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Salon Software vs. Systems: What's Right For You?

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Despite the growing prevalence of automation in industries such as food service and healthcare, the beauty industry is still experiencing some apprehension in adopting these services. However, there are numerous options and solutions that can help salon owners and independent stylists save both time and money..

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If you’re struggling with administrative tasks in your business, but are unsure of your options, here’s an overview of what salon software and automation systems are, as well as what to consider when choosing which tool to implement in your salon.

What Is Salon Software?

Salon software is any tool that helps salon owners manage their business operations, including:

  • Client communications
  • Online booking
  • Employee management
  • Policy regulation
  • Marketing/promotional communications
  • Payment capture
  • And more

In response to the pandemic, as well as the growing number of independent stylists and salon owners trying to manage work-life balance, the salon management software market has experienced a recent surge. There’s an abundance of options to choose from, but very little guidance on what suits your business needs.

While these software solutions can make your life easier, there are alternatives to purchasing these tools. One great example of this is creating administrative automation systems to mimic the benefits of management software.

What Are Salon Automation Systems?

Salon automation systems are very similar to salon management software because they provide administrative relief for independent stylists and salon owners. In the Hair Goals podcast episode “The One Thing that Creates More Time in Your Schedule!,” Ashley, SALT Society’s administrative manager, admits that she was surprised at how much work she took on as a personal assistant to an independent stylist. “The work that I took off her plate accumulated to a full-time position.”

Through automation systems, Ashley was able to replicate many functions of salon management software. Some of these systematic changes included:

  • Saving repetitive client communications as templates
  • Creating pre-consultation forms for new clients and appointments
  • Communicating policies such as cancellations, no-shows, and rescheduling

5 Things to Consider When Choosing Salon Automation

While each tool has its own set of pros and cons, it’s important to always think about your business goals and needs when deciding which to implement. Consider these five elements of salon systems and software to find the right fit for you.

1. Simplicity vs. Flexibility

While automation solves many administrative challenges in a salon business, independent stylists and salon owners will often need to make a choice on what’s more important: Simplicity or flexibility.

One of the biggest benefits of using a salon software tool is its simplicity. Most of the organizational structure is already built into the software, so it doesn’t require much work on your end. However, for many owners, this simplicity eliminates the personalization that many professionals in creative industries value most in their business.

If you’re interested in more flexibility in your business operations, automation systems might be the better choice. “It’s almost like systemizing the creative vision for your business,” says Ashley.

2. Integration Options

Integration options are essential in determining which automation option you choose. If you’re more interested in salon software, make sure to do your research on what integrations they offer. It’s important to consider whether the software needs to work together with your existing services, such as:

  • Accounting software
  • Email marketing service
  • SMS messaging

If your software options don’t seamlessly integrate with the existing services you already pay for, the additional investment in management software typically isn’t worth it. Creating automated systems often provides the right amount of administrative autonomy to ensure your current services work together with newly implemented communications, policies, etc.

3. Cost

Independent stylists and small salon owners often need to be more mindful of the cost of these options compared to larger businesses. According to Sarah Fasolo, SALT Society’s marketing manager, “not everyone is ready, or in the professional position to afford to delegate to people.”

If you’re hoping to make the best financial decision for your business, consider weighing the cost against the value you receive from each option. For example, while hiring an administrative assistant can be costly, the automated systems they create often provide a more personalized touch to your business operations. This seamless client experience can be incredibly valuable.

On the other hand, salon management software can sometimes eliminate or delay the need for administrative staff. For stylists or owners already struggling to hire people, this might be the most cost-effective option.

4. Client Communication

Client communication is perhaps the most important aspect of a salon’s business operations. Client communication encompasses:

  • Scheduling
  • Salon policies
  • Inquiries
  • And more

Since client communication is how salons both acquire and retain customers, it’s important to choose an automation option that keeps clientele happy. While many salon softwares can make client communication much easier for independent stylists and salon owners, there are several aspects of this service that must be considered.

For example, many salon businesses have shied away from automated communication for one reason: Complexity.

Salon management software has often been the go-to option as a result of these misconceptions around client communication. In fact, “client communication is very repetitive,” says Ashley. “Clients primarily use three platforms: Social, email, and phone calls.” As a result, it’s deceivingly easy to automate.

5. Employee Management

Employee management isn’t a factor that all salon owners or independent stylists need to consider when picking automation. For one, some stylists may work independently. As a result, purchasing a salon software that offers these capabilities is often a waste of money.

Stylists and owners that do work with a team, however, should consider their employee management needs. Some examples of these various operations include:

  • Scheduling stylists
  • Managing payroll
  • Creating stylist-specific automated communication

Whether you choose a software or systems solution, it’s important to implement structure to your business. “Commision-based stylists need these systems,” says Ashley. Stylists often lose out on a significant amount of income when these systems aren’t in place. Whether it’s a result of a no-show or a lost client due to miscommunication, stylists can’t afford to lose business as a result of mismanagement.

Which Is Right For You?

Choosing a salon automation tool can be tricky, but aligning your business needs and goals to your overall strategy is always a promising start. If you’re still stuck, consider starting with a few automated systems to better understand the operational needs of your business. Not only will this save you time and money, but it can also help you make an informed decision on how to invest in your business.

Just like your business, your operational needs will change over time as your business continues to grow. You can always come back to this list to help determine whether adding, adjusting, or eliminating automation in your business will best serve you.

If you want to learn more about how salon automation systems can improve your business operation, consider signing up for our automation course. There, you’ll learn more about templatizing client communications, creating pre consultation forms, and ensuring your business is capturing client information legally.

Salon Automation Course

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