For the past 16 years I’ve been an independent stylist in rental salons. I’m not here to discuss the pros or cons of this situation, I’m here to share my experience with Electronic Scheduling systems, the paperless always with you way to run your seat or salon from your smartphone, net device or PC. I started down this road 4 years ago and really enjoy it’s convenience. If you already use this form of scheduling you may find it interesting to see what’s out there. If you’ve never used one this may help you find the one for you or solidify your relationship your Big Book.
This post will deal with my top 6 picks, against StyleSeat, from a total of 12 services I explored that are offered to hairdressers, barbers, massage therapists, nail techs and anyone who could benefit from an e-appointment book. Some of these offer online booking options to your guests, others do not. All the services I tested had to meet the following requirements: Ease-of-use, In-Salon Hours, Appointment Reminders, Service Menu, Booking Multiple Services, Importing Guest List, Visible Total for Services, and Scheduling Appointments of course. I also wanted: Reoccurring Appointments, Retailing, Checkout, Online Booking for guests, Marketing, Customization of booking page and Affordability.
Having worked with StyleSeat’s Free version for almost 3 years I was hooked. Last year they announced I would have 30 days to subscribe for $35 a month or leave. I went into a bit of a panic. Colleagues kept saying “paper works for me” but I had grown accustom to not having to call, text or email reminders, not forgetting to charge for that Brow Wax or Conditioner thanks to checkout totals and not forgetting to book an appointment because I got a text or phone call away from a pencil. It’s also so much easier to go to a guest’s profile to see when they last had their hair cut than flipping through a book or searching for their formula card (And oh yeah, you can keep all that with their electronic profile too*). Does this sound like something you might be interested in? Read on.
You are probably thinking I switched rather than pay the $35 a month, but I didn’t. At the time I decided StyleSeat offered me enough to stay…..for a while. In the end, the “improvements” they kept making weren’t helpful to me at all. If you have never used an online booking service which ever one you choose will fit your needs. IF, however, you have been using a system/service and you want to change; maybe you are using switch to Smartphone platforms, or you don’t want to afford the subscription, or the developers make changes you don’t find helpful, whatever the reason I hope you find this helpful. And, if you decide to embark on your own search learn from my mistakes and successes. Test them one at a time. I tried to test several at a time, especially when under a time crunch, it was overwhelming. Every one of these services offers a free trial, take it and wear it out and test it in real time! Get at least 3 guests to help you beta test. (If you are using one that offers online booking for guests have them make appointments, cancel, reschedule and report on their experience.) This was invaluable! Often the developers make the customer end easier than our end, or visa versa. Take notes, lots of notes, because testing several services can turn into one big blur. And finally, take your time. The poet Alexander Pope said it best “fools rush in where angles fear to tread.”
My top 7 picks, here’s the breakdown:
My top picks
This Uber simple and easy to use app is Android and Apple device friendly. It’s a plug-in for Google Calendar, you can even sync it with your personal calendar. Create your work schedule, book in or outside those hours, you are the boss. (Some systems didn’t allow you any overtime) Color Code your Service list. Add guest’s from your device Contacts when booking an appointment. Decide how to contact each guest: text, email or both. Customize the reminder sent, and you can send more than one- good for those busy guests who need that reminder an hour before you see them. What it doesn’t do is allow online booking- it’s your book in cyber space. No checkout, but you can view the service total and add retail to the notes…along with formulas and anything you want to remember. I love this one! It is sooo easy; once in the App just Tap the time/day the guest requests, add their name from contacts, add manually, choose the services- unless they booked previously then those services are already listed(Sweet!), choose reminders, reoccurring (if you have that service) tap Done and that’s it. Services are color coded according to My preference and I can see all those colorful blocks filling up my day. The only two reasons this isn’t my booking system: I wanted to use it on iPad and Android =$24 a month, some of my guests wanted the option to book, reschedule or cancel appts on their own.
This one gets top marks, it better I’ve been using it for the past 3 months! Vagaro has so many features, too many for most users who just want to schedule appointments, remind their clients to show up and checkout the service once the appointment is done. You can do all of that plus: market as Daily Deals or emails to your guests, Retail- as long as you scan the barcode of each and every product you sell, Reports- these are very helpful for knowing how you’re doing and where your business is coming from, mini website, Facebook booking button, color code your services, Payroll, etc., etc.
It’s overwhelming and can be laborious to set up everything they offer. I chose Vagaro to accommodate the guests who wanted online booking, something Appointfix and MyCuts don’t offer, and because they offer so much bang for your buck. Something I like about Vagaro and Timely, if I need to change an appointment in the same week/day, I can click and drag it to the new time, very convenient and you can decide whether to notify guest of change or not.
What I can’t get used to is also going into the “I don’t prefer it” folder like in Customer Profile, Appointments the appointments are shown in Ascending vs Descending order. Not very convenient if the guest wants to know when they will see you next and they have Reoccurring appointments for the next 2 years. I don’t like the “scavenger hunt” I have to go on to find out how much a guest’s appointment will cost next week, Or when changing an appointment you can’t easily access all the services they book IF you didn’t create appointments as Multiple Services appointment from the beginning. It’s a lot of little thing, but this system is very subjective- you must do it their way or you keep hitting “speed bumps”. The salon is a busy place, make things fast and friendly, please!
Most of my peers use, enjoy and recommend it. I’m just not sure I enjoy it enough to want to afford the subscription. Jury is still out.
Android based, Apple has similar version, MyChair($4.99) that a colleague uses and enjoys. I wanted to like it, its FREE! I just can’t get there. What I liked- price. Very easy to add guests from contacts, create services- even during booking process, reoccurring appointments, power booking, inventory and guest reminders. View schedule in Month, Day or List.
What I don’t like: I can’t set a schedule, good if you don’t want limitations on appointments, bad if you don’t want to accidentally book a 2am appointment! Default is whatever time/date it is Now- I can’t get used to that. Dispite the developers telling me I can tap a time and book an appointment in DAY view, I couldn’t make this work for me ever. Need to change or cancel an appointment? You better get used to LIST view and sliding the guest’s name left…like smartphone emails. I can enter and track Retail inventory but I can’t create a point of sale, i.e. No checkout, I think this is weird. I’m convinced that what I didn’t like about this App was based on what I was accustomed to. Remember I said if it’s your first system/service it won’t matter, this is what I meant. I don’t prefer this one and I don’t want to get used to it.
This Apple based online booking system hails from down under. Thanks to a robust American dollar to Aussie dollar it’s reasonably priced. I so wanted to make this one work since it had the features I enjoy, felt very intuitive and was easy to set up, except Guest Import. (Never could get the CSV file thing right) The trouble lay in the Apple orientation. No problem if I had room for a laptop in the salon space I use but I need Android friendliness. They do try to deliver but in the end it was just too hard. For PC and iPhone/iPad users this is a very sweet system. It is email based so email reminders are included, SMS you buy n blocks and they do rollover so as long as you don’t text your guest via any links within Timely it’s not a big deal.
I’m making the most of Vagaro but my eye is on Appointfix. I feel I can adapt my guest’s to asking me to book for them and I can adapt to no checkout and add retail sales separately. Tech is a wonderful tool, use it wisely and know that we must always stay in touch and on top of what we do.
I’d love to hear from you. Have you had experiences you can share that would add to what I offer? Have you found a system/service you think I’ve overlooked. Please share.
*Always, always, ALWAYS keep your own hard copy of everything you do to and for your guests! This is a lesson I learned the hard way with booking keeping in the 90’s (one computer virus and it was all gone). I learned it twice with StyleSeat, first time it was technical issues on their end. Second time it was after I switched I lost all their guest history. I did have their chemical history but I don’t track every cut, bang trim or retail sale. StyleSeat allowed me to add retail totals without any product info. Vagaro forces me to inventory so I know who bought what, when and how much is left.