July 2011

Jaime Schrabeck

The Nail Extension | by Jaime Schrabeck


When Clients Behave Badly

One of my popular classes, Clients Behaving Badly begins with a simple, but powerful statement: "Bad clients are not worth having."

If this class were an interactive discussion about the worst clients ever, this statement would be considered logical. However, the class does not focus on bad clients.

Strategies will be given on building a clientele based on the premise that bad clients are not worth having. Clients form the foundation of your salon business, and the stronger the foundation, the stronger your business. 

Rather than express, as many would, to provide better customer service, you are encouraged to provide quality services to better customers. There are far more potential clients than there are beauty professionals, and this gives us a tremendous advantage.

That advantage is the power of choice. Choosing who to serve and who to refuse or refer elsewhere may seem incompatible with providing good customer service. However, what is truly incompatible is the misguided notion that we are somehow obligated to serve and please everyone.

No one can demand service from you, though some may treat you as if they could. That is as absurd as the notion that the customer is always right. Your value as a beauty professional lies in your expertise; clients pay you for being right. When having the clients you want makes giving them what they want easier, it makes sense for you to pursue the ideal clients for your salon business.

"The purpose of a business is to create a mutually beneficial relationship between itself and those that it serves." – John Woods

Many beauty professionals consider client relationships one of the most rewarding, yet most challenging, aspects of their work. Every client is a relationship; some will flame out within their first appointment, while others may last over decades.

It is not reasonable to expect that every person who contacts your business will become one of your best clients. Likewise, not every person you meet will become your best friend. Communicating what your salon offers and expects from clients encourages compatible potential clients to contact you, while discouraging others from wasting your time.

Building relationships requires effort and resources that should not be wasted on those who do not respect you as a beauty professional. When reflecting on my own clientele, I keep this in mind: "I don't build in order to have clients. I have clients in order to build." – Ayn Rand

The following statement, posted several years ago to my salon website, summarizes my approach to client relationships:


We believe that receiving a salon service should be a safe and pleasant experience for the consumer. Conversely, we believe that the beauty professional providing the service also deserves a safe and pleasant experience. Our salon does not suit every consumer, nor does every consumer suit us. To be blunt, we will refuse service to those who do not.

After 17 years of providing nail services, we have more than enough experience to know who best suits us. Our ideal client exhibits these qualities:

Insists on trained and licensed professionals

Respects our time

Expects a clean, organized salon environment

Appreciates quality more than convenience

Enjoys our salon experience

Schedules in advance

Values our professional opinions

Encourages our efforts to improve our skills

Supports our commitment to the beauty industry

Refers family and friends

Within an industry that treats consumers and professionals as disposable, our salon thrives because we respect ourselves and value our clients, particularly our preferred clients (those with standing appointments).


As expected, this statement generated some insightful discussions and prompted some (less than ideal) clients to seek services elsewhere. Mission accomplished.

When clients behave badly, it is time to question your judgment and evaluate your contribution to the problem. The reason clients behave badly is very simple, it is because you let them. You continue to schedule them even though they arrive late or miss appointments entirely, criticize your work, complain about the price, etc.

Serving your clients should make you feel good about yourself, professionally and personally. My best advice for losing bad clients is to simultaneously change your schedule and raise your prices (even minor changes will do). Develop salon policies and procedures and be prepared to enforce consequences.

Give your clients at least a month's notice that you will be canceling all future appointments to rebuild your new schedule. Reward your best clients by giving them priority as you fill your new schedule. Do NOT schedule bad clients; when they realize that you are no longer willing to tolerate their behavior, they will go elsewhere. Whom you choose to serve, and when, is your business, literally.

Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D. owns Precision Nails, an exclusive nails-only salon in Carmel, California. She can be reached at info@precisionnails.com.