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Charles Penzone’s Big Bang: Growth Through Technology

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Ever wonder what it would be like to have six locations and employ 309 service professionals? Think about the logistics of booking clients, creating schedules and holding meetings. Did you start hyperventilating at the very thought of it?

The six Charles Penzone salons in the Columbus, Ohio-area, do all this and more every day—smoothly and efficiently. The salons have a reputation for being the very best, and utilizing technology has become the key to a happy, productive team who provide the very best customer experience.

Embracing Change

After a couple decades of using an unsupported, antiquated software system, The Charles Penzone salons went live with SalonBiz Enterprise (also known as SalonBiz HA) on April 1, 2014. The salons use everything in the SalonBiz arsenal, including online booking and the SalonBiz Stylist App. This version is great for any salon, but especially larger salons and spas with multiple locations as it has lots of bells and whistles. In addition, SalonBiz handles all the upgrades and back-ups. Then the salon accesses it via a secure connection so it’s not installed on one machine.

SageStaffSheema Masood was hired to implement the new program, which has many customized facets for The Charles Penzone Salons, and she now serves as Technology and Strategic Planning Team Leader.

“Before we implemented SalonBiz, our legacy software would have weekly outages and we couldn’t trust the numbers it generated,” says Masood. “In order to have a platform for growth, we needed an infrastructure overhaul.”

Rolling out a new system like this in six locations is no small feat. To make the process as smooth as possible, Masood says they did a pilot program first with senior directors, who played around with the software’s stylist app. They were then able to answer questions and trouble shoot areas before it was introduced to the rest of the team.

“We went location by location and created a how-to guide on how to get the app on your phone, how to use it and how to understand the stats,” says Masood.

Training only took about two weeks, and nobody ever looked back.

Jena Huffman, Associate Director of Marketing, Communications + Guest Experience, says, “The timing worked really well for us. As an organization, we’re focused on updating our digital presence. This fall we’re updating our website and we’ll have a place for relevant content, promotions, guest information, trends, new products and more.”

She adds, “The online booking widget has given us a code we can embed in our website, too.”

Maximizing the App

The SalonBiz Stylist App has been the biggest change in the Penzone salons and one Millennial stylists have whole-heartedly embraced.

All 300+ service providers were trained on how to book appointments on the app and now, that’s how they do business.

In addition to making Charles Penzone stylists’ jobs easier, the app has also provided better customer service for their guests.

“The fact that stylists can book people right on their phone really tightens up the guest experience,” says Masood.

If a stylist is at a party or out shopping and meets a new guest, he or she can book the appointment right at that moment rather than hand the potential guest a business card that will likely get lost.

It makes the guest feel like the stylist really wants her on her book—it closes that guest loop,” says Masood.

Penzone stylists also love having stats at their fingertips all the time anywhere they are. This access gives them the ability to control their own business, mentor each other and know they are a part of a very open, transparent business.

“Every year we have an awards party based on year-to-date stats,” says Masood. “Now professionals have the ability to see how close they are to winning an award and stepping up their efforts if needs be.”

The app has quickly become an important business-building tool for the company. It allows management to leverage coaching, scheduling, retail and more so they can maximize growth.

Change = Growth

The updated technology has forced the Charles Penzone company as a whole to be more transparent, a practice that was not as familiar before they adopted SalonBiz.

“In the old days, we were hesitant to openly share professional’s numbers, partially because the information wasn’t as accessible and sometimes inaccurate,” says Masood.

Things are quite different these days at the Penzone salons and Masood and the management team have found transparency to be almost a necessity for emerging stylists.

“They are young and grew up with technology and iPhones,” she says. “Having this data accessible to them, in their hands, is a very natural thing for them. It helps mold their careers in the salon industry.”

As for the management team, they are just as excited about the accessibility of information as younger team members.

“One of the things we do now is a comprehensive ranking report,” says Masood. “We rank our team from left to right based on how good their numbers are. Our guest service center now books left to right with priority. So whoever had the best numbers for the last two weeks is rewarded with priority booking.

This has added a competitive edge that motivates stylists and gives management coaching points.

“We can quickly look at the app and let people know they are X percent away from their next retail check, moving up to the next level, etc.,” says Masood.

“Management has the ability to constantly coach professionals on how to grow their business,” she says. “Our retail numbers have increased a lot because of this.”

The new technology also allows the team to be proactive about getting guests into the salon during slow times. With one quick look, management can tell if the books don’t look great on a Monday or Tuesday and the marketing team can generate a list of e-mails for clients who haven’t visited the salon in a while.

“We can throw an offer out to them at the last minute,” says Huffman. “And it’s not always a service at a special price. We also offer free products we get from our manufacturers to add value to the guest. It’s a motivator to get them in and helps with the bottom line,” she says.

Masood adds, “We’ll also focus on cross promotion. So if a client has a hair appointment, we’ll send her a nail offer, or vice versa.”

Guests appreciate the offers as well as their text and e-mail appointment reminders.

We also send a survey for them to fill out so we can keep a pulse on guest satisfaction,” says Huffman.


Enhancing the Client Experience

When you walk into a Charles Penzone salon today, you may see a stylist getting a notification on her Apple watch that a client has checked in or pre-booking a guest on her phone—making the guest experience more efficient.

Guests also utilize Penzone’s online booking—in June 2015, the salons booked 10,750 appointments online, about 35 percent of their total monthly appointments.

The customer experience remains the number-one priority at Penzone and Masood, Huffman and their team continue to look for ways to enhance it via technology.

“We’re currently working on making professional pages on the new website for each of our 300+ professionals,” says Masood.

“On each individual’s page, the guest can see their schedule and availability and then get directed to book with them.”

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Sheema Masood (left), Technology and Strategic Planning Team Leader and Jena Huffman (right), Associate Director of Marketing, Communication + Guest Experience.

Because the Charles Penzone company is so large, they are working with SalonBiz as they develop their new website to customize certain elements like online booking.

Technology has also paved the way for Penzone’s pop-up shops. These visits to corporate campuses are an opportunity for business professionals to quickly get services done without leaving work, or even a place to buy holiday gift cards. And with the handy app at their fingertips, doing business outside the salon is a breeze for Penzone pop-up stylists.

“For example, we have a bridal show coming up where we’ll be doing manicures,” says Masood. “Attendees can get checked in right from our booth.”

To say Charles Penzone salons have embraced technology the past year and a half would be a massive understatement.

“Our digital presence is everything at this point,” says Masood. “The stylists who are building the strongest books are utilizing the technology we’ve provided.”

Charles Penzone’s Growth Stats

With six locations, growth and driving it looks a little different than it does in a smaller company. Here, Sheema Masood Charles Penzone Technology and Strategic Planning Team Leader weighs in.

AVEDA MEANS BUSINESS: What are your top three new-client drivers?

Leverage technology to grow your business. The SalonBiz stylist app is a prime example of this. We encourage our new stylists to venture out and meet new, potential guests throughout the course of their day. We find that many use the SB Stylist App to add new guests into our system, and schedule appointments right from their phone.

Next, leverage your existing guests! Use referral programs to encourage loyal salon guests to bring their friends.

Finally, social media is KING. It’s the modern day “word of mouth.” Our professionals have Instagram and FB pages that they manage and use to grow their business. For those who use it to their advantage, it has tremendous results.

AVEDA MEANS BUSINESS: What are your top three staff retention tips?

Continuous education is KEY. The new generation is constantly wanting to be on the cutting edge of the newest products and trends. Guests of the salons want to make sure our team knows the latest and greatest cuts, colors and styles. Investing in education for our team members is something we’re very proud of. We have classes taking place on a weekly basis, AT THE LEAST! Our professionals are our biggest and most precious asset, so it’s a major priority to invest in their skills and knowledge.

Coach, and coach often. Everyone needs guidance, especially new stylists. If you are constantly coaching your team, you’ll see that the results will follow. When you coach correctly and frequently, you’re not only providing stylists with education, you’re holding them accountable for retaining and utilizing that education.

Take the time to listen. Your professionals are likely to have the best pulse on how your salon is truly doing. Listen to them. Not only will you find that you get great insights, but you’re more likely to have them on board when you are making changes if you get their buy in on things from the get go.

AVEDA MEANS BUSINESS: What is your advice to help salons continue to grow?

Keep it fresh. Trends change by the day so it’s important to stay on top of what the buzz is in the industry, but also getting into the mindset of thinking proactively. Early bird definitely gets the worm in our line of work!

Get creative. Rather than just offering discounts on services, what can you do to get guests in the door? Whether it’s leveraging manufacturer relationships or encouraging your staff to promote each other, there are plenty of ways to increase the number of guests that walk through your door without having to discount services. At the same time, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on providing offers to fill in your books when they are empty. It’s all about reaching a balance!

Make investment a priority. Being lean is great, but always be mindful that you aren’t being lean at a cost. Investment in education, new techniques, services, and tools to provide the best guest experience will benefit you in the long run—even if the up-front costs seem to be a lot.

AVEDA MEANS BUSINESS: What is your advice to help salons continue to engage their staff?

Don’t be afraid to embrace new trends. The reality is that the workforce is changing. The Millennials have a PhD in social media, and grew up with cell phones in their cribs. Rather than focusing on how to get your staff to STOP using those tools on the floor, focus on how you can leverage their expertise in social media, technology and multi-tasking to the advantage of their (and your) business. The only thing constant in our industry is change—and big changes are coming our way.

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