Client loyalty tends to be directed toward individual service providers rather than to salons. If a service provider leaves a salon, his or her clients will frequently follow. This post will include information for both owners considering non-solicitation clauses and employees who are planning on (or have already) signed one.
In the event of a termination or resignation, oftentimes both the service provider and the salon owner scramble to gather the clients for themselves. Who do these clients belong to? What can you do to protect yourself? Continue reading to find out.
Salon owners can encourage client loyalty by:
- having an attorney write an ironclad employment contract and employee handbook,
- consistently delivering amazing customer service by hiring stellar support staff (receptionists and assistants),
- keeping the salon environment inviting and accommodating (beautiful atmosphere, complimentary snacks & beverages),
- aggressively marketing (newsletters, advertising, hosting highly publicized high-profile events like charity cut-a-thons),
- keeping employees trained and educated. Clients even if their staff member leaves or is terminated, your remaining staff members are more than capable of delivering the same quality of work they’ve been accustomed to)
All of these things make clients want to be a part of your business. Keep in mind though, that it may not be enough. Most clients will follow their service provider to the end of the earth. Let’s face it, a really good service provider (stylists in particular) can be very difficult to find.
But what do you put in your contract? How do you word it to protect your business without being unreasonable or driving away potential employees? It’s simple: be reasonable.
Keep in mind that a professional’s established clientele is their livelihood. They worked hard to bring in business and to retain that business. They’re not going to forfeit their rights to contact those clients, nor should they. Many salon owners post job offers with the statement, “Must have clientele.” If the employees are bringing clients with them to your business, you have no right to claim those clients for yourself. To do so would be unethical.
Your concern should be with protecting the clients your business has brought in and the future clients that are earned through your own marketing efforts, not the acquisition of clients that were never yours to begin with.
So, write a clause that’s fair to both of you. The terms of my non-solicitation agreement are:
“Employees with a clientele must provide all client contact information to prior to their start date on Attachment A. These clients will be flagged in our system as belonging to the employee. During the course of your employment with Unvarnished, Unvarnished will add these clients to our promotional mailing lists. Upon resignation or termination, all clients will be notified of your departure. All Attachment A clients will then be dropped from our mailing lists after this initial notice.
Should these clients choose to remain customers at Unvarnished, they will become salon clients again and will rejoin our mailing lists, but will continue to be exempted from the terms of our non-solicitation agreement.
All other clients obtained during the course of your employment at Unvarnished are property of Unvarnished. Employees may not take any client’s contact information for any reason and are absolutely prohibited from contacting or marketing to these clients in the event of termination or resignation.”
This clause is fair to my business, the employee, and most importantly, the clients. It’s my personal belief that the clients deserve to be given their preferred professional’s contact information if they ask for it. Refusing to give the client the information they ask for will cause them to lose respect for you and the way you do business. They definitely won’t appreciate it. Additionally, you’re likely to lose them if you lie to them.
Take the high road and give your clients the information they request.
You may lose the client, but you’ll have their appreciation and the appreciation of the ex-employee. Don’t burn bridges. You don’t want to be seen as stingy. Some of the departing clients may not like the ex-employee’s new place of business and may choose to return to your business. Separate with them on positive terms so they feel welcome to return.
It’s wrong to market to clients that do not belong to you, regardless of which side of the business you’re on. If a professional joins my team and exposes my business to 50 or 100 of her clients, I should be grateful. I express that gratitude by making sure the contact information for those clients is either marked or stored separately from the salon’s clients and respecting the fact that those clients are not mine. Those clients will be telling their friends about my business and I may gain more exposure as a result of that. I didn’t build their book for them.
They worked hard to build their clientele and it’s not our place to claim it as our own.
This agreement also protects my interests. Once the professional has signed the contract, they agree that clients obtained during the course of their employment belong to the salon. They waive the right to contact those clients. Salon owners (myself included) spend a good deal of money on advertising, so it is only fair that we protect that investment.
As a business owner, you should be encouraging client loyalty through your own actions, not by locking employees into a contract that strips them of the book they worked so hard to build.
Professionals can encourage client loyalty by:
- providing superior service.
- ensuring that their skills are up to date by taking continuing education courses and learning skills that other service providers in the salon are not trained in (for example, an esthetician can gain a certification in eyelash extensions or permanent makeup).
- maintaining a professional portfolio website (pro tip: use your name as the URL). This makes it incredibly easy for clients to find you if you are fired or resign from your position. Your website should be the first thing that appears when people Google your name.
- Dress and behave professionally at all times.
- Deliver consistent services.
If you’re in the process of obtaining employment somewhere and the salon owner wants you to sign a non-solicitation clause, evaluate it thoroughly. Make sure it is very specific and that it is fair to you. If you’re unable to fully understand it, call an attorney, explain the situation, and have them evaluate it.
Some professionals don’t like to sign a non-solicitation clause under any circumstances and if you’re not comfortable signing it, don’t do it.
Never completely surrender your clientele to anyone.
However, be understanding of the salon owner’s desire to protect their business as well. If the owner is spending their resources on bringing clients in the door or if the business is in a high-profile location that attracts a lot of traffic, you need to understand that those clients belong to the business, not you. Yes, that includes referral business. (For instance, a walk-in client comes in, loves your work and sends a friend to you. Both of those clients belong to the business, even though it was your superior work that drew the referral.)
Not all owners are awesome, considerate people. It is rare to find an owner that will honor an agreement to provide your forwarding contact information to clients that inquire. For this reason, it is important to keep an online portfolio and let clients know that it exists. If something happens and they want to follow you, they have the ability to find you without ever having to contact the owner.