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Taylor Romero has a dream of how technology is going to organize his time in the near future, and he shared that dream at this year’s conference. It goes something like this: his wife, Beccy, who co-owns Spruce Barbers with Taylor in Denver, Co, will get a notification from their Sprucebot saying: ‘I see the Broncos are doing real well so I’ve gone ahead and closed the shop on Sunday.’ (Apparently, the guys at Spruce don’t do well when the Broncos are playing well as they don’t have any TVs in the shop). Sprucebot continues: ‘I’ve changed the hours online, moved any appointments, notified the team and sorted out their new schedules so you go ahead and have a great Sunday.’

The technology isn’t there yet. But the components are, and pulling them together is going to take, according to Taylor, less than two years. Meanwhile, his current Sprucebot, created by Taylor and his team at Spruce Labs, is already greatly enhancing the experience of salon owners and clients, and the relationships between them.

‘Tech is being heralded by everyone as this amazing thing, but it won’t save a failing company. It can and will enhance the experience, and that’s where its value lies,’ says Taylor, head of company at Spruce Labs. ‘It will remove all those irritating, repetitive tasks that are essential to running a business, freeing us up to do what we came into this industry to do – deliver great service to our guests. It won’t get in the way between us and client. When done right it actually makes us even more seriously unAmazonable.’

But the key is to make it engaging for guests. Taylor called his presentation at this year’s ISBN conference in Scottsdale ‘IoT, AI, AGI…WTF’.

‘You can put all the fancy technology in place, but if the clients don’t engage, it’s a waste of time. All the amazing technology promised from IoT [Internet of Things] to AGI [Artificial General Intelligence] could reshape how we work,’ he argues. ‘But if the clients don’t like it, WTF? For us at Spruce, tech is all about making it easy in a way the clients love without it getting in the way.’

The Sprucebot has been developed to be engaging, but also inconspicuous. Its aim is to enhance the business without depersonalizing it. For instance, on the Spruce Barbers Facebook page, the Sprucebot is ready to ramp up the user’s experience. It’s obviously a Bot – the guys aren’t trying to fool people that they are totally tech-free – which sends every visitor to the page a message: ‘I’m here to help you the best that I can. Lemme know what you want to do.’ Then it offers to tell a joke. Nine times out of ten, visitors do what they came to do and then ask for a joke before disconnecting.

In salon, the Sprucebot helps Taylor and his team sustain ongoing conversations without coming over as super-stalkers.

‘The client info will ping up on my phone, enabling me to go and make conversation. But I’m clear where the info comes from; I don’t want them worried they are being stalked on social media,’ explains Taylor. ‘For instance, Olivia, one of the team, once simply recorded ‘deep frying a turkey for Thanksgiving’ in one client’s records. At his next visit I asked him if he’d burnt his house down, adding Olivia told me his plans. Tech gives me superpowers but they aren’t obvious. It also gives the team superpowers.’

He gives a brilliant example of where a combination of technologies can change a client’s experience. The same Olivia had a new client who’d left a note online when booking that he was deaf. So when she had a spare 10 mins before he arrived, Olivia went on YouTube to learn some sign language. A while later he walked in and as Olivia approached he starting pointing to his ear to indicate his disability. But before he could finish Olivia signed ‘hi’. His face lit up. The appointment went well. After his appointment he took a selfie outside the shop which he made his profile pic on Facebook. He’s returned again and again since and brought his friends.

‘On the face of it, our shop is tech-free. There are no computers in sight and we don’t whisk our phones out to grab data. But it’s all there – whether to record a snippet of info or to learn enough sign language to put a new client at ease. It’s fluid, seamless and camouflaged,’ adds Taylor.

Over the next few years tech is going to get better and better, making it easier to engage clients without it being obvious. Sensors on chairs will record occupancy, which technology will use to predict future sales and organize the rosters accordingly. Bots will be able to message clients in a way they have chosen to prompt them that it’s time for a haircut or that they are probably low on their favorite product. It will then organize the salon to get the product to the client. And that same bot will know when the Broncos or any other football team are doing well.

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