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Salon Scheduling Software Programs – Get the ‘Tangles’ Out of Your Appointment Scheduling Procedures

Like most small businesses, salons are always looking for ways to improve their operations, simplify their procedures and improve their customers’ satisfaction. And like many businesses these days, salon operators are looking for ways to cut costs and improve their bottom-line. Ask any small business owner and he or she can probably recite a list of actions taken to accomplish this.

Although the choices are endless, one important area often overlooked is appointment scheduling. It’s a vital part of most salon operations, and one that businesses can easily automate with online scheduling software.

THE CHALLENGES OF ACCURATE APPOINTMENT-SETTING

Salons rely on accurate appointment scheduling to ensure smooth operations for their stylists and customers. Think of the mayhem that could ensue if this didn’t happen: Incorrect appointment times, double-bookings for the same stylist, clients not showing up for their scheduled appointments. Most salon operators are keenly aware of this and take appointment scheduling seriously. However, the manner in which they book appointments and manage client information may not be the most efficient.

The traditional manner of scheduling appointments-and one that some salon operators still rely upon-involves taking appointments by phone and writing them into a paper appointment book. Some may substitute the appointment book for an electronic calendar such as Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar. In either case, the process involves a receptionist or stylist answering the phone, checking an appointment book or calendar for availability, and then manually entering the information.

Not only is this method inefficient and time-consuming, it can also require stylists to take time away from their clients to answer the phone and take appointments, especially at salons that do not employ a receptionist. It also does not give clients an option of booking their appointments online and at their convenience, especially during non-business hours when the salon is closed.

Additionally, this scheduling process can also make it difficult to easily and accurately conduct other related tasks, such as record-keeping, creating reports and communicating with clients.

A growing number of salon operators recognize the challenges this manner of booking appointments and managing client information can create, which is why many are turning to online scheduling

THE BASICS OF ONLINE APPOINTMENT-SCHEDULING SOFTWARE

Most online reservation systems are Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, whereby salon operators access the software through a Web site or other online portal. The concept is similar to online banking or e-mail: A user navigates to a Web page, logs in, and then manages his or her account. Once a salon operator or staffer establishes an account, he or she can then customize the online scheduler to best meet the needs of the salon.

Although features differ from provider to provider, most offer such standard functionality as:

• Online Self-Scheduling. Considered the most beneficial feature by many users, this functionality allows salon clients to securely access an online scheduler, view available dates, times and services, and then book their appointment. Because it’s Web-based, clientele can access it at any time of day and not just during salon business hours.

• Automated E-mail and Text Message Reminders. A major disruption for many salon operators and stylists are “no-shows” who fail to appear for their appointments. These not only affect the appointment schedule, but can also cut into a salon’s bottom line, as “no-shows” take up spots that other clients could schedule appointments for. Surveys results show that proper use of reminders can reduce the “no-show” rate by over 50 percent. Clients will also appreciate receiving them prior to their scheduled appointment.

• Online Payment Options. If permitted by the salon, some online scheduling software providers give users the option of allowing clients to pay for services online at the time they book their appointments.

• E-marketing. As the system collects and manages all entered client information, online schedulers offer a perfect tool for a salon’s e-marketing campaign. Users can effortlessly pull e-mail and contact information for communicating updates, discounts, specials and other relevant information to clients.

• Record-Keeping and Reports.Accurate record-keeping is important to business operations, but collecting, managing and analyzing client data can be a tedious process, especially when pulling information from different files, folders and other sources. Most scheduling software programs offer report-generating capabilities, allowing salons to get an accurate analysis of their appointments and clients.

WEB-BASED VERSUS TRADITIONAL SOFTWARE

As mentioned above, salon operators can choose from a variety of online scheduling programs. Although each salon operates differently and has its specific needs, Web-based software is usually an operator’s best bet for automating their appointment processes. Here are the reasons why:

• Accessibility. Probably the most important difference between the two, online appointment-scheduling software offers salon operators and stylists the ability to access their accounts and schedules from any Internet location. More traditional software installed on an individual typically restricts user access to that computer. Although it may provide access from outside the home, office or other place where it’s located, it usually requires additional steps to accomplish this.

• The Self-Scheduling Feature. A popular feature among users that’s essential for automating the scheduling process, self-scheduling is a natural fit for a SaaS application. More traditional software programs may offer this functionality, but it would most likely be an expensive alternative to Web-based technology, given the extensive programming and set-up procedures necessary to permit this service on existing computer networks and systems. Online reservation systems also make it easier to automate e-mail and text message reminders.

• Cost. As with any new purchase, cost will be an issue at most salons. Prices can vary, from free to thousands of dollars. Web-based software is usually the more affordable choice and offers the best functionality. Some service providers offer month-to-month payments options as well as longer contracts.

The economic conditions of the past few years have shown that businesses must be willing to do more with less to stay afloat. Technological advancements such as online appointment-scheduling software make this transition easy for owners, operators and staff. Not only does it provide tremendous benefit to the overall business activities of salon operators, it also provides a much-appreciated benefit to customers. Give online scheduling software a try and watch as it “untangles” your appointment-setting processes.

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