Simple Lessons From Great Clips’ Success

As I mentioned in my post about Amazon’s relentless customer advocacy, I recently attended the Arizona State University, Center for Services Leadership (CSL) Compete Through Service Symposium.

One of the speakers was Ray Barton, Chairman of Great Clips. He had a great story, explaining how he led the company from a little four salon outfit in 1983 to a behemoth operation with 3,300 salons and 30,000 stylists. It’s the largest and fastest growing hair care brand. Supercuts, by comparison, has 2,300 locations.

Barton was clear about what was important in his business: clarity and simplicity. He made a number of points that are valuable for many others to follow. Here’s my take on some of what he presented:

Focus on the Customer
The hair care industry was fragmented and organized around the stylist, not the customer. By focusing on customers, the company did innovative things such as opening during evenings and all day on Saturday, offering $6 haircuts, and not requiring reservations. He was clear about what his customers want: quality, convenience, and value.

  • My take: Most organizations make decisions based on internal needs. It’s powerful when you take a look at things through your customers’ eyes. Think about adopting customer journey thinking.

Four Simple Steps
Barton said that he ran the business based on four simple things: (1) Ask customers what they want, (2) Give it to them, (3) Ask them if they got what they wanted, and (4) Thank them.

  • My take: The only thing I can say is… these are the best four steps that I’ve ever seen.

Everyone is the Brand
Barton said “everyone in our organization can draw a line from them to how they affect the customer, or we don’t need them.”

  • My take: This should be true for every employee at every company. Great companies have employees that understand and embrace their role in delivering on brand promises. This is also the essence of one of our four CX core competencies, “compelling brand values.”

Growth is an Outcome
Barton believed in the rifle, versus shotgun approach to expansion. Rather than following other franchises such as Krispy Kreme and Boston Market that expanded into many different markets, he focused on building density in a few areas at a time. This provided the marketing clout and brand awareness in those areas. It also allowed the company to focus on good real-estate decisions and make sure that staff was adequately trained.

  • My take: Growth should come from successfully delivering on your brand promises. If not, then your organization may get bigger, but it will certainly lose its focus and values along the way. That’s a lesson that even Starbucks needed to learn.

Simple, Powerful Metrics
Barton described how at one point during its growth, the company lost its focus and simplicity. They simplified their brand measures from 33 columns down to 5 measures that now all fit on one page. He actually said that only two measures are really important, what he calls 30/30: 30% of stylist hours occur during weekends and 30% of new customers come back. Since then, the company has had 40 consecutive quarters of same solon sales growth.

  • My take: When it comes to metrics, less is often better. A simple set of metrics that everyone understands is a powerful way to align everyone in the organization around what’s important.

The bottom line: Simply stay focused on your customers and your brand.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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