Brand vs Staff

Who are your clients loyal to?

Have you ever been a patron of a business simply because of one particular person?

Yesterday I realised that I am supremely loyal to a particular musical equipment store in Cape Town. Since the first time I visited there 5 years ago I can’t even remember setting foot in another music store.

I also realised that this entire time I have been dealing with only one person at this store and whenever I call or visit the store I always only ask for this particular person.

Over the past 5 years I have referred numerous people to this store, bought equipment on my own behalf and bought equipment on behalf of others, and whenever I refer people to this store I always refer them to this one particular person.

The reason why I behave this way is simple. This particular individual is extremely knowledgeable, knows who I am, is interested in providing me with real solutions to my requirements and is not just trying to sell me something.

It made me ask the question, “If this person left the store would I still shop there?” I think I would shop there but I would probably also start looking around for other stores, better prices and better equipment and whoever the next person I formed a relationship with I might become loyal to.

Restaurants are a prime example of this where the chef is the star of the show. Apart from making good food they build up a reputation for themselves as well as a loyal following. If they leave the restaurant many of the patrons will follow them.

Hair salons are no exception as most of you will know. I have heard horrendous stories of salon owners investing so much in staff members, building relationships over the years with them, relaxing their non-competitive clauses, only to have them open a salon around the corner and take a large chunk of their clients with them.

Therefore the question I would like to raise at this point is, “Are your clients loyal to your salon (or brand) or are they loyal to one staff member within your salon?”

Loyalty to a stylist

I believe that in many instances the answer to the above question is that clients are loyal to their regular stylist. The reason being that it is such a personal service being offered and is different, for example, to someone who is loyal to a motor car brand or brand of watch where their experience is with an object rather than a person.

To further clarify how this is different because of the service element an individual may be loyal to a particular make of motor car but when it comes to repairing their car they may be loyal to an individual mechanic because they trust this person and the service that they offer. If this mechanic moved to another location they may very well follow them.

The funny thing about the type of loyalty you have to a person is that the place where they work may not be in the most convenient location or be the best priced but their loyalty will override these factors because they place higher value on the service they receive.

What is the answer then?

Firstly let’s talk about whether it’s good or bad for clients to become loyal to a particular stylist. The very fact that it is a problem actually means that it must be valuable for this kind of loyalty to develop as it is what keeps the client coming back.

Many staff contracts will have some sort of non-competitive clause in this but this does not really solve the issue we are discussing because even if they don’t follow the stylist that has left your salon to their new salon because of legal implications for the stylist their loyalty to your salon will still be damaged.

Therefore the largest part of the answer must lie in retaining your staff. If they never leave then you never have this problem. Obviously it is unlikely that you will keep all staff members for all time but the lower your staff turnover the less chance there is of losing clients this way.

Also, if 9 out of 10 stylists have been working at your salon for 10 years and 1 leaves there is a greater chance that their client will remain as they will have had time to get to know the other stylists and won’t be strangers to them and will be more inclined to be moved to one of these other stylists.

Emphasize your brand

Build a brand that people can buy into. If your core values, the quality of your service and products, your store policies, and the attitude of staff in general are things that are attractive to clients then the appeal of your brand will grow and increase the chances of them remaining loyal.

Spread your talent

If you have one or two star performers or a celebrity stylist in your midst and everyone else living in their shadows then it will be difficult clients to remain when the star performer leaves as they will feel that they are now receiving a lesser quality service.

Reproduce the same results

If a client is taken over by a new stylist the chances are they would like to pick up where they left off with the last stylist without being treated as a new client again. Therefore the better records you keep, purchase histories, notes, photos etc, the better equipped you will be to provide them with exactly what they want.

Do all the basics well

Don’t feed clients with a reason to leave you. Make sure you find time to fit them in for a booking. Make sure they get excellent service. Ensure that your salon is as attractive as possible. Make sure that you have retail stock available, that parking is not a problem, refreshments are available etc.

Follow up with your clients

If the initial bond is so important what happens if the client did not enjoy the stylist that they were assigned? They may return but unless you catch them in your follow up efforts they will keep their options open and if another salon presents itself they will not think twice about trying it out.

Win clients back

If you notice that a number of clients have not returned be prepared to win them back. Give them a reason to come back. Let them know that you value their business and would love to have them back as one of your loyal clients. While you are doing this try to find out why they haven’t returned, apart from the obvious – that their regular stylist left.

What if you are the one that they are loyal to?

Another problem when it comes to clients being loyal to one stylist is if you the owner are that one stylist. This is slightly different from what we have discussed so far but has problems of its own.  For example, you are only one person and if you are the only draw card your business will only be as big as you. Also other staff will not grow and may be tempted to look for work elsewhere. If you ever want to sell your business you will need to be included in the sale.

Conclusion

In a recent article we looked at rewarding client loyalty, i.e. if clients visit your salon then reward them with loyalty points. This kind of client loyalty scheme is simply icing on the cake compared to the kind of loyalty we are talking about here. The kind of loyalty we are talking about here is the kind that would bring a client back regardless of points. They would support you through thick and thin. They are more like family than clients. Therefore make every effort to retain your staff, balance the load evenly amongst staff and build your brand in the mind of your clients.