Salon General Manager Kate Cottrill has mastered the skill of navigating salon management through all times. She oversees a staff of over 100 between two locations at Ihloff salon in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since 1980 Ihloff salon has successfully served the Tulsa metro area and surrounding communities.
The salon’s four-decade standing commitment to making every guest feel their best is genuinely felt across their clientele. Ihloff is a Salon Today Top 200 Honoree and is listed as a “Best Salon” in America from numerous Tulsa publications. At Ihloff, Kate manages not only staff, but guest experience; ensuring the salon’s hard-earned reputation remains steadfast amidst unprecedented challenges and differing consumer expectations.
Here we share how Kate and her team navigate salon management during COVID-19.
This post is part of a series titled – The Six Fix. Semi-frequently we at SalonBiz interview salon and beauty industry professionals around timely topics, industry trends, and …… Each interview is captured in six questions and answers which we share. We aim for these posts to deliver education, entertainment, and foster community between aspiring salon professionals, our customers, and the industry at large. We hope you find value here.
When did you begin working at Ihloff salon and what has been your greatest challenge?
I began working at Ihloff in January 2020. However, I have over 16 years of salon management experience. I can honestly say that figuring out how to operate safely, efficiently, and at a high service level has been the most challenging for us this year. COVID-19 has created many unexpected challenges for our teams and for me as a manager. We have been persistent and we are doing really well but it has been quite a whirlwind for us.
COVID-19 has been difficult for so many salons. For Ihloff, how have you navigated salon management during the chaos?
I can truly say that we have relied heavily on the technology available to us via SalonBiz. I don’t know how salons without such technology have made it through. I cannot say that our staff was 100% ready to use the technology to the fullest when everything began to shift, but we are now beyond grateful that the infrastructure and systems were in place for us. From there, we just began training.
We knew we needed to reduce guest touch points throughout the service journey and SalonBiz has been extremely well equipped to help us do that. We wanted to reduce congestion at our front desk as a priority. We found Pocket Salon, the consumer app provided by SalonBiz to be perfect for this operational adjustment. Guests are able to easily check-in on their phones and complete their payment virtually without having to conduct a person-to-person transaction.
These capabilities with SalonBiz made navigating the new normal much less painful. They also have helped us push forward toward the direction we are aiming to go in the long run.
What does the long run for Ihloff look like? Is the new normal you’ve mentioned here to stay?
Yes, the new normal we are in now is here to stay.
We’ve been pushing toward a mobile experience at Ihloff and now we are absolutely committed to moving the transition forward. In addition to online bookings and mobile payments we’ve also transitioned our consultations to digital forms. This is all in line with our goal to become a paperless operation. While we aren’t completely there yet, we feel like we are making progress.
What has been guests’ response to Ihloff’s transition to a mobile experience?
We have found that it depends on the guest. Here at Ihloff we really pride ourselves on delivering a guest experience that meets their personal expectations.
We have found that embracing mobile is split between two sets of customers. Considering we are a salon that has been in business for 40 years, some of our clients have been with us for a very long time. Those clients expect to be taken care of during their salon experience in a way where they aren’t interacting with their phones.
While we do want to move forward with mobile, we don’t want to neglect the needs of those guests in any way. To balance this, we provide options. If a guest simply enjoys their time with us more without using their phones to facilitate their visit, then we accommodate them. In using PaySimple for payment processing, we don’t need to require guests to sign when checking out so that touchpoint is still handled conveniently and safely for us and the guests not using their phones.
On the other side, the guests that are more interested in a mobile salon experience have really embraced it. We’ve heard plenty of positive feedback from those that are using Pocket Salon App to check-in and complete their payment right on their phones. In addition to the app being completely free, they like how convenient it is. Being able to keep their payment method saved on file is also a big perk for them. We’ve heard many of them tell us that it feels fancy being able to breeze past the front desk and just have us charge their card on file. It is a seamless experience for them and for us.
How about your salon staff? Are they also embracing the mobile capabilities SalonBiz provides?
The stylist app has been wonderful for our team. Our team likes that they can receive notifications for bookings on their phones. This is a new feature that we’ve started leaning on heavily now that we have updated to SalonBiz Central. Prior to this change, we would have to have one of our welcome staff members go communicate the information personally to the stylist. Now everything is pretty automated and staff can concentrate fully on the guest that they are serving at that time.
Additionally, SalonBiz has helped us manage our updated safety and cleaning procedures. Through SalonBiz we have been able to automatically apply a 15 minute finish time to each appointment which allows our staff to clean and sanitize their workspace before their next appointment. The software really has so much functionality. Training resources from SalonBiz are also really great. We felt overwhelmed at first just because we didn’t know what kind of support we had. We learned quickly that SalonBiz had our back in this. Whatever we have needed help with, they have delivered.
Last question, what advice would you give to others trying to navigate salon management during this time?
Lean into it. Lean into your team, lean into change, lean into guest feedback. It will all come together and work out no matter how it feels in the moment. Keep in mind that there are many of us all going through the same thing together!
To learn more about how SalonBiz can help you navigate the new now, contact us. Our team will be more than happy to show you the features Kate mentions in this post and much more! Schedule your demo today.