In most states, the lockdown from COVID-19 is nearing a proposed end, and with that in sight, there are many things a salon should consider before opening the floodgates of clients. Because of the severity of the pandemic, preparing to reopen for the shaggy masses is more than the basic cleaning and then business as usual. Today, it’s about ways to manage your staff and hoard of eager clients, all while keeping everyone’s health and safety priority one.
Keep Your Salon Informed on COVID-19 Updates
It’s vital that you know the facts about COVID-19 and abide by regulations that affect you and your business. Be sure to stay connected and on the lookout for recent updates and resources. Keep aware of national updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and check in with your State Board of Cosmetology and with local public health agencies for specifics to your region.
There are several excellent publications and industry associations that can help keep you up to date. The Professional Beauty Association (PBA) is the ultimate industry resource, and the organization has set up the COVID-19 Information and Resources center to offer educational resources, access to relief funds, OSHA and back to work guidelines, and tips for opening up America again.
According to the Back to Work Guidelines published by the PBA, there is a multitude of precautions to consider before reopening. In the salon, the process starts with a deep cleaning before opening your doors and working to reduce the number of touchpoints and client interactions.
For general guidelines in your salon, prior to reopening. PBA’s article suggests to:
- Take a more minimalist approach and discard any non-essential items: magazines, water, coffee, snacks, etc.
- Wipe down soft surfaces like couches and chairs with water and a clean towel since they cannot be adequately disinfected.
- Disinfect all hard, non-porous surfaces including the reception counter, phones, computers, door handles, light switches, etc. Be sure to follow proper contact time for all surfaces, ensuring the disinfecting products have time to take action and work.
- Thoroughly clean the retail area, including all shelving or display cases. Discard any test products and discontinue this practice to help reduce contamination. Add signage to this area to let clients know it is cleaned and disinfected daily.
- Consider adding acrylic shields in the reception area.
- Clean air ducts and filters to improve air quality.
Disinfecting Hair Styling Stations & Other Salon Items
It’s especially important to properly disinfect your styling stations because this is a high-contact point. Because there are more non-porous elements, there will be more to do. Items to clean and disinfect include:
- Station counters
- Styling tools
- Brushes and combs
- Rolling carts
- Drawers or any storage containers
- Product on the station and any common product
It is also essential to properly wipe down the chair and headrest. Consider adding a cover that can be easily cleaned or disposed of in between clients to help keep clean.
Similar to styling stations, the treatment tables and any appliances used in treatment rooms should be properly disinfected. Remove all products and be sure to clean and disinfect all containers and product storage properly. All single-use items should be new and properly stored in containers. Multi-use product containers should have single-use applicators, with applicators adequately stored prior to use.
Thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces and replace paper goods. Consider adding a hand sanitizer dispenser if not already available, as well as upgrading to touchless faucets and soap dispensers.
Remove and properly clean and disinfect all components of each shampoo bowl. Scrub the bowl with soap and water and rinse thoroughly before putting all parts back together. Disinfect the bowl by filling it with water and disinfectant, letting it soak for 10 minutes. Finally, ensure that all single-use products are new and properly stored.
All towels, capes, smocks, and linens should be laundered appropriately and stored in a closed, covered container or storage. Each client should receive a fresh, clean drape. Treatment rooms should also have fresh linen and draping for each client.
Best Practices When Re-Opening Your Salon
It’s doubtful that the six-foot distance recommendation between people can be met in the salon during the service. However, these distancing measures can help reduce risk:
- If styling chairs or color stations are situated closer than 6 feet, remove every other chair.
- Reference state guidelines to comply with a regulated number of people per square foot and distance requirements. Otherwise, it’s advised (depending on the size of the business) that no more than 10 people should be in the market at any time (including staff) until your state has lifted any specific recommendations.
- Break rooms should be temporarily closed.
- Waiting area chairs should be removed or spaced in such a manner to accommodate social distancing requirements.
- No double booking unless each client can be left in a single chair throughout the process, and all distancing measures are maintained.
- Limiting the movement of patrons throughout the business reduces risk to both patrons and staff.
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
PPE products, such as gloves, are single-use and must be changed after each client, washing hands with soap and water after removing gloves. Gloves are recommended for nail and facial services. Masks may be required as well.
Wash hands with soap and water for 30 seconds before and after eating, smoking, using the restroom, and interacting with clients. Add hand sanitizer at reception areas and other points of client contact, including individual stations and restrooms. Don’t forget to use lotion as well to keep your hands moisturized.
Immediately after a client visit, properly clean and disinfect the workstation counters, tools, and any rolling carts following proper product contact time details. For nail salons, all pedicure bowls need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before every client, including cleaning and disinfecting all removable parts and allowing concentrated disinfectant to soak for full contact time listed on the disinfectant label. All hand/foot nail drying tables should also be cleaned and disinfected after each client.
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Beyond cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, there are also several other steps to take that can help reduce client contact interactions.
- Connect with clients before services and encourage masks to be worn when possible, especially for nail services.
- Ensure clients are healthy before their appointment and avoid handshake or hug greetings.
- Stagger appointments to reduce waiting area congestion.
- Offer clients a fresh face mask, gloves, and/or hand sanitizer upon arrival.
- Allow time to clean between clients properly.
Since there are limits on the number of people that can occupy your salon at any one given time, you’ll need to get creative with scheduling staff. Consider limiting the number of hours that staff can work and divide up the available resources (stations) in shifts. Perhaps there are service providers whose clientele can manage early hour appointments where others can only do evenings. In such a case, consider opening up earlier than usual and staffing for the early birds and then plan a shift change early afternoon that spans into the evening.
Naturally, there won’t be enough hours in the day and available stations to accommodate everyone, so you may need to consider opening seven days a week until the restrictions are lifted. At least that way, your employees have some hours that they can work and earn income.
For each shift, assign a dedicated worker to be in charge of cleaning and disinfecting between clients. The service provider will need to chip in as well, but having a dedicated cleaner will speed the process and keep things moving along nicely and safely. And, if any of the service providers need extra hours, they can always step up as the “cleaner” for a shift or two.
Management & Scheduling Tools
To help manage bookings and resource scheduling, implement salon scheduling and management software ahead of the curve. You’ll want a system that’s easy to use but has powerful scheduling capabilities to help manage the influx of clients trying to get in for an appointment. In general, your software should only take a few clicks to book appointments, work out plans for multiple appointments, access client history, and personalized reminders. All features that will help streamline your workflow.
When it comes to making bookings, consider altering the time allotments for services to add in a buffer after each client. The other option is to add cleaning as a service that can be scheduled between clients. Either way, it’s essential to allow for time to clean and disinfect completely after each appointment.
Another essential feature to consider when looking for salon software is one with a real-time online scheduling feature. That way, your clients can make appointments for themselves and free up your front desk.
A few things to consider:
- Find software that permits you to set the order of the services offered versus allowing your clients to do it for you. Think of it as adding in a men’s haircut, for example, while the hair color of another client processes. To make this scenario work, you’ll need to set the correct order for services for each client, such as hair color, cut, and then finishing services, not the other way around. Without this proper ordering, you would not be able to correctly double book later on.
- Look for appointment scheduling software that has features that allow double booking, enhanced workflow, cancellation management, and the ability to access your schedule online from any device.
- You also want software that provides cluster booking and minimum scheduling gaps and a complete client log that is available at every customer touch.
What’s great about online scheduling is that your clients will automatically maintain your database for you. If they have moved, have a new email or cell number, they are much more likely to update their information when it’s right in front of them making an appointment. This will likely happen more often than the client remembering to tell the receptionist when they call in an appointment. Clients will also let you know how they’d prefer their communications: email, text, or both.
Offering online booking also allows you to sell memberships, gift cards, or to recommend or reserve products for the client’s next visit. And if you have an online store, online booking could act as a gateway to added retail sales. All of this is available without even being open for business. The various processes can help build customer loyalty, all while being achieved without any physical interaction.
To help streamline your client communications and keep your staff from having to make confirmation calls or individually send text or email reminders, look for management software with the feature built-in. Automatic reminders will also help minimize client no-shows, a significant and costly problem for many service industry businesses.
Do a Refresh
If you already have salon software in place, take the time to get to know it better. On average, salons tap only about a third of the available features, which means that you could be missing out. Ask your software representative to take a look at your account to see if you’re missing out on any features that could help streamline your business even more.
This might also be an excellent time to give your staff a refresher course with your software. That way, everybody is trained to help out when it comes to scheduling appointments, checking clients in and out, processing payments, and managing confirmations.
Now that you have scoured your salon from top to bottom, have implemented a cleaning protocol, have staffing worked out, and means in which to book and confirm appointments, it’s time to communicate the next steps with your clients.
Craft an official communication that:
- Reassures your clients that your salon has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected
- Outlines your efforts to keep it up to those standards
- Lets your clientele know your salon’s current hours of operation
- Explains how to book their next appointment
- Communicates how your team is working to accommodate their needs in shifts so that everybody is enforcing the local guidelines for operation
- Thank them for their continued patience and gives the salon’s policies for PPE, social distancing and your revised (likely suspended) cancellation policy
In addition to the direct communication, be sure that the same messaging is reiterated on your website and throughout your social media channels. Then, brace yourself for the flurry of business.
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