Let’s talk about business complaints. We get messages from a lot from people and see them in the lash forums saying; “Oh my goodness this person is unhappy, how do I deal with this?” and “my clients lashes are falling out, how do I deal with this”… and I would say 90% of the time it is handled so inadequately. I cringe as I watch people posting about it, or as people are like oh I sent this and I'm like oh no no no! We don't send that, because there is a way to handle complaints that is professional, that protects your business and doesn't do the wrong thing by the client.
When replying to customer complaints we get so defensive and instantly think, how can she blame her lash retention on me! Retention is a topic we talk about all the time and more often than not, it is the technicians fault. Yep, there’s the brutal truth.
The focus of this topic is the written complaint format, because it's what I see most often in the forums. I really want you to know that in the complaints procedure I give my students, I am very encouraging of picking up the phone to hear their story, to hear their concerns, to hear the tone in their voice and then they can also do the same with you. But let's get into the written version of how to handle complaints for now.
So the complaint happens and you have a total breakdown. I have been doing this for nearly 13 years, maybe longer and I've made a lot of mistakes in complaint handling. It wasn't until I had someone read over them that they were like, ‘Oh my goodness, no wonder you’re getting these hostile responses’, and I was like well I thought my reply was fine. The biggest mistake was making it come from an emotional place. Our businesses are so personal to us, but that is not how the client sees it. The client isn't looking at your business being like ‘Oh well that somebody's baby’ or ‘that’s somebody’s is bread and butter’… they don't see us like that. They might not know business struggles, most people are not entrepreneurs… the average population have a job where they are employed and if someone cancels on them, it doesn't affect them personally. Someone complains at their work, it doesn't affect their business.
So the complaint happens and you have your total mental breakdown over it. I then want you to call your nearest business helpline, so for example I would call consumer affairs if I was located in Victoria to essentially say; here is this situation I want to know legally where do I stand. So once you called consumer affairs and they had given you the correct advice on what you can and can't do.
The client is allowed to ask you to fix a problem. So when people say ‘no there was nothing wrong with the eyelash extensions I did’, you always have to offer to fix the problem and to rectify the situation. I see a lot of people saying ‘absolutely not, I won't do this’ and ‘I won't do that’… well you can and should fix the lashes if they're saying there is a genuine problem. What you don't have to do in Australia is give a refund, because technically we fall into trade based services so we have done the work. But if the work is not up to scratch, well then we have to fix this!
So let's say someone complains about their eyelash extensions falling out within a week, get all the details and write it out in a word document or draft email… make sure you don't put their email address in case you accidentally send it! Now write EVERYTHING you want to say, because you can, you're not physically going to send this email to them. I want you to express every emotion you have around this situation, because as business owners it hurts our soul when these things happen. So write everything you want to say, and then delete or burn it! I don't care which way you do it, but get the emotions out. Feel everything that comes with this situation. 80% of the time we are over reacting when we get a complaint. Know that you've expressed the emotions you needed to get out and then re-write the email.
Step 1: Identify the complaint, so you would say something like ‘thank you so much for reaching out to me. I understand you're having issues with your eyelash extensions staying on’ or ‘I understand you feel like you're having lash retention issues’. Identify what the complaint is and actually say – ‘I hear you’, rather than being like ‘hi Hun, this is super abnormal’… they're not going to believe you that it's super abnormal they're going to be like, you probably have this problem with everyone and you're just being defensive. You need to acknowledge what they're saying, ‘OK I understand this is what you think is happening’, and you don't necessarily have to say ‘think’, but acknowledge it.
Step 2: I then want you to site your policies and let your client know that you have conferred with consumer affairs to ensure you are being fair to both sides of the party.
What this does is it says to them - here are the policies I have in place, which they should know by this (and if they don't you have other issues).
You should also state you have contacted your regulation body to ensure what you are saying is fair and reasonable for both parties.
Step 3: Now you can acknowledge their feelings and again acknowledge that this must be extremely frustrating for them have to have their lashes fall out before they believed they would. Or you can reword it in whichever way you like.
Step 4: We then close it out with how we're going to rectify the situation; eg. I pride myself on ensuring my clients are 100% happy with their lash service and that their retention is on point and lasting 2 to 3 weeks. To ensure we can do this going forward, I would love to get you back in to troubleshoot what the retention issues are. This will also help me understand exactly what is going on. Furthermore, I am going to reach out to my lash mentor and trainer to understand better what could have been happening here. There is often simple reasons why lashes don't last and I want to make sure that we get this right for you.
We have done so much in this reply, we have essentially said to them ‘I acknowledge what you believe is happening, I have done my research so that it backs my policy to what the outcome will be of this particular resolution, that it is fair, with then going on to give them acknowledgement of their emotions and how frustrating this must be because having the lashes fall out and providing them with a resolution.
I've had this where lash techs are flat out like ‘I'll get you back in just to touch it up’. But I could clearly see they were so pissed off that I had dared ask them to do more work on top of what they had already done. In their mind I had only paid for that one service and too bad if my lashes fell out. This comes down to pricing which is a whole other conversation! Get your pricing together so that if you have to do touch ups, it is not the end of the damn world for you! You should be making profit! You don't want to be doing touch ups, again retention issues - please get help with that. But your pricing should be at a point that you are earning a profit and if you're not earning a profit, then getting someone back in to fix their lashes is going to feel like a punch in the gut.
And sorry, but not so sorry for the reality of what I'm saying to you. YOU need to screw your business head on and it’s the one thing we are not taught, it is one thing that we go to beauty school, we got put through a two day course and they're like off you go, good luck. They are NOT trained in those course to be business owners, they are trained to be employees. That is what those training courses do and without a great mentor to get you through, it’s just going to be struggle street.
So step out of the employee mindset and the “I shouldn't have to fix this mindset” - YES YOU SHOULD! It's YOUR mistake. Very rarely would I say, ‘no it’s the clients, it’s definitely the clients’. And yes they come up, but if this is a regular occurrence for you, I guarantee you it's not the client. And those words are going to hit someone really hard in the face today.
This blog and our podcast does not go into all the details that you really truly need to handle these situations with complete professionalism, but it's going to give you a bloody good idea of the best ways to handle written complaints.
If ever you want to go into depth on how to deal with complaints, we cover this in our 10 Week Business Coaching Course. This is done directly with Kimberley and it is a comprehensive topic that will guide you on how to professionally handle customers within your business.