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With the digital world and mobile apps manifesting movie tickets and meal delivery in no time, today's customers don't want to wait. In a Zenoti 2023 survey of more than 1,500 beauty and wellness customers, a sizable proportion of salon (42%), spa (45%), and barbershop customers (51%) said that waiting around for their appointment was the most frustrating aspect of their in-store experience.

If you own or run a salon, spa, or barbershop, you can't have your guests feeling down before your providers even have a chance to lift them up. Read on for ideas and tools to reduce or manage wait times for your customers and give them a better overall experience.

Idea 1: Offer a relaxing environment in the waiting area

Your business is an oasis for guests, an escape. It gives them a small getaway from their routines. Adorning your waiting area with comfortable furniture, flattering lighting, interesting magazines, and ambient music that fit the vibe can all make waiting more pleasant. Add some fun visual interest with a selfie corner that changes by the season or holiday.

Now, here's a small detail that can make a difference. Consider investing in an HVAC scent system like hotels and department stores do. The barely-there aroma is instantly relaxing, more clearly separating the sanctuary you provide from the world outside. For some businesses, a subtle scent is even part of their brand identity.

With the décor and ambience handled, give guests more to do than look at their phones or flip through magazines. Create and maintain attractive product displays guests can browse while they wait – they might even buy when it's time to check out, giving your retail totals a nice boost. Display signage on your latest offers and seasonal promotions. Highlight gift cards at your cash wrap or waiting area, making it easy for guests to shop for others (or themselves) before their service starts.

Idea 2: Provide online booking and self-check-in

If waiting for their service is frustrating for customers, it's safe to conclude that making them wait at any time isn't ideal. Do you have to put guests on hold when they call to book appointments and your front desk is busy? What's their wait like when they check in or check out?

Thankfully, there are fairly easy workarounds to limit these waits. Zenoti solutions like online appointment booking and a mobile app put activity in guests' hands to manage their visits. They can book, cancel, or reschedule appointments anytime, on their own time. Want to take that convenience a step further? An AI-powered chatbot like SmartBot instantly handles missed calls, serving as round-the-clock backup for your front desk.

The more self-serve opportunities you offer guests, the greater control they'll feel over their wait (if there is a wait). Give them self-serve check-in from their mobile phones or an in-store kiosk. Similarly, let them leave directly after their appointments by sending a payment link via SMS or an email to settle their invoice. Who wants to wait in line to check out after a blissful spa appointment?

"Our guests love using the mobile platform to book and pay for their services. It's been so easy. They don't have to call. They're able to download an app, create a profile and book their appointments with the artists we have working here. It's been very, very convenient."
– Jonny Levi, Founder and Owner, Jonny Levi Studio


Idea 3: Provide queue-based bookings on your website

Walk-in appointments are common at barbershops and quick-service businesses like nail salons. But a Saturday walk-in could mean a long wait in the lobby for a quick haircut or polish change.  

With Zenoti software – designed specifically for beauty and wellness businesses including barbershops and nail salons – guests can add themselves to a virtual queue on your website and get notified when it's their turn for service, saving them a long wait at your location.

Queue-based booking systems are also ideal for businesses like Snip-its, Haircuts for Kids. Customers add their name to an online queue and leave to enjoy another part of their day, with a text notification letting them know their child's haircutter is ready. This is a boon to parents and caregivers of young children – they can be in and out in a jiffy, whether it's to enjoy ice cream in the park with their little ones or tend to a toddler having a meltdown.

"Zenoti enables us to focus on delivering a magical, fun experience for our customers while also giving them the shortest wait time possible before getting in the service chair."
– Jason Bakker, CEO, Snip-its


Idea 4: Automate waitlist management and staff notifications

Save even more time for your guests – and your staff – by automating waitlist management for your salon, spa, or barbershop.

Here's how it works with Zenoti: When a guest's preferred slot for a certain date and time is unavailable, they can add themselves to a waitlist online – no need to call the front desk. If the slot opens, they get a text or email with a URL to quickly book the appointment they want. If there's no response to the first notification within a specified window of time, Zenoti automatically notifies the next customer on the waitlist.

You can – and should – bring your service providers into the effort to shorten guests' wait times. First, have software that sends automated notifications to the stylist, aesthetician, or barber when their guest checks in. Providers can then meet the guest in the lobby to start the service experience, or pop out to quickly say hello to waiting guests if they're still finishing up with another customer.

The second piece to service provider involvement: Equip them with a mobile point of sale (POS) so they can check out guests at the end of a service. This skips the front desk for both, and lets the customer go on their way.  

"Enabling our guests to manage their own appointment from start to finish has been a huge benefit for us. We've improved their experience by eliminating front desk lines... the phone doesn't ring as much, so our team can focus 100% on taking care of customers in the chair."
– Jayson Rapaport, Owner, Birds Barbershop

Book a free consultation to see how Zenoti can help you get rid of wait-time frustration for your guests.

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Gita Mani
Senior Content Specialist
Gita helps brands find the right words for their messaging, with the customer’s best interests informing her approach. Being in nature is her favorite way to relax.
Gita Mani
Senior Content Specialist
Gita helps brands find the right words for their messaging, with the customer’s best interests informing her approach. Being in nature is her favorite way to relax.

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Cullie Poseria
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Fitness
Coming from a healthcare family, growing up as a competitive athlete, and being trained as a filmmaker, and MBA, Cullie brings diverse experience to her storytelling and digital business-to-business product marketing. Her writing focuses on sharing trends and insights from her experience in software, entertainment, wellness, and fitness.

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