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After dealing with an unprecedentedly slow, challenging year amid the pandemic, businesses in the beauty industry are now deep into a long-awaited busy season — and welcoming it.
“We were closed through our entire busy season [last year], so that really, really hurt us. We typically do about 60% of our entire year’s volume just March through July, so that was a huge loss,” says Jenna Sharma, the owner of Blush Tan location in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the communications and licensing manager for the Blush Tan brand. “I didn’t really know what to expect going into this year, but we have just been blown away by our numbers, which have been huge for our business. We’re so grateful for it, but we were not expecting it.”
With a high volume of bookings, however, can come challenges that salons aren’t used to after the extended slow periods (or temporary closures) that were the norm over 2020 and this past winter.
With the right strategies and solutions for keeping appointments running smoothly, salons can avoid finding themselves running behind — and risking poor customer service — during high-volume times. Here are some ways to ensure effective time management at the salon as the summer rush continues.
Make sure you’re fully staffed
Salons may have dealt with staffing changes or struggled to hire amid a tight job market, but without enough personnel they’re bound to get behind day-to-day.
If you’re finding yourself understaffed and need to hire fast, consider hiring back workers you may have had to let go during the pandemic, asking for referrals from your team, or trying out working interviews (in which candidates are paid to come in and “try out” their potential role as part of the hiring process.) Increasing pay may also help you attract desirable candidates.
But it’s not enough to be fully staffed; you also need to delegate tasks and trust your team members to help you. Cross-training staff to handle complementary responsibilities can help you see more clients in less time.
“We always booked our tans every 20 minutes, but during the pandemic we were booking every 30 minutes — just to give our clients a little bit more one-on-one time, and give our reduced staff plenty of time in between appointments to clean and prepare for the next clients,” says Sharma.
“Now that we are in a position where we are fully staffed and fully booked every day, we are back down to a 20-minute appointment to maximize the amount of people we can get in the door each day, and having a second staff member ensures we’re not forgoing any of our cleaning processes,” says Sharma. “The number-one employee is doing the color consultations with the client while the number-two employee is making everything run smoothly on the back end.”
Let your technology stack do the work
Your back-end technology platforms, such as your salon POS and scheduling systems, should also support you in ways that make managing the rush easier.
Digitizing the way you handle appointments, for example, can drastically reduce the amount of time spent on maintaining your calendar. For independent beauty practitioners who manage their own schedules, automatic appointment confirmations and reminders can be especially essential.
“I use Square Appointments for literally every part of my business,” says Jenna Schermerhorn, a salon owner at My Salon Suite in Richmond, Virginia. “I really don’t spend a lot of time outside of work scheduling appointments. [Clients] can text me if they want, but a lot of people definitely do the online booking through my website. Or if they need to reschedule, since they get a confirmation text with a link, they’ll just use that confirmation info to reschedule their appointment on their own. That’s really cut back on a lot of after-hours communication.”
The value of digital appointments is so great that some salon proprietors are going online-only with the booking process.
“We don’t do appointments over the phone because it just slows down the process,” says Asia Monét Owens, the owner of Monét Obree, a waxing and wellness spa in Columbus, Ohio. By using Square Appointments to place “book now” and “shop now” buttons on the top part of her salon website, Owens has streamlined bookings without diminishing customer service.
“We just did a survey as part of our five-year anniversary, and a part of the survey was how customers felt about their ease of booking,” says Owens. “We had great feedback on it.”
Additionally, adjustments to email marketing are helping Blush Tan Worcester proactively keep up with demand.
“Through the pandemic we used email marketing a lot to promote gift cards, and to remind customers we were still here and trying to make it through,” says Sharma. “Now, we use it to keep clients updated. If I see a week is booking up far in advance, for example, I’ll send out an email letting customers know that the week is already almost fully booked.”
Stay on top of services and product sales
Your technology should also make retail and salon operations simpler. That starts with getting clear insight into how your business is running.
“I am very, very big on reports,” says Owens. “The reports function in Square helps me to gauge what the level of engagement with our clients is, which is important. It also helps me to understand what services are our top services, how much we spend on product, and what products and services we’re selling. That way I can kind of get an idea of what should stay on the menu or what should be offered as a seasonal thing.”
When it comes to keeping up with product sales, your technology should make salon inventory management easy.
“Especially these days, we’re so busy that ordering new products and keeping up with the inventory that we need to run the business sometimes goes by the wayside and is forgotten until 11 p.m.,” says Sharma. “The low-stock reminders give me a gentle push to make sure that before I go to bed, I order things we need so we can continue to serve our clients. That has been extremely helpful.”
Serving clients means occasionally selling them on additional products and services. But since there’s little time for selling during the busiest seasons of the year, try some creative ways to get customers interested in your products — such as providing pre-made sample bags of your best-selling items.
“We make sample bags for our customers as a token of appreciation for choosing our spa,” says Owens. “That lets customers know about the products that we have. So they get to test things out, and then we find that they come in and want to purchase a full-size version of the products.”
Offering those products online, or for pickup or delivery can streamline sales even further.
“All my retail products are on my salon website. If a client wants to go online and just order something through my website, then come and pick it up, that’s a convenient option for them,” says Schermerhorn. “Everybody wants instant satisfaction.”
Easing communication and scheduling with customers as well as providing a seamless salon experience goes a long way toward building a loyal customer base, the lifeblood of many businesses, but especially those in the beauty industry. Thanks to technology, doing so is now easier than ever before.