Take a moment sometime and observe how your clients interact with their phones while they are waiting in your reception area. Chances are most of them are typing, swiping, clicking or maybe even snapping a selfie, but few actually are talking on their phones.
For Michel Meyer, co-founder and CEO of Presence AI, the realization of how the modern world uses a smart phone happened as this father of three daughters was examining his phone bill. “There were 0 minutes of voice calls, but thousands of texts,” he remembers. “For the younger generation, the phone is not something you hold up to your ear—they don’t like calling anyone, they hate voicemail and when their phones ring, they don’t answer it. If they want to communicate, they text or use social media.”
Meyer began to think about how this communication ship would impact businesses, especially service based businesses who rely heavily on phone calls. “Today’s businesses need to dig deeper to answer customer questions faster and reliably,” he says. “Luckily I had friends who have been working in this space for 10 years, and we started building an AI (Artificial Intelligence) that could answer most of client requests, and when it can’t it has the ability pull in someone from the guest service team to finish the conversation.”
When Meyer started talking to different service-based businesses, salon owners and stylists really loved the idea. “The appointment booking process is a repetitive process, and many calls have the same basic exchange of communication,” he explains. “By shifting that communication vehicle to text, Presence AI can tackle booking, confirming, rescheduling and the answering of basic questions, saving the front desk time and the salon money.”
Presence AI works by text-enabling a salon’s landline, the phone number most have printed on menus, marketing pieces and business cards and featured on websites and social media. Salons can begin texting information to clients, and clients inherently trust a number they recognize. The system adds a widget to the salon’s website, which allows clients to message the salon right from the site, whether they are on a laptop, tablet or a cell phone.
Compared to email programs or phone calls, clients are much more responsive to text messages, according to Meyer. He says 90 percent of salon clients read a text within three minutes, and 80 percent of clients will respond to a text message. “Compare that to the number of people that actually answer their phone when you call for an appointment confirmation,” he encourages.
Umbrella Salon in San Jose, California, has been using Presence AI for six months and business manager Khiem Hoang estimates it’s reducing the amount of time his front desk team spends on the phone by 30 to 40 percent. “When I first saw it, I thought it was just a text messaging app, but during the demonstration I saw that the AI is very impressive—it’s constantly learning the conversation the front desk is having with clients and improving itself, and the response time in communication is pretty much immediate,” he says.
Presence AI assists the front desk in a number of ways:
First, it pulls information from Yelp, a salon’s Facebook page and its website, as well as information fed into the system by the owner and salon staff, to answer the repetitive informational kind of questions that represent a time-suck for most front desks—When did I schedule my next appointment? What hours is your salon open? How much do you charge for a keratin treatment? Where is the salon located?
“If the client asks a question that the system can’t answer, it alerts someone on the front desk, allowing us to take over the conversation,” says Veronica Lewis, Umbrella’s floor manager. “If that happens when the salon is closed, Presence AI lets the client know we’re currently closed but will respond when we come in at 9 a.m. And, the AI team is great to work with, if we flag one of the AI responses because we would have answered the client differently, the team responds quickly, adjusting the system so it responds the way we want it to.”
Both salons and clients love the convenience or Presence AI’s text confirmations. Text confirmations happen automatically through the system, saving the team numerous calls or emails per day. Text messages are less disruptive to clients than phone calls, and clients are more likely to respond, even if they are at work. If a client responds that they can’t keep the appointment, Presence AI cancels it and prompts them right then to rebook.
If a prospective client texts the salon to book a new appointment, the system can answer basic questions and gather details about the client’s preferences, turning the final booking to the front desk for approval. “Scheduling complex appointments can get difficult and salons differ in how much they delegate to the system—the AI is there to help them, but the salon maintains all the control,” Meyer says. “The more a salon works with the system, the more intelligent it becomes and the more confident owners are to let it do more.”
The whole system is cloud-based, so it doesn’t require a salon to carry extra hardware, Hoang points out. “You also don’t need a new phone number because the texts go right to the landline,” he says. “You can log into the dashboard with a computer, tablet or cell phone and read the conversation your front desk is having with your clients at any time.”
Because the texting system is a historic record of a conversation between a salon and its clients, it’s also a good training tool, according to Lewis. “When the front desk takes over a conversation from the AI, we can see how they answer questions and we can give them feedback,” she says.
Presence AI currently integrates with SalonBiz, Mindbody and Booker software management systems, which allows the system to learn more about a salon’s client base and go further with booking appointments, but salons using other system or no system at all still can benefit from the system.
“Overall, Presence AI frees up more of the front desk’s time so they can focus on enriching the experience of the clients who are in the salon,” Hoang says.
Presence AI currently is available to salons in the United States and Canada at a monthly rate of $129 per month for unlimited texts, or $99 per month if a salon prepays for 12 months. An economy plan that limit texting to 200 clients per month is available for smaller salons.
For more information about Presence AI, visit www.presence.ai or text or call 415-855-7379.