Ronan Perceval, founder of Phorest Salon Software.

Ronan Perceval, founder of Phorest Salon Software.

As the COVID-19 crisis closes salons around the country and furloughs service providers, SALON TODAY has been reaching out to salon onwers, manufacturers and tech companies to see what they are doing to keep our professional beauty company strong. In this one on one, Ronan Perceval, founder of the Dublin-based software Phorest, shares his insight, as the virus hit Europe a few weeks before the United States

SALON TODAY: What sort of questions and concerns have you been hearing your existing partner salons/network/affiliates?

Perceval: The biggest concern amongst our network right now is the sheer uncertainty of how long this is going to last and what the long term impact on business will be. Cashflow is a big worry for everyone right now and we are creating solutions to address this issue and ensure salons can continue making money while closed. Phorest introduced gift cards and ecommerce to the product in the last two weeks.

Another huge concern for salon owners is staff management; many of our clients have employees who they treat like family, so as you can imagine, the thought of having to lay them off is very difficult to accept.

Also, we hear a lot that our clients really want to stay in touch with their own loyal customer base during this time. As it is such a hands-on, face to face industry, our clients are missing their daily interactions and are coming up with really innovative ways to stay in touch and keep serving their clients in whatever way they can.

SALON TODAY: How has Phorest responded? How are you supporting salons?

Perceval: We are dedicated to supporting our salons through this time of uncertainty and equipping them with the resources and tools to help them manage their business through this difficult time and come back fighting when all has passed.

COVID-19 hit Europe a few weeks before the US and as we have thousands of clients in Europe, we got an early insight into the catastrophic impact it was having on business, and set to work on planning how we could help minimize the damage.

To support our clients, we felt one of the most important things was for them to maintain the function of making money while closed. To ensure this was viable, we immediately put extra resources behind our product and development team to bring forward some features we had planned to release later in the year.

It is now possible to sell online Gift Cards through the Phorest system, which means salons who had to close can still make money. We will also be releasing eCommerce in the coming weeks to ensure our clients can sell their retail products online. I really believe these two options will keep salon businesses alive through this time. There will be money in the bank, ready for when salons can reopen and ready to take appointments again.

As well as supporting the launch of these new features, our marketing team has been working around the clock to generate as much valuable content and resources as possible for our clients and indeed the industry as a whole.

We have launched a COVID-19 resource site which is being updated daily with new information and resources such as salon closure checklists, SMS and Email templates,  communication packs, advice on what to do while the salon is closed to improve the business in the long term, and much much more.  We are also hosting webinars and Facebook and Instagram lives daily with both our own team and industry leaders.

SALON TODAY: What do you think you clients need most, right now?

Perceval: Right now, above all, I think they need our support and reassurance. We are committed to staying open during this time and supporting our salons. The inbound phone calls from clients have been at a higher volume than I can ever remember which is not surprising given the stress of the current circumstances. Each and every Salon has a dedicated Business Advisor who can offer advice and guidance to them at this time, these people are vital to each Salon owner at this time as they can be the calm in what is a very unexpected storm.

We are developing features right now that will keep the cash coming in for our clients while they are closed, and as cash flow is a big worry for salons now, we are deferring payment of 50% of their subscriptions until the situation improves.

SALON TODAY: Has the COVID-19 crisis interrupted plans in progress or products in development? And, if so, how will you pivot?

Perceval: Our product roadmap has pivoted greatly in wake of COVID-19. We want to help our salons make money while they are closed so we are working harder than ever to provide our clients with the tools and resources they need to keep their business going, even in the hardest of situations. Features like gift cards and ecommerce will be essential to keeping revenue coming in over the next few weeks. Our online gift card platform is already up and running and clients are reporting huge success rates with it - one client generated $15K in just a few days! E Commerce is a feature that was on our roadmap for later in the year, but in light of the current circumstances it has been moved to priority and is being worked on right now. It is important for software companies to be responsive and nimble in situations like these, and having a product and development team who truly understand salons, really, really helps.

SALON TODAY: Finally, how are you reaching out to salons and stylists who are not currently part of your network but you know it would benefit them to join?

Perceval: Our educational content is not exclusive to Phorest clients, we want to reach and support as many salon professionals as possible; the only way we will all get through this as an Industry is if we stick together (virtually). To find out more: Follow our social media accounts to keep up with all of the webinars and lives we hosting almost daily -- Instagram: @phorestsalonsoftware @phorest.northamerica and Facebook: @phorestsalonsoftware. Check out our COVID-19 resources page and make use of all the templates and downloadable resources

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