While the nation’s salons were starting to shut down due to the stay-at-home orders surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Dilan Desilva, founder of SalonCloudsPlus, started envisioning the tough financial road ahead for salons as well as the new client service reality they would need to design once they reopened. He revisited some technology features he’d already developed and quickly started working on new features to offer some simple technology solutions to owners’ evolving challenges.
In a recent video interview with SALON TODAY’s Stacey Soble, Desilva offered us a tour of these latest features and how they’re already helping salons capture new sales and streamline salon operations, while minimizing unnecessary person-to-person contact to address COVID-19 related safety and health concerns.
“When everything shut down, we were worried salons were going to be in trouble, so we immediately started thinking about e-commerce,” Desilva says. “It was something we’ve been doing for a long time, but we started building e-commerce stores for salons non-stop, so they could get some necessary money into their businesses right away.”
Desilva knew clients already knew how to buy things online, and that making the sites simple to use was key. “We also built in a search function so clients can see their past purchase history; built them to ask the client to indicate their recommending stylist so the sylist could receive a commission as well; and we built some intelligence into the system,” he says. “If a client hasn’t repurchased the product in four-six weeks, it will email the client and see if they are ready to reorder.”
Desilva estimates SalonCloudsPlus has built close to a few thousand e-commerce stores, and they were gratified to watch a big product purchase uptick happen during the pandemic. “Owners needed to fulfill and ship the products or do curbside pickup, and sometimes that meant bringing staff in to help, resulting in a few temporary jobs, when most stylists were unemployed,” Desilva adds.
Next, Desilva thought about how salons could communicate with clients while they were closed, and as they were beginning to reopen. While TeleMedicine was getting national news coverage, he thought about the same applications for a video communication platform for professional beauty.
“This was something I came up with three years ago, but my staff said no one would use it in the salon, but I really believed there would be a time salons would use it for consultations. When the pandemic hit, I took the technology off the shelf, dusted it off and within 60 days, we had it ironed out.”
Soon, salons were using TeleBeauty to offer their guests virtual consultations and make product recommendations, or to conduct staff meetings when everyone was sheltered at home. “We had one salon in Hawaii that stayed busy during the shutdown doing skincare consultations with clients, assessing their needs and making product recommendations, which resulted in valuable product sales,” Desilva shares.
As salons began to get the green light from their states to reopen, salons started using TeleBeauty to do consultations with clients prior to booking their first appointment back. Whether the clients had unruly hair, longer-than-usual gray roots, or whether they took matters into their own hands and cut or colored their own hair, these TeleBeauty consultations helped stylists assess the situation and book and price the upcoming appointment accordingly.
“Many salons were expanding their hours or were working with reduced capacity because of social distancing mandates, so moving that consultation time to online helped each chair reach maximum productivity when salons reopened,” Desilva stresses.
Salons also used the feature to host team meetings, and Desilva built in some background screens simply for fun, helping salons celebrate good news. Not only was the program’s team dashboard great for communicating important information when salons were closed, but many salons are continuing to use the platform now they are reopen. Staff meetings can be held when team members are at home—minimizing the exposure that can happen when a group gathers in close quarters and letting them meet when they don’t have to wear masks which can inhibit conversation.
Now that salons are starting to reopen, Desilva knows many salons are worried about clients touching the products on the retail shelves and possibly contaminating them. “We started putting QR codes on the shelf talkers,” he explains. “Now, clients can scan the QR codes of the products they want to purchase and a gloved front desk attendant can bag them up with minimal contact. We are taking simple things that clients need, and addressing those needs through technology.”
Next, Desilva started imaging what the new client experience would look like with new social distancing guidelines. He knew many salons would have to require clients to wait outside until their service providers were ready for their appointments, so guests didn’t congregate in the waiting area.
“We knew it was unrealistic for the front desk staffer to go out in the parking lot with a clipboard, calling ‘Bueller. Bueller. Bueller.’ We had a product called Snap that is a texting platform, so we built in a check-in feature,” Desilva says.
He built the program so owners could set a geographic perimeter around the salon, so clients couldn’t check in before they physically were within the perimeter—basically, the salon’s parking lot.
“Once a client is within the perimeter, they can check in, their name is added to the dashboard, and an alert is sent to their stylist telling them their next guest is here,” Desilva says. “The front desk or the stylist can text them asking them to stay in the car until they text them again telling them they are ready for them to come in.”
In addition, the dashboard has color indicators showing how long each client has waited, allowing the salon to make adjustments to accommodate those who have been waiting the longest.
Forms and Waivers
Desilva also realized when salons reopened they would need a health questionnaire/COVID-19 waiver that protected the salon and its staff members. He designed an online, five-question waiver in an intelligent format that alerted the salon’s owner if a guest answered any of the questions in a concerning way, for example that they had been recently exposed to the virus. That allows the owner to call and reschedule the client before the appointment date.
To be compliant, owners have to store these signed forms for seven years. Having them in an electronic format makes them easy to store, while reducing paperwork.
“We really thought through the process of the new appointments and looked for ways technology could help minimize contact,” DeSilva says. “We knew many states were telling restaurants they couldn’t reuse menus, so we looked at how we can make the salon service paperless and cashless.”
SalonCloudsPlus integrates with many of the major salon software companies, including STX, Meevo/Millennium, Mindbody/Booker, Boulevard, Phorest, DaySmart/Salon Iris, SalonRunner/Rosy, SalonBiz and Zenoti.
“It’s really easier to list whom we don’t integrate with,” DeSilva laughs, but the point remains the same. If your salon software integrates with SalonCloudsPlus, then you already have access to these new important features.
Desilva is very proud of his staff who helped him develop all these new features to help salons embrace the new client reality. “My team is the heartbeat of SalonCloudsPlus, without them none of this is possible,” he says.
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