The way that people communicate with one another is rapidly changing in today’s world, and smart salon and spa owners are leveraging technology to help build relationships with clients and solidify loyalty. For example, 75 percent of this year’s SALON TODAY 200 honorees use Demandforce, an automated marketing solution that combines an award-winning communication module with online reputation and relationship tools. The program automatically syncs with most salon management software programs, making communication easy.
SALON TODAY recently interviewed longtime SALON TODAY 200 honoree Rowena Yeager, owner of Studio Wish Salon in Twinsburg, Ohio, about the challenges in today’s business environment and the solutions she’s discovered.
SALON TODAY: What are some of the biggest business challenges facing independent salon owners, like yourself?
Rowena Yeager: “Today’s consumers seem to be looking for a deal everywhere—they constantly talk about the best buys they find on Groupon or Restaurant.com. Today’s salon owners need to make sure their guests see, feel and experience a perceived value, which can make all the difference in the world. When they are happy with you, encourage them to shout it out to everyone they know. A wonderful quote to keep in mind when it comes to all specials and branding is ‘Under promise and over deliver.’ If you say you are doing the best haircut in town, there is never a wait or we always take walk-ins, can you deliver that each and every time? Instead you may want to say, ‘You will always see a warm and friendly smile and have comfortable place to escape your busy day—leave your stress behind.’ Make your promise something that is not a matter of opinion, but a fact that happens.”
SALON TODAY: Why do you think 75 percent of the SALON TODAY 200 owners, like yourself, use Demandforce?
Yeager: “There’s a huge realization that in business today you need to be connected to your clients in more ways than the initial phone call booking the appointment and their visit to your salon. You need to connect with them through email, text and social media. I believe the reason many of the SALON TODAY 200 salons are excelling in areas like client retention, customer service and marketing is because they do embrace technologies like Demandforce.”
SALON TODAY: How did you first learn about Demandforce?
Yeager: “I started hearing about it four years ago as I was networking with other salon owners through the Professional Beauty Association. Specifically, I remember Lisa Cochran who owns The Studio in Laurel, Mississippi, describe Demandforce as the least expensive employee you could ever hire who’ll work for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That really got my attention.”
SALON TODAY: What’s one of your favorite features of the Demandforce program?
Yeager: “Any time our salon sends a guest an email, there’s an invitation to take a quick survey about our service and/or write a review of the salon. Demandforce then publishes the reviews. We’ve found our clients love giving us good feedback! Not only do the reviews help boost our search engine optimization and build our online reputation, but we print out the reviews and share them with stylists because they loving getting good feedback from our guests. I try to recognize clients who’ve posted reviews when they come in the salon and I’ll also copy and paste them on my Facebook fanpage. I also thank the reviewing guest online, and then that’ll drive people to click on the link and read more reviews.
“While 98 percent of existing guests and 94 percent of new guests give us positive reviews, it’s only realistic that we get the occasional negative review or comment. But the rare negative review gives us an opportunity to publicly demonstrate how we’ll react to a situation and our willingness to try and make things right.”
SALON TODAY: What features do your guests like most?
Yeager: “Our guests love the automated text appointment confirmations and reminders, and we love them too because they’ve cut our no-shows in half plus they take a burden off of our front desk staff.”
SALON TODAY: What has Demandforce taught you about your business?
Yeager: “The rankings on the surveys in particular really give us a barometer of our customer service at any point in time. They show us opportunities where we can tweak things and make them better and we’ll discuss that in our daily huddles. For example, one of the survey questions where we’ll typically score a little less than 100 percent is, ‘Were your service options explained well?’ It’s a reminder to us that we always need to be talking about additional services and add-ons with guests, no matter how busy we are.”
“As an owner, Demandforce also can be helpful in bringing some management issues to light. For example, at one point we were getting lower scores on our front desk service. When I looked into it, I discovered that one of our newer receptionists was really on the ball when I was in the salon, but completely flipped the switch when I wasn’t. The knowledge I gained through the surveys really helped me get at the root of the issue as soon as possible.”
SALON TODAY: How had Demandforce changed the day-to-day operations of your salon?
Yeager: “Since it offers guests a chance to email us an appointment request, it becomes the first thing our front desk checks when they come in. We’ve been surprised to discover that it’s the new guests who are most likely emailing appointment requests. The appointment confirmations have really freed up the front desk team to support the salon in other ways. In addition, stylists love hearing about the good reviews they’ve received—it really gives them a morale boost. I’m in the habit of group texting the team, and I’ll send out a group text giving a stylist a shout out when she gets a good review.”
SALON TODAY: How easy was it to set up Demandforce?
Yeager: “It was very easy. Demandforce specifically coached me through the program and helped me set up the parameters, and then I trained our team. You can get a customer support person on the phone at any given time should you have a question. And, I love the fact that it’s connected to our software management program and automatically pulls client data and updates new information twice a day.”
SALON TODAY: What’s one of the greatest surprises you’ve gotten out of using Demandforce?
Yeager: “The ability to set up the program to automatically email clients who haven’t been in to see us in the past 12 weeks and give them an incentive to come in has been more valuable than I would have realized. We’ve gotten several guests back into our salon who had not been in to see us since before we moved two and a half years ago. And we had a guest in here the other day who hadn’t been in since before 2006, and she came in because of the email.”
“Demandforce makes it easy to put together a campaign—an email blast, e-newsletter or digital promotion—and target specific groups of clients. We’ve reached out to let clients know about special Mother’s Day, Valentines or holiday promotions, contacted them and requested they vote for us for the Fox 8 Hot List and invite them to participate in or donate to our team that participated in Race for a Safe Place. I’ve learned that even though the communications are automated, guests feel like I sat at the computer and sent it to them. Again, it’s touching clients in ways other than verbal.”
“Also, Demandforce gives users a $100 gift card every time they refer a salon/spa who signs up for the program. I’ve earned enough to buy the salon a new TV and an iPad mini!”
SALON TODAY: If you could give a new salon owner three key pieces of advice, what would they be?
Yeager: “First, as a salon owner, my team is my most important guest. Treat them as such. Be there for them, coach them, and always set a good example. They will practice and create habits of what they are taught and what they see.
“Next, create your own culture with the end result of your incoming guests’ experience in mind. If you hire out of school and grow your own talent, you will always have more control over your culture. If you do not create the culture, it will create itself.
“Finally, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST! When you take care of you first, you are better equipped to take care of everyone else! On a flight they ask you to put on your oxygen mask first before you can help anyone else for a reason. Do you feed your attitude good things? Do you educate yourself? Are you present mentally, as well as physically? Is your self esteem contagious, or do your hold onto things that drag you down? Trust me, it will show. I take care of me first every morning by starting my day with CrossFit. It feeds my body, my mind, my heart and my soul first thing every day, so I am equipped to take on anything and everything. Find your thing, and make it a part of your day!
“Above all else, enjoy every moment. We work in the number one, happiest industry in the world. Embrace it with ‘wishes, love and fun’ and be contagious to everyone you meet!”