The right salon software package can help grooming businesses in a variety of ways, including scheduling appointments, tracking sales and much more.
Keeping good records is vital for any business, but those that depend on consistent results and a personal touch, such as a pet grooming salon, have an even deeper need for them. When I started with my first salon in the late 1980s, my records consisted of an 8 ½- by 11-inch brown Dome appointment book that we entered appointments in by hand and jotted details in the margins. Customer records consisted of index cards filed alphabetically with appointments, styling details and vaccination records written by hand. Some groomers are still working that way today, but the numerous and varied types of business software available now make that sort of record keeping unnecessary—to the point of being almost obsolete.
We’ve all heard the “time is money” saying, and nowhere is that more applicable than in the pet grooming industry. Luckily, the right software can help with managing time more efficiently. Some of the programs help with marketing and promotions, reminders and all sorts of notifications, as well as simple record keeping. Imagine a system that, with a single stroke on your phone, sends a notification— by name—to a customer that their dog is done and they can come get him. How much time will that save, as opposed to putting the dog up, looking up a number and phoning the client, along with the attendant conversation?
Some of the record keeping is not so simple, and using software for these functions may bring joy to your accountant’s heart. The more comprehensive systems make recording and collating expenses and income practically a non-existent task. Instead, your accountant and/or tax preparer have everything they need with a couple of clicks.
Any groomer who begins to research software for their business is sure to quickly realize that the real question is not, “What’s the best software for groomers?” but rather “What do I need the software to do?” With that in mind, your first step should be to make a list of all the things you do that might be more easily done by computer software.
The first and obvious task is to replace that old-fashioned appointment book and customer-record cards. Exactly what you need will depend on multiple factors, including whether you are a sole proprietor operation or larger; whether you have one location or many; if you are a mobile groomer or a stationary salon; if you offer retail, boarding and daycare services or solely grooming; and, of course, your personal preferences.
Some functions that one might want a computer to handle are:
• Listing and booking appointments.
• Waitlists for cancellation appointments by date.
• Searching or viewing appointments by various factors—e.g., by employee, date, client’s last name, dog’s name or phone number.
• Generating and sending reminders for appointments.
• Details on trim and history, including health history.
• Name of veterinarian used, pet’s date of birth and any temperament or special request notes.
• Client history for late pickups, no shows and cancellations.
• Point-of-sale data—i.e., retail and appointment totals, base price for grooming, add-ons and anything else you might need to look up to gauge the health of your business. How did clients find out about your business? How much did each customer spend this year? How did your revenue break down by month, quarter or year? How much was brought in by grooming versus retail?
To come up with your own comprehensive list of must-have features, jot down everything you do every day, as you do it. Then evaluate that list to see how many of the tasks you do every day can potentially be done more easily, more quickly and perhaps better on a computer than by hand. You might find that most of what you do except hands-on pet care can be done by software.
Even after going through this process, there are still bound to be a lot of things that don’t immediately come to mind. With that said, here are some questions that several groomers who have been through the research process themselves suggest you should ask software purveyors:
• Is the software compatible with credit card processing?
• How complicated is the software? Is it easy for new hires and existing staff to learn? Does the manufacturer provide training? How much?
• What sort of support does the company offer? Is there an extra charge for this support? Is the support based in the U.S.?
• Can you test-drive a trial version of the software before purchasing?
• Does each added feature cost more, or are there successive levels of software that allow you to do more?
• Are future updates included, or do they cost more?
• How many clicks does it take to get to the places you are likely to need most often?
• Is it customizable for your business?
• Does it connect with your social media?
• Is the software downloaded onto your computer, or do you need an internet connection to access it? Is there an application for your phone?
Some groomers choose to go with one of the many software packages created for other service industries, such as Storevantage, Mytime, Appointy, Rosy Salon Software and even Google Calendar. With some, customers can make their appointments, while others only allow customers to request an appointment that must be confirmed by the business. Many are free at the most basic levels, and if all you need is an appointment book, those may work for you.
Kat Worley, NCMG, a competitive groomer and owner of Grooms by Kat of Benton City, Wash., uses Google Calendar along with more sophisticated software. She works in more than one location and uses the calendar to allow her to get a visual, one month at a time, on when and where her appointments are so she can see at a glance that she isn’t overbooked on a given day or at any given time.
The reason Worley sought out other software was simple—she had a dozen no-shows in one week. She researched and ended up with PetDesk, which was originally developed for veterinary clinics but offers packages for grooming. It sends clients reminders a week before a scheduled appointment and again two days before. Between that and moving the majority of her clients to monthly appointments, no-shows have been almost entirely eliminated, providing huge savings.
A Variety of Options
Another benefit to using Google Calendar, according to Worley, is that “schedules are made forever. If a dog has ongoing appointments, next year is already in.” The program will also provide a list of a given client’s appointments for a year, which can be printed out individually. Worley gives customers their schedules for the upcoming year and appointment stickers to put on their own calendar as reminders.
One system that strives to cover all the bases in one package is BabelBark, manufacturer of BizBark software for groomers. According to Bill Rebozo, co-founder of the company, this software emulates the experience and convenience a pet owner can have if their boarding facility, trainer, veterinarian and groomer are all under one roof.
“With Millennials not getting married and instead lavishing money on their pets, they want to go to a small local business—a boutique, not a superstore,” says Rebozo, noting that these clients also want the process to be as convenient as possible.
BabelBark provides this convenience, as well as the personal experience that can only be found at a small business. The pet owner downloads a free app to their phone that allows them to select their veterinarian, groomer, trainer or boarding facility, which can then see the pet’s preferences. It allows pet owners to request appointments for their pets, but business owners control the parameters to ensure appointments suit the groomer’s schedule. For example, you can say appointments have to be with at least four hours notice, cannot be more than six months out, or any other limitation. You can specify that dogs under a certain weight require so many hours while larger dogs require more time. The system sends you an email when the pet owner requests an appointment. When you respond, it sends the customer a confirmation email. You can also require that clients call for an appointment. You can add any notes you wish, and they will only be seen by you, not the client.
Not only does BizBark allow customers to set up or request appointments, a grooming business can use it to keep their appointment calendar, as well as for any and all contact management, including medical records, addresses, styling notes and more.
Promotions that you create can be sent to pet parents that have designated you as their groomer. Want to give 10 percent off on Tuesdays to all your customers? Offer a discount for a first groom that will go only to recent adoptions from your local shelter? BizBark can do all that, too. A premium version of BizBark can also do email communications and text reminders to customers before appointments for a fairly small monthly fee. With the pet owner’s permission, you can even see veterinary records, ensuring that you know the vaccinations you are interested in are up to date.
Focused on Groomers
Another popular program is DaySmart’s 123Pet Software, considered by many groomers to be one of the most versatile options available for groomers. Not only does 123Pet enable you to keep your appointment calendar and complete client contact lists with detailed grooming notes up to date easily, it also allows you to send email or text reminders automatically a week and then again a day before appointments. These reminders invite the client to confirm, making it beyond easy for them to do so. This is a great way to reduce those dreaded no-shows. You can also send an automatic text to clients when their dog is done to let them know he or she is ready to be picked up, reducing “Is my dog done yet?” calls to a minimum.
“As groomers graduate from paper calendars, they tend to look for scheduling apps, perhaps with a feature that lets clients request appointments when the shop is closed,” says Steve Martin, chief marketing officer for DaySmart. “Scheduling apps are a great first step, but for a few dollars more, there are whole-business solutions—payroll for employees, including complex commission structures, automated marketing campaigns that keep people coming back, inventory management and POS solutions—the business basics.”
For example, 123Pet Software can identify clients who have not been in for 90 days and send them special offers that you create. Or you can set up campaigns—automatic if desired—for birthday wishes or discounts for either the pet’s birthday or the owner’s. It even includes hundreds of business reports to answer your accountant’s questions, as well as simple exports for QuickBooks tax filing. Best of all, easy-to-use dashboards show you how your business is doing at a glance.
“These are the kinds of things that groomers may not go shopping for on day one, but which help small shops get bigger,” Martin says. “Software like this means an owner/operator spends less time on back-office necessities and more time on customer service, staff management and problem solving.”
If it sounds as though 123Pet knows what grooming businesses need, it’s not surprising. The company has been in business for many years and the software was originally developed just for groomers. DaySmart has different editions of its software for different needs—single groomers, multiple groomer salons and businesses with multiple locations will all need different editions. Some of these packages include inventory management and payroll, and upgrades and improvements are ongoing. One recent addition is the ability to send reminders if a pet’s vaccine is close to expiring.
The software can either be purchased outright or used by paying a monthly subscription fee, which includes lifetime unlimited support and free updates.
Lara Latshaw, NCMG, owner of Gordon’s Pet Grooming in Plymouth, Ind., has tried other software but ended up with 123Pet for a number of reasons. She uses it for various reports—accounting, payroll, tracking hours, tracking tips, marketing and more.
“It’s been in the industry so long and has solved a lot of issues groomers face because it’s built for this industry, rather than being adapted from hair salon or other use,” Latshaw says. “Emails and texts sent through 123Pet look professional and high tech, which impresses customers. And because of some of the functions—like reminders and texting owners that their dogs are done—you don’t have to make phone calls at the end of the day.”
One of the biggest features Latshaw looked for was the option for an integrated credit card machine, which 123Pet offers. “It takes a while to get it (the software) set up and get comfortable with it, but they are really good with support,” she explains. “Other software companies weren’t. One got to the point where there was no way to reach them by phone. If you know you aren’t computer savvy, make sure the company provides access and training.”
Some of the packages at the higher end can get pretty expensive, and there can be a confusing amount of options for the uninitiated. Still, price considerations should be balanced against what you are getting from the expenditure. Consider the experience of Julie Rihn, owner of Julie’s Pet Salon in Butler, Pa. She uses 123Pet and has this to share: “I look at it this way. It costs me about two grooms a month and saves me from hiring an employee to answer phones, make appointments and send out reminders. That’s not to mention all the hassle involved with another employee, as well as paying the taxes and insurance on that person. It’s totally worth it!”
If you are just beginning to use software, by all means start with a free or low-cost option, but you may well find that even an expensive package can save you more in time, money and effort than it costs. gb