Tech Talk with SALON TODAY
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Tech Talk with SALON TODAY

Not all of the activity at America’s Beauty Show occurred on the runway, in the classroom or behind the different manufacturers’ cash registers. There also was a great exchange of information and education within the technology-focused booths, and since SALON TODAY strives to keep a finger on the pulse of technology, I stopped by as many as possible to get a quick, tech soundbite update:

(Follow along visually, at the end of this blog is a slideshow of each stop!)

First, I stopped by SalonBooker’s booth and introduced myself to sales executive Kelsey Dowd and Elise Lapi. They shared with me how thousands of salon professionals are using SalonBooker to provide online booking to clients. In addition, they say the system’s marketing programs which help salons develop customized emails, thank you notes and birthday cards are a real time saver. And an online gift card function helps salons increase revenue and drive more sales either online or through Facebook. “Our web-based system means users can manage their business through their phones at any time,” they said.

Next, I dropped by MINDBODY’s playful booth where owners and stylists were scooping up bright orange sunglasses and posing together in the carnival-inspired photobooth. Salon Program Manager Elizabeth Lachcik was excited to tell me about the new MINDBODY POS App which brings the all the capabilities of the software right to the service provider’s chair. When used with a Smartphone or a tablet and MINDBODY's mobile swiper, a stylist can book a client’s next appointment, swipe her credit card and have the client sign with her finger. “This is the year of mobile and tablets, and we believe this is the future of technology,” she said.

At Millennium, I met with Bob Maconi, vice president of enterprise sales and the owner of Elysium Salon and Spa, and immediately we dived into a conversation about the growth of online booking. Millennium’s online offerings have advanced to the point that it allows salons to customize it with their own photos and graphics and Maconi encourages Millennium users to increase usage by gifting clients who book online with loyalty points in the salon’s reward program. “I’ve seen salons get up to 35 percent of their clients to book online and that provides quite a bit of relief to a busy front desk,” he says. Maconi went on to talk about how Millennium’s integration with programs, such as Demandforce, Constant Contact and GoLoyal, are helping salons fill last-minute, un-booked real-estate and boost their productivity.

Speaking of Demandforce, that was my next stop, and there I met with Jack Walsh, an account executive who covers Florida and British Columbia (obviously geography doesn’t matter too much in his field). We talked about how Demandforce’s automated reviews and surveys provide honest feedback, but and how those online reviews really improve and grow a salon’s online presence. “Demandforce is also connecting our networks of customers, in fields such as automotive, dental and salon, so they can market to one another,” he says. “So a woman who is getting an oil change might pull up a promotion at a local spa while she’s waiting.”

Next, I stopped by Shortcuts where Debbie Miller, enterprise relationship and education support manager, quickly told me about the importance of mobility and ‘social selling’ in today’s world. Next, Miller told me about a function Shortcuts has that texts or emails clients a short  five-question survey asking them to rate their salon experience. “Through that survey, you can determine whether that client is a promoter, is passive or is a detractor to your business, allowing you to type and sort your clients,” says Miller. “Owners then can look at their promoter score – the percentage of clients surveyed who are promoters—and constantly assess how they are doing on customer service.”

At Milano Software, President Paul Pagliaro explained how his software uniquely combines the advantages of an application-based system with the benefits of a cloud-based software. Because Milano replicates itself on both systems in less than a second, it offers users both speed and security in a mobile program. “It took us four years to build the database,” says Pagliaro. “Mobility is the key. It can process credit cards on the spot, all done quickly in the comfort of the treatment room or the chair.”

Next, I had a really interesting conversation with Fred Dengler who co-founded Mikal Software.  We discussed the evolution of his Autopilot Marketing program over time. “In the not so distant past owners would go to Vistaprint, print out a promotion and mail it to clients,” Dengler explained. “Then, in the years from 2000-2004, they’d have a list of email names and they’d email promotions. Two years ago, we perfected the text version of Autopilot.” Dengler says now a salon’s clients can opt in for marketing reminders, then they can receive a text when a salon has open appointments. “On average, it takes people a day and a half to read an email, but only four minutes to read a text – it’s really changed the game for Just-in-Time appointments.”

Last, but not least, I caught up with Jeff Mason, the new president of STX, who not only is on hand to talk about the software’s capabilities, but takes his turn, cutting hair on STX’s small styling stage. After talking about the growth of online booking and online marketing and how both tools have helped salons through a struggling economy, Mason captivated me with one of STX’s newest functions for motivating employees, the billboard feature. Displayed on a monitor in the backroom of a salon, the billboard shows the real-time performance of each employee against their individual goal set by the owner. It uses a percentage and a visual red, yellow or green as an indicator of performance instead of an actual number so the goal information is kept private from other staff members, yet it still creates a positive,  competitive team spirit. “We’ve tested it in salon’s whose owners swore they had great systems and first measured their system, then simply put the billboard in place and watched results go up 35 percent,” says Mason. (In fact I got so distracted by the billboard demonstration that Mason showed me that I totally forgot to take his picture -- my apologies Jeff!)

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