And how I'm always able to accept new clients
Online booking is a luxury of modern life that we ALL love. I mean, come on, who REALLY wants to have to pick up the phone and actually call and talk to another human, go back and forth for 10 minutes with dates and times, and finally settle on a mutually convenient appointment when it is honestly so much easier to click a few buttons and choose an appointment from what is available? Especially if we can do that at the end of the day, after business hours, or more likely, when we are reminded that we need extensions via social media at 11pm before we fall asleep? (Anyone else a victim of late night scrolling? I know I'm not alone!)
There are challenges to online booking for hair stylists, however, since extensions services aren't just like any ol' cut and color service and there's usually much more involved. I've narrowed down to 5 big things to consider before transitioning to booking online. Ready?
1. Hair stock - you must have sufficient hair stock to be able to take a new client on the spot and without a consultation first. When I first started offering extensions there was no way I could offer online booking for extensions appointments because I didn't have the hair stock on hand to be able to accept those appointments without first swatching and then purchasing the hair required for that specific client. Because I was seeking to become a specialist, the ultimate goal was to gradually build up my stock of hair in a variety of colors and lengths so that I COULD indeed say YES on the spot to the next dream client who wanted to book an appointment with me. Once I had the hair, I was able to build and sustain an extensions-dominant clientele quickly because women were able to book online with me instantly without having to wait for a consultation, and then wait again for me to order and receive the hair I planned to install on them. The immediate gratification is a win-win for both stylist and client.
2. Timing - you've got to have your service timing nailed down. I currently work a 7-hour day and take a maximum of 2 extensions clients a day (with a co-stylist). Whether or not you work with another stylist, you need to have your timing nailed down or online booking will get ugly FAST. Until you've got your timing down solid, my advice would be to pick one day a week to designate to extensions clients and start with ONE if you're doing the entire service (color and install) in one appointment, and without another stylist. AND in your downtime, you need to commit to practicing on a mannequin head to increase your speed and muscle-memory on both beading and stitching (because no one, my friend, gets faster doing just one extensions client every 6-8 weeks!). Time yourself, take it seriously, and don't book more than one a day until you know you can feasibly do it without inconveniencing your client or stressing yourself out physically, mentally, and emotionally! Once you know how long it takes you, you can plug that service timing into your online booking provider and take a deep breath!
3. Forms - get comfortable using forms to collect all the information you need, including photos. Having a detailed consultation form that guides your client through the inquiry process and basically tells her exactly what to book based on her answers to a few specific questions pretty much eliminates the need for an in-person consultation. Having this form filled out in advance will not only make your client's first appointment a breeze, but you'll also feel prepared and confident to deliver the results she's looking for. Get comfortable assessing photos to determine how much and what colors of hair you will need, as well as if the client's desired results are achievable before you click "approve" on her appointment request. When your client books her initial installation appointment, you can also set your booking system to automatically send her every client intake form and agreement you'll need to have on file to perform your services. Being able to automate as much as you can takes the headache out of this process for YOU, and makes it super simple for the client as well. That way when her initial installation appointment rolls around, you both can focus on the FUN part, which is giving her the hair of her dreams, of course!
4. The non-refundable retainer - does your booking system allow you to collect a retainer? It better! If it doesn't, consider switching systems or offering online booking might not be an option for you. Extensions appointments not only take up a big chunk of time on your book that is hard to fill in the event of a last-minute cancellation, they also often require an investment out of your pocket up front in the form of the actual extension hair that you must purchase to be able to provide the service and, which is 99.9% of the time non-refundable once the purchase is made. Even if you have a significant inventory of hair, it's important that the client knows she's putting down a retainer to receive the installation service, which makes it less likely that she'll cancel at the last minute. Your system should also have email and text reminders for her appointment and an airtight cancellation policy!
5. Booking period - you must be able to set the range of time a client is allowed to book online. You've got the hair, you've got your timing nailed down, and you've got a way to get info and collect signatures and a deposit - it sounds like you're good to go, right? Not so fast. If you're taking great care of your clients, your business will grow quickly, and the last thing you want is to be taking so many new clients that your existing clients aren't able to get a spot on your schedule to maintain their precious investment! YIKES! There's a trick to this! You must be able to set the period of time you allow clients to book through your booking system. For example, I only open my calendar for the next 5 weeks - that leaves me room to pre-book my existing clients at the 6-8 week mark before those spots are snatched up. New clients will only see what is available for the next 5 weeks. How likely is it that I'll have openings for new clients? Quite honestly, it varies, but having my booking system set this way means I'm ALWAYS able to accept new client inquiries. From time to time, women will decide they don't want to wear extensions any more or they want to take a break, OR as is the case now, my team is expanding and our capacity for taking on new clients is growing. If we have an opening on our schedule, I'm able reach out to those on the waitlist first before making the announcement on social media. The beauty of this is that because of my virtual consultation form, I have a running waitlist that I can email to notify that appointments have become available and are ready to book online. I provide a link to book and then shortly thereafter make another announcement on social media, and any open spots on my calendar are filled pretty quickly.
While offering online booking isn't always feasible when you're first starting to offer a customized service such as hair extensions, for me, it was definitely a goal to be able to get smart about my business and automate my booking process in such a way that would not only allow me to have more time to focus on my family when I wasn't behind the chair, but that would feel streamlined, professional, and easy for the client as well.
Have you thought of everything when it comes to your booking process? What other bottlenecks do you experience with your extensions business? Share in the comments and tune back in for more posts like this one!