When staff leave who owns the client? Spoiler: the client does.

When a stylist leaves who owns the client?

What’s the best way to handle things when a staff member leaves your salon? I’ve got a bird’s-eye view of the different approaches from working with so many salons through salonMonster. I’ve seen that some can lead to business success and others can be destructive and counter-productive.

After talking with a lot of salon owners about this, I can tell you that some have a very strong opinion on the subject: Clients belong to the salon. These owners figure they’ve spent good money on marketing, promotions and keeping the salon afloat. The client is theirs and staff members are blocked from the client contact list, end of story.

I receive many panicked calls from salon owners asking me to immediately shut down a stylist’s account and block their access when they find out that stylist is leaving. The team member is leaving and the owner is worried they’re going to take all their hard won clients with them!

I hear you folks, you put a lot of effort into building your business. But I’m sorry to tell you you’re wrong.

The salon doesn’t own the client.

The stylist doesn’t own the client.

The client owns the client!  

The client is the only person who can decide who they want to see for their hair. You can help influence their decision, but the decision is theirs and theirs alone.

This realization is critical to properly handling salon staff departures. In fact, understanding this can help you run a healthier, more successful business.


Here’s what not to do when a stylist leaves

Blocking access to client records and contact details when a staff member is leaving may seem like a good idea, but it’s not as effective as it sounds. You are clearly demonstrating to your staff that you don’t trust them, and this leads to a lack of “buy in.”  If your staff are not invested in your business, they are more likely to leave.

From my observations of business success at salonMonster I have noticed that the highest failure rate of multi-chair salons is amongst businesses that do not allow staff access to their clients’ contact records.

Blocking the stylist’s access after they have given notice might make you feel better but it doesn’t stop staff from getting client details. People are resourceful. They’ll often copy contact details before they give notice, or photograph or copy it out by hand from the front desk or with the help of a co-worker.  The only impact blocking access will have is to create a negative work environment.

Another common “solution” is to not tell the client where the stylist has gone. You tell them you “don’t know,” but clients aren’t that naive.  This is a surefire way to show them that you don’t respect them.  You’re withholding information from them.  You are clearly demonstrating that you don’t have their best interest in mind, and you’re as likely to push them away as to make them stay with you.  After all, it’s not hard for someone to Google their stylist’s name and find out where they’ve gone.

So, what should you do when a stylist leaves?

Get ahead of the news. Notify all of the stylist’s clients that the stylist is moving. Send them an email or letter, or update them by phone. Show them that you have their best interests at heart.
Let the client know you have another stylist you think would be perfect for them. Explain how this stylist’s experience and skill set would be great match for their hair’s needs.
Offer them a discount for the next visit. If you can get them back into the salon and working with a new stylist your chance of retaining them as a client goes up exponentially. Giving them 25% off now is cheap compared to losing them as a client.
While none of these things will guarantee you won’t lose any clients, together they will increase your chances of retaining them for the long term.

Acknowledging that neither the salon or stylist have exclusive “rights” to a client can help tackle the challenge of staff departure more effectively. To believe you have exclusive rights to the client  is to delude yourself.

The client is in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding where to spend their money.  Knowing this, we can do our best to earn their trust and continued business.


tara mainTara’s Thoughts

Tara Main from SalonSkipper.com

With today’s technology, you’d be a fool not to think that your staff has already friended their clients on facebook, Instagram and whatever other social media platforms they use. Your clients and staff probably exchange texts and perhaps even emails. As owners, we should be encouraging relationship building. I preach transparency, it’s the only way to have your team feeling an integral part of your business. Blocking them from seeing client records means they may not be able to access pertinent information or reach out to their clients to follow up or encourage a return visit. It’s your job, as the salon owner, to make sure your salon is an environment that neither the staff nor clients want to leave. Once you’ve achieved this, you’ll really have no reason to be worried about a walk out or client “stealing”.


brenda perham

Brenda’s Thoughts

Brenda Perham from Bamboo Consulting

Thanks Stephen for throwing this topic up for debate! Here’s my ten cents worth….

“Reason, season or a lifetime” is a quote that I really like. In reality stylists will always come and always go from your business – don’t forget as a salon owner you left the salon you worked at before you started your own business!

Essentially the clients do belong to the salon and their contact details were given to the salon so if a stylist is accessing them they are breaching privacy laws (that’s the way it is in Australasia – not sure about other countries laws) BUT in reality like Stephen says by the time they give you notice they have probably connected with their clients (especially via social media) and you are probably the last person to know that they are leaving. The horse has bolted.

The three solutions that Stephen has suggested are perfect for reaching out to the client in a professional manner but lets step back a bit further as I think there are a few things we can do to prevent the situation rather than trying to cure it after it happens.

Here’s something to think about…..what if the stylist that was leaving wasn’t a very busy stylist and maybe not really making you any money? You probably wouldn’t be so worried about it, you might even celebrate as they were essentially the ‘weakest link’ in the team. The real reason you are concerned as a salon owner is you can see that potentially big $ will be missing from your weekly turnover, meaning that your salon won’t be as profitable and you might not be able to make ends meet or even take a cut in your own income.

Here’s some points I think are worth considering, as stylists will always leave you (that’s a no brainer) but you can to a degree minimize the impact that is has on your business financially.

Ensure that everyone in your team delivers an amazing client journey, for every client, every time. You need to create a culture of care within your salon that a client doesn’t want to leave. If that culture of care is only coming from their stylist they won’t trust the rest of the team to look after them when their stylist leaves.

Don’t let stylists become superstars! Don’t you love awesome stylists that are naturally motivated and great at what they do. It’s easy to show favouritism towards them, maybe bend the rules for them and book all the new clients into them because you know they will come back. You need to mentor and grow your stylists so they are all operating at the same high level – the split between technical and client journey education should be 50/50. Always have a pecking order for new clients so the less aggressive stylist don’t get trampled while they are trying to build their clientele.

Make sure that your salon is future proofed by ensuring that if you lost a stylist and their clients it wouldn’t endanger the future of your business or you personally. I have had many a salon owner say that losing a top performing stylist was the best thing that happened to them in the big picture, as they looked into every corner of their business to save money and realized they had been running a pretty loose ship!

So in summary my recommendation is the ‘girl guide method’….be prepared! ☺


Talk about it ...