Tech Pilots: Voga Salon and Salon Clouds Laurel Nelson
By: Laurel Nelson | July 17, 2017
Armando Laya is a former engineer and self-professed technology geek turned salon owner. He and wife Ashlee have owned Voga Salon in Overland Park, Kansas, for the past five years.
So when he attended a salon business conference a few years ago, he was on the hunt for new technology to enhance his business. After talking to several vendors, and even purchasing a product from one, he met Dilan DeSilva, owner of Salon Clouds.
“I’m a numbers-driven nerd, and Dilan had an app that caught my attention,” Laya says. “I began asking questions and telling him what I wanted in an app.”
For every question Laya asked, DeSilva answered, “Yes, the app can do that.”
“He was able to put the information into the app that I wanted to use to coach my staff,” Laya says. “I returned the other product I purchased and signed up with Salon Clouds.”
Laya’s love of the app isn’t just about the numbers though. Average service ticket, rebooking, new clients vs. total clients—these statistics were already available to him through his management software.
“But the numbers aren’t as user friendly or accessible in software platforms,” Laya explains. “So I asked Dilan to extract the information from my software to present to my staff rather than pulling Excel spreadsheets.”
By using the Salon Clouds app, Laya was able to eliminate the data gathering step and put everything in a pretty format for his creative stylists.
“Stylists look at the calendar to see their revenue,” DeSilva says. “When they get up in the morning, our app will pop up and say, ‘Hey we notice you are not hitting your goal, do you want help?’ Or they get badges for doing well, which add up as points, which gives them money.”
“We’re trying to push salons into the current age,” DeSilva says. “They are behind in technology, and if owners don’t adopt technology like booking from Facebook or even booking from devices like Alexa, they’ll miss the boat.”
For the Client
Salon Clouds has an app for stylists and also for clients—an app that is particularly intriguing for salons on the cutting edge.
“The client app begins to understand your clients from the first time they see your business, and then takes them on a journey,” DeSilva says.
The app performs traditional tasks like e-mail marketing and confirmations, but takes it to the next level.
“For example, the client will get a reminder from the app that their appointment is in an hour, but it will also show her the traffic from her house to the salon,” DeSilva says. “Then the client can notify the salon if she is running late—through the app—and the salon can adjust accordingly.”
Laya says the possibilities are endless for his clientele. “We can send them texts, push notifications, info on loyalty programs and connect them to our e-commerce.”
The e-commerce piece was particularly important to Laya, who says his online store is an important part of revenue for his salon. When both the app and Laya’s e-commerce site were ready, DeSilva worked with Millennium (Laya’s software management company) to make sure Salon Clouds could “talk” to the software.
“Dilan also took care of the process for the e-commerce site and the US Postal Service to ‘talk,’” Laya says. “He’s able to integrate his technology with technologies that currently exist in order to increase efficiency and accessibility of information.”
And for Laya’s guests, using the app is a seamless experience.
“Clients can click on their stylist’s favorite product and be directed to our site to buy it,” he says. “I talked to Dilan about including this and he delivered. A lot of people can talk a big game, but follow-through is key. His product is constantly better because he takes customer feedback to make his tool even more appealing to the people using it.”
Bells and Whistles
Customizing the client app has been a game changer for Laya. But for his clients, the app is revolutionary.
“They can play the lottery every day to see if they win one of our prizes,” he says. “It could be a complimentary brow shaping, a hair cut—whatever we want to offer.”
And when the salon calls the client to tell her she has won the “lottery,” it’s an opportunity to get her back in the salon and book additional appointments.
Clients can also purchase gift cards from the app, customize it and e-mail it to anyone. And if they’re not sure what type of service they want to gift, a complete list of services is also available as well as bios of the team.
“They can request appointments and check for last-minute openings,” Laya says. “We are able to let our clients know if a stylist is suddenly open, which has helped me increase efficiency by increasing productivity on a real-time basis.”
There’s also a gallery in the app where Laya showcases his team’s work.
“Instead of opening Google to look at images, they can choose from our gallery, and then we have the formula,” he says. And of course, a loyalty and rewards program is also available and easy to use for clients.
Like everything else, it’s totally customizable. “When a client pulls up our punch card, nine little gift boxes show up. When scanned, the box turns pink. Our salon colors are pink, black and white, so everything revolves around that theme.”
The client app also helps take the guess work out of marketing for Laya. With the SEO program in Salon Cloud, he can choose which sectors he wants to invest in marketing.
DeSilva says re-booking is another area the client app is a game changer—particularly for the clients who don’t want to prebook while in the salon.
“A couple weeks before they should book, we pop up through the app and say, ‘We notice you didn’t rebook your next appointment.’ The client can then book the appointment in only two clicks.”
And as soon as a client walks in the door of the salon, the app will pop up and invite her to check in, rather than wait for the front desk. The app also asks the client if she would like a beverage, and then tells the front desk exactly what the client wants.
“Then the next time a guest comes in, the app knows her preferences. The system also checks the client out and allows her to set up her preferences,” DeSilva says.
Testing the Product
In the beginning, DeSilva tested his apps out in a local salon and even quit his job to work the front desk himself to get a first-hand understanding of the ins and outs of daily salon life.
In his research he met many owners who were primarily stylists and not in tune with best business practices.
“I would watch them send out blanket e-mails and knew there was a better way,” DeSilva says. “So our system differentiates clients and sends out different e-mails—for example to males or females.”
For Salon Clouds, practically every client serves as a tech pilot. DeSilva customizes the technology for each individual salon, designing components of the app as needed. In turn, the customizations he creates become options for new customers.
At Voga Salon, Laya looked at Salon Clouds’ pre-set metrics and wanted to add more, which DeSilva was able to accommodate. Now, the new version of the app comes with pre-set metrics, but gives the owner the ability on the back end to customize or add more.
“Dilan’s aware of owner feedback and makes changes when he needs to,” Laya says.
As for Laya’s clients—they are enjoying all the perks that come with technology.
“They like getting reminders and the ability to text us to reschedule,” he says. “They don’t have to call the salon and get put on a hold anymore. We just text them back and confirm."
Laya is also able to document details about each client so stylists can book their time accordingly. For example, a client with thin hair may take 10 minutes less on a blow dry.
“Even though the currency exchanged in the salon is dollars, I believe the true currency we’re exchanging is time—it’s the number-one equalizer,” Laya says.“So we try to enhance the amount of time the client spends with us by putting value into it. We understand everyone is busy and want to make it as easy as we can.”
DeSilva says his goal for any salon who comes on board with Salon Clouds is straightforward.“I want to put technology in that will increase their revenue and make the lives of their clients and stylists simpler.”