Even in this climate of constant change and innovation, there are two things we know about today’s consumers: they want real-time information, and they’re relying more and more on their phones. Additionally, a segment of the market does not plan ahead.

10 Technologies: Appointment-Filling Programs

“Always try to make it easier to let guests do business with you,” advises Group 3 Marketing’s Bart Foreman. “There’s someone out in your community right now who needs a service. You have open chairs.” The idea is to leverage technology to connect those dots. Foreman’s solution is a relatively simple web-based application called FillMyChairs that can complement an online booking system or stand alone:

Your client Susan goes to your website from her phone or computer and clicks on your “Open Appointments” button, which pulls up a screen listing today’s available slots along with the stylist and potential service. Susan proceeds to your online booking section if you offer that, or she calls the salon to book the opening of her choice.

Throughout the day, your front desk people update the page to reflect both cancellations and filled appointments. Before leaving for the night, they make a final update so that clients going online at 2 a.m. will have the information.

One salon currently using the application, Taylor Stevens Salon and Spa in Algonquin, Illinois, reports that clients have bookmarked the salon’s Open Appointments page. Notes Foreman, “When we were testing this, 80 percent of clients told us, ‘I do not want a daily e-mail, but I’d love to know what’s available.’”

That statistic makes sense at Super
Salon, which has developed a phone app for a check-in system aimed at walk-in clients and recently rolled out by Great Clips, with other chains lining up for test marketing:

Susan’s 4 p.m. meeting was canceled, and she could really use a quick trim and highlights. She checks her phone, your website or your Facebook page to see the wait times at all of your locations. After choosing a location, she declines to request a specific stylist and proceeds to screens that ask her to select a service, estimate her arrival time and create a virtual check-in ticket. At the salon meanwhile, Susan’s first name and last initial appear on a “Who’s Next” board so that staff and clients can check the order of the next 10 or so appointments.

“We custom-brand this for salons,” notes SuperSalon’s Matt Rogers, adding that the check-in system offers the salon flexibility in determining, for example, whether someone who’s late goes to the bottom of the line or is taken at the discretion of the stylist. Self-check-in kiosks are included, and Rogers says the company is working on outdoor signage listing current wait time.

Independent contractors and salons looking for a 24/7, real-time, comprehensive online booking system are discovering Schedulicity. Gaining popularity both for its affordability—a monthly fee of $19 for a single user or $39 for multiple users—and for its effectiveness, Schedulicity is now reaching more than 2 million consumers. L’Oréal Professionnel just arranged to make the system available to 650 of its top salons in a first phase of a program rolling out throughout the year.

“This enables L’Oréal to help salons establish relationships,” says Diana Vincent-Galvan, Schedulicity’s vice-president of communications. “Clients can book appointments directly from the salon’s website, the salon’s Facebook page or Schedulicity’s directory on the portal site.”

It’s convenient for stylists as well, who can monitor their books from a phone app. CEO Jerry Nettuno says it takes just 15 minutes for stylists to sign up and has virtually no learning curve. The program includes a marketing module that lets the stylists choose from hundreds of templates to quickly create a promotional special and have it sent out to the client’s Facebook page, Twitter account, e-mail or phone, depending on how the client opts to be notified.

Tracking salons using the technology, Schedulicity has found that cancellations are down and the “no-show” problem is nearly eliminated. “When people are able to choose the time they want, they’re more likely to show up,” says Vincent-Galvan.

“We’ve always felt the salon experience starts when the client is making that appointment,” adds Nettuno. “When you allow people to do that on their own time, from wherever they want, that starts them on a good experience. More than half of Schedulicity’s four million appointments are being booked after regular work hours.That’s important data. Think of all the appointments you’re missing!”

While Nettuno isn’t surprised at figures showing an increase in new business for the salons, he wasn’t expecting some of the other benefits. “Existing clients are booking more often, trying new services and purchasing more products,” reports Nettuno.