When an owner also works in the salon as a service provider, any technology that can make operations run more efficiently tends to alleviate the managerial pressure.
With a lean staff of four stylists, Kate Poole, owner of Vici Hair Studio and Beauty Bar in Amherst, Massachusetts, made the decision to not hire a full-time front desk attendant. Instead, stylists man the phone when they aren’t with clients. When there isn’t a stylist available to answer the phone or the salon is closed, the calls roll over to voicemail asking the caller to leave a message. In between clients, Vici stylists call back those who have left messages to book their appointments.
Convenience for the Salon and its Guests
That makes online booking an incredibly valuable tool for both the Vici team and their guests. Vici’s salon management software, Salon Iris, rolled out its online booking feature several years ago, allowing its salon customers to accept either appointment requests via email or the appointments themselves when the salon is busy or closed. When it was first released, it was a feature of the custom websites Salon Iris included with their service, now the company also offers online booking as a plug in (web script) for salons that already have a website in use, along with a Facebook widget to allow online booking from Facebook pages. (The company is also working with Instagram to incorporate their ‘Book Now’ action button into customer sites.)
Poole, who has had online booking for about four and a half years, has found several convenient uses for the feature. “We try to prebook clients’ next appointment before they leave the salon, but frequently they will decline because they don’t have their schedule with them,” Poole says, who upon checkout points out the feature to guests and reminds them to think of online booking as their own personal receptionist.
“They love that they can book right through their phones, all day, all night and on weekends,” she adds. “We all tend to think of things like booking an appointment right before going to bed at night—it’s great that clients can book right then and check it off their list.”
With the salon located close to Amherst College, Poole estimates about 50 percent of her client mix are students. “They really gravitate to the online booking, as do the working professionals who don’t have a lot of time to make personal calls,” Poole says.
As the online booking feature alleviates a percentage of incoming calls, it helps the team focus on the guests who are in the salon. “We do a ton of business over the weekend, and it really helps cut down on the calls,” she says.
While Poole admits it sometimes takes some coaching so clients know what kind of appointment they need to book for, especially if they are a color client who receives multiple services in one appointment, clients find booking the appointment itself incredibly easy.
“We show them how to click on the tab on our website,” she says. “The client can request an appointment on Friday at 3:00 and it will show them who is available, or they can get specific and book an appointment with Kate at 3:00 for a haircut, and if that is not available it will show them the exact time the next appointment is.”
To encourage guests to use the online booking function, the Vici team promotes it on the website and through its Facebook and Instagram pages. “It’s particularly nice when people who are new to town are looking up salon in the area,” Poole says. “They notice right away that we have online booking—it sets us apart—and helps us capture new clients because they like the convenience.”
Reduced No Shows
Poole’s next favorite feature is text confirmations. While someone in the salon used to have to pick up the phone and call every appointment for the following day in order to cut down on dreaded ‘no shows,’ these phone calls have been replaced with text messages (or emails) that can be automatically scheduled to go out an any schedule the owner prefers—for example, one week before, then again the day before. Clients can easily respond to the text message by pressing ‘C’ to confirm, and that confirmation is automatically reflected in the salon’s appointment book. Now a stylist can see at a glance who has confirmed and who might need to be chased down with a phone call.
“Our guests get their first text message right when they book their appointment, often even before they leave the salon,” Poole says. “That makes it easy for them to add it to their calendar when they have the chance.”
Vici guests receive another confirmation the day before their appointment. “Our message requests that if guests can’t keep the appointment to call the salon right away,” Poole says. “Not only does that reduce no-shows, it also give us an opportunity to fill any open appointments.”
Poole points to another benefit many owners don’t consider. “The text confirmations dramatically cuts down on appointment cards we give out—when guests understand they’ve got the text, they often refuse the card. In turn, it cuts down on the incoming calls we get when clients can’t find their appointment cards, because they know they can consult their phone to remember when they have their next appointment.”
Poole stresses that the biggest benefit of both features is that clients love them. “They rave about the online booking and the appointment reminders,” she says. “In our busy, crazy world, it just makes life that much easier.”
About Salon Iris: For 20 years, Salon Iris has helped thousands of salons the world over with appointment booking, staff management, payment processing, marketing and customer communications. Salon Iris has solutions for single booth renters, and salons small and large.