For salon businesses, it’s essential to make it easy for customers to book appointments with you. It’s a vital part of impressive customer service. If people find it difficult or time-consuming, you risk losing trade.
Your customers lead busy lives. Work, looking after kids, life chores, etc. Reaching out and booking that salon appointment can easily slip down someone’s to-do list.
So when they get a chance, they want to get it done. But what if the salon gets shut at that moment? Or what if all your assistants are busy and no one picks up the phone? The customer may try again, or they may look elsewhere, where it’s easier to book.
Even with an excellent VoIP business phone service in place, the realities of a busy salon and the stresses of a customer’s everyday life make missing out on trade an ongoing danger.
Many salon businesses have implemented online booking system to deal with this. This article describes some benefits of doing so. It then offers six ways to boost your online bookings and grow your business.
The Benefits of Online Booking
For customers, online booking offers convenience and flexibility:
- It isn’t restricted to opening hours: it’s available 24/7. Customers appreciate that. One survey found only 54% of online salon appointment bookings are placed during traditional opening hours.
- There’s no dependence on somebody answering the phone. After all, unanswered calls (especially repeated ones) can be frustrating.
- It’s instant. Customers choose flexibly from available slots at their own pace, then book one. Even if the salon has a fantastic virtual medical receptionist style service for when assistants are busy, would-be clients may go elsewhere if they don’t get an immediate response to queries.
- Online booking is more discreet if you’re in a busy office.
- As ever more activity shifts online, it’s increasingly a customer expectation. For example, 36% of 25-34 year-olds and 43% of 18-24 year-olds expect an online booking option.
For the business, the benefits are commensurate:
- Ringing phones don’t distract agents from their core work – looking after customers! Online booking protects productivity and supports your staff.
- By taking bookings 24/7, you’re fitting around your customers’ lifestyles.
- Online booking supports more speculative customers. Maybe they need a cut but haven’t been able to get into their usual salon; exploring alternatives is simpler online.
- It confers an advantage over competitors who don’t offer online booking.
Customer convenience and flexibility encourage more business. And your assistants, now freed from answering the phone and managing the appointment diary, can focus on their current customers. It fosters better productivity and customer care.
Let’s face it, a consulting proposal example for a salon would surely recommend offering an online booking service. It’s how to make your business fit seamlessly into your customers’ lives.
What can your salon business do to harness those benefits and get more online bookings?
1. Choose suitable online booking software
Technology offers fantastic business benefits when approached carefully. For example, during the pandemic, some salons used web conferencing platforms to provide virtual customer consultations. And with lockdown behind us, well-chosen deployment of technology continues to offer incredible opportunities for enhancing salon customer care.
The booking experience is one critical step in the customer’s journey that lends itself to digital support. Achieving this requires a decent online booking system.
There are many available (eg: Appointy). Choose carefully because they vary massively in terms of cost and features. Here are some important points to consider:
- Choose a service designed for your business niche. While there are many generic booking systems available, these will be clumsy for a salon’s specific circumstances.
- Consider whether you want a system that provides scheduling or interacts with your existing scheduling.
- It needs flexible appointment scheduling, e.g., choosing a particular agent for a specific service.
- Multi-channel notification functionality is beneficial, e.g., sending reminders of approaching appointments can reduce no-shows.
- An excellent mobile user experience is critical for an effortless customer experience.
- If you want to offer online payments (or implement discounts and rewards) some services are better than others.
- Some online booking tools can help you build a database of your customers, tracking their preferences for example. Careful use of such intel can then help foster customer loyalty.
- Analysis tools can provide an overview of your salon’s activities to inform planning, e.g., how busy have particular services been at different times?
- The best of these tools evolve and improve. If you’ve seen blogs asking ‘what is the agile manifesto?’, it relates to the culture of constant improvement that software developers strive for. For you, the user, it means improved performance and benefits may be coming.
With a well-chosen service in the background, you’ll be good to go.
2. Spread awareness of your online booking facility
Your marketing efforts may have created great local awareness of your salon overall. Great! But customers will be slow to stumble upon your online booking system if left entirely to chance. Market it specifically.
- When customers come for appointments, your assistants should mention the new booking system and explain its benefits so customers can choose to use it in the future.
- Put eye-catching signs up around the salon, especially near the till for people to see as they’re leaving.
- Conduct an email and SMS campaign to tell your clients about online bookings. Keep your message short and unique, selling the main benefits of the system. And be sure to include a link to the booking system itself.
- Target particular groups of clients. For instance, craft messages to clients who haven’t been in for a while. A simpler, more flexible booking experience may entice them back.
- Make online booking buttons prominent on your website and social media (see below).
3. Incentivize online bookings
It’s often worth adding an extra incentive to encourage customers to use your booking system. This shows customers that you’re serious about your system. And, let’s face it, most people like to make a saving.
It could be a percentage reduction or a special offer price. It could apply to all online customers or offer an even more substantial discount just first-time bookers. Once customers realize just how easy and convenient online booking is, they probably won’t return anyway.
Be sure to make any offers or incentives prominent in your marketing: on your social media presence, website, and even on signs in your salon.
4. Get customers to spread the word online
Customers are often the best advertising for a business. Customers tend to believe other customers! (In marketing, this is known as ‘social proof’) For instance, positive customer reviews and social media mentions can boost a business.
Encourage these. But perhaps you could ask satisfied customers to mention your booking system. If they found it convenient—maybe because they could find a last-minute appointment—ask them to say so.
Your business could respond to such reviews and mentions, thanking the customer and giving a link to your online booking system.
Finally, consider affiliate marketing, inviting other local influencers of businesses to promote your salon on their sites and accounts. You could create affiliate marketing landing pages they link to from their sites, presenting potential customers with an opportunity to book (perhaps with an incentive to entice engagement).
5. Optimize your web presence
Developing a great website for your salon is not an especially expensive or tough job these days. If you haven’t already, it’s well worth it as it acts as a virtual shop window.
And it’s where much of your online marketing will lead customers. They may look up your details via a web search: that should lead them to your website. Maybe they’ve come across a social media post about you: your website may well be the next step from there. Or perhaps they’ve seen your business in town but want to know more from the website!
Include the basics: your location and contact details. But also include a portfolio of images to showcase your services: a well-chosen picture can speak a thousand words. Your website should be professional, simple and uncluttered, and a great reflection of your work.
Then use it to boost online booking. Add a big ‘Book Appointments’ button, very prominently, to your website, linking to your booking software. It might be on the top navigation bar and across all your website’s pages. Make it unmissable.
This is equally true for any other online presence your business has. It might be your social media accounts or your Google Business listing. Wherever possible, add a link to your booking software, e.g., on your Instagram Bio. Make it so an appointment is only ever a few clicks away.
6. Optimize your use of the booking software
Salon scheduling can be a complicated task. Many salons offer a broad menu of services, each of which can vary in the time required and which assistants are best suited. Making the best use of your staff and resources across the working day is a jigsaw.
Effective booking and scheduling software will enable you to refine settings to suit your business. It’s important to keep reflecting on these as they may change over time. For example, slot lengths for different tasks may need to vary depending on the skill and experience of your assistants.
So, once you have your online booking system up and running, keep checking and fine-tuning it. And make sure you’re harnessing all its potential benefits. For example, have you enabled it to send clients email and SMS appointment reminders?
Use Your Online Presence to Power Forward!
Customers are increasingly going online for much of their life-admin. Meet them there. Refine your business’s marketing and online presence to lead customers to your booking system. Make sure that system is suitable for your needs. And finally, take the time to explore how all its features can support your business.
Gerard D’Onofrio – Country Manager, Australia, Dialpad
Gerard D’Onofrio is the Country Manager for Dialpad Australia, an AI-equipped business communications solutions platform and virtual PBX software for better communications at work. Gerard is experienced in discovering world-class developments and turning them into effective business advancements, wherever he goes. Here is his LinkedIn.