In running a business, as in style, there are surefire hits and misses. Online booking is a hit for the salon industry, and while it's been around much longer than keratin straightening treatments, how you use it can be very fashion-forward. Here are a few guidelines for making online booking a versatile accessory to complement your business.

The Dos and Don'ts of Online BookingDO get the word out.

Online booking deserves a lot of hype. Make it prominent: Have clients sign in at the front desk to see the system in action. Walk them though booking an appointment while they're still in the salon, and offer discounts for giving the system a try. Promote it in the salon by inviting repeat clients back to your website with take-home fliers, or even Tchotchkes like stickers and magnets—anything to point them there. Remind clients who call in to book their own appointments online next time, and be sure to mention it on your voicemail.

The Dos and Don'ts of Online BookingDON'T sit on potential revenue.

Airlines overbook planes because they bank on cancellations and missed connections; you need a safeguard, too. Overbooking your salon isn't really feasible, but that doesn't mean last-minute cancellations have to be a loss by default. Post on social media outlets to reach out to your clientele as soon as there's an opening—and embed your schedule in the same place, so clients can see the opportunity and take advantage of it, all at once.

DON't be a gimmick.

Diving into online booking too fast can backfire. To test the waters, consider offering it to your most loyal clients first, in the form of a membership program. Trusted sources will be more forgiving and still tell you what's effective (and what's not) and even if you decide to expand it to all clients, you can reinforce the sense of exclusivity by ofering better referral discounts and deals to members.

DO give clients what they want.

Especially with clients who feel like old friends, shifting to a system that removes you from the booking process may seem detached. But keep this in mind: More than 80 percent of clients would prefer to have a profile/account with an online booking system to make appointment scheduling easier*. To keep it personal, integrate with your social media. You'll maintain a constant stream of communication and show clients that your online prescence is, in fact, an extension of your interaction with them—not a way to limit it.

The Dos and Don'ts of Online BookingDON'T get too radical.

Clients may love your new tech-savvy streak as you move to online booking, but they might feel flustered if you switch in one fell swoop. Ease into it with appointment requests online first (rather than full-fledged appointment booking), which you can then confirm via email or over the phone to preserve a line of direct communication. Another strategy: offer simpler appointments online first, but hold off on the more involved visits, like weaves or keratin treatments.

DO go for it.

Like a silhouette, online booking can feel scary. But it can also foster a sense of community and grow your salon. Establish recurring opportunities for an influx of clientele through your online booking system, like monthly manicures or Friday blow-outs. When it gets closer to prom season, host tutorials on how to achieve a fresh-from-the-salon updo. Anything will do: as long as you're building a rapport with a new face, it doesn't matter how they come to you the first time.

Above all, DO stay true to what works—DON'T abandon it.

Staying relevant is essential, but keep it in context. Great customer service is as timeless as Audrey Hepburn and her little black dress. Approach online booking as a way to augment what you're already doing well, and the rest will fall into place.

*Source: Beagle Research, Improving Service Businesses With Appointment Scheduling, August 2009

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