Online booking can be a scary tool for small salon owners or independent stylists to use. The need for these types of systems, however, is becoming increasingly prominent. As the younger generation comes of age, customer correspondence has moved more toward direct messaging rather than phone calls. This is for a number of reasons, including growing social anxiety on the phone and more familiarity with digital platforms.
If you’re considering purchasing an online booking software for your salon, here’s everything you need to know about the service, what the pros and cons are, and if it’s the right fit for your business.
What Is Online Booking?
An online booking system is a software solution that allows potential clients to self-book and/or pay through your website or other communication channels. It often handles several administrative tasks, including:
- Scheduling appointments
- Sending appointment reminder notifications
- Handling client cancellation communications
- Offering an alternative payment method
If you’re currently overwhelmed with the administrative side of your salon business, consider the following pros and cons of adopting an online booking service before making a purchase.
Pros of Adopting an Online Booking Service
There are several pros to moving toward more automation in your business. Here are the top benefits to adopting an online booking service.
1. Automates Communication
In many ways, adopting an online booking system helps salon owners gain more control over client communications. For one, online booking software has a much faster response time compared to a person. With an almost instantaneous email, text, or notification, clients feel more supported during their appointment process.
Online booking also creates more continuity in your client communication. Since automation requires some form of templatized messaging, clients are less likely to receive mixed messaging about aspects of your business such as:
- Services offered
- Cancellation policy
2. Saves Time and Money
Online booking is an excellent option for salon owners who are overwhelmed with the logistics of running a growing business. Independent salon owners are often caught in the middle of several communication channels, including phone calls, emails, and social media messaging platforms. Automating appointment booking can eliminate the immediate need for an administrative assistant by streamlining the daily phone calls and emails from clients. This gives time back to you to do more creative and fulfilling responsibilities, as well as saves money if you can’t afford to hire an administrative team.
3. Decreases Human Error
Human error is an inevitable reality in nearly every part of the salon business, but online booking can eliminate human error from administrative tasks such as appointment confirmation and creating an accurate schedule for stylists.
One of the most common administrative errors that overworked salon owners are susceptible to is losing new client inquiries. Many salons lose out on new business because inquiries are lost or labeled as “lower priority.” As a result, new clients who don’t have a clear and immediate path to booking an appointment often take their business elsewhere. Making the booking process more accessible to new clientele can ensure human error doesn’t result in lost revenue.
Cons of Adopting an Online Booking Service
An online booking service is an excellent option for many salons, but there are plenty of drawbacks to this software to consider before implementing into your business.
1. Gives too Much Power to Clients
While clients should feel empowered to have a say in their salon appointments, most online booking software puts too much power in their hands. Salon consultations are an important aspect to ensuring a client is happy with their results. Once clients have more say in what types of services they are booking and the duration of those appointments, the stylist isn’t able to set reasonable expectations for the client until the day of. This can make appointments more difficult to navigate and puts the ball in the client’s court.
2. Pushes Operations to the Limit
While online booking systems are aware of the open blocks of time in each stylist’s schedule, it doesn’t know that one team member might be feeling under the weather and wants to lighten their load for a week. It also doesn’t know when a stylist is struggling with how many new clients they are taking on on a weekly basis.
While these are all factors that can be plugged into the software, salon personnel availability is a constantly evolving consideration. If this is a consistent reality in your salon business, online booking systems require a little more attention and curation to ensure your team isn’t pushed to its limits.
3. Leaves Stylists in the Dark
Stylists should always have a voice in the services their clients receive. While this might seem totalitarian, it ensures that the client is both realistic and happy with the results of their appointment. Online booking systems often lack the expertise needed to guide a client to the right type of appointment or service to book. Therefore, unless it is a part of a larger automation system that understands salon servicing nuances, your stylists aren’t receiving the necessary pre-consultation information they need for their clients.
What’s Right for You?
Online booking is a great option for smaller salons or independent stylists who don’t have, or can’t afford to hire, an administrative staff to assist with client communication and booking. This is not to say that larger, more established salons can’t benefit from online booking software, but many times smaller businesses are more reluctant to take on this type of automation.
If you’re still worried about the possible downsides of online booking, consider creating automated scheduling for straight-forward, less time-consuming services such as haircuts and root touch-ups. This is one way to ease into salon automation without giving away complete control of your business communication and branding.
Interested in learning more about how online booking can save you time and money? Take our automation course and see how salon owners and independent stylists are making your administrative tasks easier.