I got my hair cut today. And I found myself thinking the same thing I usually think: why on Earth do they have ten appointment books, one for each stylist? And why is there a separate one to track sales?
I think you could write a pretty simple software solution. They just need a few database tables, really: one for the clients, one for the stylists, and one for appointments, which can just be a time, client ID and stylist ID. Then it’s all just stuff like code to find an open appointment within certain constraints (“Hi, I wondered if I could book an appointment with Joyce, ideally on a Monday, Friday, or Saturday, and ideally after 1 p.m.”), and to make sure that scheduling conflicts didn’t come up.
Surprisingly, I’m having a hard time finding a simple package to do this. Most of what I’ve seen is either ridiculously crappy, or it only supports scheduling, but doesn’t integrate with a client database. There are some medical practice software suites out there, some of them even free, but they’re way too complex. I don’t think my hairdresser keeps my ‘haircut history’ (although that would be a novel idea!). I’m really not concerned with HIPAA: if someone finds out that I was calling the hairstylist and the reason for my visit was that my hair was kind of long, I don’t think anyone will think of me differently.
By computerizing it, you can also pull out information easily. For example, they could pull up a ‘report’ of everyone they need to call on a given day to confirm appointments, and keep track of whether they reached someone, etc. The code could also work on trying to see to it that people get a roughly equal number of clients for those who don’t request anyone in particular.
It’d also be easy to track sales of hair products. I bought a new thing of hair gel today, for example. One of the other stylists was selling it. It seems like they have one money bag. (Why not a cash drawer?!) They could just record that it was sold, and the system would take care of crediting the income to the appropriate stylist. At the end of the night, they could just pull up a report on how much money went to each stylist.
If you had an Internet connection, it’d be a great idea to put this all on the Web. Clients could then book appointments themselves, and get reminder e-mails, rather than having to call. You could even have a client-side application at the hairdresser’s office (do they call it an office?) that would sync up every few minutes (basic replication) every few minutes, so if they lost their connection, they wouldn’t be dead in the water. And then you can play with AJAX for some auto-complete magic. (For example, when I call to book and they ask my name, they might start to type my name in and have it come up as the only match before they’re even done typing.)
The problem is that I have a very strong urge to roll up my sleeves and start working on a nice package to do this. Except that it seems pretty ridiculous, given that I don’t work for a hairdresser? I suppose I could sell the code? But it sounds like an Access 101 project, really. I’d probably end up giving it away.
This, my friends, is what it’s like to be a geek.