I came into tanning from a very different industry. I was an engineering manager for a technology company where I managed several teams of engineers. I thought this would be an easy gig. How hard could it be to manage a salon staff when I had extensive experience managing an engineering staff. I was wrong.
Managing a salon staff is a different ball game altogether. Every day is a challenge. Your job ranges from motivating the staff, to keeping them engaged, to training them on effective communication with your customers, to selling techniques. Then you have turnover. Then you start over.
I’ve learned that effective use of technology in the age of millennials is critical to the success of our business because that is the majority of the staff we hire these days. They are the face of our business. How we connect with our staff, how they interact with each other, and how they train is different.
When I first added a chat component to our software, I was skeptical myself. Do we not have enough chatting going on with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp and what not – that we need one more, and that too in the place of work? I gave it a shot anyway. It was an instant success.
The staff was suddenly more engaged. They were talking to each other, and they were LEARNING: “What lotions are coming in today?” “Hey offer Cathy the hypoallergenic lotion when she comes, she will like it.” “Which body scrub pairs well with that moisturizer?” They were cheering each other on, and were having friendly competition: “Nice job with the lotion and credit package sale Jen!” “I am going to race you today to the first sale of the day!”. They were helping each other out: “I am having trouble resetting this bed, does anyone know what do to?” and several would chime in to figure out the problem. They were connected and building a relationship with each other, which not only kept them more engaged but generated more loyalty to our brand.
The chat was so effective that they stopped calling completely. They expected all the help they needed to come from chat. That’s when I added a chat-2-text option. Every message on chat now comes as a text message to me, and to the Operations Manager in-charge of our store. She can now focus on her job but also effectively monitor everything in the stores by watching the texts come through. If help is needed, she simply responds to the text and it shows up on their screen. Problem solved.
The chat had another unintended benefit. In the past, if there was a situation with an upset customer, the staff would have to call a manager while the customer was standing right at the desk. The phone call was not only awkward, but also did not allow the staff to really explain the situation. With the chat, they can discretely ask anything and get an instant response. They don’t have to call. They don’t have to explain over the phone. From the customer’s perspective, the situation gets handled by the staff without really needing a manager to step in, which in itself is a positive experience. But as salon owners, we know that the staff is not always equipped to handle everything and a manager’s input is required in some cases.
Another facet of technology that has really helped us is the automated check-in system. If your business is anything like mine, you have 1 keyholder that has to open the store. That person doesn’t show up, the store does not open. In the past, we only learned that a store did not open when we received a call from a customer standing at the door informing us that there was no one there. Not only was it embarrassing, we had some truly upset customers.
Our check-in system is simple, but very effective. An hour and a half before opening time, the employee who is on schedule receives a text message from the system asking them to check-in meaning they have to respond to the text with the word “check in”. If no response is received after 20 minutes, an automated “wake-up call” is made to the employee by the system. If there is no response to the call, the system then texts and calls the manager of the store, or the operations manager in charge of the store and they are then expected to handle the situation. These series of checks and balances ensure that if there is an issue with an opening shift, we will have plenty of notice to handle it and we will still be able to open the store on time. The system also sends shift reminders by text the night before the shift, and allows the staff to check when their next shift is by texting the system.
This simple but effective use of technology has saved us countless embarrassing moments since we added it.
Managing a salon is tough work. Keeping the staff engaged and motivated is tough work. In the technology age, effective software solutions play a pivotal role in the success of the business regardless of how many or how few locations you have to manage. The better the technology, the more seamless and predictable your outcomes become as you minimize the reliance on people, and utilize them to the best of their ability.