Brad Johns, artistic director of Avon Salon & Spa, discusses what to do when a client—or you—doesn't like her haircolor.

Over the years, I've answered a number of questions from salon owners and stylists, both through this column in American Salon and at educational events. Aside from specific technical questions, certain topics always come up—career advancement, educational opportunities and financial matters in the salon, such as tipping and raising prices. One area of concern for many colorists requires both technical skills and diplomacy: the unhappy client. Here, a look at some of the dilemmas you've found yourselves in, along with my suggestions.

 Brad Johns
Brad Johns

I have a client who was unhappy with the haircolor I gave her and came in to have it redone. How do you handle these situations? I think her color looked great the first time. Should I charge her for the redo or even keep her as a client?
—Leslie Singleton, Atlanta

Sometimes the beauty of haircolor is in the eye of the beholder. And sometimes you won't agree with another's point of view. You can't always see eye-to-eye with your clientele. I've noticed that this situation is least likely to happen when you have done a perfect consultation, because then you and your client will know the deal. You shouldn't charge her for a redo, because technically it is just a continuation of the initial service. But if she comes in again and is still not happy, you should tell her that you will refund her money. Maybe artistically your eyes don't meet, and perhaps another colorist in your salon would better suit her needs. If she becomes a huge problem, you may want your manager to step in. Before you dismiss her as a patron of the salon, clear it with your manager. Haircoloring is like dating—you know when the relationship isn't good and when to get out.

At what point do you tell a client who needs corrective color that there is nothing you can do for her?
—Angela Smith, Chicago

If you know your craft of haircolor, there is always something you can do for a client in need of corrective color, even if it means putting on a semi-permanent color to get the hair in better shape. Then you can wait until it grows out and gradually make it better little by little. You can also tint it back to her natural color. Before you do corrective color, study and watch an expert do it before you tackle it yourself. You should always alert the client that because the color is corrective, it may take more than one visit to bring it to the shade she wants it to be.

I did a double process on my client and I'm not so happy with the result. The problem is that she loves it. Should I tell her my feelings?
—Alex, via e-mail

Tell her you are really happy that she loves her hair, but because you are an artist critiquing your own painting, you believe you could make it so much better. She probably likes the idea of her hair being very light. Explain that the toning portion of a double process is the most fascinating and interesting part. You can transform her color from white to beige to gold just with the toner. Convince her to try what you envision the next time around. If she still loves it her way, realize that some people like apples and others oranges. As long as she's happy, all is well.

E-mail Brad at [email protected]