As a young stylist, Patty Martin dreamed of creating the kind of salon she longed to work in. And, as a young educator for Davines, Martin experienced many different salon cultures, and she constantly was evaluating.
“I had a big driving force to be part of a team, and I wanted an environment that created a brave space that fostered growth,” she says. “I never quite found the right environment, so I came to the conclusion that I needed to create that space myself. Sometimes you need other eyes.”
When it came time to create that dream in Boston, Massachusetts, Martin became the driving creative force, while her husband Josh Scheidel did the research on how to start a business, secure financing and set up payroll and taxes for their employees.
With a background in construction, Scheidel spent most of his married life serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. “My side is more analytical, and I work to make sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes,” he said.
In October 2017, the couple launched Love and Mercy Salon, naming it for a Brian Wilson song they both loved. Together, they spent quite a bit of time researching what salon software they would open with. “We asked all the other salon owners we knew and respected, then looked at the top five systems,” Martin says. “For me, it needed to be visually pleasing, and Josh examined how it would support the salon’s business needs, and we both wanted it to be user-friendly. It had to pass both our tests.”
Together, the couple decided Rosy Salon Software was their go-to system. “It passed both our tests, and it wasn’t an especially expensive software to use,” Scheidel says. “Some have massive upfront costs, then you’re locked in—with Rosy the pricing was straightforward, and the cost has remained relatively low.
Moving Toward Deskless
Like many salons across the country, Love and Mercy adopted new technology practices to help them reopen during the pandemic, and some of those changes transitioned how the salon was managed.
While they opened with a concierge-style front desk with a full-time receptionist that helped clients book appointments and answered emails and phone calls, after reopening when COVID closed them temporarily, the owners started encouraging clients to book online and check in upon arrival via text. Today, the majority of Love and Mercy clients either book online, or they prebook their next appointment while in the chair with the help of their stylist.
“We aren’t completely deskless, yet,” says Rosie Law-Amirault, who serves as the salon’s chief director. “Before the pandemic, we had two full-time receptionists, then after reopening we had one full-time and two part-time receptionists. Today, we don’t have a receptionist. There is a studio coordinator and myself, and we both can step in and help a client book or check out if needed.”
“We have tripled in size since we opened, and we wanted to give more freedom to our stylists in how they were booked—today they have full access and control over their books,” Martin says. “They know if they want to book a mini-partial or a full foil for the next visit, and we simplified the menu of services that clients can book online themselves. The stylists can easily change the ticket when they and a client change the appointment. It removed the barrier between stylist and client.”
Before the use of online booking, the salon’s receptionists would field 20-50 emails each day from clients looking for appointments, which was a drain on the salon’s resources.
“We had errors with clients being checked out correctly, especially when we were working with part-time receptionists,” says Law-Amirault. “Messages were simply lost in translation. But now that stylists are checking out and prebooking their own clients, they know exactly what to charge and how much time they need for the next appointment, and there is little to no error.”
Law-Amirault estimates that between 60-70% of regular clients leave with at least one or two future appointments on the books, and about 90% of new clients book using the online system. “Most of our clients are 50 and under, and in their personal lives, they are using online shopping and booking travel online. And they love the ability to book 24/7 when it’s convenient for them. It’s made both their lives and our lives much easier.”
There are still two colorists that the salon doesn’t allow clients to book via online booking, because they double book clients and use assistants. That can be challenging for clients to navigate, so the coordinator or Law-Amirault help facilitate those bookings.
Today, about 15 minutes before a client’s appointment begins, a feature through Rosy Software pings clients asking if they want to check in via the automated system, then invites them to take a seat in the salon’s waiting area.
Martin, Scheidel and Law-Amirault all love that Rosy Salon Software has grown in functionality through partnerships with other companies, so the salon can grow along with it.
Through an introduction through Rosy, the salon recently brought Tippy onboard. A tip management system, Tippy encourages higher tipping by helping clients calculate different percentages at checkout, and encourages clients to send a thank you to the stylist. Tips are automatically deposited into the stylists’ bank accounts through Branch, and credit card processing fees are rolled to what the client pays, so the salon doesn’t have to bear the burden of that fee on generated tips.
Law-Amirault also believes clients tend to tip a little more when Tippy calculates and show them the different percentage amounts, because, “Let’s face it, some of us are just bad at math.”
But Tippy’s biggest benefit for Love and Mercy’s operations is the fact that it alleviates that awkward conversation a stylist might have while checking out their client chairside. “They don’t want to ask their client if they want to leave a tip and for how much,” Law-Amirault says. “Tippy makes is so easy, it asks and put the options right there on the tablet.”
Martin says Tippy also is a big help if more than one staff member works with a client during a service. “Sometimes people might forget to tip an apprentice, but at checkout, the system will show them the people who worked with them today and ask them if they want to tip each.”
Standing Firm on Cancellations
The salon also leverages RosyPay, Rosy’s integrated payment processing system. “It’s very easy to use and straightforward. With RosyPay, not only do we know we’re getting competitive credit card processing rates, but the system makes sure we are storing the clients’ data safely,” Martin says. “That allows us to offer contactless checkout or chairside checkout, which can be carried out by any team member. We’ve been really happy with this integration.”
Because the Love and Mercy stylists are booked out several weeks in advance, most clients don’t leave without booking the next one or two appointments. The salon estimates that 99% of clients have a credit card stored in the salon system, and they can cancel or reschedule up to 48 hours prior to the appointment. If they fail to show up for their appointment or call within 48 hours before service time, they are charged the full amount for the missed appointment. And Martin grants almost no exceptions.
“We explain that guests are reserving the stylist’s time, which impacts their income, and that they need to respect that. Just because you woke up feeling a little under the weather, it’s not fair that your stylist should have to take a pay cut,” Martin says. “We are really proud of how we respect staff and clients. We offer our team full health and dental benefits, paid vacation and sick time. It’s really important for us to enforce our policies, be a respectable company and give our staff a place to work where they can accurately predict their income.”
“Sometimes we do have to be tough and firm, and it helps that we usually have a paper email trail with the client. Emotions are steadier in writing than they are over the phone,” Law-Amirault says. “Our email confirmation reminders goes out four to five days before their appointment. In the schedule, an appointment shows blue if the client didn’t confirm, it’s orange if they did, it’s yellow if a stylist confirmed it for them. A text reminder goes out two days before the appointment as well as the day of the appointment. If they don’t confirm, we don’t necessarily reach out, but their stylist might.”
Before having Rosy Salon Software to email and text out appointment reminders, Law-Amirault says they used to spend tedious hours calling. “These automated features help make this business a lot easier and smoother to run. We don’t have voicemail turned on, in our message we ask clients to send a text because we love a digital paper trail. It makes it a lot easier.”
Martin does concede that emergencies happen and occasionally she’ll extend a gift card to the client in the amount they paid for their missed service, but that is rare.
The management team at Love and Mercy try to meet individually with staff members once a month. “The report we review together is ‘Sales Growth Analysis’ and it looks at the current week’s performance, as well as the 12 weeks prior, breaking down total sales, service sales and retail sales,” Martin says. “It charts a graph, so the stylists see a visual of how they are performing, and it’s easy to identify where they can make some changes for improvement.”
Some of the KPIs the salon tracks are how many clients prebooked, and how many clients the stylist retained—showing which ones fail to return to the salon, or they returned but to a different stylist. “It helps to show them what they are doing well, then identify an area that they can focus on and help them with goal setting,” Scheidel says. “Not everyone who walks in is an established stylist, you have to see where their number are.”
The salon uses two different pay models at the salon. When an apprentice is hired they are strictly hourly. When they start doing blowdrys on the floor, the salon adds a small commission. New stylists can have a hybrid compensation if they are seeing clients some days and working as an apprentice others. “We meet with them about six weeks after they started hybrid commission to analyze their numbers and to see if they feel confident to be rolled over to a commission percentage only,” Martin says.
As stylists gain more experience and become full-time, they have a base price. The salon maintains different tiers and staff members’ experience increases, their pricing increases, although the commission percentage stays the same. “When they are 100% booked with a wait list, it’s time to talk about a price increase and a promotion,” Martin says. “Our one-on-one meetings are pretty proactive. We’ll sit down with them and look at their financial goals, for example if they want to buy a house. We can break it down and show them what they need to do to get there.”
“Together we look at their data to decide when they are ready for a price increase,” Law-Amirault says. “In addition to health and dental benefits, we offer a 401K and support through our studio coordinator and apprentices. And they receive education credits that help pay for outside education they may want to pursue.”
Looking Forward to Marketing
The Love and Mercy Team recently brought on another Rosy partner, Salon Ninja, to help with marketing, but at the time of the interview hadn’t had much experience using it. Salon Ninja helps with email, text and voicemail marketing; manages Facebook and Google ads; allows salons to do automated drip campaigns; offers forms and survey builders; helps salons track calls and SEO; manages salon websites; sets up two-way messages; manages their online reviews; and helps manage their social.
In total, the tool helps connect the salon with new leads, creating simple automated funnels that capture visitors’ contact information.
“We don’t do discount marketing, but we do send out newsletters promoting the different products and services we have in the salon,” says Law-Amirault. “We just started using Salon Ninja for automatic thank you messages with a survey about their experience and we’ve started utilizing them to reach out to clients whom we haven’t seen in a while. Salon Ninja also offers website design, and they are in the process of rebuilding our website and incorporating our second location.”
The Vish color management tool was another Rosy tech partner that Love and Mercy brought on right as they were reopening after the pandemic. “We had salon owners friends who used it and suggested we check it out,” Martin says. “We were closed for two months, which was the perfect time to assess how it was going to work and put new systems in place. COVID really taught us to be more aware of every dollar coming in and going out, and how that tied to product waste. This system keeps everyone accountable.”
For every color client, there is a client profile in the system with a saved formula history. When a stylist creates and applies the client’s formula, they reweigh the bowl at the end of the service, and if there is color leftover, Vish adjusts the formula so on the client’s next visit there is no waste. At the close of the appointment, Vish also speaks to the front desk. For example if a stylist added a partial foil to a client’s service and added an extra bowl of color, the system knows how to calculate that and adds it to the client’s ticket.
“That covers the salon’s cost of the additional color used, and the stylist is compensated for the extra service,” says Law-Amirault. “It’s also incredibly helpful if a client can’t get into to see their primary colorist. Since their formula is saved in history, it’s easy for any other colorist to recreate. You’re examining the actual client’s color history, not flipping through a recipe box.”
In addition, Love and Mercy is a Green Circle salon and they charge each client a $5 eco fee for every service. “We don’t have to do that manually, Rosy calculates it onto the ticket every time. That fee allows us to recycle 95% of our waste.”
As chief director, inventory falls into Rosie Law-Amirault’s list of responsibilities. Vish helps Amirault track color inventory and lets her know when she needs to place another order, while Rosy tracks all the retail and backbar.
“We carry Davines and there are so many SKUs,” she says. “We set the minimums for each SKU we carry, and when a client checks out, Rosy automatically deducts from the quantity we have. Once a week, we pull a report and Rosy will pull up a purchase order with anything low in stock, telling us what to order.”
Before Rosy, the salon had to manually count each SKU once a week, so the automated inventory saves a lot of time and energy. “It was a hugh time suck,” says Law-Amirault.
“The salon wasn’t using the inventory function when I came on four years ago, but made sure we started using it. Not only does it help us track what we have on the shelves, it gives us a good idea of what products we need to keep in higher quantities and when. For example, our products with sun protectant are more popular in summer, while the hydrating ones get snapped up in winter, so we can account for that.”
The primary role of technology is to make life easier, and Patty Martin and Josh Scheidel believe Rosy Salon Software has done just that as they established and grown Love and Mercy.
“It’s simplicity and straightforwardness are key, and it’s been nice working with the different tech partners to help streamline everything and make it transparent,” Scheidel says. “We’ve continued to look at what other booking platforms do, but Rosy has everything we want to have and it’s improving every year.”
It’s all about evolving to be better with the times,” adds Martin. “And, we appreciate that.”
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