To build a successful beauty business, you need to create good systems. These include workflows for daily operation or as-needed processes like employee training.
In a salon, for example, you need a process for opening/closing, managing inventory, handling the finances, and maintaining equipment. A good system is documented, automatic, and repeatable.
The Benefits of Front Desk Process Automation
In this article, we focus on the benefits of automating reception processes with AI-powered software. First off, consider how many individual tasks fall under the “reception” or “visitor management” umbrella. They include greeting guests, promoting your services, taking phone calls from clients and prospects, and scheduling, canceling and rebooking appointments. Depending on your business model, it might include taking payments.
Reception processes are critical to the guest experience – especially the first interaction. If a prospect has a negative initial touchpoint, it can be a dealbreaker. We’ve all experienced a less-than-ideal first impression whether it’s on the phone or on a website:
- Calling the business and hearing an automated message directing you to leave a voicemail
- Having your call answered by a human and immediately being put on hold
- Unsuccessfully trying to schedule with a malfunctioning online scheduling tool
- Using a basic chatbot that fails to deliver useful information or answer your questions
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered front desk software?
Front desk automation platforms go by various names including “Virtual Receptionists,” “Conversational AI for Front Desk Automation,” “Visitor Management Systems,” and “Virtual Front Desk Assistants” (plus combinations of these terms). While different solutions may focus on or emphasize different use-case scenarios, any competent platform must perform the following functions:
- Automatically interact with customers through SMS or website chatbot
- Integrate with other business software including booking, point of sale (POS), phone, messaging and texting applications
- Automatically answer guests’ questions about your products and services
- Get “smarter” over time by using each visitor touchpoint to continually improve interactions
- Track and report key performance metrics via an analytics dashboard
How can an automated reception process help my business?
Let’s discuss the specific benefits of automating reception and customer service processes.
- Saves Time
In a salon, automation can save thousands of labor hours per year. A virtual receptionist can handle as many customer interactions as you need.
- Reduces Operating Costs
The monthly price of an AI platform is significantly lower than paying an employee to manage the tasks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for a salon receptionist is $14.40 per hour, or roughly $560 per week. An AI platform can provide similar (and in many cases, better) service at a lower cost, allowing you to allocate your resources more efficiently. In fact, some office automation tools cost less than $500 per month – less than a week’s pay for a receptionist.
- Serves Clients and Prospects 24/7/365
Office automation software is not limited by your business hours. Like most of us, your clients manage their lives with a mobile phone at all hours of the day or night. Innovative businesses meet their clients where they are – anytime, anywhere. With a capable AI platform, you can provide a modern guest experience that reflects well on your business.
- Increases Revenue
As mentioned, a visitor management platform can handle unlimited calls. Typically, the only limit on the number of appointments booked is client demand and business capacity. You will never lose potential revenue because of an unanswered phone call or clunky online scheduling system.
- Sells More Products and Services
This is another way automation increases revenue. Salon receptionists are typically not trained salespeople. Though every salon owner wants their front desk team to “sell” products and services – to both prospects and existing clients – this is rarely the case. Selling doesn’t come naturally to most people, receptionists included. AI software, on the other hand, can suggest add-ons for booked appointments and close the deal for interested prospects.
The image below is a screenshot from an SMS message in an automated TrueLark conversation. Our AI engine presented it in the context of a conversation immediately after the guest scheduled a service.
What if you could increase your upsell rate without extending your business hours or hiring another employee?
- Prevents Errors
Virtual receptionist automation software reduces human error. If implemented properly, it won’t double book a service provider, give incorrect information or schedule a client at the wrong location.
- Increases Efficiency
AI visitor management systems are ideal for handling well-defined transactional tasks like managing appointments or notifying clients of a promotion through SMS. Automation allows employees to focus on serving guests and performing their specialized job roles. This streamlines your business operations and increases efficiency.
Overall, AI-powered front desk office automation software can be a valuable addition to any salon. Consider that an automated receptionist will:
- Never miss a call
- Take calls around the clock regardless of business hours
- Never put a caller on hold when handling simultaneous calls
- Never take breaks or vacations
- Not require ongoing training
- Suggest add-ons for every booked appointment
- Always provide accurate information
- Cater to clients who prefer to communicate through texting
Should you go 100% receptionless or use a hybrid model?
Many salons have successfully transitioned to a front desk-less model. Some use an SMS app that directs guests to check in when they arrive and have a seat in the reception area while waiting for their appointment. When their stylist is ready for them, they come to the waiting area, greet the guest and walk them to their work station.
This is not an all-or-nothing choice, however. Business owners that have decided to forego a dedicated receptionist may not want guests to encounter an empty reception area. A hybrid system uses software where appropriate and face-to-face human interaction where needed.
This system is well-suited for salons without a separate reception area because team members can easily see when a client arrives. If the stylist hasn’t finished with the previous client, another employee can greet the guest.
Many hair salon franchises that take walk-ins use this model. Customers can book appointments with a mobile app or show up without an appointment and sign in on a kiosk. As customers arrive throughout the day, stylists take turns greeting them. When the stylist is ready for their next client, they walk them to the appropriate station. When the appointment is finished, the service provider handles the payment and check-out.
How is TrueLark superior to other visitor management providers?
There is a broad range of functionality among the solutions on the market. The vast majority have only basic automation features which means a human often needs to intervene – in fact, if the AI deflects to your staff too often, it can end up increasing workload for your staff, and this will end up hurting more than it helps. Minimal functionality also affects the booking conversion rate.
It’s significant that most solutions targeted to the beauty market don’t even track key automation metrics. Presumably, this is because it would highlight the disparity between low-level tech and the advanced Artificial Intelligence used in the TrueLark platform. Take the Call Handled Rate, for instance. This is the percentage of calls that don’t require your staff’s intervention. Our software has an average 80% Call Handled Rate across our client base and our customers can track it daily in their dashboard. In contrast, competitor platforms have a Call Handled Rate around 15%. If your virtual receptionist can only handle 15% of calls, it cannot be considered true “automation.”
Ready to learn more?
We would love to discuss how our solution can improve your reception and front desk operations. We invite you to schedule a demo with one of our experts.
Photo by Max Vakhtbovych on Pexels.