How to bring your customer scheduling into the mobile age

Growing companies can fumble customer relationships without the right scheduling tool. Here’s how to choose one

The Frictionless Office

Woman talking on the phone and working on a computer at a desk

(Hero Images/Getty)

When CEO Kristen Wood launched beauty bar The Ten Spot in Toronto in 2006, she started with a pen-and-paper booking system. But within less than three months, after a series of errors, she realized the business wouldn’t survive without a higher-tech (and more foolproof) tool. She had booked a bridal party into the calendar but when they arrived, there was no space to accommodate them. “Because we were half walk-in and I missed it, I had a very disappointed bridal party.”

In a business with complex scheduling needs, letting the computer (and the clients) do the organizing saves time and frustration—not to mention the risk of making mistakes and ending up with unhappy customers. “The software keeps track of how many stations there are, so you’re not overbooking, which was an issue in the past,” Wood says. “When you have six pedicure stations, eight manicure stations and appointments starting at different times, it can be quite hectic—if you didn’t have software saying you only have eight, you could book 10 and not know it.” The program also handles profiles for each staff member to ensure no one is booked for a service they’re not qualified to perform. “It won’t let you book a gel manicure if that aesthetician doesn’t know how to do one,” Wood says.

But The Ten Spot’s current software package of choice, Booker, is about more than just slotting appointments, she notes. The system handles e-commerce (perfect for selling gift cards online, a common practice in the salon industry) and manages sales transactions and inventory, so SKUs need to be entered only once, at head office, to cover all 17 locations. Confirmation and thank-you emails can be customized and sent automatically to clients, and it integrates a loyalty program that rewards guests not just for their own purchases but for referrals, too. The Ten Spot also worked with Booker to create an app to improve the appointments experience on mobile, map locations and even provide quick access to the company’s social media feeds. “We get our logo on people’s phones, which is great for brand awareness and keeping fresh in people’s minds,” Wood says. “It’s [also] a more streamlined booking experience.”

An additional benefit to using software for scheduling? Data on customer behaviour can be viewed quickly at any time. In February, Wood notes, 56% of guests booked online or through mobile (most of the remainder being walk-ins)—a report she has a staff member pull during our interview. Offering the booking system as a perk to potential franchisees (currently 13 in total, with two more franchise locations opening this summer) makes joining The Ten Spot network more appealing, too. “I think it’s a key selling feature to being part of our franchise system versus going on your own,” Wood says.

Booker isn’t the only software The Ten Spot team uses to keep the business running smoothly. For the past six months, head office has also been running Wrike, a collaboration and project management program Wood calls “a solution for keeping us organized.” In the same competitive sphere as well-known services such as Basecamp, Asana and Slack, Wrike is intended to help teams manage their work through tools like to-do lists and task statuses, instant messaging, collaborative document editing and reporting through a web interface as well as an accompanying app.

A self-professed “high user of new technology,” Wood is hands-on when it comes to trying out new tools, and she confesses they had tried a ton of project management software before committing to Wrike—with excellent results. “It’s really helped the efficiency of our operations,” she says. “We have eliminated internal email, and you don’t have to remember to check your notebook, phone, email—you put everything in [Wrike] so you’re confident there’s nothing else you need to do.” Among her favourite features is the ability to forward email straight to Wrike, so important tasks don’t languish in her inbox—and that same inbox stays clear. “It’s that place where you can brain-dump everything.”

As for Booker, the online system is really about customer service, letting clients interact with the company when it’s convenient for them. Rather than having to wait until business hours or play phone tag to schedule a pedicure, they can book  treatments from home at 11 p.m. or buy gift cards on Christmas Eve (by far The Ten Spot’s biggest sales day for that item).

Allowing customers to book services online rather than on the phone also offers them a level of privacy that might be appreciated by those who work in crowded offices and don’t necessarily want their co-workers overhearing them scheduling a Brazilian or upper-lip wax. And it helps store staff be more present, too. “It benefits us to not have somebody tied up at the front desk booking an appointment,” Wood says. “They can help the people right in front of them.”