Dealing with Difficult Customers


What to do when you have a very difficult client that frequents your spa and spreads misery, but keeps coming back? How can you help your staff to cope with difficult situation this and still respect the client? 

First, determine if you really should keep this client, and if you do keep them; whether you are willing to let their bad behavior continue to go unchallenged.

It’s hard to expect your staff to act with genuine respect and kindness, when they are being treated with disrespect. Wherever possible, we want our staff’s surroundings to be positive and uplifting, not energy depleting, so I would think that having a one on one with this client, in an attempt to uncover the reasons behind her bad behavior, might be prudent for you as the Manager.

When we know what the root causes are, it’s easier to show empathy and understanding. But even if she is ill; lonely; or has a clinical disorder, she should not be allowed to use her problems as an excuse to be rude.

Too many allowances on your part, is like saying it’s ok to treat your staff like that.

You might be surprised at the positive affect this meeting may have on her behavior – it may be all she needed to “snap out of it”.  But just in case, here are some ways you can help your staff to better cope with this situation:

  • Calm down and have your staff resolve to stay calm when they are serving her, and not participate in the negativity;
  • Boost their confidence by setting clear boundaries with them, on how she is to be handled.  Tell them exactly what they can and cannot do and how far they can go with her.  You may even need to do some scripting and/or role playing.  This may end up being be used in other client scenarios as well (remember customer service is a systems approach);
  • Decrease staff stress by making it clear to them that this client’s bad behavior is not going to be rewarded with preferential treatment.  They are at all times expected to handle themselves with professional courtesy, but they need not over-value her occasional niceness or feel she should be recognized for a “good visit”;
  • Relieve their guilt, self-doubt or impatience with the situation, by helping them understand it’s not personal, it has little or nothing to do with them;
  • Increase the odds of a good visit with this client, by coaching staff to listen to her more than they speak, and at the very least, being pleasant and co-operative in the face of her adversity;
  • Empower staff with the knowledge that if they are confronted with a complaint from her, they can always promise her a resolution because they know you’ve got their back.


My observation over the years is that often times when a client is difficult, staff and management actually end up empowering the client.  This happens because you bow down in a continual attempt to answer to her demands.  It’s like she’s the offence now and you are the defence…wrong approach.  You end up paying more attention to this culprit than the clients who really deserve it.  In fact this is exactly what she is seeking and once you have handed over this power, her demands will most likely continue to ramp up.

I always believe that nipping bad behavior in the bud is the best solution, whether it’s your customer, staff member, or child.  Setting ground rules and sticking to them is the easiest way to peace and productivity.