Scheduling and management software can be very beneficial in helping to successfully run any salon or spa. The problem is that there are so many offerings, that it can be overwhelming to wade through all of the options. How do you know where to start, especially as a solo artist?
The truth is that most software for our industry offers similar features. For example, they all provide some form of scheduling, point of sale, integrated credit card processing, mobile access, rewards program, and inventory management. To some degree, those are a given. They are essential features that you will find to be helpful in managing your business, regardless of size.
Most software also offers ecommerce, email marketing, email confirmations, and even Facebook integration, although sometimes these features may be considered “add-on” services. And then there are the unique features that pertain to some software offerings but not to others. That’s where you’re likely to find a fit that’s just right for you and your solo business needs.
To help make the search process just a bit easier, we’ve assembled some of the questions that you should be asking.
What should I look for in salon and spa software?
First and foremost, good software understands you and what you do. Salons and spas have a unique workflow, so understanding how they run is critical in designing and developing good software. When you find the right software for your needs, everything will be right where you think it should be, and that will make it easy to use.
Should the software be installed on a computer or in the cloud?
In the past, all software had to be installed onto your own computer or network of computers. Patches and updates also had to be manually installed, and many times came with a price tag. Because there are so very many computer systems with a multitude of operating system versions, there were inevitably compatibility issues. That meant hours on the phone with the software company sorting out IT issues. Also, the access to the information was limited to the system or the network that had the software installed. Unless you were running your business from your laptop, you’d have to go to the salon and log in just to see your schedule or to book appointments.
Today, software can be offered as a service on the cloud. The software and your data are professionally managed on a series of secure cloud servers. The idea is that you can access the software and your data anytime and from anywhere with an internet connection. In addition to this access, a monthly fee for the service typically includes software support and automatic updates, which is usually less expensive than the support costs alone for an installed system. The beauty with cloud-based software is that it will eliminate compatibility issues between various computer systems and the software. Whether you are a salon owner or a solo artist, eliminating IT issues is a big time saver.
What should I look for in a software company?
The landscape has changed over the past dozen or so years. In the past, most salon software companies were small to medium sized companies that were privately owned and managed. Today there are several salon and spa software companies that are publicly held and/or have venture capital dictating their direction.
It’s advised to find out who owns the company and to research what their background is. Has the company been bought and sold, and if so, how many times in the last decade or so? Some companies exist only to get a few years down the road to their next big sale, and you are not their priority. Do they service any other industries with the same product? The salon and spa industry is unique and has unique needs. Look for a company where all of their development results in features that you are interested in.
Choosing the right company for you is as important as the product and feature list. You need the company to have your best interests in mind. The cloud has enabled companies to reach a broader audience, and with all that data sitting on their servers, some companies may have a different agenda than you. To that point you should always read the license agreement. Make sure that you own your clients and that you and you alone have the right to market to your clients.
What about online booking?
A growing number of consumers expect to be able to book services online and this trend will continue to increase as younger and or tech-savvy clients take over the market. With that in mind, it’s advisable to look for software that will provide integrated online client scheduling. This feature allows your customers to book their appointments, and even purchase memberships, gift cards, etc., through a link on your website or Facebook business page. They can book their appointments from any device, anytime they choose. This will help relieve some of the pressure from you having to push pre-booking or answer as many calls for clients looking to make appointments. A good online booking system will be easy to use for your clients and will offer you features that help fill your schedule. Features like cluster booking and minimum scheduling gaps and a complete client log will definitely come in handy.
What about help with marketing?
Most software comes with features that will help you to promote your business. Mass emails for newsletters and targeted email marketing are great tools to help do promotions. A website builder, if you don’t already have one, and a good system for rewards and referrals will come in handy too.
How about automated confirmations?
It’s highly advised to find software that allows you to set up automatic confirmations, either by text or by email. That way your clients can decide how they want to be notified. Automatic confirmations will help save time by you not having to make calls or send electronic reminders between clients. Automated reminders will also help minimize no-shows, a killer for any service industry business.
As a solo artist, do I need all of the bells and whistles that a larger salon might need?
You will likely need many of the same basic features as a larger salon or spa, but you want it to be scale-able to your needs. Also, if you are a renter in a booth rental salon or spa, you’ll want to look into booth renter software that allows you to run everything as a separate business but will also permit the reception desk to make appointments for you and check clients in. You just want to be sure that your client information and all of your financials are kept private.
Regardless of the size of your business, software should be easy to use, offer seamless navigation and have the features that help you manage your services more efficiently. That frees up more time for you to do what you do best…service your clients!
Jim Bower is the founder of Floydware, LLC and Rosy Salon Software. He is a former salon and spa owner with over 30 years of experience in the industry.