Many of you in the salon business are probably familiar with Demandforce - automated marketing and communications. We first learned about it when I sent three of our salon coordinators up to Connecticut for training. Many of their classmates were raving about it. Upon their return, I researched it and we have been using the system for both our locations since November 2011.
From an outgoing perspective, we use Demandforce to handle our appointment confirmations and to send out a monthly marketing email to our guests. From an incoming perspective, our clients can request appointments from our website or facebook page, refer their friends, and provide us with feedback through reviews and surveys. All of these incoming communications appear on our Demandforce dashboard. Reviews are also sent out to a business directory run by Demandforce that may help you be found online.
Through our salon management system (Millennium), we were already doing email appointment reminders. And when I got around to it, I would send out a monthly email about our service special. So why would I pay Demandforce $299 per month (per location!) for their system? Frankly, it's just better. It's more than I'd like to pay, but it has made our lives so much easier. Here are some areas where we've found Demandforce to be stronger than Millennium (and probably most other salon mgt systems).
- More professional appearance. My email reminders from Millennium were basic text and didn't reflect my brand. With Demandforce we send out a professional looking email with a response button to confirm. When they confirm, that status shows up in our dashboard as confirmed. So whereas before we were really just "reminding" now we can truly "confirm."
- Text message reminders - Millennium offered text reminders through specific partners but it was very pricey--too much for us.
- Demandforce does the confirms automatically!! We used to go into the appointment confirm menu, select the date we wanted to confirm and click send. Since we confirm one week ahead of time and again 2 days ahead of time, we had to uncheck the confirmed box from the one week reminder in order for a 2 day one to go. Time consuming and confusing. With Demandforce we have it set up to send two reminders and they go out at the designated time.
- Opt-in communication and marketing - When we went live on Demandforce every client for whom we had an email address got a welcome email explaining that they could now choose how we communicate with them. They could subscribe to email reminders, newsletters, promotions, etc. individually. So the guest who likes appointment reminders but does not want our monthly special email can choose those options in Demandforce.
- Text message opt-in - Clients also got a text message opt-in request to which they had to positively respond in order to receive text messages. Many guests now get their reminders only by text message but still get the promotions via email.
- Positive Surveys and Reviews - clients get a thank you email after their appointment which offers them the chance to complete a survey or review. To date we have had 313 surveys and 247 reviews for our larger store with a 98.4% satisfaction grade on our surveys and 5 star average on our reviews. Clients have an opportunity to write comments, which we share with our team. Our break room is filled with print-outs of client comments praising individuals, or the team in general - it's a great morale boost to hear those kind words.
- Negative Surveys and Reviews - as much as we'd like to be perfect all the time, sometimes we mess up. Comments about an unfriendly greeting or hair on the floor are also shared with the team and serve as a reminder that it's not good enough to be "on" 99% of the time. If you drop the ball, even once, we are not providing our guests the experience they deserve.
- Marketing communications - Demandforce makes it easy to send out regular communications to your clients. I can fairly easily create a custom promotion that looks very professional. I can also send to specific groups of clients with some advanced client selection techniques. For example, we send body wax clients an email approximately 4 weeks after their last appointment offering them $5 off if they return within 6 weeks of their appointment. Our goal here is to increase the frequency of visits of our wax clients. Demandforce makes it pretty easy to do this.
- Automated communications - in addition to the confirms and the thank-you's that go automatically, Demandforce can do some other automated communications. We have it send a "we've missed you" email to anyone who hasn't been in in 2 months. If they haven't been in for 6 months, they get a different "we've missed you" offering them a special deal. Each of these communications has a "request appointment" button so they can easily contact us.
There are probably benefits I haven't discovered or we don't take advantage of, but those are the big ones. We actually make very few appointment reminder phone calls now - almost everyone is either email or text.
There is one goofy thing that really annoys me about Demandforce. On the dashboard, it shows a "Total Revenues Generated" number that is, basically, the revenue they are taking credit for. The implication is that you would not have had this revenue if not for demandforce. But they are so ridiculously generous in counting revenue that the number is terribly misleading (if you believe it). As an example, let's say I send a mass email out saying our monthly special is manicures. John Q gets this email because he has subscribed to promotions. Sometime within 90 days of that email, John Q has an appointment for a haircut. Demandforce counts that revenue in the revenue generated number. HUH? It's such a ridiculously inaccurate calculation that it is disingenuous and I think amounts to false advertising. Despite that huge lapse in judgement, it is a good system, just don't believe that number.
Hey, Demandforce! If you read this I'd love for you to leave a comment and attempt to justify that calculation!