The Savvy Spa Boss

Regardless of which industry you work in and whether or not your job role involves direct client-facing, receiving complaints from an unsatisfied customer or client is nothing new!

Complaints are actually rather common in the spa industry.

I mean why wouldn’t they be? If someone’s going to complain about the service they receive while they’re shopping, how can you expect it to be different as a spa professional!

We in the spa biz work so closely on our clients and the services we provide can get quite personal.

No matter how hard you try, issues and unpleasant situations will inevitably arise that you have to handle properly.


Your main priority as a spa owner is to de-escalate a problematic situation!


As a spa owner, you’ve probably heard everything complaint in the book! From legitimate concerns to those that are downright OUTRAGEOUS.

You know the ones I am talking about…

Ultimately, your main priority as a spa owner is to keep any sort of situation from escalating any further from the point that matter is brought to your attention!

ALWAYS keep your cool.

Even if you find yourself caught up in a situation where you really don’t like what’s being said or you’re just appalled with your client’s claims, KEEP YOUR COOL!

Don’t take anything TOO personally and maintain a calm and respectful demeanor with only one thing in mind: defuse, defuse, defuse!

Because in this day and age, with the heavy use of social media, the way you handle a complaint is just as important (or even more) as what your client was complaining about in the first place!


The way you handle a bad complaint is just as important as the complaint itself!


When it comes to dealing with clients’ complaints, tread carefully. The last thing you want is to have your spa’s reputation completely obliterated over the way you handled a simple incident that could’ve been resolved easily. It takes 2 seconds for one side of an outrageous claim to go viral, and your reputation and your client list will take the hit!


Look at the bigger picture


The main point that I’m trying to get across is: it’s not a matter of whether you did anything wrong or even how minor the complaint may be, every single incident should be handled with the utmost patience and respect!

As a spa owner, your top priority is to ensure that your clients are happy… after all happy clients = money in the bank. When you’re dealing with a complaint, keep this goal in mind!

5 steps to handle negative feedback like a champ!


1. Acknowledge

Even if the negative feedback that is being thrown your way is entirely unwarranted, the worst thing that you could do is to dismiss your client’s concerns!

Listen to your client and be patient.

Try to understand the entire story from your client’s perspective so you can get to the root of why they feel this way.

Show your client that you understand where they’re coming from (even if you don’t agree), acknowledge that there is a situation to be dealt with and that you’ll try your best to fix it!

Again, it’s all about the bigger picture.

If you don’t acknowledge your client’s situation as they experienced it, it could take a turn for the worst! You could potentially aggravate your client and make them hostile towards you! And if it does, you have yourself to blame for making YOUR OWN problem worse!


2. Relate

Try your best to relate to your client’s experience on a personal level.

If you can’t relate to this specific incident, at least try to relate to how they’re feeling.

The goal here is to have the client see that you really do care about their feelings and that you’re more than willing to find the best solution to rectify their ‘negative’ experience!

By relating to your client on a personal level, it will successfully defuse the situation and it will allow you and your client to move forward. It’s crucial that you show your client that it really is your priority to ensure that they’ve had a positive experience during the time spent at your spa!

Show your client that you’re actually on their side! Rather than having them feel like they need to argue with you to ‘win.’

This hands-down the most effective way to diffuse an irate client.   

Often the #1 thing a client is hoping for when complaining is to be heard, understood and validated. 

So when you find a way to relate, you (and your business) have won half the battle.


3. Apologize

Don’t let your ego get in the way. By apologizing, you’re not admitting that you’re wrong… you’re simply acknowledging that your client feels a certain way and you’d like to try your best to make them feel differently!

But don’t just say you’re “sorry”… give your client a genuine apology for how they feel.

Let your client know that you’re regretful about the type of experience they had and that you’d like for the both of you to move forward by finding the best possible solution to turn their experience around!

4. Clarify

Now that you’ve successfully defused the situation and you and the client are on the same page (as opposed to duking it out in the middle of a front desk battlefield), your client will be in a much better mood and easier to communicate with.

And a client who no longer feels the need to argue with you will be much more receptive to what you have to say!

This is where you begin to clarify the situation.

Offer your client an explanation of the circumstances that may have caused their negative experience, but do so eloquently. You don’t want to make it sound like you’re displacing the blame… your goal here is just to clarify the situation.

It’s important to provide an explanation (notice I did not say excuses) for the situation because you don’t want your client to leave the spa under the impression that you really did do something wrong – with no even remotely justifiable reason for it! Instead, you want to have your client understand that you didn’t deliberately give them a ‘bad experience’ but it was a result for ‘x’ reasons!  Giving them some context to how the events transpired will help them see your perspective helping them identify with you and hopefully keep your solid reputation intact.

Here’s a little sneak peek… it’s here where you have a fighting chance at making the unhappy customer fall in love with you! Why? Because you are letting yourself now be open and vulnerable with them – and what woman doesn’t love that (sorry for the assumption that you have a majority female clientele but… I’m right, right? Right.)?

5. Compensate

Compensate your client for their negative experience if you really need to but remember this is not always what clients are looking for.

When I say compensate… I do not mean give them a refund. No, no, no, no. what I really mean is do whatever you need to do to get them back in for a re-do.  This is key.  In order for this to work… you need to get them to come back so you can take that chance to wow them. 

So do not look at the money you might be losing for compensating an unhappy client.  Instead look at the money you might be losing by not compensating an unhappy client. 

At the end of the day, compensating your client is a small price to pay if this is the only way you can resolve the situation and keep them happy!

Sometimes, you need to offer your clients some sort of compensation to show your client that you really do want to turn their negative experience into a good one!

You know the term “bad news travels fast” right? Well, you need to remember that as you are handling any complaint. 

My general rule of thumb is to over-deliver.  Dealing with and compensating a complaint is no exception – again, it will be worth it in the long run.

In my opinion, trying to nickel and dime a person when they are already not happy won’t turn the situation around… do your best by pleasantly surprising them by what you are willing to do to make it right. 

Having said that though… before you begin to question my logic… I have no patience for repeat offenders when it comes to less-than-legit complaints.  

If you do have a repeat offender on your hands, don’t keep compensating unless you know it is 100% legit because they will just keep pulling you apart.

If if it doesn’t stop… you may need to bite the bullet and let that client go.  

Reality is, you will NOT make everyone happy and that’s business (and life for that matter).  So if you’ve gone through all of these steps and they are still hating on you? Well then… let it be.  A negative review or two will not break your business and karma is a “you know what”.

Turn negative complaints back into a positive experience for your client!


When I go through this process with an unhappy client that actually did have a legitimate complaint, they end up loving our brand THAT much more for going that extra mile to turn their experience around!

I mean ask yourself about the last time you had a complaint (in any scenario)… if your complaint was dealt with just like this… how would you feel at the end of it all?

Even when complaints are a bit shady, this leaves the client with nothing more to complain about because you handled it with the utmost respect and kindness.

You can even apply these steps to respond (and I highly recommend that you do) to a bad online review.  When you use this formula to address a bad review online, everyone is going to see how you address the situation and keep your business’s reputation intact. 

Now that you know how to handle even the most outrageous complaints like a champ, try it out for yourself the next time a negative review comes your way and you’ll see how easy it is to turn a complaint into a pleasant experience for you and your client!


About the Author: Susan O'Sullivan

Susan is a spa owner and a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur. She chases dreams full time and aims to empower the people around her to do the same. She has been through all of the highs and lows that this crazy spa industry has to offer and it is her mission to smooth the path for other spa owners and pro’s on a similar journey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *