Home» Resources» Choosing the Best Salon and Spa Software – 6 Critical Steps
Choosing the Best Salon and Spa Software – 6 Critical Steps
Software that helps you manage your salon or spa is similar to other tools of your trade, it’s a critical factor in the success of your business. With the right software, you can increase revenue, increase customer loyalty, lower costs and run your operations more easily. The task of identifying the right software can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. In this article, I’ve distilled the process down to 6 steps that will ensure you know how to go about evaluating the best salon management software or spa management software for your business.
STEP 1: Decide If Your Salon or Spa Software Should Be A Cloud Solution
The technology that is available for managing a salon or spa has evolved tremendously in the last decade. The most significant change has been the shift from desktop software (software that is installed on your own computer) to using software that is in the cloud. If you haven’t noticed already – cloud solutions are everywhere. If you use Gmail or Yahoo, you’re using a cloud software. Cloud solutions are similar to software offered by desktop solutions, but is hosted on the internet rather than on your local machine. This single difference has a significant impact on your business. With a cloud software, you’ll see many benefits, like gaining the ability to:
Access your account from anywhere and at any time. When software is hosted in the internet, you gain the flexibility to connect to your account when you’re outside the salon or spa. This means you can be on the road and check financial reports, monitor appointment schedules for the upcoming week (or month), book appointments directly from your mobile phone, or know when a customer leaves your center unhappy so you can immediately follow-up.
Simply put – you stay on top of your business without having to physically be at the center. If it isn’t already obvious, cloud software offers extensive capabilities via mobile devices.
Save money. Maintaining software and the required hardware is costly. With a cloud software, you don’t have to purchase expensive hardware and things like data back-ups, virus checks, and installing upgrades are all take care of for you. And you don’t need to hire IT staff or contractors anymore. All you need is an internet connection and basic desktop.
Stay updated with free, automated upgrades. This means that your salon and spa software stays current and competitive.
Make a minimal upfront investment. Low monthly payments and no-lock-in contracts ensure you pay only as long as you get value from the software
Support a multi-location business. If you have multiple locations, cloud software supports your needs that go beyond center level operations. For example, your customers can easily visit any location and redeem their membership benefits, use gift cards, and expect the same highly personalized experience.
All your locations (should) access a single customer profile – so any location can honor a customer’s membership benefits, gift cards, package balances and so on. (In reality very few salon and spa software, cloud or desktop, support these features. So it’s something to evaluate in Step 3 of your evaluation process.) You can set up a centralized reservation desk, centralize marketing, and do many other tasks that is not possible with a desktop solution.
Better secure your data. Your salon and spa management software is the heart of your business and captures sensitive data like your customers’ contact information, financial transactions, and employee information. Desktop systems simply cannot prevent manipulation or theft of sensitive information because the data has to physically reside on a single machine, making it easy to copy data. Properly securing your data requires expertise beyond the default settings on your machine.
A good cloud-based solution secures your data. Firstly, there is no physical access to the data. And secondly, while employees can access the software to take care of their customers, their access to data is limited to only the areas required for their job. The right cloud software also has additional security features. This can include the ability to ensure that an employee can access their account only for a specific machine. For example, a front desk receptionist should be able to access to her account and the appointment book only from her desktop station at the front desk. This prevents her from logging into her account from home and manually writing down and stealing your customer list. Clearly cloud software has very compelling benefits. But, what benefits do you get with desktop software over cloud software? I’m not sure that there is a compelling case. If you know of benefits with a desktop software, please let us know! Trends from the last 10 years have shown that large and small businesses are moving to the cloud. While we said the first step in your process to finding the best salon and spa management software was to choose between desktop and cloud, there’s really no choice. Cloud software offers too many benefits over desktop solutions.
Salon and spa management software ranges from providing basic functions like managing appointment bookings and billing to providing an extensive set of capabilities that support all aspects of your operations and business. In order to decide what software is right for you, you’ll need to clearly understand what challenges you need to address and what goals you hope to achieve with the software. For example, your goals might be that your management software must help you to:
Get customers back in more often, especially those that are not coming back on their own
Better upsell to customers in order to increase the average ticket size
Have access to reports without delay and without manual effort
Find new revenue opportunities
Track customer satisfaction with the ability to more easily and consistently collect feedback and follow-up
Provide a personalized experience for all customers, regardless of who is sitting at the front desk
Maximize staff and resource availability on busy day by shuffling appointments
Fill slow days with appointments
Get current with today’s lifestyle, with things like online booking, automated appointment reminders and mobile apps
Easily manage retail and backbar products and reduce the time it takes to place order and audit stock levels
Motivate staff to fill achieve higher guest retention
It’s best to review every area of your business and not limit yourself to just booking appointments and billing needs. The success of your business extends to a number of operational areas including supporting the entire customer experience, building loyalty into programs, properly managing inventory, and being able to run marketing campaigns that are not costly and tedious to build. If you require basic features now, but expect to grow your business, consider a comprehensive solution that will grow with you. Often, you’ll find a ‘lite’ plan with cloud software, which offers the basic capabilities and when you’re ready allows you to upgrade to a fuller set of capabilities. This is an elegant solution that ensures you won’t have to invest money and time to moving to different software later.
STEP 3 – Evaluate Software For Capabilities That Address Your Goals
Once you’ve identified the software solutions available to you, your actual software evaluation begins. As you review different vendors, you’ll find that many will tout the same benefits and the same long feature lists. It’s up to you to properly evaluate each software’s true capabilities. Many features offered may be irrelevant, you have to focus on what’s important to you today as well as those features you will need as your business grows. In the following section, I’ve listed the key capabilities most often required for a salon or day spa.
Appointment Management & POS
Online booking that works on every browser and mobile devices. The online booking should be integrated with the appointment book.
Book appointments This means that you can quickly identify available and qualified staff for a particular service and can access the customer’s profile quickly.
Personalize the customer experience. This requires that the system is smart in how it identifies your most valued or regular customers, that you can retrieve customer information like service history quickly to respond to questions, you can look up membership or package balances quickly. Notes should be easy to capture preferences or warnings, and alert the front desk at the appropriate time – whether its during booking, at time of check in or during billing.
Drag-and-drop appointments on the appointment book to maximize busy days
Avoid no-shows and cancellations with automated reminders and confirmations
Built-in mechanisms that help with meaningful up-sells
Integrated billing for fast and convenient check-outs
Automated redemptions and tracking against membership benefits, reward points, and package benefits
Automated tracking of commissions based on services, retail sales, gift card sales, pre-bookings, etc..
An integrated marketing solution that enables you to set up email and text message campaigns directly from the system. Your marketing features must be integrated with your CRM (customer profile) to leverage the richness of the data. Further, you must be able to track the actual effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. That is, you should know how much revenue and how many customers came in as the result of the campaign. This is KEY to being able to build ongoing marketing initiatives that are successful and low cost.
Target promotions to specific customers based on their individual visit history, spending patterns, and demographic information. Targeting promotions is so critical to the success of a promotion simply because you’re able to put the RIGHT offer in front of customers. You have the added benefit of avoiding mass discounting, which can hurt your business in the long run.
Make it easy to support promotional discounts and packages
Automate the ability to encourage cross-sells, up-sells and add on retail or gift cards based on the services that have been taken
Fully automate membership and package management, and can combine services with products for offer that you expect to run like “Buy 2, Get 1 Free”. You’ll also need to consider whether a recurring membership (where the customer is billed monthly and receives services on a monthly basis) makes more sense for you than an annual membership.
Integrate with social media platforms to reach customers and promote your business in meaningful ways.
Have a built in rewards program so that its fully automated and works on its own to keep customers posted
Have quick access to client preferences, visit history, spend, balances, complaints, and everything you need to respond to questions and personalize every experience.
Collect and follow-up on customer feedback. This process must be easy and help you to follow up with unhappy customers before you lose them to your competition.
Encourage customer loyalty with a Mobile App designed to make their interactions with you seamless and help you promote the right services, specials, etc.. to them
Support employee productivity with the capabilities they need when they are offsite (like checking their schedule, commissions, etc..) as well as when they are in front of a customer
Improve manager productivity with access to reports, the appointment book and the ability to stay alerted of critical issues at the salon or spa – regardless of where they are
In-store kiosks that are used to provide a better customer experience – everything from offering an interactive service menu on an iPad or other tablet, to entering their registration information digitally, to submitting their feedback digitally
Have access to real-time and accurate stock levels. This can be achieved by the system calculating expected stock levels as well as the ability to more easily do physical counts of stock. The only way to do this accurately and with minimal investment in time is to have a mobile auditing system which allows you to either scan or enter SKUs into a smart phone or tablet.
More easily and quickly place orders. With the right inventory management controls in place, you should aim to be able to place orders on a 2 week cycle – which will help you maintain the proper stock levels (not over stocked or under stocked).
Control shrinkage and wastage of backbar and retail products.
Encourage retail sales
Comprehensive reporting used for orders and accounting
Automatically calculate payroll based on salaries, commissions, attendance, and vacations
Create employee schedules (with days off and holidays) with the appointment book
Easy access to real-time and accurate data
Accounting reports including financial transactions, payroll and commissions, inventory expenditure and value, etc..
Track daily and monthly revenue and sales performance against projections
Revenue and sales trends by service categories, average revenue by customer, by demographics
Customer loyalty trends that track which employee are best at retention, which service categories or specific services are best at retention and the ability to track how well you are able to convert new customers into loyal ones
Marketing effectiveness that enables you to make decisions on the right marketing campaigns to create and run
If you are a multi-location salon or spa brand, you require reports as well as aggregated data which enables you to see performance for the entire organization and the ability to slice and dice that data
If you’re a multi-location salon or spa brand, your needs will extend beyond center level needs. Consider things like how you provide a seamless customer experience, how to manage growth, how to centralize administrative and marketing functions and so on. The list above provides just some key capabilities. But the goal of this step is to ensure the software has capabilities you need to achieve your business goals.
Your success starts with how well your staff adopts the software, how quickly new employees can start using the software, and how much of the software you are able to use. While these may seem obvious, it’s important to evaluate the usability or ease of use of the software. At this step in your evaluation process, you should try out or review a live demo to assess the ease of use of the software. A basic tenant of software usability measures how easily one can learn how to carry out a specific function. That is, if you were to perform a function, like booking an appointment, once – how easily can you trace those steps on your own again?
STEP 5 – Evaluate The Software Vendor’s Record On Customer Support
After you’re certain that the software can meet your business goals, the last thing to evaluate is the software vendor’s ability to provide top-notch customer service. The support and training provided can determine how well you adopt the software and your overall success with the software. Given that your industry sees on average 30% attrition, you should expect to have to train new employees often. Look for a spa and salon software that includes:
Free access to a live support representative for urgent issues
Free and easily accessible knowledge base with reference materials
Free, comprehensive training
The best way to know what kind of support you are going to receive is to see how they have done to date with their other customers. While you could speak to referrals or review testimonials on a website, these are often controlled by the software vendor and don’t necessarily reflect how the broader customer base may feel. All software companies use technology to monitor their own performance with customer support and their customer satisfaction ratings. Ask to see the software vendors actual customer satisfaction ratings through the tool they use. This provides an unbiased view into their performance.
STEP 6 – Ensure The Software Is Reliable And Accessible
When you use a cloud software you’re trusting the software vendor to keep their software running in order for you to access your account. If you use Gmail or Yahoo mail, your expectation is that your account will always be available. You should have the same expectation with your salon and spa management software. In this last step of the evaluation, you must ensure that the cloud software you go with has:
Consistent and constant availability. This means that the site availability should be above 99.5% for at least the past year.
Ensure that scheduled down-times for upgrades or maintenance never occurred during core business hours in the past year.
With the right approach you can save time and find the best spa and salon management software for your business. If you’re looking for a software for your salon or spa – get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to give you a live tour of the software and discuss how we can meet your business needs.