Karie Bennett, owner of Atelier Salon and Spa and Atelier Studio in San Jose, California.
Karie Bennett, owner of Atelier Salon and Spa and Atelier Studio in San Jose, California.

With two locations and 50 employees, one of Karie Bennett’s biggest challenges is communicating announcements to her staff.

The owner of Atelier Salon and Studio in San Jose, California, regularly needs to let her staff know about new marketing initiatives, new hires, promotions, policy changes, etc. The salon is open seven days a week, from 8am-9pm on weekdays and 8am-6pm on weekends, with flexible schedules for the staff, featuring double shifts and chair shares—so daily huddles are not an option.

“We used to just use the back room,” says Bennett. “It was covered in memos though and after a while, people just weren’t looking as much; plus we were trying to reduce paper and embrace technology.”

An early adapter to salon technology, Bennett’s search for an efficient communication method started with Facebook.

She set up a private page for the salon staff to check for messages and communicate with each other. However, some staff members prefer other social media outlets and aren’t on Facebook, so Bennett wasn’t reaching everyone. Next, she tried e-mails and texting. Both methods were flawed.

“The issue with texting was timing. I don’t want employees who are not at work to feel like they have to respond immediately,” says Bennett. “I also don’t want to text someone before 8am or after 9pm.”

So her research into the perfect tech tool continued. After talking to other salon owners about her challenge, she discovered an app called GroupMe.

“It’s a private group you invite people into,” she says. “You then post whatever you want on a message board and a number pops up on the app with how many messages there are.”

Bennett asks her staff to check GroupMe when they arrive at work—not on their off time.

“You can even turn off notifications so it doesn’t ding or buzz or anything like that—I don’t want to intrude on someone’s time off,” she says. “It’s a broadcast medium—I’m just letting them know about something without requiring a response.”

Bennett uses another app through her salon software that allows her stylists to schedule clients, check formulas, and more. That app also features a message board, but currently can only be updated from Bennett’s main desktop computer.

GroupMe can be updated from her phone at any time—a feature she finds invaluable.

“I also like how easy it was to set up,” says Bennett. “I already had everyone’s e-mail or phone number in my contact list, so as soon as I put in a name  and indicated how I wanted the person to be contacted (text or e-mail), GroupMe sent out the invite to download the app.”

Bennett uses paper communication for some things, like class opportunities. She also continues to use the salon’s private Facebook page as well. But when she needs to let the whole staff know something quickly, she turns to GroupMe.  

“It’s my go-to,” she says. “I’m always looking for the best way to communicate with a large group of people, and this is it for now. If I found something better, I’d switch over—but this is free!”

Bennett ultimately just wants to use technology to keep her business current and running smoothly.

“I’m constantly looking for what will help my business,” she says. “I use technology to research it and make it happen.”

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