How well do you handle the H.E.A.T?

We all get complaints sometimes, right? … I mean, sometimes stuff just happens, people complain and we have to deal with it. So, the question is how well do you deal with it?

When we get complaints from clients, staff, or colleagues the ultimate objective is to resolve the situation as amicably and quickly as possible. Lets assume for the sake of the rest of this example that the complaint is from a client. The aim is to get a win:win situation.

Often in the heat of the moment, when someone is complaining our ego’s get in the way and we forget the value of a client. When that happens we risk losing the client because we go on the defence, or even worse we go on the attack and the guaranteed outcome is that you lose the client because you had to ‘win’ you had to be ‘right’ above all else.

It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about making the client happy, resolving the situation and where possible keeping the client. Now, I know there are ‘nutters’ out there that you would rather not have as clients, they are the minority and I’m not talking about them.

I’m referring to your average salon client, the client who is in your chair every six weeks, who perhaps has colour, treatments, buys retail and who can easily be worth a lot of money over the course of the year. Imagine that this client who maybe on average stays with you for 5 years, that’s a client who has a significant life-time value, and perhaps she has referred two friends or family who also have a similar lifetime value. 

All of a sudden your failure to deal with a complaint properly has just cost you and the business a load of money… because you didn’t handle the complain properly.

Complaints are ‘opportunities in disguise’

Everyone makes mistakes. In many professions, for example graphic designers, carpenters or chefs all make mistakes, but when they make a mistake they can throw it away and start again. In other professions, for example the medical profession and hairdressing you can’t throw it out and start again.

Often the mistake is a communication issue, sometimes the mistake is because of technical incompetence and sometimes the perceived mistake and resultant complaint is about the process of how ‘you do business’ for example, ‘a lack of customer service’.

When dealing with a complaint it’s not about having to be right, it’s not about having to win, it’s not about laying blame, justifying why something happened or making excuses. It’s about resolving the situation quickly and amicably, ideally keeping the client in the process, but at the very least limiting the damage that an unhappy client can do.

That’s where the H.E.A.T or ‘HEAT’ acronym comes in.

The ‘H’ in H.E.A.T.…

The ‘H’in H.E.A.T. is for ‘hear’. Hear the complaint, don’t interrupt, listen, really listen. Listen with your eyes and listen with your ears. Don’t jump to the defence, don’t be planning your defence and mentally rehearsing the next thing you are going to say, just listen attentively to what they are saying.

If you really listen to people you start to diffuse some of their emotion and anger, if you don’t listen you will quickly inflame the situation.

The ‘E’ in H.E.A.T.

The ‘E’ in H.E.A.T. stands for ‘empathise’. It takes courage to complain, be thankful that they have complained because they are giving you the opportunity to respond.

Many people never complain because they are too intimidated, they just vote with their feet and never come back and that deprives you of the opportunity to learn why they were unhappy and remedy the situation so that it doesn’t happen again.

Creating empathy is about your body language, don’t stand above them and talk to them through the mirror, sit down next to them and talk to them face to face.

Creating empathy is about the words you use, say… “I understand you are unhappy…Thank you for bringing this to my attention…”

You don’t create empathy when you are argumentative, angry and defensive. You create empathy  when you ask yourself how would I feel if I were in her shoes, regardless of whether they are right or wrong, how would you feel if you were them?

The ‘A’ in H.E.A.T.…

The ‘A’ in H.E.A.T. stands for ‘apologise’. It doesn’t matter whether it is or isn’t your fault, resist the temptation to apportion blame or make excuses. Just apologise. “My apology that you are not happy… My apology that it is not what you wanted… My apology that you didn’t get what you expected…”

No if’s, no buts, just an apology.

The ‘T’ in H.E.A.T.…

The ‘T’ in H.E.A.T. stands for ‘take action’, offer a solution, a next step.

What might that be? There isn’t a generic one size fit’s all ‘action’ to take, it might be an offer to repair the problem, it might be an offer of a refund, it might just be saying “thank you for bring it to my attention I will ensure that it doesn’t happen again”. But, take some action, take responsibility and offer some solutions.

So to summarise…

We spend a lot of time and money attracting clients and training our team to be able to fulfil their needs. Unfortunately, some clients for a variety of reasons are unhappy and complain.

Many hairdressers have a tendency to get defensive or lay blame elsewhere in order to ‘get the complaint out the door as soon as possible’ instead of taking steps to remedy the situation to a positive outcome.

So next time you get a complaint remember the H.E.A.T acronym. It helps you focus on the positive steps needed to handle complaints and achieve a win:win outcome.

As a coaching exercise, brainstorm with your team

  • How do we currently handle complaints?
  • Is there a specific area that as a salon we need more training in to reduce the amount of complaints?
  • Role play complaint situations using the H.E.A.T. acronym
  • Come up with a scenario of possible action steps for the most common  complaints
  • Ensure there is a clear policy as to who has authority to offer refunds or credits

Finally, there is a great quote from Bill Gates the founder of Microsoft he said;

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Thank you for watching…

I hope you have got something out of today.

Have a great week!

3 responses to “How well do you handle the H.E.A.T?”

  1. Thank u sir this has really helped me

  2. Ramprakasham Sharma says:

    such a beautifully structured and wholistic article

  3. Dinesh says:

    Great lesson Sir,
    Thank you 🙏

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