Software Savvy

Logistically speaking, giving clients what they want when they want it can be a challenge. There's usually more going on behind the scenes than what meets the eye. The booking process, for example, involves a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration in order to ensure a seamless client experience. From a client's preferred treatment time to therapist and room availability, booking isn't always the open-and-shut case one would think it should be. However, with the right software package the entire process can be improved dramatically. In fact, software can simplify a lot of necessary yet complicated processes that can often distract employees from their number one priority- the client.

Oasis Day Spa owner Bruce Schoenberg supervises his front-desk operations, 
which rely on the spa’s software system.
Oasis Day Spa owner Bruce Schoenberg supervises his front-desk operations, which rely on the spa’s software system.

In these competitive times, it's important to choose a software package that not only helps streamline operations but also gathers valuable information that can be used to generate new business. Although choosing a software system may seem like a daunting task due to the ever-changing nature of technology, it remains one of the best tools for spa owners interested in taking their businesses to the next level.

Making the Right Connection

For some, a personal connection can be key in the choice to align themselves with a particular software company. That was certainly the case for Robert Pence, owner of Robert's Salon & Day Spa in Greenwood, IN. A longtime user of The Spa/Salon Manager software, Pence opted for the software after connecting with a company representative at a trade show 12 years ago. Finding the support for which he was looking, he hasn't looked back. "I wouldn't have been able to grow [the business] to eighty-five employees without it," says Pence. "I couldn't manage the people."


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Looking for Room to Grow

For Joanne Domanski, managing director of The Elmwood Spa in Toronto, Canada, the decision to go with ResortSuite SPA software from Enablez was about flexibility. "It may not have had the ability to do all of what we required, but we knew we could expand with it." Bruce Schoenberg, owner of Oasis Day Spas in New York City, concurs about the importance of choosing a software system with flexibility. He has been a client of Elite Software for approximately three-and-a-half years. In that time, he has forged close ties with the software company and works with the developers there by offering input as to how the system might be improved.

Choosing a System

Schoenberg was adamant that the program he chose be easy to use as well as easy on the eye. "A lot of the systems we looked at were so busy," he says. According to him, the importance of an easy-to-read screen can't be overestimated-especially when dealing with a demanding clientele. Schoenberg points to situations when clients are reluctant to believe that the spa is completely booked. In those cases, he simply lets those clients have a look at the booking screen for themselves. "A software system is only as good as your ability to use it," says Schoenberg.
Staff members use Elite Software in the booking room at Oasis Day Spa.
Staff members use Elite Software in the booking room at Oasis Day Spa.

Simplicity also played a role in owner and spa director Patti Rice's decision to install Milano Systems's Salon/Spa Account Manager (SAM) software at The Spa - Los Gatos in Los Gatos, CA. "We needed detailed information on scheduling, commissions, and sales, but it had to be simple enough to allow a new front desk employee to be trained within a reasonable amount of time," says Rice. "There are some really great detailed packages out there, but you have to spend a month in training."

Tracking Information

According to Domanski, the ability to track information is one of the most useful features a software system has to offer. The spa uses retention reports to provide valuable information about its client base. "We need to know when clients are coming back and if not, why," says Domanski. "This is particularly important in a day spa setting." The ability to generate reports is one of the most effective tools of any software system. "If there is not an already designed report, you can pick whatever criteria of data-sales, customers, etcetera-and make up whatever report you want," says Rice. "Also, being able to export this data to Excel makes the flexibility unlimited." These reports are invaluable when it comes to deciding where to allocate resources. For example, spa directors can determine what rooms are most profitable and even which therapists are most in demand. At Oasis Day Spas, Schoenberg's system allows him to generate reports listing clients who have had massages in the last three months. He is then able to create targeted marketing programs around such reports. Daired Ogle, owner of Daired's Salon and Spa Pangéa in Arlington, TX, concurs: "There is an enormous advantage to using technology from a marketing standpoint."

Improving Client Communication

In the past, keeping in touch with clients was often considered a time-consuming task. Now, however, the lines of communication can be opened with a few simple keystrokes. "We do a tremendous amount of business due to e-mailing," says Ogle, who uses Millennium from Harms Software. "We typically send out a follow-up card for every new client, clients who haven't been back in forty-five days, and clients celebrating a birthday." Software also gives Ogle the ability to send daily e-mail specials discounting available appointments. Automatic e-mail confirmations also free up staff members to focus on more immediate concerns.

Utilizing Gift Certificates

Software also has the ability to revolutionize gift card sales. Rice notes that her spa's software system has transformed the way the spa handles gift certificates. Instead of using handwritten gift certificates, the spa uses gift cards. "We can process sales much faster and sell more, especially during the busy holiday season," says Rice. The same is true for general manager Ruth Kane at Spa Uptown in Pittsburgh, PA, who uses Leprechaun Salon Software. "It has helped us increase sales by thirty percent," says Kane.
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Facing Challenges

Although software can simplify spa operations considerably, it can also present its fair share of challenges. As a result, Schoenberg stresses the importance of proper training. "You need to input the data correctly," he says. According to Rice, one of the biggest challenges has been transferring data from an old system to a newer one. "We did a bulk transfer of our inventory, and we should have taken the time to hand enter everything," says Rice. "You know the old saying, 'garbage in, garbage out?' It has taken us awhile to reorganize that data." Despite the challenges, software provides the tools necessary for spas seeking long-term growth. Overall, an investment in a well-researched software package is an investment in the future.