How to Handle Double-Booking without Losing Your Clients (and Sanity!)
The concept of double-booking often has negative connotations. In the dating world, for instance, it’s a no-no agree to two dates that would take place at the same time.
But double-booking isn’t all that bad, particularly in industries like beauty, grooming, and wellness. It’s not uncommon for spa or salon workers to schedule appointments at times that overlap with each other.
When done right, double-booking can boost your efficiency and bottom line. The key is sethow-to-handle-double-bookingting up your systems and processes to ensure that your appointments flow with ease, even when they’re scheduled at overlapping times.
To help you accomplish that, we’ve come up with an easy guide on how to double-book without losing your clients and sanity.
Let’s get started!
What’s the deal with double-bookings?
From the client-side, the idea of being double-booked for a spa or salon service is a nightmare. To them, being double-booked leads to a less-than-ideal experience; the staff would be too busy to maintain quality, and they’d end up feeling rushed and undervalued.
So, how can double-booking be an intentional tactic used and promoted by leading spas and salons across the world?
The answer lies in appointment downtime.
Consider the services offered at your salon or spa. You likely administer services that involve leaving the client for some time — this may be for hair color to process or to let a wrap soak into their skin. In these cases, you and your staff will have spare time that could be used to accommodate other clients.
Leveraging these downtimes properly will allow you to serve more people while maximizing the time that you have. You could, for example, blowdry one client’s hair while another customer is waiting for their hair color to set.
To be clear, no one advocating for double-bookings promotes an unintentional or mismanaged approach. Those that implement the practice are experts at juggling their time slots.
Pros of double-booking
The positives of intentionally scheduling double-bookings are quite obvious; it allows salons and spas to optimize their time, take more clients, and make more money. Employees aren’t sitting around while colors are processing. Trainee staff can be put to use, checking in with waiting clients and actioning lower-level services. Clients get to see your salon or spa busy and energized — and buzz is good for business.
Cons of double-booking
The downside of double-bookings happens when they’re not handled correctly. If double-bookings aren’t well-managed they will lead to bad experiences — for both the client and your team. Poorly-managed appointments can also tarnish your reputation and impact future client bookings.
How to double-book the right way
To double-book “the right way” is to do it intentionally. Double-booking is not just as simple as accepting two bookings for every time slot. It needs to be carefully considered, with a thorough vision of how you’re going to juggle resources in the time necessary to serve both clients to the highest standard.
Step 1: Get a grip on what you’re working with
First things first. If you want to double-book properly, you need to know which services can be booked at overlapping time slots.
Look at all of your services and divide them into two lists: services that need a person hands-on the whole time (cut and stylists), and services which would allow a staff member to get away and work on someone else.
Step 2: Crunch the numbers
Effective double-booking can only be achieved if you know how much time you have to play with. Evaluate all of the services that are flexible — such as hair colorings. Crunch the numbers on how long it takes to bring the client in and apply color. Then how long the color needs to sit.
If it takes 20-30 minutes to get them in and color applied, then 45 minutes for the color to process, it stands to reason that you could take appointments every 30 minutes and alternate the client time.
Note: Don’t cut it too short
When you begin to evaluate your operation and see just how much time you have available, it’s easy to be tempted to cut things close and put one client in as another walks out. The challenge is that very often people are late, people are early, and nothing runs exactly to schedule in the wonderful world of spas and salons.
You need to account for these time slips.
Always err on the side of caution by adding buffers to your timeslot to account for unexpected delays.
Step 3: Set up your system accordingly
This is where an online scheduling system comes in handy. Most modern appointment booking software (the good ones, anyway) will accommodate double-bookings by letting you create Split Appointments to create downtime or processing time during which another appointment can be booked.
Be sure to take advantage of these features so you can automate the process. (Hint: if your scheduling software doesn’t have double-booking capabilities, consider finding a new one.)
If you’re a Genbook user, here’s how to set Split Appointments:
- Click on the service for which you want to create a Split Appointment or add a new service if you don’t have one yet.
- On the service details page, select “Split Appointment” under appointment type and then specify the available time within the appointment.
Genbook will then allow clients to schedule a booking within the specified downtime, allowing to double-book with ease.
Step 4: Dip a toe in the water
New to double-booking? Before diving into the deep end and scheduling all available spots, it’s worth testing how you and your staff handle this increased pace.
Start with just one double-booking per day. In doing so, you and your staff can be prepared and conscious of how to manage it.
Once everyone is comfortable with the rhythm of the daily double-booking, you can begin to add more. Do it slowly. Assess how it changes the way you interact with customers, and be sure you’re always conscious of how long it takes to provide a service while maintaining quality.
Communication is key
Double-booking is common practice for salons and spas, so chances are your customers have already experienced it before. If you maintain the quality of your services, your customers aren’t going to mind.
What they care about is being informed. Let’s continue with the color example. When you take a client in to have their hair colored, let them know what is going to happen throughout their appointment.
Tell your customers that you’re going to work with them to decide their color and get it applied. Then let them know that their color takes 30-45 minutes (whatever it is) to process. In that time you will leave them to read, enjoy their coffee, etc. while you go and set up another client.
Don’t forget to assure your clients that you will be back before the color is finished. Then you will rinse it out and get to work, giving them a fabulous blowout.
If you set expectations and then deliver on what you say, clients don’t mind being left alone for a little while.
Making the most of challenging situations
There will be clients that absolutely do not want to be double-booked. Some may request this when they make an appointment, or they may simply complain when they’re on-site. This can make some salon and spa owners feel bad about the practice.
Don’t feel bad. Communicate.
Customers that don’t like to be double-booked have likely had a bad experience in the past that made them skeptical about the practice. Those bad experiences are usually due to poor communication or poor services as a result of time being cut too short.
Here are a few scenarios that could come up and how to overcome them.
New Customer requests no double-booking
If you have a new customer request not to be double-booked, it is likely because they have had a bad experience elsewhere. You can handle this by explaining how you approach double-bookings.
Perhaps you only schedule double-bookings for clients having their color done. You can explain why this is (because you have 45 free minutes while the color is processing and a long line of customer that want that time) and highlight that you have the highest standard of service and only set double-bookings when you know you have ample time to give everyone the treatment and time they deserve.
Long-term customers complain about double-booking
It’s not uncommon for existing customers to feel a little confused or unhappy with a new rhythm of service. If you receive complaints, take the time to listen to what they are saying.
If they simply say they don’t like to be double-booked, try to find out why. Do they feel that the service quality has decreased? Or do they just miss having their colorist with them for a chat while their color processes? Either way, be empathetic.
If they feel the quality has slipped, consider if this is true and work on bringing it back up. Maybe you’ll need to reduce the number of daily double-bookings.
If they’re just feeling a little sad about the quality time with their colorist has been reduced, explain to them that you understand, but it was necessary to make these changes to keep up with other salons and the demand from customers. Offer them a treat as they get used to it and be sure to make them feel extra special whenever they come in.
The bottom line
With the right balance and proper communication from your business to your clients, double-booking can ramp up customer numbers, driving sales, and build a real buzz around your business.