves and immediately get the manager, briefly advising them of what service was being delivered and potential client objection.

The manager should meet with the guest and listen carefully to the issue—it’s crucial that the client feels heard. Try to resolve the problem immediately by either agreeing with the guest about how the provider can rectify the situation, or having another therapist deliver the service. If it’s impossible to have another practitioner provide the treatment, or the guest refuses to continue, managers should consider offering a discount on a future service.

Never throw spa staff under the bus! Remember that no matter how great a particular service provider is, no one bats 100 and it’s inevitable that there will be someone out there who doesn’t appreciate their style. As management, you must make it clear to the team that you have their backs, and you should be sure to get their feedback on any incidents.

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An industry veteran of more than 20 years, Bruce Schoenberg is the CEO of the multiple award-winning Oasis Day Spas in New York City. With a degree in business administration and economics, Schoenberg is an expert in financial operations, human resources, sales and marketing.

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