Training is an essential part of franchise business. It ensures that franchisees stay true to the brand identity, and plays a role in safeguarding the franchisees’ know- how. Dessange International has put training at center stage for its two French hair salon brands: Dessange for the luxury hairdressing segment and Camille Albane for the mid/top range segment. Franchisees train their own associates through classroom sessions in Paris, a successful approach which the company is continuing to optimize and extend with digital learning technologies.
Last year, the Dessange brand celebrated 50 years in business, while Camille Albane marked its 20th anniversary. In total, there are over 1,000 Dessange International franchised sites, with over half of them outside of France. There are an additional 1,000 Fantastic Sams salon locations in the United States and Canada – a strong affordable hairdressing brand in the North American market – acquired by the group in 2013.
The digital transformation of Dessange salons
The group relies on dedicated training centers to disseminate its know-how to each brand. Employees have the opportunity to train in new techniques for cutting, coloring, extending and styling hair, as well as makeup application practices. However, each time an employee goes to Paris for training, they are away from work for three days. This is a significant investment for each franchisee, which must cover the cost of travel and accommodation, and absorb the consequent loss of revenue. A Dessange salon has an average of ten employees, which makes it difficult to fulfill the demanding franchise requirements for multiple classroom training sessions. “We feel it is important to round out classroom training sessions with digital learning: it allows us to modernize our training process, and gives the participating stylists the chance to go beyond technical instruction to develop their inter-personal skills” says Marie-France Delachaux, Head of Marketing, who has managed this e-learning project with CrossKnowledge since 2010. For its initial move into the digital age, the group focused on its Dessange brand and its 200 salon locations in France.
Five years ago, the company approached CrossKnowledge for support in creating an online learning platform, the Dessange Learning Lounge. This would offer customized training modules adapted to the needs and skill sets of all company associates in France, whether franchisees, managers or employees. New associates were offered an orientation program, while more experienced employees were able to access an expert program where they could learn more about the brand, its products and techniques. “We are dealing with a population that has a limited knowledge of digital technology, and who are more at ease using scissors than a mouse when they are at work. We were very surprised by the number of connections made to the digital training platform. We weren’t expecting that associates would log in over the weekend, for example” explained Marie-France Delachaux.
Going beyond stylist skill training
The Dessange Learning Lounge has gradually rolled out new content to support the company’s Road to Excellence program, and there is now a training path dedicated to Dessange values. Several modules focus on the subject of client satisfaction, which is at the heart of the brand’s promise to its customers. “Today women don’t come to a hair salon just for a cut and color. They also come for the experience, to have a good time, and be delighted” says Marie-France Delachaux. In the luxury services market the soft skills that contribute to customer satisfaction demand particular attention. “When we see that logins are down on the platform, we know that we need to properly assess and adapt the content so that it better meets our associates’ needs” explains Marie-France Delachaux. To keep content up to date, the company reviews the platform on an annual basis, and regularly organizes internal competitions to keep associates motivated.
Two years after launching the platform, Dessange International decided to extend its collaboration with CrossKnowledge. The Dessange Learning Lounge is now available in five languages – English, Spanish, Dutch, Russian, and Japanese – as such it can meet the training needs of hundreds of hair salons abroad. It also enables associates to benefit from contact with their teachers at the Paris training center. “At work, if a stylist has a problem with a color or they are unsure about a cutting technique, they can ask questions directly in the Lounge and be sure that a teacher will answer them quickly. This platform is helping us to satisfy the fundamental need of our staff for supportive communication” Marie-France Delachaux explains.
Camille Albane counts on collaborative training
In 2013, following on the success of the Dessange Learning Lounge, the group decided to invest in an online training platform specifically geared to the Camille Albane brand and its challenges. “Our relationship with CrossKnowledge is a mutually beneficial one. Normally, we put our training companies in contact with the HR function. For Camille Albane, we wanted to appeal directly to associates with a friendly, fun and inviting concept” the project manager explained.
This is how the Learning Lab came to life – a learning resource styled on a television series, divided into monthly episodes and seasons, and featuring characters representing teachers at the Parisian training center. At the heart of it all, a social network provides a space for employees to interact. “Before this we focused on communicating with franchisees, who in turn communicated with their associates. CrossKnowledge training platforms are enabling us to create a direct connection with our brand associates – and they are the people in contact with our customers and building customer satisfaction in the salon” concluded Marie-France Delachaux.