Essential to help you run a successful business, salon software can assist with client scheduling, inventory management, point of sale (POS), reporting, marketing, and so much more. However, it can be overwhelming when choosing which software might be best for your specific business and how you like to run your company.
Truthfully, most management and scheduling software for salons and even spas offers very similar features. For example, most provide some form of client appointment scheduling, point of sale, mobile access, integrated credit card processing, inventory management, and rewards program. Those features are a given and will help manage your business, regardless of its size.
Most salon software also offers email marketing, email confirmations, and even Facebook integration, although sometimes these features are provided as “add-on” services. There are also features unique to some software but not to others. It’s these unique features where you’re most likely to find a fit right for you and your specific needs.
To help simplify your search for the ultimate salon software, we’ve outlined the more important feature considerations:
Software Should Know YOUR Industry
Salons have a unique workflow and ways of doing business, so it’s critical for your software company to know and understand your specific industry. The right software should fit like a glove; everything should be right where you expect it, which will make it almost intuitive to use when running your salon on a day to day basis.
Go for the Cloud
Years ago, all software was locally installed on your computer or network of computers. Updates had to be installed manually and frequently came with a price tag. Because computer systems and their operating systems vary so dramatically, inevitably, there were compatibility issues. Those issues translated to hours on the phone trying to sort out IT issues with the software company. Also, data access was limited to the system or network for which the software was installed. In the old days of salon software, to access your information, view your schedule, or book appointments, you’d have to go to the salon and log in.
These days, most salon software is available as a cloud-based service, which is known as software as a service or SaaS. With cloud software, the application and your data are managed on a series of secure servers, so that you can access everything at any time and from anywhere as long as you have internet access. Instead of buying or licensing versions of software, cloud-based software is available as a subscription. There’s typically a monthly payment for the service, and that fee comes with automatic software updates and some level of support. Cloud-based software eliminates compatibility issues between various computer systems and the software, which translates to no more IT issues, thus saving time usually spent on the phone with support.
So, one of the first things you want to check off your gotta-have-it list is cloud-based software. The second is finding a company with affordable monthly fees and the option to cancel (and take your data with you) at any time.
Who’s Behind Your Software?
At one time, most salon software was offered by small to medium-sized privately-owned companies. Today there is a multitude of software companies that are publicly held or have highly profit-driven venture capital dictating their motivation and actions.
When shopping for software, spend a little time doing your homework to find out who created, owns, and now operates the company that you are most interested in. Look to see if the software company has been bought and sold, and if so, how often. Some software companies run their businesses and base their offerings on getting a few years down the road to their next big sale. In such a case, you may not be their top priority. That’s why it’s essential to find out if they serve other industries with the same product. The professional beauty industry has unique needs, and your software should have features with those specific needs in mind.
Choosing the right company to stand behind you and your business is as important as the software’s performance and list of features. It’s vital that the software company has a vested interest in the salon industry.
The popularity of cloud technology has enabled some software companies to reach a broad audience. With their access to a mass amount of data on their servers, some may have a different agenda with that information. That’s why it’s vital to thoroughly read the SaaS license agreement before you make your final decision. You want to ensure that you retain ownership of your clients and that only you have the right to market to them.
Efficiency is a top priority in a busy salon. That’s why appointment software and the ability to book client appointments electronically is so essential. The ideal scheduling software can free up your staff so that they can provide more personal attention to clients.
Your salon’s appointment scheduling should be effortless, and all features ought to be intuitive and easy to use. For example, it should take just a few clicks to book an appointment, plan multiple appointments, access a client’s history, and even personalize any reminders.
All client information should be immediately available with a simple click on the appointment screen, and access to your client’s contact information, color formulas, personal preferences, and complete history for services and retail purchases should be at your fingertips.
Some of the must-have features you’ll want to look into including the ability for double booking, cancellation management, enhanced workflow, and access to your schedule from anywhere.
Another favorable attribute is that your software is easy to implement. If you have data from existing software, you’ll want to find a company willing to convert your information for you. And you’ll want to find a company that will train you and your staff on how to use the software and be there for you should you have any questions or concerns down the line.
Take it Online
Many of your customers want the convenience of booking their services online, so online client scheduling is a must for today’s savvy salon or spa. This feature allows your customers to book their own appointments, purchase salon or spa memberships or gift cards, even reserve products through your website or Facebook business page. What’s great is that they can schedule their appointments from any device, at any time, which will alleviate much of the pressure from your team having to answer as many calls for clients making appointments. The best online booking feature is easy for your clients to use and will offer features to help fill your schedule. You’ll likely find that cluster booking, minimum scheduling gaps, and a client log will come in quite handy.
It’s recommended that you find salon software that allows you to set up automatic confirmations, ideally one where your clients can decide how they prefer to be notified: by email and/or text. The feature can help save you and your staff time and eliminate the need for appointment confirmation calls or individual electronic reminders. Automatic reminders will also help minimize client no-shows, a significant and costly problem for many service industry businesses.
Point of Sale
A point of sale (POS) feature’s primary function is to process your salon’s payments and check your clients in and out for their services, but it can also track sales, run reports, maintain your customer database, and help you prepare for your business’ taxes.
The ultimate POS software should be easy to use and a natural fit within your salon’s workflow. You want your client checkout to be fast, simple, and hassle-free for both your customer and your staff. With a great POS system, you should be able to access client information easily, ring up sales, and manage your cash drawer and all transaction types on any device. You’ll want the process to be so seamless that your clients are barely aware of it.
You also want sales and commission tracking and easy access to your information at any time with multiple reporting options. And, with a cloud-based system, you should be able to go mobile that way, you can access your business data wherever you are, from home, on vacation, between client appointments, etc.
Integrated Payment Processing
Another attribute of a great POS system is integrated payment processing. When incorporated into your software, payments are easier to manage and track. You’ll want to look for software that has developed its own processing feature and is offering a decent rate with fees that stay consistent. That way, your credit card, and other processing abilities don’t break the bank, so to speak. And, if the payment processing is part of the same company that created your software, you should have quick access to support and training, should the need arise.
Your salon software should also provide the ability to manage and analyze your business and entire financial history in the cloud. Access your salon data from any internet location — that way, you can make informed management decisions at any time and from anywhere. You’ll want access to robust advanced reporting options with detailed financial and performance reports so that you can track your business, even streamline your accounting and payroll.
To allow your employees to stay up to date with their own progress and have access to their schedule and reports, look for software that will enable you to set special access rules. That way, they can see the data you want them to see but not to the companywide information that should remain just with you.
Retail is a significant profit center of your business. That’s why you’ll want software that helps support your retail efforts starting with a great inventory management feature. Look for software that offers the ability to upload products and any updates in mass. You’ll also want something with running-low alerts and integrated ordering with your distributor so that you can keep your inventory well-stocked without over-buying.
Consider finding salon software with integrated online retailing. That way, you can cater to the segment of your clientele who prefer to shop for their products and tools online. This will allow you to offer an expanded range of brands and products without having to carry the inventory or worry about shipping the products. Your local distributor would fulfill the order for you, and your client would receive their order on their doorstep. It’s an added convenience for both you and them.
Whether selling products online or through your own inventory, suggestive selling is a great tool. This feature provides recommendations for a product based on the client’s recent services and buying history. Also, you’ll find that product use-up reminders will come in handy, where the system alerts your clients when they are running low on previously purchased products. These features will make the process seamless while helping to drive your retail sales and increase your business’ bottom line.
Most software for beauty professionals offers features to help communicate with your clients and to promote your business. For example, a platform for mass emails lets you craft newsletters, announcements, and promotions to send to part or all of your client list. On the other hand, automated emails are great tools to streamline your marketing with a system that provides birthday greetings, due back notices, and more. If you do not already have a website for your business, a website builder may come in handy, as might a system for a rewards program and a client referral process.
Support and Training
Once you and your staff learn your new software, it will save a lot of time and effort by streamlining your operations. To make the process simple, find a software company with easy to follow tutorials and a highly knowledgeable support team that understands your needs, and is willing and available to help. Make an effort to inquire about training and ongoing customer support costs and limitations. The best salon software will provide these services at no cost but will also have the backing of a company that truly understands the salon industry.
Regardless of your business size, your chosen salon software should be easy to use, offer seamless navigation, and have features that help you effectively manage your business. The right salon software should free up more time for you and your team to do what your salon does best…service your clients!
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