The original article was published HERE by Celeste Trapp
Part 5 Not Embracing Technology
(editor’s note: Part 1-4 were in past issues of The Stylist)
I love being a salon owner. I have opened five profitable, high-end salons over fifteen years and luckily haven’t closed any.
With my business and marketing background I jumped into this industry as an outsider and dared to do things differently. I will never pretend to run the perfect business; I am continually learning and growing to be a better business owner, leader and person.
Having learned a lot and admittedly made my share of mistakes, I’d like to share what I see are the five commonly made mistakes that can affect a salon’s profitability and success.
In previous issues I covered the first four mistakes: 1 – Weak foundation, ie policies; 2 – Ineffective or non-existent marketing; 3 – Failure to coach performance and 4 – No systems. Now we will take a look at mistake number 5 – Not embracing technology.
Technology is our friend, our foe and our future. As a business owner it is an investment that can save you money, make you money, make your company more efficient and make your employees and clients love or hate you, depending on whether it is working correctly or not.
Change is hard. Spending money is hard. Fear of failure is hard. These are all reasons why many salons may have been late to embrace technology. I challenge you to get uncomfortable, make the investment and reap the benefits! Here are the ways we have utilized technology to run a better business.
When I opened 15 years ago I would guess no more than 30 percent of the local salons were using some sort of software to manage their bookings and POS. The rest were still using the old-school paper calendar. Year by year more salons converted to computerization, which brought many more choices of software to choose from.
I started with Milano Systems and after opening my second location had to change to Millennium because Milano did not offer a multi-location central database, which is necessary to transfer client files, gift cards etc. This was something I wish I had considered when I made my first choice. I have stayed with Millennium all these years, partly because it is one of the most robust systems, but also because well, it’s a pain to change and costly. Having an automated system allows you the power of knowledge. This can be to share reporting with your staff on their performance; it could also be to offer a rewards program to your guests that is automatically tracked in your system, as well as compiling key performance indicators of your business like average ticket, retail per client, retention, prebooking etc. You do get what you pay for and there are costs to consider that vary between systems, like what type of hardware you will need and security software (these can be costly), how much extra user licenses are, additional costs for online booking or gift card ordering, cost of support etc. Be sure you compare apples to apples before choosing. The information you can collect with a POS can turn your business around. Having a system early on I was able to collect emails from day one which is a powerful thing for retaining clients.
Having a client database complete with emails is a wonderful thing. You can send appointment reminders not only one day in advance, but three days in advance to catch cancellations earlier. This saves your front desk hours of calls each day. We also used Millennium to send out automated emails to clients when it was time to book their appointment, when they were inactive three months, and for birthdays, anniversaries, membership purchases and appointment follow-ups.
We now use DemandForce that integrates with Millennium to pull our client data and the automated emails go out in HTML through their system. Coming from a marketing background I have always found communicating with our clients via professional emails is the most cost effective way to market, often sending a different email to active vs inactive clients, with different offers and messaging.
In addition to emailing through Milllennium, I have always paid for a professional email service like Constant Contact, MailChimp and most recently Robly. They allow you to design a more professional email and manage those who unsubscribe better than a POS system and you can also track who clicked on what links, percent of opens and unsubscribes.
Our clients have loved we offer online booking, even in the early days when it was rarely offered. It saves time on your desk and gives your client another option for booking. It also can drive people to your website where they can learn more about the services you offer.
Having online surveys gives you powerful information on your clients experience so you can make quick changes to your operation if needed. We have used the surveys through DemandForce and also created our own with SurveyMonkey.com and emailed out the link. We now have a survey with a QR code on a window cling for clients to scan and be directed to our survey on their phone. Why not get their opinions while they are sitting in your chair! Just remember, if you ask for their opinion and it isn’t favorable you need to contact them and hopefully retain their business and fix the issue.
Our newest love is our new app that was custom designed by SalonClouds. There is a version for apple and android for our clients and an internal app for our staff. The app allows clients to see our services, staff profiles, specials, referral program and online booking and gift card order. All from an easy to access and navigate app. The employee app gives them access to their appointment book where I can allow them to book if I like, they can see events, company documents, and even share a digital business card.
Possibly more importantly they can see real time performance numbers. Employees are also notified when their client arrives via their app. We are also able to send out push notifications to our app users to let them know of specials or last minute openings. You can send out text offers through the app for our clients who subscribe (this is legally required) to our promo text program. Note that once you pay for the app you must continue to pay a monthly fee in many cases, but from my point of view it is well worth the investment.
With multiple locations it was necessary to have a bigger and better phone system. After much research I decided to go with RingCentral who offers VOIP (voice over IP) service, which means no hard wired phone line required, just access to high-speed internet. RingCentral allows access to change phone settings through your desktop or app. This has come in handy for weather closures where we used to have to get into the salon during bad weather to change the pbx system on the network.
You can also see reports on missed calls, call volume, wait times etc. I like that we also can set a maximum hold time so that if the front desk is bombarded with calls, a caller will only hold for two minutes and then go into voicemail. You can change this setting to however long you like, but it gives you peace of mind that someone may not end up in a 10 minute queue.
We have different music playing in our hair studio than what is playing in our treatment rooms and shampoo lounge. Have the Sonos System makes this easy to manage. Sonos allows you to manage your music from your computer desktop or your phone. So if you are not liking a song on Pandora or Spotify you can give it a quick thumbs down and help fine tune your stations to your liking. You can also create a custom playlist on Spotify. Be sure to pay for the subscription, having ads playing is very tacky.
All of these technology tools cost money, but it is money well spent. If you are wanting to attract tech savvy team members you have to at least have the basic technology to offer them. More importantly it will help you, the business owner, be able to more effectively manage your staff (performance reporting), marketing to your clients (email, texts, app) and reduce hours on your desk each day (appointment reminders). Add up how much each of those will impact your bottom line and likely you will make the choice to invest in technology.
Celeste Trapp is President and Founder of the MWY family of salons and barbershops including Hair M, Hair W and Y-Chrome. Before founding Hair M in 2003, Celeste was VP of Business Development for a marketing agency. She completed her MBA in 2000 and has always had a passion for business. With five salons and 70 employees in the Portland Metro area Celeste has learned much about what to do, and not to do, to be successful. Celeste can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.