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London’s super-elite have one salon in their sights when they need the latest color or most luxurious facial. They all head for Urban Retreat, possibly the most glamorous salon in Europe, where they rub shoulders with royalty and film stars and the rest of the ultra-rich living in the capital. Housed in the city’s famous Harrods department store, it is a unique salon with unique needs.

With more than 250 staff, 100,000 clients on its database and 26,000 sq ft of space, it is, unquestionably, the world’s biggest day salon and spa.

But it still faces the same challenges every salon has to deal with, regardless of size and location – how to ensure standards remain constant across every element of the business, especially during times of change.

This was tested to the limit recently when Urban Retreat switched its software system. Given the salon’s sheer size, this was no mean undertaking, but the management team at Urban Retreat recognized they needed an updated system that was adaptable and gave high levels of support and high-quality training, 24/7. And, like all salons, it needed the new system to bed in quickly.

Urban Retreat has more than 20,000 clients coming through the door each month, but whatever the size of salon, transition to a new system that manages clients, appointments, marketing and point of sale demands planning of military precision to minimize disruption. So the first step was to agree to a detailed project timeline, including on and off-site training, with sessions tailored for specific levels of users. The management team also opted for a staggered introduction, with stage one covering bookings, and finance.

‘After a few months of bedding in the software, we returned to initiate the team in the next crucial area, automated marketing,’ said Trevor Jennings, Shortcuts General Manager UK.

Training for the first stage started in earnest eight weeks before installation, with two weeks of user-acceptance training and four weeks of configuration followed by a further two weeks of end-user training. The second stage of training involved introduction of the full marketing platform, but this could happen only after the first stage was working smoothly.

The transition was set for September 23, months after the initial decision to seek a new partner. The software was activated and the old system switched off, although it is still available for historic reporting should anyone on the management team need it. Thanks to the careful planning and training, it went relatively smoothly. ‘Bedding in time was short,’ says Emile. ‘Even after the first day, the reservations and front of house teams were using the system fairly proficiently. There have been amendments to the system over time to refine it for the needs of our business, and no doubt this will continue.’

The new system has also been popular across the salon. Stylists and beauticians have welcomed being able to clock in and out through the system, and view the live dashboard with images on their phones when they are not in the salon. The bookings and reservations team can now choose specific stylists, see a weekly view of appointments, check booking notes and view a client’s appointment history, while the checkout feature has made the procedure quicker and easier for the front desk team and the client, bringing a better service all round.

Meanwhile, managers are finding the wealth of possible data on income, profitability of services and retail sales an incredibly powerful tool. The White Space report, showing any free or unbooked spaces within the business, also gives them the opportunity to see which areas can be improved on and how quickly appointments are filled. For the marketing team, reports showing the success of particular promotions allow them to analyse what is working and what isn’t and see where improvements can be made.

The management team did their homework well. They didn’t look for functionality alone; they also took into account ease of use. They needed a system everyone could use, no matter how skilled they were or were not on computers. They then backed it up with extensive training for all. Because the new system is more comprehensive and easier to use, it allows more data to be recorded about all aspects of the business. Standards were sustained during the changeover, and they’ve been sustained since.

As for the clients, the biggest change they’ve encountered is the appointment confirmation on their phone. And they’ve all embraced that element wholeheartedly.