My own stylist, Jennifer Sarchet with Ahshe Day Spa in San Luis Obispo, CA, said the close relationships stylists create with their clients are amazing. "Seeing someone every six to eight weeks makes it a special time, a chance to connect," she says.
You don't want anyone or anything to damage that relationship, certainly not technology. Online booking, emails, web forms-they all have the potential to diminish the 'high touch' relationships you've built over the years. Sarchet says she thinks some stylists are afraid they'll lose control if their clients are allowed to schedule their own appointments online.
Ironically, that reluctance to incorporate technology is almost certainly doing salons, and their clients, more harm than good. U.S. online retail sales totaled $142 billion last year, yet only a fraction of salons actually offer online sales or scheduling. Today's consumers expect to be able to do business over the web.
"I hate that it takes me three phone calls to book my hair appointment," says Amber Sandoval, a 25-year-old marketing professional. "The first time I call the salon, I usually get a voicemail. Then they call me back, but I'm usually away from my desk or on another call. If I'm lucky and call back right away, I can reach the receptionist on the next try. If I weren't really devoted to my stylist, I'd just hang up the first time I got the voicemail and look for another salon."
Sarchet, 31, has worked at a variety of salons in her career and has seen the advantages technology can bring to the client-stylist relationship-and the pitfalls of not using it. "The number one complaint I've heard over the years is 'the person upfront was mean or unprofessional when I booked my appointment," she told me. "The client develops the relationship with us (the service provider), not the person on the phone. It would be nice if my clients could book directly, and not have to deal with a middleman."
Salon software offers dozens of other time-saving features, including printable working tickets, drag and drop appointments, double booking functionality, client histories, inventory management and automated confirmations. "It would certainly be more efficient not to have to manually complete a ticket each time, walk it up to the front desk, and wait for the receptionist to ring it up. It takes time away from closing out on a personal level with my client or recommending products to them," noted Sarchet.
So, if clients love it and the stylists love it, why aren't more salons using software and online booking? "I'm not really sure. My guess is salon owners are worried that using software will be too complicated or cost too much money, or maybe they just don't think they have the time to research the right software or train the staff," says Sarchet.
The good news is there's no better time to explore the range of software options now available to salons. The marketplace offers a wide array of we-based or desktop software, starting at very reasonable costs. Even individual booth renters can hop on the e-commerce train.
The competition is fierce, and using business management software or offering e-commerce can be a real differentiator for salons.
What are your thoughts or experiences with online appointment scheduling?
Meg McCall is the director of marketing for MINDBODY, a developer of online business management software for salons and other wellness-based organizations. McCall holds and MBA and has a love of writing. Her long-term understanding of other wellness industries offers a unique perspective to salon owners. For more information on MINDBODY, visit www.mindbodyonline.com/salon.
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