Salon Software: Ask the Right Questions Before You Buy

By Marc Mataya

Salon management software is supposed to make what you already do faster, easier and cheaper. What's great about ClienTrak! is that it will also help you do things that were virtually impossible with your old paper appointment book and index cards.

No matter what size business you have, there are five things you do nearly every day that, until now, have taken up much too much of your precious time -- time you could spend providing services to clients, hiring and training staff, planning for the growth of your business or at home with your family.

These five basic operations are: keeping client records, point-of-sale operations (check out), appointment scheduling, marketing and inventory. All five of these critical operations can be improved and accelerated through the use of ClienTrak's specialized salon management software, saving you hours each week and days each month. In addition, you can automate payroll, add one-step credit card processing and obtain reports and analysis of every aspect of your business, as you choose, to tell you exactly where the money is coming from and where it's going.

As you review your software options, ask yourself these questions to help you see which package is the right fit for your way of doing business.

Is it Affordable?

Buying a license to use software can cost thousands of dollars up front, but your costs don't end there. Program upgrades, training and technical support are almost always additional, whether through a separate service contract or as a charge for each as it arises.

A newer way to license software is by "subscription" which does not require a large upfront cost and which has a monthly rate that can be surprisingly low. Subscriptions usually include the cost of upgrades, come with technical support and may offer other benefits as well.

Is Scheduling Fast, Accurate and Easy?

Scheduling for salons can be more complicated than for many other businesses. Good scheduling software has an easy-to-read appointment display with minimal effort required to book an appointment. It should automatically apply the time necessary for different services when making appointments and should be able to manage each provider, each chair and each service area to make the most efficient use of your entire staff and facility.

Using a computer to do your appointment scheduling lets you apply the information in your appointment "book" in ways that paper books never could, such as viewing and analyzing appointment information to assess client activity, staff productivity and overall use of your facilities.

Can I Market to Customers and Prospects My Way?

Software with a wide variety of flexible, easy-to-use marketing options will let you take the marketing you have been doing -- mailings, emails, special announcements, gift cards or certificates, etc. -- and do them faster and more accurately, saving your time and helping you get better results through more accurate targeting.

Because your software manages all of your information, you can keep detailed client records, including birthdays, service and product purchase histories, age, gender, expenditure levels, appointment frequency, personal preferences and much, much more, to target your marketing where it will do the most good and get the highest returns.

Are There Reports That Tell Me What I Want to Know?

Reports that provide understandable answers to your questions about your business help you plan for the future. You should have access to a selection of useful reports with calculations and analysis that show you exactly how your clients, staff, products and services are benefiting your bottom line. Reports that just list sales figures or staff earnings, for example, require that you do the work of determining what the numbers mean. That is simply unacceptable these days, especially when software is fully capable of producing concise, comprehensive and clear analysis that shows you precisely how your business is doing.

Will My Software Grow With My Business?

If you are a sole operator and intend to stay that way, you do not want a software package built for salons with dozens of staff, a large payroll and multiple workstations, yet you still need the benefits that help you regain more of your personal time and provide better customer service.

Basic salon management software should give you the simple, efficient operations you need while still containing the capacity to grow and expand. You should never have to buy more function than you need, but you should always have the option to change your mind. A program which allows you to easily add higher levels of function or other features you desire can smooth the transition to a larger, more growth-oriented operation.

Can I Get Training and Technical Support That Keeps Me Up and Running?

Today, you could wait days or even weeks for an on-site repair or support visit. Fortunately, technology has changed everything and, these days, some excellent training programs are conducted by phone or Internet while nearly all technical software support is handled quickly and efficiently by phone. Still, you want to choose a software provider who includes these options at the lowest possible price because, for you, they may not seem like options. Training that is considerate and customized will get you and your staff up and running and enjoying your software a lot sooner.

In addition, as you become accustomed to your software, you will have questions, and you'll want expert advice and consultation at the ready. A company that provides continuous, easily accessible, ongoing support also is likely to offer a software package you can count on, because they are investing their valuable time and money as well. Find that combination and you will have a reliable partner for growth and success that will take you as far as you want to go.

Marc Mataya is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for ClienTrak! Spa and Salon Software, Inc. Marc grew up in the beauty industry, working in and helping to manage his family's multiple salons and spas. ClienTrak! grew out of a need for specialized software in the Mataya's businesses and is now a top-selling spa and salon system. You can contact ClienTrak! at 1-800-397-4582, at sales@clientrak.com or by visiting www.clientrak.com.

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