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AmSpa 2023: Amber Leonard Clears Up Common Misconceptions Using Her “Five A’s”

These easy-to-follow solutions illustrate how tech leads to healthier bottom lines

Medspas are the most tech-forward cosmetic care providers around, but the business operations of many remain stuck in the last century. Speaking at AmSpa's 2023 Medical Spa Show, SpaDerma's Director of Business Development Amber Leonard walked attendees through five misconceptions around the role of tech for medspas beyond the treatment room. SpaDerma operates five — soon to be six — locations in Chicago, and employs over 125 workers. Leonard oversees its headquarters, telehealth department, call center, marketing, and tech stack, making her intimately familiar with how a medspa business grows.

From booking through payments and marketing, Leonard's talk provided “the five A’s,” easy-to-follow solutions for common medspa issues that leverage technology to support more efficient medspa management and healthier bottom lines.

Misconception 1: ‘Booking is too complicated to be handled online’

Many medspa owners prefer to book appointments over the phone or in person because they feel the process has too many variables to be handled entirely online. But that can lead to ballooning personnel costs at call centers and long waiting times at medspa locations. Luckily, there’s a way to empower clients through sophisticated online booking.

Solution: Algorithms

Leonard suggests medspas solve this problem by digging into algorithms. For all the techy buzz around them, algorithms are a fairly simple concept: They’re rules coded into your platforms that allow you to customize them in meaningful ways. For instance, you can customize timings by provider, service, and patient, or tie devices to services to prevent overbookings. You can even set scheduling orders so that, say, HydraFacials are always scheduled before Botox, and warn patients of contraindications before they’re treated.

Online booking takes pressure off your employees, keeps hiring costs low, and is available 24/7 for clients who want to book outside of normal business hours. Once they’re booking, the system can upsell and cross-sell by suggesting add-ons by service, raising your value per client and improving their medspa experience. Leonard says SpaDerma now makes a quarter of all appointments through online booking.

Misconception 2: ‘No-shows and late cancellations are a lost cause’

No-shows and late cancellations are frustrating. They waste valuable employee time and represent significant lost value. Even if your medspa has policies in place to take credit card information when clients book, human employees may forget to follow those policies or fail to explain them properly. This can lead to clients upset about no-show or late cancellation fees they didn’t anticipate and don’t understand, or to lost charges because payment info was never taken in the first place.

Solution: All-in-one payments and scheduling software

Employing scheduling software that can take payment information makes it easy to collect credit card info from clients during the booking process, securely store it, and then charge it automatically in the event of a no-show or late cancellation. It also gives you plenty of opportunities to communicate your policies to clients so that nobody’s blindsided by unexpected fees.

“We have those policies crystal clear throughout our online booking process, in our consent forms, which patients have to sign prior to their appointments, and then also on our website,” Leonard says. With this solution, SpaDerma has made good on 80% more cancellation fees.

Another bonus: With payment info already on file, checkout is faster and smoother. That means your medspa stays relaxing and spacious rather than crowded and chaotic.

Misconception 3: ‘Excellent customer service comes from face time, not self-service’

Booking, check-in, and checkout with a human can all be pleasant experiences for clients, but not if they come at the cost of waiting in long lines. If a client arrives at your medspa on time, they shouldn’t have to worry about a line at the desk that makes them late for their appointment. It’s frustrating for them and hugely disruptive for your scheduling.

Solution: Automation

Leave lines in the past by installing self-service check-in kiosks in your lobby. These terminals let clients fill out any outstanding forms and mark themselves as ready for treatment, instantly notifying their providers and cutting down on inconvenient waits. But the uses don’t stop there.

“The point of [automation] isn’t to remove the human element altogether,” Leonard says. “It’s to free us from the monotonous tasks that require no special brainpower but suck the time out of our day.” To that end, marketing, sales, and billing can all benefit from automation.

Automated email and text marketing make it easy to nudge clients ahead of appointments to ensure they don’t forget. Automated online sales for retail products, packages, and gift cards make sure no sale gets left behind due to staff being overwhelmed. And automated in-house payment plans can bill clients on a monthly basis, without extra input from your staff, until they’ve paid down their treatment.

Leonard says SpaDerma saw a 41-fold return on investment with its automatic text notification system, and online sales brought about a 64% increase in revenue versus phone sales.

Misconception 4: ‘The perfect all-in-one software solution exists’

No two medspas are exactly alike. The formula you use to determine the products and services you offer will always be a unique calling card for your business — and that’s a good thing. But it also means you’ll likely face unique challenges, making it impossible to find a single software platform that handles all of your booking, payroll, charting, payment, and beyond exactly as you want it out of the box.

Solution: APIs

APIs are application programming interfaces. In the simplest terms, APIs function like gateways from software to software. Some are closed, which means they can’t integrate with other programs. But open APIs are more friendly to developers, allowing them to connect programs to one another and create custom solutions that meet whatever needs your medspa has.

“Our online booking is 100% custom using an open API and by hiring a web developer,” Leonard says. This allows SpaDerma to provide a unique user experience that helps it stand out from the competition, and automates as much tedium as possible.

Using Boulevard’s open API, SpaDerma can collect clients’ electronic health records (EHR) and send them to its EHR storage system, DrChrono. This enables automatic and secure appointment creation and chart distribution to providers. SpaDerma also uses Zapier to connect Boulevard and Mailchimp’s APIs. That lets Mailchimp tag users who book certain services or buy certain products for more segmented, and therefore more effective, marketing. Clients receive more personalized marketing materials, and SpaDerma (or, eventually, your medspa) sees more purchases.

Misconception 5: ‘Businesses must find all the answers on their own’

When navigating tech as a medspa, it’s easy to get lost in the sauce of algorithms, APIs, and automation, especially if you’re convinced you have to go it alone. This common belief deters many business owners from even getting started.

Solution: Assistance from experts

As Leonard emphasized in her presentation, a world of helping hands exists, with skills that complement our own, ready to raise a medspa to its true potential. If you’re having trouble with website work, web developers are available to pitch in. Software engineers can get your APIs connected and singing in harmony. Digital marketing agencies can make your strategy and marketing tech stack bulletproof. And finding these experts is easier than it’s ever been.

Leonard recommends asking your tech platform for referrals as well as using services such as Fiverr and Upwork to find experts. There, you can post ads for relevant professionals or browse available experts and contact the one you want directly. This lets you get technical work done on an as-needed basis rather than having to hire a full-time staff member.

With your new systems in place, your employees will need help getting comfortable with them. That’s where learning materials come into play. SpaDerma uses online courses created with the app Teachable to instruct employees and quiz them on relevant info, then uses topic-specific channels in Slack for employees with questions to get support from teammates. 

Apply the “Five A’s” at your medspa

Amber Leonard knows the power of medspa technology better than most, but as she demonstrated in her talk, the “five A’s” make these tools accessible and useful for any medspa business. Algorithms allow for sophisticated online booking. All-in-one payment and scheduling helps capture value from no-shows and late cancellations. Automation keeps waiting times low and marketing communications flowing. APIs allow the various pieces of tech you employ to communicate with one another, forming a well-oiled machine. And finally, assistance: there are plenty of tech-savvy professionals ready to put these principles into practice for your business. Tap into them, and these solutions, and let the results speak for themselves.

Have big plans for your medspa? Be sure to grab your free copy of our latest medspa guide, Five Secrets to Running a Medspa: A Manager's Guide to Success. Download now

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