I confess to being a little wary of technology and how we use it in our business. Not because I’m afraid of it or don’t know how to use it. I just want to be sure that Great Clips stays true to our core values: We’re high-touch when it comes to taking care of our customers.
The last thing in the world I—and everyone who’s connected to the Great Clips brand—would want is for technology to take away from the personal contact that’s so important to the Great Clips’ experience.
This belief starts at the top. Our CEO, Rhoda Olsen, believes technology will never replace the individual experience provided in every salon, but it can help us create a stronger connection with the customer. Over the last few years, Rhoda has become one of the biggest advocates of upgrading existing technology and introducing new technology into both Great Clip corporate and franchisee operations.
Rhoda often refers to a word used by some of our tech designers: “humanology.” I like it. What this means is that there is a continuum of humanity and technology.
When you take away personal contact, all of a sudden that contact is so much more important—those interactions actually have more weight. We’re developing ways of using technology to make customers’ experiences better while giving stylists the ability to make more personal connections. (Here’s a great article Rhoda contributed to Franchising World in which she explains how Great Clips walks the line between high-tech and high-touch: Balancing Technology in a Hands-on Business)
Needless to say, we’ll never favor technology over the opportunity for human moments in the salon. At the same time, technology gives salon owners more control over their operations, and deeper insights into what’s working and what’s not. The same is true at the corporate level. Our wizards here can slice and dice data every which way, to analyze which brand measures are driving growth and how they can be tweaked to do even better.
Great Clips President Steve Hockett makes the point that we use the data we gather throughout the system to hone our understanding of customers and their buying patterns. You’d be amazed at all the factors that influence when people get a haircut. Weather, for example. Good weather in December, especially right before the holidays, sets up a good year. Six weeks later, one of our promotional campaigns kicks in just in time to catch the attention of those customers who are ready for another haircut.
Now think back to the winter quarter of 2014—50 days of the Polar Vortex that affected much of the northern U.S. and Canada. (I will never forget this event because I spent it sitting at home in Minnesota on maternity leave, refusing to leave my house with my newborn because it was minus 40 degrees for what felt like a bazillion days in a row!)
The weather was terrible and nobody cared about getting a haircut, and it certainly wasn’t something we could control. We looked at our data and decided how to market to prospective and returning customers, focusing on those things we could control. We achieved growth in that quarter, even in less-than-ideal circumstances. That’s just one example of how we can use technology to guide strategy, both at the corporate level and throughout the system.
Whenever I’m traveling or attending events, talking to prospective franchisees and industry colleagues, this level of technology is a huge differentiator for Great Clips. When people see our app for the first time or hear about the way that franchisees can interact with their salon data on their iPads in real time, I see their eyes light up. They never expected a salon business that is so high-touch to be using technology in such a high-tech way.
As I said, I was wary of diving too deeply into the technology pool. But I’ve seen how technology can be an incredible tool for evaluating business performance and anticipating market trends, not to mention how much Great Clips customers love using technology to save time when they get a haircut. I’m confident we’re using technology to help our franchisees connect and engage more fully with their customers without losing that personal touch that’s at the core of the Great Clips brand.