Bad Metrics in a Hair Salon?

By Ron Pereira Updated on January 13th, 2011

I got my haircut yesterday.  I am cheap and like the $12 action at Great Clips right up the street.  They do a good job so I can’t see paying $35 (or more) for some overpriced version of the same thing.

As the stylist was bringing me to the chair I overheard a very interesting conversation.  She (the sylist) had pulled the young girl that was running the computerized cash register aside and said something like this.

“Can you please do me a favor?  When 2 people from the same family are here for hair cuts please wait until the last person is done before ringing them up.”

The young girl was confused and asked why.  The stylist responded:

“Remember the last couple (man and wife) that came in?  Well as I was finishing up the lady the man was already done and paid for both of them.  The computer then assumes I am complete with the hair cut I was working on.  Then it looks like I am just sitting around doing nothing when in fact I am still cutting someone’s hair.”

The young girl then understood and promised to not do this again.

While I was getting my hair cut I asked the stylist more about it.  She went on to explain how management really studies these metrics and bonuses are paid according to the “performance” of each stylist.

On one hand I applaud Great Clips for measuring things.  Many service oriented businesses would do well to copy this.  But we have to be careful when we attempt to determine the performance of an individual via a computer. 

In this example, the system was clearly flawed and the only way for a stylist to not look bad is to game the system.  So it seems  bad metrics don’t just exist in manufacturing… all you have to do is travel down the road to your local hair salon!

  1. Rob

    August 5, 2007 - 11:42 pm

    Good story. When I used to have some hair, the barbers I went to had two styles for men: “cut” and “modern cut”, prices £5 and £6 respectively. In 4 years I never worked out what the difference was (apart from the extra £1). It seemed to be related to the use of the hair clippers versus scissors versus the age of the person, ie the younger the person and the less likely they were to want it shaved all off, the more likely they were to get charged £6. I never collected any data on that mid you, purely anecdotal!


  2. Bob

    August 6, 2007 - 11:25 am

    I was forward this article and sit on the technology committee and questioned our designer. The stylist is incorrect, the prepaying does not end service time metric, completing with the customer does, even in a combined ticket. They are not linked together in that way in the computer.

  3. Ron Pereira

    August 6, 2007 - 2:20 pm

    Thanks for the comment Bob.

    It sounds like some awareness training is in order as this stylist has been in this particular store for several years. She is also my favorite and does a great job with the clippers!

    I am curious, is there a “target” cycle time for each stylist to cut someones hair depending on the person’s needs?

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