We live and breathe in a world consumed by technology. For many, days are dominated by instant messaging apps and checking Facebook timelines: life lived through an Instagram filter. Our clients expect to contact us on Snapchat, befriend us on Facebook and hear all our latest news on Twitter. We can sit our stylists down in front of a computer to watch YouTubers teach them how to cut hair or link them via their smartphones to the best colorists to watch how they do ombre.
Technology has moved forward so fast in the past 10 years, it has made reaching out to clients easier and replaced many mundane and time-consuming tasks, yet we are in danger of letting it become our default setting – some too much so, and it can throw us off balance in our personal as well as professional lives. How many of us are so enslaved to our cell, it’s the first thing we check before we get out of bed?
Yet beauty is one of the most intimate jobs, rare in that we must physically touch strangers constantly. So in an ever more complex world, how do we reconcile our high-touch values with our high-tech realities?
In 1999, best-selling author John Naisbitt published High Tech High Touch, and nearly 20 years later the issues he discussed are still highly relevant. Technology is neither bad nor good. It is how we use what is available that determines our outcomes. In no industry is this more evident than beauty. If we listen to Naisbitt’s advice to combine high touch and high tech, we can have it all.
Education: Those YouTube videos and training DVDs are invaluable for a bit of in-salon inspiration and education. During quiet times employees can watch their heroes in action, those they probably will never see in real life due to cost and geography. But tech-based education is no substitute for face-to-face ongoing professional development. Salon owners and manufacturers must still run regular training sessions for their team led by their top staff or by external educators. And when you do meet in person, it is critically important to have truly personal and meaningful connections.
Tool in the salon: Even though our role is to cut hair, technology is creeping on to our salon floors, less than in the beauty room, but nonetheless, it is being used. Software makes our jobs easier – it can organize staff schedules, allow clients to book online and enable us to segment and micro-manage our various revenue streams. It can also make things easier for stylists. They can see their schedule even when they are out of the salon and they can keep detailed client notes, so they can recall each customer before they arrive – what products they like, what’s happening in their personal life – things difficult to retain when you see 10 customers a day, and when you see that person only once every six weeks. But it will never replace the relationship between the client and their stylist.
Marketing: Software has also helped professionalize the way we communicate with clients. We can drill down into different client groups and send specific communications and marketing offers. We can automate many of the marketing features, leaving us to run our businesses. But automated, technology-driven marketing is no replacement for the personal touch. Taking the effort to segment clients and send out offers relevant only to them helps make it more personal. And we must, at all times, safeguard our clients’ privacy assiduously.
Social networking: First there came websites, initially acting as online brochures, but then developing into windows into our businesses, rich with customer reviews, regularly updated and featuring dynamic blog posts to catch the attention of the search engines. Over more recent years, we’ve seen the inexorable rise of social networking. Oozing with the personality of the business, the various networks have become the most important form of engagement with our clients and provide a more personal touch than a website, as customers comment constantly and expect replies. Combining this with web blogs and email marketing, we now have the tools to create a thriving community around our salon, one the customer feels very much part of. It’s where high tech meets high touch and is worth investing time and money in. But you still need the front desk to welcome the client to the salon personally when she arrives and you still need to hold special events to make them feel rewarded for their loyalty.
Technology can never replace our fundamental role of cutting, colouring and finishing hair, or for beauty therapists, producing the perfect manicure and relaxing the client with a full body massage, but it can aid development of better skills, better communication and a great sense of the salon as a community. The secret to a successful High Touch High Tech approach is to embrace and then closely manage how you use, technology.