Who Comes First, Your Client or Your Employee?

Every business owner knows you need both employees and customers to survive, but when it comes to prioritizing in order of importance, who comes first—the employees or the customers? Of course, most would argue the customer always comes first.

What I’ve learned though, and firmly believe, is employees are more important to an organization than customers. I know this to be true: happy employees equal happy customers. Leaders must learn to take better care of their employees if they want to keep customers coming back.

The salon industry is a relationship-based industry. It’s very personal. As a result, so many salon owners fall into what I call ‘the client trap.’ That is when a salon owner (or stylist) makes poor decisions for fear of upsetting clients. I see this come up often when service prices need to increase so the business remains healthy, when a stylist stays late to accommodate a guest, or when an owner discounts a service because a client complained about the price.  What’s worse is when I see salon owners mistreat team members, including criticizing their performance in front of other team members or guests, breaking promises or using coercive management tactics.

As the leader of your company, it’s your job to foster your team, protect the culture and provide a pleasant and healthy environment for employees to serve clients with the best tools available. If you want to see your client retention scores come up, start with focusing on your staff retention scores first. If you take care of your employees, they will always take better care of your customers. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

Practice the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. Even during those times when you have to discipline, coach or reprimand, treat employees with respect and honor. Praise them in public, critique them in private.

Say thank you more often. Nothing more to say about that one.

Acknowledge progress, no matter how big or small. Find something good to say. Sometimes simply pulling a team member aside and saying, “Hey, I noticed your client retention score took a jump. That’s awesome. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it!” In most companies, employees are starving for recognition and acknowledgement. You would be surprised how behaviors change when employees know that someone is paying attention. So tell them.

Hold employee appreciation events. When was the last time you ordered pizza for the team without notice and for no particular reason? (Ice cream does wonders, too.) If you’ve just finished a really busy season, try hiring a massage therapist to come in and offer 15-minute chair massages for your team as a ‘thank you’ for their hair work. Do this and watch the trust in the room go through the roof.

Give them your time. This one, for some reason, is one of the hardest for owners and leaders. Make a point to give them your undivided attention, once a month for 30 minutes at a minimum. If you have a larger organization, then have managers or team leads divide and conquer the task. Have the employee bring the agenda, and don’t be surprised if the agenda isn’t work-related. What matters is that you stay connected. To ensure these meetings happen without fail, schedule them on the books for the whole year. If you have to cancel a meeting, reschedule for a different day in the same month. Don’t just cancel and wait until the next month to meet. That will send a message to the employee, “You’re not that important, and neither is our meeting.”

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