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Real Responses To Difficult Nail Situations


Beyond being a skilled nail technician and a business owner, you have to always present your professional A-Game to the world. We’re in customer service; so it’s mostly a “be ready for anything” business. In our line of work, drama finds you. Let’s take a few tips from our friends in entertainment. For every thriller, comedy, or documentary, the actors work from a script. For every public appearance or guest on a late night show, the narrative and verbal exchange has already been prepped. So in this Biz Talk, we give you a few good lines to practice before you get in front of your own live audience. We share scripts for common nail tech/client scenarios when you need to set a boundary or protect your business with a policy for last minute client cancellations, the client who is color-choice impaired, small human velcro, or hot heads? Would you be surprised to know that tone and delivery are the tools of the trade for most tricky situations?

Be sure to go to the YouTube video to hear the delivery on this one. It’s a performance and the role is the caring mother in a feel good children’s animated movie.

Client: I’m excited for the mani but you know what? I don’t think I need the pedicure. I’m think gonna pass. My toe nails still look pretty good.

Nail Tech: (In a very nice and understanding tone) You know what? I’ve already run the water and have it ready for you. Why don’t we just go ahead and do it?

Client: Nah. I think I’m good. I can manage with what I’ve got. Thanks.

Nail Tech: (Still in a very nice and understanding tone) Alright. I just have to let you know that you booked the mani-pedi combo appointment. That’s the time you wanted reserved for you. I can let it go this time; but if something like this happens again I will have to charge you for the time. It’s basically like a cancellation for me, you know? You can take a look at my cancellation policy next time. I hope you understand. Last minute cancellations leave me with an opening in my schedule that could go to someone else.

Note that the tone changes if the client becomes a chronic cancellation violator. Here you take on the role of someone on a clear mission; maybe a teacher or coach or a strong-willed best friend. You will make statements. You will be concise, straight to the point. Your boundary will be known. You deliver your message with a smile, respect and a touch of tough love.

Client: Hey. I know we talked about it before, but I really don’t need my pedicure appointment. I’m really sorry.

Nail Tech: You remember the last time? I know we talked about my 24 hr cancellation policy. You really need to let me know this prior to taking the appointment. Let me give you an example. How would it feel if you showed up to work and your boss told you that there was a last minute change in the schedule. They gave you no heads up. You weren’t scheduled to start for another hour. Would you mind staying right there unpaid until we’re ready for you? Obviously that would not be a cool situation. It’s the same for me. I only have so many openings and hours available during the day. Last minute cancellations really affect my schedule and my bottom line. I’m not going to be able to let it go this second time. We have a couple options here, you can either pay for the service in full for cancelling last minute OR you can have the service. I know you’re trying to get by but I know you love pedicures. It actually does look like you need it. So should we just do it?
Client: No. I don’t really need it. I can’t do it. Is there anything we can do?

Nail Tech: Yes. This is what we’re going to do. This seems like an appointment you don’t need a standing regular appointment for, right? So let’s just book for a regular mani moving forward. Then if I have the time when you come in, we can tag the pedi on at the end, ok? Or if you want to call in the day of your mani and I don’t have time for the pedi, we’ll try for someone else in the salon to do it. Or another thing you can do is to prepay for combo services at the time of booking and we can set a fixed date of your next service.

Tick tock. Tick Tock. Time is wasting away. Sometimes getting a client to make a choice is like herding cats. Impossible. How do you deal with them when they come in and can’t find their way to your chair from the polish display. With a playful voice like talk to them like a child of a friend of yours that you might actually like. When you really have to rein it in, get ready to beam confidence.

Client: Hey. I’m here for my appointment. I’m going to grab a color, is that cool?

Nail Tech: Yeah, of course. You have five minutes.

Client: Ok. I’ll be right back. (Seven minutes later; the client will be sitting in the chair when the appointment is scheduled.)

Nail Tech: Hey come on over here and let’s see what you’ve got. What do you feel like today? We have to get started.

Client: Ok. I love these. I just can’t decide. It’s so hard. Hold on a sec. (Hands over seven colors and returns to the color display.)

Nail Tech: Hey [client name]. Come on over. You’re killing me (Happy Face). I have back to back clients booked. Just like I want to be on time for you; I like to be on time for my next client. Come sit down. You have until I’ve finished prep to finish looking through the colors you have here. After that, it’s dealer’s choice.

Client: Oh. I just can’t decide! Can I have two more minutes?

Nail Tech: If you’re not ready by the time I’m prepped, you’re getting nudes and that’s all your getting. Or maybe red. Or I know, what color don’t you like? (This is a playful light tone.) Ok, so what did you decide?

Client: I don’t know but I don’t want nudes. It’s between these three reds, maybe this green?

Nail Tech: Ok. Let’s do ALL of them.

Client: But I don’t know what I want!

Nail Tech: That’s ok. I’ll figure it out for you.

Client: Huh? What are you going to do?

Nail Tech: You trust me right? How long have you been coming to me? Have I ever steered you wrong? Let’s get started. (They know it’s going to be better if you just let me decide.) I’m not going to let you walk out of here a mess. It’s my name on your hands. I’m more worried about what people think than you are.) Some situations where the person really can’t decide and the resistance is really getting eating up time; you will need to communicate a hard line. The conversation would transition from something more sing-song to serious.

Nail Tech: We’re going to start running behind now...And I have to keep a tight schedule...
When it’s hard for you to decide, it really starts to take away time from your service. It starts to push back my schedule as if you’re running 10 minutes late. You’re here but you’re not present. You’re risking not being able to get something done in the time we have left. The policy is 10 minutes late; your service gets shortened. 15 minutes late means the service is not happening.

I have kids. You have kids. We all have kids. So we approach this scenario with a boat load of empathy and compassion. Yet just like in parenting; we have to set some limits to direct what is appropriate for the salon environment. Speak to these people with a ton of kindness. Let’s give them a break when we can. However, it’s completely in your right to have another straightforward conversation at the end of the first time to avoid a repeat performance of Kids Gone Wild (Salon Edition).

Client: I’m here. I’m sorry if I didn’t have my kids with me, I’d be late for my appointment. I know how you are about being late. I promise they’ll be good. I already had a major talk with them the entire way here. Are we cool?

Nail Tech: Of course. I get it. I’ve been in your situation before; I can relate. Let’s go ahead and get the appointment started. If they can sit there without disturbing anyone; I’m perfectly cool with it. They seem like great kids. I do have to warn you that if we run into any issues; I won’t be able to extend your appointment. If they’re disturbing other people in the salon; you’re going to have to pay for the service and leave at whichever point we need to stop.

Client: (This client is distracted and moving around a lot. They are trying to wrangle the kids who are not having it.)

Nail Tech: Hey. I’m going to have to stop right here. Why don’t you take a minute to have a conversation with the kids to sit tight, alright? Looks like the best we can do right now, given the circumstances, is a little maintenance and a quick gel polish so we can get you on your way. When you come back next time, we’ll do a little more than a revamp. We tried but I’m sorry we can’t continue this way. It’s not fair to you or me or the other people in the salon coming to relax. At this point, it’s seriously becoming a liability with the landlord and with the insurance. We’re just not set up for kids.

You have a good ear and many times the unpaid part of the salon experience is an impromptu therapy session. The main goal is to create an environment for relaxation, escape, and a little harmless gossip. What’s inappropriate for one nail tech is different for another. Some people can take a lot. Some people cannot. Keep reading for a good way to redirect a conversation heading into unwanted territory. In your workspace, you are allowed to steer clear of tricky topics that might affect your client relationships and your own headspace. Protect your energy.

Client: I have to tell you. I’ve been married for a long time. I love my kids and family but I’ve met somebody. I’m completely infatuated and we’ve been having meet ups. I seriously think I might leave my family.

Nail Tech: Woah, [Client Name]. Have you ever heard of TMI?
Client: No seriously. You’re like your one of my best friends. I’ve been coming to you for years. It sounds crazy but I feel like I can really talk to you about this. I just want to have this conversation.

Nail Tech: I feel close to you, too. I really appreciate that you feel comfortable talking to me about certain things. The feeling is mutual. We’ve been doing this for a long time. However, I would just say that there is some information I don’t need to know. I think for your sake even. Sharing that information kind of might be something you regret.

Client: Why are you going to tell someone?

Nail Tech: Of course not. I’m just not comfortable with it. That’s a lot of weight for me to carry as a person, you know? Again I value our friendship so much. I wouldn’t ever want this to come back and affect our friendship and client relationship.

Curse words and negative vibes are ricocheting off the walls. Every nail tech has been on the receiving end of an expletive tornado. How are you going to talk your client down? Enter this tone of voice. “Hello. Salon 911. What is your emergency?” People coming in angry feel out of control, wronged, and ignored. When a hot head shows up, talk in hushed tones. Role play the calm bring them down to your level of chill. They’re more likely to follow your lead. Think about playing the role of “hostage negotiator" in your favorite bank heist movie.

Client: Bleep this. Bleep that. M-Bleeper. Son of a Bleep. I’m so upset... (Volume is way up here.)

Nail Tech: There are a lot of people here (if in a big salon). Or the walls are thinner than you think, other people are going to hear you (if you’re in a private nail suite). You sound really upset. (in a whisper).

Client: I am so pissed…

Nail Tech: (Still whispering) You’ve gotta tell me all about it. ‘Cause I want to know, why you’re so upset. You have to remember though, there are other people around and obviously you don’t want them to hear our conversation.

Client: I don’t give bleep...

Nail Tech: Ok, ok go on. (Whispering still) Tell me what’s going on, but let’s leave the language out of it.

Important. Just talk to your clients how you’d want to be spoken to when you’re in the client seat, right? Come alongside them, showing care and concern. Walk in their shoes in each scenario. Show them with lightness what they need to understand about how you run your business. Communicate with honesty, charm, humor, and confidence. It doesn’t have to get nasty. It’s not confrontational; it’s informational. It’s about mutual respect and healthy boundaries. Help them see you as a person doing their best to provide a great service while trying to earn a living.

**This is an adaptation from our YN Biz Talk playlist on YouTube, “BIZ TALK: REAL RESPONSES TO DIFFICULT NAIL SITUATIONS.”

***Follow our YN YouTube Channel and click here to watch the full discussion here: