In an appointment-based business, sharing real-time information regarding your schedule can boost both productivity and responsibility. You may own or work in a salon or spa that caters to walk-in traffic, but for the most part, clients book their appointments in advance, even if only a few hours beforehand. Your appointment book (which it’s still called, although it’s no longer a book!) serves at the launch pad for your business’s income on a daily basis, and as such should be a primary focus of attention of both your managers and your technicians.
One of the numerous drawbacks of traditional pen and paper appointment books was that really only one person could see it at a time. Technicians were never allowed near the desk, and yet there was no other way to figure out who their next client would be. Daily appointment schedules were filled out at the beginning of the day, but they were likely to change during the course of the day, so those became outdated by mid-afternoon.
When computer software began showing up in the beauty industry in the early- to mid- 1990’s, many businesses were slow to jump on the computerized appointment bandwagon. Salons and spas adopted the point-of-sale transaction and inventory portions of software, but appointments were often still kept by hand due to the resistance of front desk staff.
Today, the majority of spas and salons are using software to book their appointments. This is obviously a vast improvement over paper and pencil in many ways: Not only can more than one person physically access appointments at one time, but many appointment data is also collected and available in performance reports. The exact type and duration of treatment booked, whether or not the technician was requested by the client, gender preferences, and client contact information are all embedded with the appointment. This is the case whether you’re using installed software or a cloud-based program. The big advantage of cloud-based platforms is that your appointment book can now be accessed by whoever needs it, from wherever they might be.
Think about the efficiencies of your staff being able to view their appointment schedule, not just for today, but for the week or month. One big improvement you’ll see is improved accuracy of bookings. With the right system, you never have to worry about double bookings, booking technicians for services they don’t perform, or booking a treatment room or station that isn’t available. Cloud-based systems also allow you to restrict access by user account, so your technicians can just see their own appointments, not the entire book, encouraging them to focus on what pertains to them. This functionality also makes having look-up computer workstations in your location less imperative, as staff members can download your software provider’s app to their smartphone and look from there.
Having your business data available and accessible beyond the walls of your facility has other benefits as well. For a consultant like myself, it’s extremely helpful to be able to log into a spa or salon’s system and have a look at their appointment book or run any reports that I may need, without having to wait for someone to email them to me. Likewise, your accountants and bookkeepers can be much more efficient with their work (which you likely pay them by the hour for) if they can access your reports directly. Each user receives their own login and password, so their view privileges can be restricted and their account deleted or made inactive any time you need to.
One caution with a cloud-based booking & appointment system is making sure your technicians show up for their scheduled shifts, regardless of whether they have bookings on the calendar ahead of time. For example, if a technician’s shift is from 10-6 on Tuesday, but on Monday night they log in and see that they don’t have an appointment until 1pm on Tuesday, so they might decide not to show up until 12:30. So before you make appointment information accessible, revisit your employee handbook policies, including attendance guidelines. If you make it clear that staff members are expected to work committed shifts regardless of bookings, you'll mitigate that problem. And ensuring that appointments booked for the next couple of weeks are accurate will free up more time for additional bookings and walk-ins.
The bottom line is that cloud-based salon software or spa software has a number of benefits for you. Taking advantage of the latest technology will help your business make the best use of your most precious commodity, time.
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