During a recent SALON TODAY Conversations session, Editor in Chief Stacey Soble interviewed Rosy Salon Software’s Boyd Relac and Rachel D’Angelo. The topics included how the company raced to design new features, such as Curbside Check-In and Text Message Marketing, to help salons minimize human contact while elevating the client experience; how a special group of customers helps Rosy steer their decisions on technology development; and how they continually evolve to meet the needs of salon owners and stylists. Here’s how that interview transpired:
Stacey: Hi everybody, it’s Stacey with Salon Today conversation(s). Today, I have Boyd Relac and Rachel D’Angelo from Rosy Salon Software. I want to talk to them today because salons are coming back from being shut down, and they’re really having to adapt to a brand new environment, and technology is really helping them do that and be more efficient. Tell us a little bit about how Rosy is evolving to the needs of the customers, especially right now.
Boyd: Certainly, thank you, first off. It comes from listening to our customers and being able to understand what their needs are. So one of the things that we have done is open up a pretty good line of communication between our customers and ourselves. We’ve been very responsive between our support and our sales teams. Some of the things we’ve done very early on was listening to their needs and figuring how we can adapt our technology to serve their new reality, depending on what their situation is within their salon specifically.
I can give you a great example from a couple of weeks ago, a little over a month and a half ago. It was Rachel who thought it up. One of the concepts that came up was how do we now work with salons when their clients have to be parked in the parking lot and can’t come inside the salon because there are no more chairs, no more waiting area, no more coffee, etc. One of the ideas was to leverage some of the text messaging technology we had and to create what we call Curbside Check-in. From the time that concept came up, to the time we were able to launch it, he reached out and leveraged our development team, all of which had been working remotely, and our development team was able to put that concept into reality within three weeks.
Stacey: That is really impressive! Talk about some of the other features that, right now, are helping salons with this new experience.
Boyd: Yeah, I think Rachel can cover one of the things that are really important because we’ve realized now that everyone wants to get their hair taken care of, but they also want to be as distant and safe as possible. I think one of the benefits is our integration with SalonRunner Pay, which allows our salons now almost to become cashless.
Rachel: Yes, definitely, I think one of the things that has been interesting to us as a company is during this whole COVID environment and figuring out how to have the most contactless checkout. We started to realize that we already had things built-in, so Boyd had mentioned the SalonRunner Pay integration. The client already had their credit card on file, eliminating the need for passing back and forth of the card for having to sign on a terminal. It kind of looks like all the little things that we’ve always done like the future appointments are already on the receipt, that way you don’t have to rely on the passing back and forth another little paper card with a future appointment.
A couple of the features that we focused on during this time are how to have salons work easier and more contactless. For example, Curbside Check-in. It is that same concept of what you see a lot of stores and restaurants doing where they say, please send us a text message when you arrive, and we’ll come out. For us, it’s the automated text message sent to the client 15 to 30 minutes before their appointment. The salon can choose what works best for them. The client replies, letting the salon know they’ve checked in, and they go from there, so it is eliminating a huge crowd at the front desk.
There has also been a feature that we have released or a custom service fee. Right now, in this COVID environment, it is essential to have that equipment fee if you will, already on the ticket, so the receptionist does not have to continually remember to add that. It can also be used outside the COVID environment for things like Green Circle or any other added fee that a lot of salons will use it for.
Stacey: I know that a lot of salons have limitations on how many people that they will have in the business at the time, so I would imagine that some of these things would help the front desk and make it more efficient. Many salons are stretching their hours, so you might have to be stretching that reception staff over a longer period of time. You might have had two or three people at a time. You may now be able to get by with one, that would help you through head-count responsibility.
So, for people who do not know SalonRunner Pay, that is your credit card process service. Why did you do that?
Boyd: Yes, I think it was part of the evolution of our vision and our mission. Part of it was that we already know that we have provided good technology. Opening a dialogue with a customer will continue to develop that technology to fit their current needs. But the other thing that we realized is that we can be a business partner in another way. We have obviously used the credit card processor with other manufacturers, other vendors if you will before. Then we heard some of the pain that our customers we’re taking from some of the companies that sit outside of our industry. Ultimately they don’t have a connection to the merchants, to our salons, like the way we do. Unfortunately, what they have done over time when they need to take a price increase, take it. When they need to make a number, they increase their fees. A lot of them have very flexible contracts and agreements with customers, and what we saw was taking profitability out of salons. So we developed our own solution to keep that profitability in. Our policy is we just want to engage our customers, see what their rates are, see what your needs are, and we have a meet or beat policy because if we can control that cost, which is our intent. We can help our salons become more successful in the long-term by keeping more of their hard-earned dollars, mainly because we had to close for a couple of weeks.
Stacey: Right, and the better that they do, the better all of us do, right!
Boyd: Absolutely, it’s a sustainability piece, right. Ultimately we have to help our customers so they can help their customers and everybody continues to live a pretty good life.
Stacey: Now, communication with the staff, but also with the clients, has been more critical than ever during the closure and then also coming out of that about the changes. You’ve got some new communication tools as well, right?
Rachel: Yes, that’s been one of our big focuses throughout all of this because precisely what you said, the communication piece is the most crucial piece of all. Outside of the curbside, and the custom service fees, we also added in text message marketing, so that’s for any updates, promotions that salons want to send out to their clients, so that’s been fabulous for salons to be able to use that to communicate, “hey the salon is opening on this date” or just to know what to expect.
There have also been things like custom service instructions, one last piece for the receptionist to have to remember to make sure that they’re calling. That feature was actually pulled from our Friends at Rosy, which I will get into a bit later. But that’s the ability to provide a custom instruction that will go out to the client on their email confirmations, so the client sees that. It eliminates, again, that call from the receptionist. We also included the ability to add a note for an email receipt, so nobody is passing back and forth a paper receipt during this time. They want to email it. So salons can actually now put in a little message that goes into the email receipt. It’s also a really nice touch.
Stacey: What kind of note would you put into a receipt like that?
Rachel: It can be something like “go to our online booking for your next appointment.” A lot of salons will promote the online booking, or if they have a review link that they want to throw in there, something to that effect is what we commonly see.
Stacey: And then what’s a text message marketing; that’s the ability to text a whole group of people, right? Individually?
Rachel: Right, so they can really customize a way that works, they could do more like targeted marketing. If you wanted to target a group of clients who haven’t been in a certain amount of time or receiving a certain service, or you can just decide to send it to all clients. We get a lot of creative ways to use that for not only marketing but also to send out updates to all their clients.
Stacey: So, if you were going to do a color promotion and you just wanted to hit people that were color clients of yours, you can communicate with them that way.
Boyd: One other thing to toss in there is Stacy; our salons need to understand, and we did a lot of research on how to opt customers in for marketing because there are laws around that. We did some extensive research and published a very detailed blog that talked about how you have to do it in certain ways and its importance because it’s a regulation that the government enforces.
Stacey: Is that for security on the credit cards?
Boyd: No, years ago, when the Federal Communication came up with the restrictions on marketing via text, they outline how you can’t just market to somebody unsolicited. There’s an opt-in process that you have to follow. So, we did all that research, and we published that. When we went live, we also taught folks how to be able to do that, and that’s a hard thing to get used to, but it’s the right way to do it. Otherwise, there are constraints, and there are fines that are associated with it.
Stacey: Okay. What are some ideas for getting people to opt-in?
Rachel: Yeah, so there are a couple of different ways. So, a couple of really great ways; one would be to send out an email blast to your clients instructing them on how to get opted in and get them excited that there’s a new program that we have that you’re going to receive the most updated promotions.
Another great way is through social media because you can not only target your clients, but you’re potentially targeting people who aren’t your clients yet.
And then for anybody back in the salon, one really great way is to have a cute little picture frame that sits up at the front desk that has the option instructions and make it a part of your new guest check-in where you’re informing them to stay in touch. So, here’s how to opt-in and make it a part of your new client orientation.
Stacey: You also talked about product reservations – what are product reservations?
Rachel: So, the product reservations are basically a way for clients that are booking their appointment online to say, “Hey, I’m interested in buying this product when I come in for my appointment.”
When a client goes online to make their appointment, we have a couple of different triggers that are set up. In the case of someone getting an all-over color, you’re most commonly recommending a safe color product. So our salons will go through, and they’ll pair a product that they would recommend based on service. Thus, any time that somebody’s booking, they are going to get that recommendation.
We also keep up with the “use up time” on products. We know how long it takes a client to go through a particular sized product. So that’s another way it gets triggered for the client when they are likely running low again.
Most salons say “do not touch our retail shelves,” so they’re taking a product, putting it in a bag, and putting it on the side, so it’s ready for the client when they come in.
Stacey: I know that’s one of my concerns about how many people have touched the products on the shelves, so I think making a reservation and knowing that it was packed especially for you and only the person that was packing it’s touching it. It’s a really great benefit right now.
Boyd: It’s also another great way to show how you treat your guests, right?
Stacey: Now, they can also do an online store as well?
Rachel: Yes, through our integration with SalonInteractive, they can have their own eCommerce site set up. It has also been such a great help during this COVID environment.
Stacey: That would help some salons get some money in the door while they were closed.
Rachel: Absolutely, yes. I mean, the amount of success stories that I had, accounts personally reached out to me to tell me how much that it helped them during this time, and that it was their only source of income, was just really touching to hear.
Stacey: Now, I know most clients are very eager to get in the salon, so they’re probably not missing appointments. But in regular times, service reminders are also important, and probably now too, just to keep that line of communication open and make sure people are on top of it. So that’s another thing that you’re offering.
Rachel: We have four different client notifications that a salon can choose from; two emails, two different text messages. What’s really nice right now is in our email confirmation and our email itinerary, which the salon can choose when it gets sent out to the client. But salons can have a custom message. So again, if they do have anything that they need the client to know before coming in for their appointment, they can put that custom message inside of those reminders. Then we also have our text message confirmation and our text message reminder. This is something that our salons have always loved; once a client confirms, the color of their appointment changes on the schedule so visually, you can see who’s confirmed. It also does the same for Curbside Check-in. So, our schedule is kind of like the soundboard to what’s going on in the salon.
Stacey: You can take one quick glance at the screen, and you know, kind of what the status of where everybody is for the day?
Stacey: How do you decide what features to focus on? I imagine during this time with the shutdown, and everybody’s scrambling to understand what the new customer experience was going to be, you probably had to pick and choose what you’re going to focus on. How do you decide what to focus on?
Boyd: We actually have a deliberate plan, and then we also, during this time period, kind of changed our processes and created a crisis response plan. So, ultimately it comes back to engaging with our customers regularly. And that was part of the concept, eventually, to launch Friends of Rosy as well. We wanted to open up more communication and have more of a personal relationship with our customers. In doing so, we listen to them, and as we listen to them, you truly understand their workflow and their needs. So, beyond what we had already planned, just listening to our customers and being very nimble, and since we have our development team in house, we’re able to pivot and turn and focus our efforts on what they need at that time. So, that became a different approach internally during that time period. And it’s something you know we’re very proud of because our development team, Rachel, and our entire group were supportive and listening to our customers, including all the pain, suffering, and passion. It’s listening through that, helping them come out on the other side of it.
Stacey: And studying what the new regulations were going to be, probably what you needed to have to adapt about.
Boyd: Right and you know, initially, I think you remember this from before; early on in our COVID time period, one of the things we looked at is what we can do to support our customers. We figured that since they could have access to their software, we created an analysis tool internally to analyze the critical features that they use and those that they don’t use. We opened up our support team and our sales team to be able to, if they weren’t in their salons, to basically train them on other aspects of the software. Ultimately they get better value because they learn more and more software. When they’re busy, like they are now, going back into the salon, it’s hard to take the time to learn and then understand the technology they have at their fingertips.
Stacey: That’s really smart. So you actually would do that analysis and reach out to clients and said, you know, we think you could benefit from some training on XYZ?
Boyd: Right. We did ask folks if they wanted to come in and make an appointment with our team or just call and if we could pick up the phone at that time, and we weren’t on with somebody else, we would walk them through it. And that offer still stands, because always trying to get you the value out of your software is hard and technologies, to all of us, we all use a subset of what’s potentially there, and we know what’s there now, and we can walk through it. They looked at the most critical features that SEO and SEM data told us. So what are people looking for when they’re shopping for software? We started with those top 12 features, and did a 1 through 5 analysis to say, salon A or salon B, how well are you using the reports, or the dashboard, etc. So, we focused on those 12 features, and we will continue to do this to really help salons leverage the power we have in Rosy.
Stacey: When you did that analysis, were there any surprises to you about what people were using?
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Boyd: I think really we all kind of estimated around 25% of what people use, so at the end of all that, what we realized which salons were not using everything, we know they’re using certain things like the online client schedule, etc. But we really focused on during the time period they were down, like through reports and showed them the reports that were out there. It became a customized piece based on each salon, and there wasn’t anything that stood out across the board that said here are one or two features that are really underutilized.
Stacey: So, just by increasing their knowledge of the software, I imagine you can streamline their businesses and help them be more profitable. For something they already had, but they just didn’t have the time to learn, that’s amazing.
Boyd: That’s what we’re trying to do by listening more and more, because ultimately it’s about their workflow, and if we can take time out of their day and give it back to them to turn their attention to their guests, and create more services. It ultimately creates more income for them, that’s one of the things we’re trying to do as a partner.
Stacey: You have talked about Friends of Rosy. Who are the Friends of Rosy, and how do they help guide you?
Boyd: Well, the Friends of Rosy concept was initially built to be a community. If you look at this industry, this industry is its community, and especially in this time of crisis, you realized the tightness across the board of the million-plus stylists that are out there. But you know I think a lot of brands and a lot of manufacturers and distributors, everybody came together to support our clients as they went through this time period.
So, the concept was to really open that community to be a very inclusive environment, to engage customers to open up the dialogue to whatever their needs are at the time. That helps us collectively as a partner evolve the industry for the benefit of all. That was the original concept; then, we started with some of our power users who’ve been long-time customers with the software for ten years. And just by having those relationships, and Rachel can give you some examples of some of the ones that she’s had over the years, by listening to those people and reaching out to them. One of the things we started doing before COIVD, is we started sending our team, and specifically Rachel and Natasha, from sales and support, to go talk to our customers, go back into salons and see what they needed. That really blossoms with Friends of Rosy is becoming, which is to engage manufacturers and other vendors like Green Circle who are doing good for the industry. We want to open that up and make that community built within our software, and within our website, and encourage engagement.
Stacey: Rachel, can you share some stories from that activity of going out with the Friends of Rosy, how that leveraged, or changed the way you develop features?
Rachel: Absolutely. I mean, I think it kind of goes back to the foundation of our company of, you know, being somebody that was in the industry that understood what it takes to run and manage a successful salon. And, you know, this software was built with that in mind, to say hey, because I’ve sat at a front desk, I understand the challenges that our receptionist can go through, I’m going to add this into the software, and we’re going to make sure it works like this. It’s taking that same concept from our founder and putting it back into our industry’s constant movement. The salons are always evolving, too, checking clients out differently or enhancing the client experience, and that was still eye-opening to me. There are so many software companies out there, and we dove in on the salon and spa industry specifically. Having that intel and understanding what a receptionist goes through or what a stylist needs to have that constant communication.
One of the things that I enjoyed a lot was doing these salon visits. Being a hairdresser myself was literally standing behind the front desk with the receptionist and seeing the interaction in and taking notes. Being like wow, you know, that took like two minutes, can we do something to automate that. Can we make the communication better to where a stylist doesn’t have to continually come to the front desk, ask the receptionist something, and then run back to her client? Things like that have been beneficial with those salon visits, and then, it’s keeping in touch with our power users who are always willing to take my phone call to give me feedback on what’s working, what’s not, and keeping that line of communication open.
Boyd: Let me throw in one other thing that we did. In this whole process, we took our power users, our best Friends of Rosy, in a sense. And as we launched new features, instead of just launching it, we actually launched only to a handful. Rachel would get online and walk them through it, and we would take their feedback with our development team on the phone and in the video in real-time. We would tweak our software right before we launched it because when you’re presenting something that’s new, and you hear the engagement from the customer, and you listen to them they can change that, can you do this with it? When you make that last-minute adjustment, that becomes a powerful aspect of how to really engage your customers and make that software work across the board.
Stacey: That’s great! I know that Rosy, for people who don’t know Rosy’s story, was founded by hairdresser and Rachel, you also are a hairdresser, why is that important to have that in your DNA?
Rachel: I think it just gives you another level of understanding. Historically when we’re launching features, or changing something on a page, there will be a number of times that I would get pulled into it, to be like, hey, can we test this out on you. Being a hairdresser, I could speak for our founder, too; we have a different mindset. We are very creative, and sometimes we’ll hit our development team with like: oh my gosh, I never even really expected you to click on it that way, and it’s just kind of being able to teach the brain of a hairdresser and the logic behind the software. Behind the chair this amount of hours we need something as quick and easy as possible. And that was something that’s always been a significant seller on our software is absolutely the most user-friendly software. I would say with my experience being in a salon, and using other software too, is it meets the same need as a hairdresser’s mind. I just need it, quick, simple, easy, but robust enough to give me everything I need.
Stacey: Well, thank you both for being on today. It has been important to see how You all are shifting as much as you can in advance of what’s happening in today’s world. It has been a crazy and wild ride for a few months, and I don’t think it will be over anytime soon.
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