Seamless integration

In my opinion seamless integration of business management processes is critical in improving salon and spa competitiveness. What this equates to in salon and spa management software terms is having one system that can handle as many of your business processes as possible.

Seamless integration will save time because you get rid of duplicating entries into multiple systems and also eradicate manual intervention between systems. It will also improve results because the data is all in one place and can be accessed and harnessed with more power and control.

Seamless integration will also reduce mistakes because the data will be “handled” less by humans in its journey through your system.

The problem with lack of integration

I have observed on many occasions salons and spa’s using distributed systems for the wrong reasons. For example, some try and use Outlook for their appointments and sending their company bulk emails. Some use their cell phones to bulk SMS their clients. Some use a generic Point of Sale system or an Accounting System for their invoicing. Some use Excel to store their Client Database and manage Stock Control. In some cases I have also seen third party systems used for loyalty and gift voucher processing.

The problem is not that any of the above are necessarily bad systems, it just that they are all separate from each other and this is limiting. These distributed system are also very often not designed for the purposes that salon and spa owners try and use them for.

The benefits of seamless integration

Using some of the above examples it is very easy to indicate why seamless integration is preferred. For instance, bulk emailing a database of thousands of clients is just not going to work from a desktop mail program like Outlook, it’s not designed for that.

The core business processes for salons and spas include things like Bookings, Sales, Cash Ups, Reporting, Stock Control, Commissions/Salaries, Bulk Electronic Communication, Gift Vouchers, Loyalty and other smaller transactions like Petty Cash, Staff Purchases, Staff Loans etc.

As a minimum standard the abovementioned business processes should be taken care of by one integrated system as far as possible.

What about 3rd party partnerships?

There are times of-course when you need to partner with other companies who specialise in functionality that is not core to salons and spas but does overlap. For example, if the spa is in a hotel and guests wish to charge their spa treatments to their room invoice then integration with the 3rd party hotel system is important. This needs to be seamless as well in order to avoid problems caused by human intervention.

Another example would be bulk SMS sending as it is ultimately the cell phone companies (Telco’s) that deliver the SMS messages to recipients. 3rd party companies called Wireless Application Service Providers (WASP’s) manage the process of getting the bulk messages to the Telco’s for delivery to the handsets. Therefore integration with a reputable WASP is important as well so that the process of sending a bulk SMS is as seamless as possible in order to make it fast, easy and reliable.

One Data Set to rule them all!

The ultimate benefit to the integration of your internal systems is the power of a single data set. Having one centralised data set will mean that you will get so much more out of it. The more you distribute your data the less valuable it will become with each degree of distribution. For example if you have one database for your sales transactions and another unrelated database for your client information then you will not be able to combine the two to get powerful reports and fine-tuned targeted SMS and Email communication. The list of possibilities goes on with Scheduling Information, Price List information, Staff Information and so on.

Conclusion

When computerising your salon or spa choose a specialised salon and spa software product rather than using a combination of mismatched 3rd party software programs.

When it comes to partnerships with 3rd parties be very careful as I have seen owners waste hundreds of thousands of Rands on things like loyalty schemes with specialised loyalty companies that just never take off because of a lack of integration with their internal management software and in all cases they were able to get what they wanted out of their internal system anyway.

If you do choose to partner with a 3rd party for additional specialised functionality ensure that you do this in close consultation with your internal software provider as a healthy relationship between them and your 3rd party partner will save you a lot of time and money.