In an industry that depends on appointments, the most important commodity that salons and spas have is time. Maximizing use of that time can have a direct impact on your revenue and profits.
Time is something we often take for granted, but there’s nothing like a looming New Year and thoughts of business improvements to get you thinking about how to make the best use of your business’s time inventory. An excellent activity for January is to examine some of your business processes with a set of fresh eyes—what corporations call Business Process Re-engineering. There are probably business processes at your salon or spa that, if you stood back and looked at them, you might ask yourself, “Why do we do it this way?” The answer is often, “Because that’s how we’ve always done it.” The New Year is a perfect time to ask, is there a better way?
Time is a basic part of all spa and salon business activities, which makes it difficult to know where to begin. The three key areas you can target to improve efficiency are as follows.
One of the biggest impacts on our available time is the amount sold in services and treatments, so we’ll begin there, starting with the continual debate around ideal service lengths. For salons, these rates are generally static: A dye job, manicure, or waxing service generally takes the same amount of time. For spas, however, ideal service lengths are often a topic for debate.
Spa technicians will generally insist that they need 60 full minutes, plus 15 minutes of turnaround time, per booking. If that is the case, are you charging enough? If you’re booking on the 60-minute mark, you can get 10 treatments out of a treatment room during a 10-hour workday. If you are booking on the 75-minute mark, that becomes 8 appointments, so make sure you’re pricing your treatments accordingly.
Yes, it can be difficult to turn rooms on the hour, between the time it takes the client to exit, clean up, close any retail sales, and get ready for the next client. For example, in a busy spa, adding a support staff member can make a huge difference. This person can help remake treatment tables, ,remove laundry and prepare for the next guest, leaving the technician to escort the guest to their next destination and discuss their next treatment and any home care recommendations. Spas that operate this way generally see an uptick in retail to service ratios and rebookings, making the investment in an hourly helper worthwhile.
Another way to make more efficient use of your technicians' time is to hire someone to roam your retail area and “close” sales. This hourly worker does not have to be licensed—someone with department store beauty department training is typically an excellent choice. You can pay them a small percentage of retail commissions, splitting the tickets with the technicians, and the technicians can still end up earning more money because someone is available to answer questions and bring the sale to a conclusion.
However you handle services and timing, make sure you’re not selling your services by the length of time they take; the language on your menu and website should focus on the results of treatments that clients can expect. This practice will help you with clock-watchers, especially on the spa side where there is a time expectation around treatments.
In salons, while you want your technicians to be able to complete their services according to your protocols, the cue for the client to know they are finished is when their hair is dry or nails are polished, not based on what the clock says.
Another area where time slips away is the front desk, where most customer support takes place. Providing the right amount of staff to deliver high-quality customer service and personal attention is a difficult balance to achieve, making this part of your business ripe for technology assistance. From automated phone attendants to a robust website to online booking and automated confirmation processes, time saved here can be put towards more personal attention for clients in the salon.
In an ideal world, your front desk staff would be able to give each client who phones or visits their complete attention, but that’s not always financially (or logistically) feasible. Cloud-based spa software and salon software programs can act as a front-desk assistant, and save your receptionists valuable time that can be used to build rapport with onsite guests. Automating the confirmation process means that support staff will have more time available to provide tours, sell retail items, or get a cup of tea for a client who has been waiting.
Providing the right retail products at the right time helps your salon or spa to be the go-to source for your clients instead of making their beauty purchases at the mall or on Amazon. However, maintaining inventory can be a time-consuming endeavor. You may want to start by evaluating your ordering process. How long does it take currently, from the time you notice you are low on a product until the order is placed, received, unpacked, ticketed and put out for resale? If that cycle currently takes 8 days, and you can shorten it to 5, that means more sales and inventory turns, and it also means you’ll have less money tied up in unnecessary inventory sitting on your shelves.
The Bottom Line
All of these evaluations need to be done with a clear and open mind. Make sure you have written processes in places for all of your regular activities, and that these are shared in operations and department manuals. Once you can diagram a process, you’re on your way to identifying how to do it more efficiently. Remember, your business’s ability to fit in more clients or more retail products translates directly to increased revenue—and that’s certainly worth optimizing for!
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