about Reservation Software
By Skip Williams
you ever watched Computerized reservation systems in other industries?
Last time I was at the Airline reservation counter, I noticed
the Reservations person made eye contact with me exactly twice
and both times for only a fraction of a second, yet I spent about
6-8 minutes conducting business with this person. I have experienced
similar episodes at Car Rental Counters, Hotel Front Desks, and
my local D.M.V. I am not sure how you feel about this treatment,
I know that I am not "insulted" by these experiences,
but they do make me feel more like a number not a person.
in Food Service, when a Waiter or Waitress takes my order with
that little pad of paper or order slip, I feel far more concern
for "my needs". Their eyes make contact with each person
at the table, they jot the notes and make check marks on the slip,
and I feel like a real person.
the Airlines and the Restaurants may be very different types of
business (although both are computerized); yet I feel they send
a very different message to its customers. I draw this parallel
to our own industry, and wonder how our clients feel when our
eyes rarely leave a computer screen.
is not a reflection on the quality of programming or ease of use
of the various software packages that we have all seen and some
of us use. Quite the contrary, being a bit of a techno-geek myself
I am continually amazed by how well these software manufactures
incorporate all those great features into a fairly easy to learn/use
Managers we all love the reports, the cash register control, and
the "Real Time" aspects. I just wonder how much we may
have sacrificed the "personal customer interaction"
for better management reports.
does not mean I put no importance on the computerized controls
that must be put in place, instead I think this is a great example
of the balance between "proper controls" and "customers
needs", between "customer service" and "management
needs", between "technology" and "impersonal
this industry more than others we sell a "customer experience".
If we have the best systems in the world and cheapen our service
then what have we gained?
all that said, should we computerize our Spa/Salon? The answer
is "yes, but".
all need to track several things in our facility that the accounting
system alone will not track here are a few examples:
all of these, and you can probably think of a few more, are critical
to managing the business and a computer system makes this a simple
task. We should all take advantage of computer systems to perform
all these tasks.
I have a problem with these systems is allowing them to do our
scheduling. In many larger operations we do not have a choice
there is no practical way to have two or three Front Desk Agents,
a Reservations Agent (in a back room somewhere), and a Spa Director
(booking a Group in his/her office) to share a single "paper
book". In these larger operations additional terminals for
Providers to "clock in/out" and check their schedule,
pager systems and bar code readers can be very useful as well.
small and medium size Spas/Salons where generally there is not
more than one or two people utilizing "the book" at
any given time, I would caution against using an electronic scheduling
system. Personal service and personal attention is one of the
major advantages a small facility has over the larger Spas/Salons
and by giving this up you may be tossing out one of the reasons
your clients choose you.
possible I recommend using these great computer systems to there
fullest potential but NOT in front of the customer. When the computer
is driving the transaction, I feel the Front Desk Agents
focus is in the wrong place. If you are not convinced, please
watch next time you are at an airline or hotel desk, you will
see the focus on the computer first and the client second.
software vendors tell me that this problem is minimized or non-existent
in "their software" because of the special ease of use
and simplicity of their scheduling system. Indeed most vendors
have worked very hard and use ingenious methods to make this task
as simple as possible and I applauded their programming skills.
The problem however is NOT the software, nor is it the computer
skills of the Front Desk Agents, it is the system we have put
in place for the sake of those great reports. We have certainly
made the life of the Manager better, but we may have complicated
the lives of the Client and Front Desk Agent.
using these systems as a point of sale system, may be the answer.
If we wait until the Client has left the desk before we enter
anything into the computer then a lot of these problems go away.
Of course this would require maintaining the old "paper book"
with all its problems for scheduling, or coming up with some "hybrid"
way of taking the info on a paper slip. Then entering it into
the computer later, similar to the way a waiter or waitress takes
our dinner order.
you use a computer and to what degree you use it, never underestimate
the value of extensive training at the front desk. We want to
give our Spa/Salon a great first impression, and let the Client
know we have nothing more important to do than to serve his/her
immediate needs right now!
top of training toward immediate needs of the Client, the next
most important to do is to remove all distractions from the Client
Front Desk interaction wherever possible. While not always
practical, any distraction such as the computer system, telephone,
other Providers, Retail sales, or even other Clients should be
removed or at least minimized. This is accomplished by always
having adequate Front Desk Staff available, possibly having a
reservations room or separate retail staff if your operation is
large enough, and always work toward simplifying the check-in
I have consulted in Spas/Salons around the country I have noticed
an unfortunate lack of adequate time available for the Front Desk
Agent to do his/her job properly. When things get a little busy,
that Client that does not quite know what services he/she wants
and is looking for guidance, gets left to figure it out on their
own while the Front Desk Agent takes a phone call or completes
a different transaction. Could you imagine a Car Sales Person
being distracted by such things as they were trying to "close
have heard me preach in other articles about the importance of
controlling labor costs, so I must be careful here. However, we
sometimes look at a vacant front desk at various times during
the day and ask ourselves why we have X amount of people working
at the front desk that day. When assigning the amount of labor
we need at the front desk for any given day we must look at the
busy periods not the slow periods. We must have adequate help,
or at least a plan to draw it from another part of the facility,
if we are going to give our Clients the type of service they deserve.
we expect a Computerized Reservation System to make these problems
go away, then we are buying a system for the wrong reason. On
that I believe most reputable software manufactures and I will
agree, but let me take it one step further, I believe that Computer
System may even exacerbate the problems. Adding computers to make
Management life easier is not necessarily the answer. We must
make the processes better and more efficient for our Clients and
Front Desk. Each time we add a new step to the process it is like
adding toll booths to a highway, while the accountability is nice,
the bottle necks, congestion, and slow downs are counter productive.