You know what they say: you never get a second chance at a first impression. For salons who offer online booking, this might be your client’s very first impression of your business. We spoke with salon owner and entrepreneur, Sarah Parmenter, on creating an online booking experience that truly reflects your brand.

Serial entrepreneur and renowned designer Sarah Parmenter is not only the owner of the established agency ‘You Know Who’,  she’s also the unlikely founder of a successful hair salon and in Essex. With absolutely no salon experience, 8 years ago Sarah created ‘Blushbar’, an eco-friendly, vegan and cruelty-free hair salon because she saw a gap in the market for an elegant, ethical and timeless hair salon in Essex.

Make online booking foolproof for your clients

Sarah believes that a client should feel empowered in the booking process, especially when they’re browsing services with unique names like ‘root smudge’ or ‘hydrodermabrasion’ that they might not be familiar with. Blushbar’s booking page includes photos of their services to help with this, as well as shots of the team so it’s easy to recognise a stylist you’ve visited before (you can even book directly with them by clicking on their face). There are also clear explanations of what some of their services are, and their price. Everything is clear and easy.

Blushbar have data from Google Tag Manager showing that existing clients browse those team photos and book directly with their chosen stylist, whereas new clients usually read about each stylist before going on to click the general booking link. Both paths are there for anyone, making the experience friendly, easy, and exactly as each person wants it to be.

“If you’re to truly harness the power of online booking, you need clients to understand what they’re booking so you minimise re-arranging of the diary.” -Sarah Parmenter 

Create specific booking links

Add your staff bio here: Setup > Staff

Should you use booking links or the Timely booking widget? 

Sarah prefers links that take the client to another page rather than having lots of embedded widgets everywhere, because she thinks it’s aesthetically neater (worth listening to, we’re talking to an award winning designer afterall). If clients get lost in the booking process by choosing the wrong stylist or service, it’s easy for them to just ‘go back’ a page and choose the right link rather than fussing around inside a widget.

How to get customers to book online

Find your booking buttons here: Setup > Booking buttons

So what information should you include in the booking flow?

Sarah believes the most important thing is the cancellation policy, so it sits loud and proud on almost everything her salon puts out there. Blushbar takes 100% of the service cost if the client doesn’t turn up, and they’ve also built in the legally required before-service patch testing details the client must confirm.

“The amount of no-shows we have per year, we can count on one hand. And when they happen, we know financially we’re not missing out as we always take 100% of the service cost if they cancelled inside 48 hours.” – Sarah Parmenter

How to set the cancellation and online booking policies

Storing Cards on TimelyPay

More from Sarah on that strict salon policy

“From the day we opened, we’ve had a strict cancellation policy, and it keeps everything ticking over nicely. It used to be 24 hours, we moved this to 48 hours, with the realisation that 24 hours never gives us enough time to sell a specific slot. Don’t be afraid to insure your salon time with card capture at the very least. If they’re not willing to put down a valid credit/debit card at the time of booking, consider them a time waster and move on. It’s done us well for 8 years.”

“Be bold. I see so many salon owners scared to implement strict policies around bookings. We know colour services can sometimes take up half of the day, and without insurance against a client turning up, you could be left out of pocket through no fault of your own.”

Check out more of Sarah’s advice on her blog: Blushbar is 4 this year – here’s what I’ve learned.