Choosing the right Management Software

When choosing a software management system for your salon or spa you need to realise that your industry is very different from other industries.

Other industries will have their own specific requirements from the software management systems. For example, a restaurant system needs to be centred on managing tables and be a robust and fast enough to endure multiple waitrons under high pressure abusing it day after day.

A supermarket on the other hand will rely on speed and simplicity as being the main requirement (as well as stability) so that customers can pay for high quantities (trolley loads) of items as quickly as possible. Therefore, a high tech barcode scanner and built in credit card processing are some of the requirements needed by supermarkets.

When it comes to the wellness industry which includes beauty salons, nail salons, day spas, hotel spas (amongst other types of spas) and even will cross over in to the hair industry and medical aesthetics there are businesses requirements and processes that are common to all. These include things like detailed Client Record keeping, Appointment Scheduling, the Sale of Retail and Services, Gift Vouchers, Loyalty Schemes, Commission Calculations, Stock Control for both Retail and Professional Stock and Communication with clients via Email and SMS.

If you take the flow of information in a salon or spa environment it will go something like this. A client calls in to make an appointment. If not already on the system a new client record will be created. Thereafter the appointment will be created for the relevant service and staff member. Once the client comes in and has completed their service they will proceed to “checkout” and possibly add a Retail item to the sale. Once the sale is completed the information will appear on a day-end cash up so that you can account for all transactions that took place and ensure that all corresponding money is in the til. Stock levels will have been adjusted throughout the day as stock was sold. At the end of the period you will use all of the daily transactions to calculate staff service and retail commission as well as generate reports to see how well you have performed. You will also send out communication to your clients to remind them of appointments, inform them of news as well as promotions.

When the client returns for their next visit the cycle begins all over again but now you have a history of the client and are able to provide them with a more personalised level of service as a result of tracking all their previous visit’s information.

There are many other processes that could be mentioned but this process makes up the core of what is common amongst salons and spa’s. With all of this in mind it is very obvious why accounting systems, retail systems and restaurant systems are not applicable when running a salon or spa.

Apart from the different types of salons and spas already mentioned it’s also worth highlighting that a beauty salon could be run from home salon or an exclusive shopping centre. It could even be on a ship, in an airport or be mobile. It could be a standalone branch or belong to a group (or franchise).  The common elements amongst all of these include the fact that there are still clients booking treatments with therapists as well as purchasing retail items and gift vouchers.

Differences within the salon and spa environments

Now that we have defined what is common amongst salons and spas let’s take a look at what are some of the differences.

Hotel Spas vs Day Spas

If you consider Hotel Spa’s versus Day Spa’s a big difference is the nature of the clients. In a hotel spa you may find yourself primarily servicing guests of the hotel who in many instances will never return or if they do it will only be once or twice a year. At a day spa your clients will be primarily be made up of local residents who will visit regularly throughout the year.

A system requirement for the hotel spa industry is an interface between the spa software and the hotel software. The purpose of this is so that the hotel can offer their guests a seamless experience as if the hotel and spa are one and so that the guest can charge their spa treatment to their room.

If there is no interface between the spa and hotel software then either after each sale or at various times throughout the day the spa receptionist will need to take all the signed room charge invoices to the hotel reception so that they can add them to the guests hotel bill.

If the guest has already checked out by the time the spa receptionist arrives at the hotel reception with the guest’s bill then it is much more difficult to obtain payment for the spa treatment, as the guest is already gone. A real-time posting to the hotel system will mean that this will never happen.

On top of all of this the spa will need to be able to reconcile accounts with the hotel for all the guest room charges from the spa so that they can get their money from the hotel.

Beauty Salons vs Spas

A difference worth highlighting between beauty salons and day/hotel spas is the need to monitor which rooms are being booked off. You may find some of the bigger beauty salons booking off treatment rooms as well as staff but generally it is spas that do it due to the size difference.

This means that when you book an appointment you not only need to determine which qualified staff member is going to do the treatment but also if there is a room available to do the treatment in. As the size of the salon or spa gets bigger so the need for this functionality increases.

Beauty Salons and Spas vs Hair Salons

Functionality common to beauty salons and spa’s which is not as common in a hair salon includes packages, courses and stock recipes.


Packages are made up of multiple treatments and/or products, which are bundled together at a discounted rate. Some of the difficulties that arise in managing a package include how to set up one package with one price but made up of multiple different types of items, which each need to be tracked individually and for which different staff will earn commission on each of the items.


Courses, unlike Packages, are made up of the same item but multiple instances of it, which are redeemed over a period of time. For example a client may purchase a course of 10 massages, slimming or sunbed sessions. When the client pays for these the sessions that make up the course need to be linked to the clients record and counted down each time they redeem one of the sessions. In a similar way to Packages each of the treatments within the course need to be tracked individually in order for stock levels (recipes) to be adjusted. In additiona staff members need to earn commission on redemption of each of the individual sessions.

Stock Recipes

Stock Recipes are the professional stock items that are deducted every time a treatment is done. For example, a Facial will require the use of various quantities of Cleanser, Toner, Moisturiser and other consumables. The stock levels for each of the recipe items must be reduced (in millilitres) every time the respective treatment is performed. In turn the cost per millilitre must be worked out for the recipe so that you can determine the Gross Profit of a particular treatment.

In a hair salon the use of professional stock is different. For example, if a client comes in to get their hair coloured the stylist will use a tailor-made recipe for the client, which may differ the next time the client returns if they desire something different. Therefore stock control per millilitre in a hair salon is best controlled as it is dispensed to stylists. Some salons have staff employed for the sole purpose of dispensing and managing stock as stylists require it throughout the day.

Beyond the features

Therefore since we have laid the foundation that a salon or spa software management system is essential and that a custom built piece of software is not the way to go how do you go about choosing from the available industry specific systems that exist.

Make sure the software is easy to use

Complicated software is frustrating for salon and spa staff, increases training costs and reduces the quality of information produced. Easy systems ensure correct usage and thus a higher quality output.

Make sure the system is flexible and comprehensive

Systems that are not flexible or comprehensive will require that you supplement your processes either with other pieces of software or manual systems, which defeat the objective entirely. A good system will allow you to work in more ways than one as many salons have different management styles and will require very little importing and exporting between other systems and the duplicating of processes.

Make sure it is scalable

One size does not fit all. Choose a system that can grow as your business grows. For example, if you start off as a one-person salon and end up growing your business you do not want to have to start over with a new system but rather just add to your existing system as you and your needs change. A system that caters from small and large salons and spas as well as groups is ideal as you know that you can continue investing in it without fear of outgrowing it.

Also choose a system that meets your budget, where the benefits outweigh the cost. A modular system allows for this as it means you only purchase the functionality you require.