Everywhere you look, there’s talk of recession. The recession we’re already in. The recession we’re hoping to avoid. The recession that’s definitely coming. Or maybe coming. Or definitely maybe coming. It’s enough to make your head spin.
Of course, while economists may disagree about whether we’re headed for, are already in, or will barely avoid a recession, there’s nearly universal agreement that companies across all sectors are facing considerable economic headwinds. Against this backdrop, salon owners and operators are understandably looking for ways to save money and operate more efficiently.
But that’s not the real challenge. No, the real challenge is saving money and operating more efficiently without sacrificing your client experience. Lowering costs at the expense of your client experience is a net negative for both your brand and – sooner or later – your bottom line. Success is about finding the right balance.
Before we go any further, let’s be clear: balancing operational efficiency with exceptional client experiences shouldn’t be a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency strategy. Yes, the threat of recession is spurring us to have this conversation. But were the looming economic clouds to part tomorrow and give way to the brightest skies imaginable, you should still (and always) be looking for ways to make your salon more efficient without sacrificing your client experience.
Let’s examine five ways to do just that
If you’re not constantly collecting client feedback, you’re missing out on valuable insights you can use to both fine-tune your business operations and improve your client experience.
Feedback is everything. Recession or not, nothing is more important to your business than knowing exactly what your clients want. Thinking you know is not the same as knowing – and the only way to know is to ask. Luckily for us, this just so happens to be an industry that’s super conducive to collecting feedback – as long as we provide clients with the avenues through which to share.
Perhaps that’s something formal like a quick, anonymous survey your clients can complete on their mobile devices. (Don’t be afraid of anonymity. Feedback is a dish best served raw.) If you’d prefer a more informal approach, client-facing professionals can collect feedback all day long just by making conversation.
Simple questions can lead to valuable insight. Questions like, “Did you have any trouble finding a place to park?” Or, “What’s your daily schedule like now that your kids are back in school?” Maybe some of your clients are hitting heavy traffic and could benefit from an alternate route. Maybe some of your clients would love it if you opened a little earlier or closed a little later. The point here is to eliminate the maybe.
Prioritize Staff Retention and Mentoring
Conventional wisdom holds that during rough patches economically, power swings from employees back to employers. Perhaps that’s true in other industries, but not this one. Staff retention, satisfaction, and mentoring are just as important to your salon during a recessionary period – perhaps even more so.
Remember, ours is a client-first, service-first industry, and recession or not, continuity matters. When continuity is broken, service suffers. Even if the competition for experienced professionals isn’t as intense during a recession as it is during boom times, nothing good comes from having disruption and turnover on your staff.
If you’re not already investing the necessary time into nurturing your staff and helping them grow as professionals, start doing so now. Schedule regular 1-on-1s and open-forum staff meetings. Ask your staff how they’re feeling (feedback isn’t just for clients!). Encourage their input and suggestions on matters of importance to the business. Make them feel seen and heard – they’ll be happier and so will your clients.
Optimize Your Schedule
Ok, it’s time to get tactical and go directly after the bottom line. After all, we’re talking about the possibility or perhaps even inevitability of a recession. Every dollar counts. And if you’re not optimizing your calendar, you’re leaving too many of those dollars on the table. Optimized scheduling is the fastest and most effective way to increase efficiency and boost your bottom line.
But while the idea behind optimized scheduling is pretty simple – reduced downtime and increased productivity – putting it into practice is anything but, especially if you’re trying to do it manually. This is where technology can be your friend in the form of intelligent scheduling software that automatically optimizes your calendar so that you’re seeing as many clients as possible. Speaking of technology…
Get Smart about Software
While technology can and should be your friend, if you’re not careful, it can pretty quickly become a needy, scattered friend that zaps all of your staff’s energy. That energy is a precious and finite resource. There’s only so much of it, and the more you waste babysitting temperamental software, the less you have to devote to your clients.
That’s why having the right technology strategy is every bit as important as having the right technology. Recession or not, if you’re just thinking about digitizing but not about optimizing, you’re falling behind. It’s no longer enough to digitize your client list and calendar and call it a day. You need smart technology that automates tasks, improves workflows, and generally makes your life easier, not harder.
One great way to pressure test the smarts of your software is to look at integrations. The right set of integrations can make all the difference. Do you have payments and booking integrated such that you’re making it as easy as possible for customers to transact? Does your backend system communicate seamlessly with other third-party platforms such as those of your product suppliers and payroll provider? Are your purchasing and inventory management systems integrated such that you’re purchasing only what you need? If not, now’s the time to modernize.
Customize your Data
We talked earlier about the impact of eliminating the “maybe” factor. Recession or not, we don’t just want to think our efforts to drive efficiency are working. We want to know they’re working. That means we need to measure – and that requires customizable data.
The key word there is customizable. Data itself is not all that hard to capture given advancements in modern technology. But the extent to which you can customize that data determines the extent to which it’s useful. We don’t just need to know how much product we sold. We need to know how much we sold in the morning as opposed to the evening, to walk-in clients as opposed to return clients, and on Tuesdays as opposed to Fridays. (You get the point.)
When it comes to measuring savings and efficiency, having access to customizable data is non-negotiable. If you can’t customize it, your data is limited.
Look, no one ever wants to deal with economic headwinds. But they do provide us with an opportunity to take risks we might not otherwise take and make changes we might not otherwise make. And taking chances and making changes in the name of operating more efficiently and delivering a better client experience is always a good thing. Recession or not.
About the Author: Jules Reese is an Enterprise Customer Success Manager at Boulevard, provider of the client experience platform purpose-built for appointment-based, self-care businesses. At Boulevard, Jules works directly with customers to help them maximize their technology investments, deliver the best possible experience to their clients, and amplify their growth potential. Prior to joining Boulevard, Jules spent 10 years in the salon industry, working as a stylist while also managing business administration for multi-location hair salons and barbershops in Ohio, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Passionate about the industry, Jules is dedicated to helping salon owners and managers grow, expand, and franchise their businesses.
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