Beauty and wellness businesses are struggling to find and retain good employees. Some salons, spas, and fitness centers are looking to technology to help serve guests without the need for additional staff. Dr. Amit Sule, Brand and Business Consultant for luxury salon brand Warren Tricomi, discusses how using Artificial Intelligence, integrated (AI) bots can save time at the front desk and elevate the guest experience.
AI bots – or ‘chatbots’ – are digital, virtual “assistants” that can communicate with your guests 24/7. Usually featured as a pop-up on your website, they apply an automated intelligence to basic tasks to help guests book, cancel, and reschedule appointments. They can also provide answers to common questions, such as your opening hours and location.
The beauty and wellness industry has welcomed AI technology with open arms, especially in the face of staff turnover issues over the past two years. The pandemic has led many to reevaluate their working life, resulting in employees leaving their jobs during what’s been dubbed the ‘Great Resignation.’ According to research by Microsoft, 41 percent of people considered changing jobs in 2021.
“Everyone is facing issues with manpower currently,” says Dr. Sule. “If your business is struggling with a high workload, you need to figure out different ways to handle customer interactions, such as with AI bots.”
The bots help businesses minimize phone and front desk wait times by giving guests quick answers to their questions through two-way text messaging, similar to both SMS and messaging tools on Facebook and WhatsApp. This technology fits perfectly with guest preferences: as 80% of people in the U.S. use text messaging and many prefer it over phone calls. Further, in an increasingly digital world, guests are becoming more familiar with using AI bots. In 2019, the consumer retail spend via chatbots worldwide was $2.8 billion. By 2024, that number is predicted to reach $142 billion.
AI bots also contribute to happier staff. By reducing the time they spend answering repetitive queries, staff can focus on delivering a great guest experience and earning commissions. More good news for businesses and staff is that bots have come a long way in recent years. While initially only able to handle basic commands, bots can now “learn” from interactions to express themselves with more natural, human-like responses. The more questions an AI bot answers, the better it can become at understanding and responding to guests.
“AI bot technology definitely has a future in the beauty and wellness industry,” adds Dr. Sule. “Human interactions are still valuable, but they should be used more to nurture guest relations and guide guests through their visit.”
Dr. Sule emphasizes that, for beauty and wellness businesses, it’s essential that the bot integrates with their booking system. This connection enables the bot to personalize each guest’s experience by fetching details about their bookings and appointment history. “Without it, you cannot achieve the level of personalization expected by today’s guests, and many queries would have to be handled by the front desk,” he notes.
When an AI bot is integrated with your booking system, it can do more for the guest and your business: the bot can ask inquiring guests which service they want, their preferred time, and their contact details. It can then find available slots, add the booking to your schedule, and even send reminders to the guest. This entire process removes the work from your staff, saving them time better spent serving guests at the appointment. There are potential cost-savings too. The cost of deploying an AI bot is considerably less than hiring extra front desk staff — research from Deloitte shows that using bots reduces the cost to serve your guests by up to 90 percent.
“At Warren Tricomi, we send messages to guests after appointments. These include suggestions to purchase products and book services, with opportunities for both upselling and cross-selling. Follow-up questions can then be handled by the bot with little or no human intervention,” explains Dr. Sule.
Looking ahead to features he would like to see in the ideal AI bot, Dr. Sule says, "It would integrate with the messaging system used by our staff, allowing them to decide which guest queries to answer themselves and which to pass on to the bot.”
“The salons of the future will operate without a front desk,” he continues. Staff will instead be moving around the salon and talking to guests. Check-in, check-out and other formalities will either happen automatically or via mobile apps.”
The Simplified.io SmartBot is integrated with Zenoti software, available to more than 15,000 salons, spas, medspas, and fitness centers worldwide. Businesses can use SmartBot to answer common queries, book, cancel, and reschedule appointments, and promote offers, gift cards, and memberships.