Who comes first? Employees Or Customers?

May 7, 2015

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Employee appreciation training coaching salon spa
Every business owner knows that you need employees and customers to survive, but the question still remains. Who comes first, the employees or the customers? Some might argue that customers always come first. They are the ones who “pay the bills”. Others might argue that employees come first. Without them, the real work of the business can’t get done.


I could do the politically correct thing and say that both are important, which they are. But what I’ve learned (and firmly believe) over the years is this:  When prioritizing by order of importance, employees are more important to an organization than its customers hands down. I know this to be true:  happy employees equals happy customers. Some would argue that I’m crazy to say this.


Leaders must learn to take better care of their employees if they want to keep their 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”.  The client trap 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.   Fear of a backlash from clients if they raise prices keeps them from doing the right thing.   Another common mistake is when a stylist falls victim to client requests to come in early or stay late to accommodate them.   What typically happens is that when you do this for one client, they tell their friends.   The next thing you know, they’re all asking you to come in early or stay late.   What about when a client complains about how much their bill is? I’ve even seen salon owners discount a service ticket just because the client complained about how much the total was. What’s that all about? What’s worse is when I see salon owners mistreating team members.  Some of the more common offenses would be criticizing performance in front of other team members, breaking trust by breaking promises, embarrassing team members in front of clients, coercive management tactics, etc..  Nothing is more frustrating than witnessing this type of leadership behavior.


As the leader of your company, it’s your job to protect the team, protect the culture, and provide a pleasant and healthy environment for employees to serve clients with the best tools available to do a great job. If you want to see your client retention scores come up, start with focusing on your staff retention scores first. You see, it’s not that hard.  Take care of your employees first, and they will always take better care of your customers till the cows come home.  So what are some things you can do today to get a jump start at taking better care of your team? Here’s a few ideas to get you started:


1) Practice the Golden Rule:  One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.   Even during those times when you have to discipline, coach, or reprimand, treat employees with respect and honor.  Leave them their dignity.  Praise them in public, criticize (or reprimand) them in private.


2) Say thank you more often. Nothing more to say on that one.


3) 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 are doing, keep doing it.  It’s working!”  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 to their work. That’s all they want really, is to know that their work matters.  So, tell them so!


4) We all know about customer appreciation events, but what about employee appreciation events?  When was the last time you ordered pizza for the team without notice or for no reason at all?   (Ice cream does wonders too)  Put your money where your mouth is and do something nice for your team from time to time. Have you just finished going through a really busy season?  Try hiring a massage therapist to come in and offer 15 minute chair massages for your team as a way to say “thank you” for their hard work.  Do this and watch the trust in the room go through the roof.


5) Give them your time. This one, for some reason, is one of the hardest for owners and leaders.   You gotta make time for your team members. They want to be connected to you. Make a point to give them your undivided attention at a minimum, once a month for thirty minutes. If you have a larger organization where it isn’t feasible to meet with every single team member, you will probably want to have managers or team leads divide and conquer the task, leaving you to meet with your leadership team and so forth.  You have no idea what it means to your team members knowing that they will have your (or their manager’s) undivided attention every month for up to thirty minutes. Have them bring the agenda and don’t be surprised if the agenda isn’t work related. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you stay connected.  To ensure these meetings happen without fail, schedule them out on the books for the whole year.  Then mark these meetings in your personal calendar so you don’t forget.  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 surely send the wrong message. It will say, “You’re not that important and neither is our meeting.  Our meeting can wait until next month.”


Try some of these tips today and then come back and leave a comment telling me what kind of results you got.  I look forward to hearing from you.


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Located in Austin, Texas.

Chris Murphy