Appointments, New Procedures, Visit Policy & Booking Systems
Phone lines, messenger, on-line booking apps, sms… all communication platforms went into overdrive and the broadband supply in this country was seriously tested following Leo Varadkar’s much anticipated and hard fought for announcement of Friday last- “and yes, Hairdressers, Beauticians and Barber Shops” !
Our industry has officially been given the green light to re-open on Monday, 29th June
With everything we do now in preparation for re-opening, the customer journey should be at the heart of it and it all starts with booking an Appointment. There are 3 key issues to consider and prepare for:
- Screening & Policies: Will you screen clients or advise them of your policies so that people with symptoms do not enter your premises in the first place.
- Contact Tracing; many of the key online booking systems have already made modification to the booking process to assist you with this process and to assist with the ability to ensure contact tracing records can be maintained in a GDPR compliant manner.
- Client Visit Information Policy; The salon environment and client journey has changed and clients may no longer know what to expect, it is important to communicate & educate your clients.
We’ve all heard about this ‘New Norm’ that awaits us. The bottom line is, the ‘new norm’ will have significant impact on your business and your operating procedures and in turn, your client experience. You clients don’t know what to expect on their return visit, therefore it is very important to communicate with them. Here are some suggestions and recommendations as you go about communicating with your valued clients.
- Social Media : Use your social media pages to inform your clients about what they should expect when they return – waiting area or lack thereof, entrance policy, PPE requirements, Sanitation policies, zoning – if you are zoning your outlet, etc.
- Email: Consider sending an email to each client so they are informed as to how your business operate in the new norm of social distance.
- Keep it personal: COVID-19 has created a world filled with rules of engagement and restrictions. It is really important that we protect the personal service that we as an industry provide. We suggest that you consider filming a short video on your phone and upload it to social media and your website. A simple video with you explaining, in person, how your salon will operate will be greatly appreciated by your clients. It will give you the opportunity to literally walk your clients through your salon journey, starting from booking an appointment and arriving at your salon door to outlining clearly any changes or requirements they should be aware of. It is also a great opportunity to reassure them if they have any concerns.
- Pricing: If you are amending your prices you must consider the following; The Competition and Consumer Protection Commissions notes that there are laws for the mandatory display of prices for a number of specific types of service, including hairdressers, beauty salons, and barber shops. This ensure that consumers can easily compare prices without committing themselves to purchasing in that premises. https://www.ccpc.ie/business/help-for-business/guidelines-for-business/hairdressers/
- Visit Policy: You should display your COVID-19 salon ‘visit policy’ on your reception desk, online and social media.
Visit Policy – What is it & what is the purpose of it?
The purpose of your Visit Policy is to inform your clients of what they can expect when they next visit your premises, it will prepare them for their experience of the new operational procedures that awaits them. The following outlines inclusions for you to consider as you prepare your VISIT POLICY:
- Social Distancing: How social distancing will be observed and managed on your premises?
- Appointments: Where possible, operate on an appointment basis only, do not encourage walk in’s. However, that said, ensure you have a policy in place for walk-ins.
- Bookings: How appointments can be booked?
- Opening Hours: You may need to adapt the opening hours – longer hours mean you can see your clients but have less people in the salon at any one time.
- Charges: Will you introduce deposits and price changes, PPE charges?
- Arrival: procedure for arrival at your premises, will there be a waiting area? If now, request that clients arrival at their set arrival time. You may decide to request clients to wait close by and that you will call them at their appointment time, to welcome them in.
- Lateness policy: Any changes to the time management policy must be communicated, stressing the importance of arriving on time. And should they not, what is your lateness policy?
- Sanitation: Inform your clients of Hand Hygiene and respiratory etiquette required on entry and during their visit
- COVID-19 Client Questionnaire: Inform you clients of your COVID-19 Client Questionnaire and GDPR compliance of same which they will be presented with on arrival.
- Company: Do you require clients to come alone? E.g; no children as this may compromise your capacity unless they are booked in for a service
- Senior/ vulnerable clients: What is your policy for senior or vulnerable appointment? Are you allocating times and will you implement any difference in your procedure?
- Frontline Staff: As above, do you require a policy for frontline staff working in medical settings?
- Client experience enhancements: What is your refreshments policy? What is your shared reading material policy? Will you encourage client not to bring excess bags, coats, food or drink?
- Traffic Flow within the salon: Inform your client of any ‘zoning’ that may be in operation within your premises, how the waiting area (if there is one) will be managed, if there is an entering & exiting procedure (especially in outlets with multiple points of entry).
What should you consider as you prepare your VISIT POLICY
- You may need to adapt the opening hours – longer hours mean you can see your clients but have less people in the salon at any one time.
- You could also consider having a ‘dedicated older or vulnerable person appointment time’. For example you could designate an hour first thing in the morning or possibly a specific day or a private area within the salon. Before older or vulnerable clients arrive allow time for the salon to be cleaned. Also it would be advisable to reduce the traffic of people in the building during these appointments. Consider that you may have a higher percentage of OAPS on pension day.
- Will still provide a waiting area? If you wish to, you must ensure your waiting area surface is large enough to respect social distancing. If not you can establish a queuing system or waiting zone outside for those who arrive early for their appointment. In that case you should mark out this zone or appropriate spacing using visual markers so it is clear for clients where they would need to wait.
- Consider suggesting to your clients at time of booking, to arrive at their allocated time and to wait in their car until you phone to inform them that you are now ready for them to safely enter the building in a controlled manner.
- If you have walk-in clients, ensure that you can manage social distancing requirements, a clear process of contact logging (for contact tracing purposes) and screening is required.
- Time management will be essential to ensuring social distance is maintained and that no back log of clients happens.
- It is essential that the hairdresser/ barber/ therapist leaves adequate time to complete the service, clean down and prepare for the next client.
- When a client has booked an appointment, 48 hours prior to their arrival you could send your: COVID-19 Client Visit Questionnaire and Client Visit Information Policy.
- If you send out a COVID-19 question in advance, it is advised to ask the client to confirm if there is any changes to their response on arrival to the salon.
- COVID-19 is a notifiable disease therefore it is recommended that contact log records are securely kept for at least 1 month; outlining who is in the building, the contact time/date and if possible zones they have been in.
COVID-19 Client Questionnaire & Contacts Logging
All organisations, and where possible individuals, are advised to keep a contact log. The objective should be zero instances of “close contact with COVID-19” for each day spent in the workplace. This can be implemented and managed through the use of the following: sign in sheets, COVID-19 questionnaire, booking systems, clocking systems, visitor logbooks, delivery personnel detail logs and third party service provider visitor information log.
Where at all possible it is advised to use an online booking system that can support the prevention of COVID-19 into the salon in the first place. All personal information should be stored securely, maintained centrally and be readily available upon request. Such information may be requested by the authorities to assist with contact tracing. And if you are not using an on-line platform, it is essential that you put a data management system in place.
All data collected should be maintained and stored in compliance with GDPR requirements.
Booking Systems in Post-COVID Salons
What You Need to Know + Our 5 Picks
As we move closer to re-opening and continue re-connecting with our clients, a robust and efficient booking system will be a must-have for many businesses within the hair and beauty industry. The good old fashioned pen and appointment ledger might not cut it in the coming months when appointment slots will be scarce – and customer detail logging will be vitally important! Guidelines from the Government recommend detailed tracing information with “Close contacts” noted. (close contacts: are defined as anyone in contact with another person not from the same household, who are within 2metres for 15 minutes or more i.e your clients/staff)
With salon space and time at a premium when you re-open, you will find you have less time to answer the phone or respond to your emails – so a tool that takes care of this for you will be invaluable as the industry adjusts. At HABIC, we’ve taken a look at some of the most popular booking systems out there, and here’s what we found.
Phorest – https://www.phorest.com/
Probably the most popular and all-in “bells-and-whistles” service, Phorest has a very good reputation in the industry, and with good reason. It ties in everything you need and more; including managing walk-ins, organising your timetable, working bookings on your smartphone, sending automated text or email reminders, and links in very handily to your website or Facebook page. The marketing, resources and support side of Phorest is also very strong, and they pride themselves on not “pitting you against” other competitors in the marketplace.
Pros: Very much all-in, there are very few features that Phorest doesn’t nail. Very good reputation within the industry. Phorest have made significant COVID-19 modifications to their software. Phorest is an Irish owned company.
Cons: You get what you pay for, and Phorest is a premium, high-end service – if you are willing to pay, they’ve got you covered!
Shortcuts is an original classic when it comes to online / e-booking services, and has been a mainstay in Ireland for years (they were founded in 1993, which is, whisper it, before some of the HABIC staff were born!). They cater for small scale 1 and 2-seat salons all the way up to major players, and have a very easy-to-use interface for online and mobile. Front desk management tools include a point of sale system that allows refunds to be processed and discounts applied to keep customers happy.
Pros: Customers often praise the customer support side of Shortcuts, and point to their 24/7 service. Also switching over to Shortcuts is easy / pain-free.
Cons: Again, Shortcuts is not a free service, but you get what you pay for!
OK Who’s Next: https://www.okwhosnext.com/
A fresh new Irish venture, OK Who’s Next provide high quality, low-cost and accessible technology solutions with both Android and iOS smartphone app booking to all salons and customers. They are currently making a COVID push promising “Compliance with restrictions through customisable calendars, columns, service times, and communicative tools, giving salons a virtual waiting room”.
Pros: As they are an Irish company, they are particularly tuned into what the restrictions and guidelines will be for us here.
Cons: Introductory offer with your first month refunded – but that expires at the end of June so get your skates on!
Fresha (formerly Shedul) https://www.fresha.com/
When it comes to free software, it’s hard to go wrong with Fresha (formerly and often still referred to as Shedul!). Fresha is clean and simple tool with handy calendar scheduling features that can handle all your salon appointment bookings. Maintaining client relationships is a key feature, with advanced salon software management features with detailed client appointments history, booking preferences, future bookings and contact details. The client details feature will especially be key in a post-COVID world!
Pros: Low cost / no cost! Free to install and provides many essential features
Cons: Text message features not as fluid as the above. Also, not all features are available on the free version.
Very popular with barbers (who we mustn’t forget!), Booksy offers a seamless external service where clients can book in without ever having to worry about contacting you. This will be important in the upcoming busy period where you won’t have much time to be answering calls and emails. Easy and accessible service, one customer review likened it to Just Eat!
Pros: Cool “Happy Hour” style features which can help the slower times (especially key for barbers). Very customer friendly.
Cons: Setting reminder emails / times can be tricky. Make sure to keep updating software as this can be an issue.
Ok there you have it, 5 diverse booking systems with a variety of features that will hopefully make your journey to re-opening a little bit smoother!