Technology Case Studies: Online Booking

By Victoria Wurdinger | 07/19/2010 12:08:00 PM

 


ONLINE BOOKING
The competitive advantage through online booking, these owners continue to build their salon business, even when their doors are closed and they’re home in bed.


Six months after introducing online appointments, owner Michael Haskett reports that 50 percent of Be Salon’s clients use the service.

SALON ONLINE BOOKING SYSTEMS barely resemble those of years ago, which were frequently adapted from other industries. Today, they are stand-alone and streamlined—or companions to larger salon software packages, yet safe and super-easy to operate. These systems also allow owners the freedom to adjust online booking to their business models with ease.

Appointments 24/7
If an owner is interested in offering online appointment booking, one of the first places they should search is through their salon management software vendor—many offer this as part of the overall package or as a low-cost additional feature. But there also are new web-based booking systems, such as Schedulicity, one of the first company’s to combine powerful search, mobile scheduling, social scheduling, business reporting and personalized marketing all in one easy-to-use, inexpensive web service. Check it out at schedulicity.com.
For instance, one men’s salon chose appointment time-blocks that require all stylists to complete services in the same timeframe. Another owner sets each stylist’s service times to reflect the reality of faster and slower colorists, or ones who work with assistants and add a hair cut appointment during color processing. And it’s all done with a click of the mouse. Additionally, almost all online booking systems have built-in marketing components and access to analytics, which reveal statistics such as: 20-percent of your clients book online through your Facebook page.

If all this sounds complex, it isn’t. Most users say they setup their online booking systems in five minutes, then took another one to two hours to input their salon menus and about five different stylists’ individual booking times. So how do you choose a system besides comparing costs? (Alert: Some add a per-booking fee on top of monthly rates.)

19% of consumers have booked a personal appointment online.

*Source: schedulicity.com

Brian Waldron owner of Christian Michael Salon in Concord, New Hampshire, says, “Select the one that is the easiest on the consumer side. I wanted online booking to be intuitive, with no complicated set-up or features no one would use.”

Ben Davis, owner of The Gents Place Men’s Fine Grooming, Frisco, TX, looked at every system on the market, considering both client convenience and three “must-haves.”

“I wanted text-to-e-mail appointment confirmation, feature-rich analytics, and the ability to track employee performance,” says Davis. “I’m big on marketing. The most important statistic to know is where your new clients are coming from, so you can make the right investments.”

Most systems compile data such as whether a client booked through your website, your Facebook page (widgets connect both to online booking) or were referred by another client (users check-off this information with one click). Just how many of your current clients use the system and new ones it attracts depends on your market and how aggressively you promote online booking.

“I got seven new clients last week for my airbrush tanning services,” says Shannon Rogahn, an independent contractor who owns Circa Bella in Middletown, Wisconsin. “Online booking is saving me two hours a week on the phone, returning calls. This is huge for an Indie like me, who works long hours and has three children. It also makes me look more professional.”

Rogahn’s business is near a large university. Within three months of offering online booking, 90 percent of her clients were booking online. Several salons interviewed said that they educated clients in the salon by showing them the system on a laptop.

For his high-end spa clients, Doug Brisotti, president of Living Eleven, which has spas in Delray Beach, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada, had the salons call each client for an e-mail address to use as an online booking ID and educate them regarding the system’s use. After three years, just 10-percent of his clients use it because they expect concierge service, he says. “Still, if just 50 people book online, that’s 50 clients who want the convenience and would have gone elsewhere if I didn’t offer it,” adds Briscotti.

Waldron, whose one-year-old salon has offered online booking for nine months, says many of his clients sit at a computer all day and that offering online booking eliminates the old pre-booking objection: I have to check my schedule.

“Clients can instantly check their own e-calendars and then book their appointment,” he says. “Forty percent book online by themselves; the rest do it before they leave the salon.”

At Be Salon, in Indianapolis, Indiana, owner Michael Haskett has offered online booking for six months and says 50 percent of his clients use it. “We don’t have a central location, so I have to try harder to get business,” he says. “We’re attracting the type of clients who want to do it all online, which saves us money and a desk person.”

Still, don’t assume tech-savvy clients are the only ones who will book online— just add a nudge or an incentive. Men are heavier internet users but they’ve been trained to walk-in a barbershop or call a salon a few hours in advance, notes Davis. “Twenty-five percent of my guys book online now. They’re super-busy types and once they do it, they become online bookers for life.”

Salons themselves are reluctant to sign on because they are afraid of losing control or don’t want to expose their books for all to see. But putting clients in control makes sense say users. Besides, you can block out times to build afternoons first and then mornings or prevent booking within 24 hours.

What’s the ultimate payoff? “I check my smart phone frequently because I can see my book on it anytime, in real time,” says Waldron. “Every time I hear that ‘ding,’ especially when it’s a Sunday and we’re closed, it’s like playing the slots and winning.”

That beats the sounds of silence any time.


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