Essential for running a successful business, management software can help with scheduling, inventory, email marketing, and so much more. However, with so many offerings on the market, it can be overwhelming when choosing the right one for your business.
In reality, most salon and spa software offers similar features. For example, they all provide some form of appointment scheduling, point of sale, mobile access, integrated credit card processing, a rewards program, and inventory management. Those features are a given and will be helpful in managing your business, regardless of size.
Most salon software also offers email marketing, email confirmations, and even Facebook integration, although sometimes these features are offered as “add-on” services. Then there are the unique features that relate to some software offerings but not to others. That’s where you’re likely to find a fit that’s just right for you and your needs.
To help simplify the search process, we’ve outlined some of the more important considerations:
Where to Start
Salons and spas have a unique workflow, so understanding how they run is critical in designing good software. When you find the right software for your needs, everything will be right where you think it should be, and that will make it easy to use.
Local Installation Versus Cloud
It used to be that all software had to be locally installed onto your computer or network of computers. Updates and patches also had to be manually installed, and many times came with a hefty price tag. Because there are so very many computer systems and multitudes of operating system versions, there were inevitably compatibility issues. That meant spending many hours on the phone with the software company trying to sort out IT issues. Also, the access to the information was limited to the system or the network which had the software installed. Unless you were running your business from your laptop, you’d have to go to the salon and log in to access your information, to see your schedule or to book appointments.
Today, software can be offered as a service in the cloud. In that case, the software and your data are managed on a series of secure cloud servers. The idea is that you can access the software and your data at any time and from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. In addition to this access, a monthly fee for the service will usually include software support and automatic updates, which is typically less expensive than the support costs alone for a locally installed system. The great thing with cloud-based software is that it eliminates compatibility issues between various computer systems and the software. We all know that eliminating IT issues is a big time saver.
The Company Behind the Software
In the past, most salon software entities were small to medium-sized companies that were privately owned. Today there are several salon and spa software companies that are publicly held or have venture capital dictating their direction.
It’s advised to find out who owns and operates the software company that you are interested in and to research their background. Find out if the company has been bought and sold, and if so, how many times in the last decade. Some companies run their businesses only to get a few years down the road to their next big sale. In that case, understand that you may not be their top priority. That’s why it’s important to ask if they serve any other industries with the same product. The salon and spa industry is unique and has unique needs, and your software should have features with that in mind.
Choosing the right company is as important as the product and its feature list. You need the software company to have your best interests in mind. The advent of the cloud has enabled software developers to reach a broader audience, and with all that data sitting on their servers, some companies may have a different agenda than you. To that point, always thoroughly read the license agreement. Make sure that you own the clients you’ve worked so hard to get and that you and only you have the right to market to them.
A growing number of consumers expect to book services online, and this trend will continue to increase as tech-savvy clients take over the market. With that in mind, it’s advisable to look for software that will provide online client scheduling. This feature allows your customers to book their appointments, purchase memberships or gift cards, even order or reserve product through a link on your website or Facebook business page. They can schedule their appointments from any device, at any time they choose. This will help relieve some of the pressure from you and your team having to push pre-booking or answer as many calls for clients making appointments. An excellent online booking system will be easy to use for your clients and will offer you and your team features that help fill your schedule. Features like cluster booking, minimum scheduling gaps, and a complete client log will come in handy.
In addition to a robust inventory management feature, look for software that offers integrated ordering, online retailing, and product use-up reminders. Suggestive selling is another great feature that offers recommendations for product purchases based on the client’s personal buying history. Such features will help drive retail sales and increase your bottom line.
Most salon and spa software comes with features that will help you to promote your business. Mass emails for newsletters and promotions and automated emails are great tools to streamline your marketing. A website builder, if you don’t already have one, and a sound system for rewards and referrals will come in handy too.
It’s highly advised to find software that allows you to set up automatic text and email confirmations, especially one where your clients can decide how they want to be notified. The handy and automated confirmations will help save you time and eliminate the need to make confirmation calls or send individual electronic reminders between clients. Automated reminders will also help minimize no-shows, a problem for any service industry business.
Regardless of the size of your business, your chosen software should be easy to use, offer seamless navigation, and have the features that help you manage your services more efficiently. That frees up more time for you to do what you do best…service your clients!