Welcome to the Salon Owners Podcast, Phorest FM Episode 97. Co-hosted by Killian Vigna and Zoé Bélisle-Springer, Phorest FM is a weekly show that puts forth a mix of interviews with industry thought-leaders, salon/spa marketing tips, company insights and information on attending Phorest events and webinars. A new Phorest FM episode airs every Monday morning for your enjoyment with a cup of coffee on your day off.

Phorest FM Episode 97

Another year essentially done and dusted! It feels like 2018 has come and gone in the blink of an eye. What a year it’s been. In this episode, Killian and Zoe welcome Phorest Salon Software CEO, Ronan Perceval, and Head of Operations, Rob Norton, to discuss what has gone on in and around the company, what new features were released and more importantly, what’s in store for the company and product in 2019.



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Killian Vigna: Welcome to the Phorest FM podcast episode 97 I’m Killian Vigna…

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And I’m Zoe Belisle Springer. As we’re coming to year’s end, these next three episodes are going to feel quite nostalgic. On the agenda this week we’re looking back on the 12 past months on Phorest, so essentially what has changed in the product and how has Phorest grown as a company.

Killian Vigna: So, grab yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, relax, and join us weekly for all your salon’s business and marketing needs. Good morning Zoe.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Good morning Killian. Christmas is right around the corner.

Killian Vigna: Its unbelievable, I can’t believe it. A whole year, essentially, done and dusted. It feels like its gone in the blink of an eye, and its Christmas! So, yeah, this episode, it’s basically all about taking a look back. We’ve just wrapped up our annual company gathering there recently, and what that involves is basically getting all of the Phorest staff together, obviously just before we have our staff party. But what goes on is, we take a look back at what’s going on in and around Phorest. What new features were released, and more importantly, what’s in store for Phorest as a company, and product, in 2019.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Absolutely, and so, without further ado, we’d like to welcome Phorest CEO, Ronan Perceval, and Phorest’s Head of Operations, Rob Norton, to share some insights on 2018. And, I suppose just chat around what’s coming in 2019. Welcome to the show guys!

Rob Norton: Cheers, thanks for having us!

Ronan Perceval: Cheers, thanks!

Killian Vigna: What a year its been, lads. I think we can all agree that we’ve seen some massive changes here in the last 12 months. Not just in the product, but as a company as well. And, one way to highlight that is, when Paddy, our Head of Product, who has been on the show before, he got up to discuss some features that we’ve added in Phorest.

We couldn’t believe that it all just happened in this year, like when we look at our most notable, the flagship feature, the Digital Consultation Forms, it feels like its been in the product for about 2 or 3 years now at this stage, there’s just been so much around it, so much work on it, and everything like that. So, I suppose, Ronan and Rob, in one sentence, how would you summarise 2018 for Phorest?

Ronan Perceval: I’ll go first, quickly. I think, in one sentence, global expansion. That’s been the big thing this year.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And what about you, Rob?

Rob Norton: I was going to say growth, in many territories.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So, very much aligned.

Killian Vigna: So Rob, we’ve introduced you as the Head of Operations here at Phorest. Being that it’s your first time on the show, can you give the listeners a bit of insight into what exactly that means?

Rob Norton: We look after everything from the point of sale onwards. We’re very customer orientated. I’m always about striving for excellence in delivery. So we take clients from an onboarding perspective, look after them for the first 30 to 90 days when they come on the Phorest platform, and then a little bit beyond that, the Phorest support framework is in our department as well. So, we have that ongoing connection with clients. Working through any queries they may have, or how-to’s, any help that they need with the system. But essentially, its about delivering excellent service to our clients.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: If we look at more of the behind the scenes stuff going on in Phorest, how has Phorest developed as a company? You’ve said global expansion and growth into different territories. We’ve just entered Australia, we have now, an office in Philly. What can you tell us about that this year?

Rob Norton: I suppose the biggest stages that we’ve taken on, is opening up a new office in Philadelphia, this year. The key around that was, not the location, where Phorest wanted to be as an office, but finding the right talent. One of our values in the company is having a growth mindset, and to find the right time of candidates that would come through the pipeline, join Phorest, and be able to scale the company as we need. Like as I said earlier on, its a real growth phase within the company, so finding the right people to join Phorest is really key, and Philadelphia gave us that opportunity in the beginning.

Killian Vigna: Cool, and we see, like over in Ireland we have the Salon Owners Summit, are we doing anything similar over in the US?

Ronan Perceval: Yeah we are, we’re going to be doing a couple of events in the US next year. The big one is going to be the Salon Summit on tour in Chicago. We’re going to be getting a lot of salons from the Chicago area to come and learn some really cool stuff around technology and salons, but also other stuff as well. So that will be our first, kind of, foray into doing that kind of thing on the ground in the United States.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And if we, kind of, have a look into the features, what are some of the key features that we’ve seen added to Phorest? Killian mentioned the Digital Consultation Forms, but there’s been loads more since the beginning of the year.

Ronan Perceval: Yeah, Its been a really great year in software development in Phorest, and the product is come on leaps and bounds. There’s been some big headline features, that would be things like, Consultation Forms, that was a big part of the paperwork in a lot of beauty salons in particular, where they’re collecting information from their clients on paper and getting signatures, and things like that, and then they have to store all that paper. So we digitised all that for our beauty salons, and that’s had a big impact for them, it was also GDPR compliant so for salons in Europe, that’s the new data legislation, that’s had a big impact on all businesses here really. And, by allowing salons to do all their forms on a tablet, and make them electronic, we’ve made sure that they’re compliant.

So that’s, kind of, a big area of the product this year, its big feature, and I think something like nearly 1500, or one thousand-five hundred salons out of our base of salons, they’re already using that new feature, which is fantastic to see. Other big tools would be around the marketing area. Big one was the email tool, so we’ve completely rebuilt email from the ground up, specifically for a salon.

I think that hasn’t really existed there before in the market, like, there’s lots of tools out there, like constant contact, etc., that you can use generally for a business, but a proper email tool that’s top class editor, amazing images, allowing you to make your emails look incredible, but with templates specifically for salons, didn’t really exist. And se we launched that in October, and that’s had massive take up as well, so really helping the salons with their brand to reach their customers.

Other cool things we’ve done is around SMS. So we’ve built, and its about to be launched January, but we’ve been working on it for quite a while, it’s using artificial intelligence, machine learning to help identify when a customer is due to come back in, and to connect with them by text message, or by email, just before that happens, and it really increases your rebooking rates, and reduces your churn. As a salon, you lose less customers using that.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: That’d be, kind of, touching base off the client reconnect, except through SMS?

Ronan Perceval: What Client ReConnect does as far as clients that are listening to this, is Client ReConnect catches you after you’ve dropped off, if that makes sense. So it identifies when somebody should’ve re booked and they haven’t, as in, its gone over too far. The problem with that is, it works really well and we probably save 10 or 15 percent of customers that you may have lost. So, if you’re going to lose 10 customers, you may save 1 or 2 of those using Client ReConnect. But, we want to solve the problem at source, before it becomes a problem, and so that’s what the re booking SMS feature does. It uses the same technology, but to go to the customer a couple of days before they would normally book. So you catch them just before that happens, you know, it’s probably a week or two before they go off the boiler, or start to look elsewhere, if that makes sense. So we’re really excited about that. Its been in tests and the results are phenomenal.

Killian Vigna: And then, Rob, we had 2 other ones. So, we had the reports, and Phorest Pay, can you elaborate a little more on what’s going on with those guys?

Rob Norton: Yeah, so reports, again, been in the company a long, long time, and we’ve had many, many reports in the system, and sometimes it can be confusing for our clients to be able to find the report they need at any given time, but some of the work that they’ve done in the system has been really, really excellent. Like so, one report now that allows people to, basically, pull out the information that they need. So it combines 20 plus reports into one report and our clients can choose what they need at any given time, and when they want to send the information to themselves as well. So its really [inaudible] at that site.

From a Phorest Pay perspective, its been a really big success from a US standpoint, looking at different regions at the moment. In the beginning, from and onboarding perspective, from a device, we had challenges that we faced, but we’ve got a great team there. They’ve been able to iron that out with out business partners, and the flow of that now is really, really good. And, clients have been able to benefit, hands on, of that pay platform directly into the Phorest system, which is the system they use the most at the salon. So, we have to be allowed our functionality.

Killian Vigna: And how long has our Phorest pay gone at the moment?

Rob Norton: Its been 13 months. So, February this year, we took on the large amount of our clients, we onboarded them all at once, so we had an influx of clients on that platform, and it allowed us to really investigate the process that we use, and to make the system better for their clients during the year. So its been, kind of, top capacity now since, probably, quarter 2 onwards of 2018, and been a big success. I can’t wait to roll it out in Europe as well.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So I’m going to go off script a bit here, off the questions, and if you had to pick a personal favorite out of all the releases we’ve done this year, what would you both pick? I know it’s a tough one.

Rob Norton: For me, its the email editor, again, its just something that clients have always asked for, so we have to listen to our clients, and deliver on what they’re looking for, but what the product and development team have done there has really pushed out first in class product. Not just for Phorest, but in our industry as well, its second to none, it matches up there, if not even better than some of the actually email software companies like Mailchimp and stuff like that. Its as good, if not better, and from an industry point of view, having that, grammar checks as well, is really, really important. And that’s a real cool feature that we put in, and I think that’s been a really key one for me.

Ronan Perceval: Yeah. I know the grammar checker doesn’t seem like a big thing, but I think for a lot of our clients, they’re really busy and they’re trying to type these things out really quickly, and to just have the system correct the wording, I think they’ve found that really, really nice, it really helps them, saves them time on things like that.

Funny enough, the feature that I really love, we didn’t mention. I forgot, but it’s the one that I’m most proud of this year, I think, is the Instagram Portfolio Feature on the Phorest Go mobile app, for staff and for salon owners. That came out in, or we just launched that in November, but that’s something that’s just taking over in salons, particularly in hair salons where people are building up portfolios on their phone anyway, of their work in the salon.

But it’s not necessarily matched with the client, its just like a load of images in your phone, right? And so what the Phorest Portfolio Manager lets you do is, you’re taking all these photos like you’re taking anyway, but they’re bing matched to the customers in your database. So each appointment that they come in, has those images, so if you’re looking back on a customers’ history, you go into your customer on Phorest Go, and you can see all the pictures you’ve ever taken of them.

And that’s great for them as well, because then they can see things like, you know, I want to look like the way I looked back then, or things like that. And then you can just use all your portfolio together and push that out through Instagram as well, and then link it back to taking bookings online in the salon. There’s incredible stuff around that, and we’re seeing amazing engagement with that kind of feature.

Killian Vigna: I love how you introduced that. You said “A feature I forgot to mention.” Because it just gives an insight into our roadmap that there’s been so much introduced this year that you actually forgot one of the main ones as well.

Ronan Perceval: Yeah. There was another one as well, Stock Take on mobile, that’s another one that was brilliant. That was one salon owners used to always say to us. Like, they’d have to do a stock take, you’d have someone running around the salon counting the bottles, another person on the computer trying to type it in. And now you just go around with your phone, scan the barcodes, and you get a stock take done in a couple of minutes, its amazing.

Killian Vigna: With that and digital consultation forms, it’s another step for us helping the salon owner be a bit more eco-friendly. Because, like anyone that’s worked in retail or a salon before, doing a stock take pretty much involves running around with a pen and paper. So now you don’t need that anymore, anyone with the app on their phone can do it.

Rob Norton: We used it to stay out on site with clients, like for an extra hour or two, to do that stock take, or stay online with them on an online session and talk them through it for, literally like 40 minutes to 2 hours. But now, with that feature, the clients have that power in the palm of their hand, it’s amazing stuff.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Adding to all the Phorest features that we’ve mentioned, there’s been quite a bit of change in certain screens on the product itself. Like we are seeing a move towards, what we know, is a web-based product. But what does that mean, why is there certain parts of the product that look like its always looked before, and certain parts, like the email editor, where it has this really refreshed 2018 look.

Rob Norton: It’s a big project to move your product with the times. For a new startup coming new into the industry, they could start off with the latest technologies, and Phorest as a company has always looked to make those tough decisions, move to that next, on the edge, technology that we can use within our software. So, that’d be one of the reasons, to answer your question specifically, is that what you like, that some of the screens may look slightly different to the more up to date trendy screens of 2018. And then others will still be some of our legacy screens.

But this fresh look is what clients are actually asking for, and with the product team being out there doing those, the AB testing with clients, asking what they need, and this is some of the feedback that we’ve been getting, and we’re working on the ones that they’re looking for first. So, generally, it’s the ones that the clients are asking for that you’ll see updated first. And some really good ones to come now in early 2019, to make life a lot easier for clients as they navigate through the system, and their daily working business as well.

Killian Vigna: So you mentioned there, its got this cleaner, fresher look, and it looks better for the clients. Are there any other benefits with making this web-based, like in terms of product growth, development?

Rob Norton: Yeah. Not just the static side of the web-based technology, but it allows us to implement changes fairly quickly and release updates to our platform of over 5000 clients, and we can do that in an instant. We can do that without actually having clients to download updates, install the update, and then redeploy the Phorest system. We can just put these changes in place with a click of a button. And then the clients will see it as soon as they click onto that screen, so there’s massive advantages for moving towards this web-based technology.

Killian Vigna: That’s kind of cool. So instead of having to reset yours system, or shut your system down every night, and open it up in the morning. You’re literally just refreshing a page, its 2 seconds, if that.

Rob Norton: Yeah, you don’t even need… Just as soon as you click onto that page the next time, that update is there, easy to use, latest look, latest feel.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So, I suppose the one question that’s burning everyone’s lips at the moment, what changes can we expect to see in 2019, and how can these changes impact clients’ businesses, or like, our long term goals, their long term goals?

Ronan Perceval: To just continue on Robs point there, he was talking about some of the areas of the product that we’ve put into web. We’re going to continue doing that next year, and while that may not seem like rocket science right now, by the time we’ve completed the product in web, we’re going to be able to update it much faster than we’ve ever had to do before. And that means we’re going to be able to roll out changes and improvements, and new ideas, so much quicker, and test them as well.

So, a nice thing about doing a new idea is it’s all very well and good, we think its great, but we want to have, say 50 salon owners, try it out first and see how they get on with it. And were going to be able to do that over and over and over. And then if those 50 like it, then it gets rolled out to 100, and then to everybody else. And the more you do that, the more the salon owner, like you guys, the people listening to this show… The more that they actually have an impact on the product they’re getting, because they’re all testing it out in a real life situation, its such a better way of developing a product, you know?

So that would be a big thing that will happen over the course of the next year, as well as the benefits Rob was talking about, that comes from that. And the area I’m probably most passionate about, is the marketing tools, things like what I was saying about Instagram, and the email editor, and everything like that, but as a company, our mission is to help salon owners get their clients back more often, spending more. We call that mission retention marketing, because its marketing about getting people back. It’s not necessarily marketing for new clients, and so we’ve got a bunch of stuff coming now next year, I’m really excited about Paddy, as you know, popping up and down, I can’t wait to get on the show, talk to everybody some of these as they come out.

First one is, we’re doing an all new branded mobile app. We haven’t looked at the mobile app for a couple of years, it is probably getting a bit old in the tooth now, still working incredibly well, we’ve unbelievable number of bookings coming through that through all the different salons. But we’re going to build, I’ll use the word a sexy, new app, because it’s going to be very, very good. That app is going to be better at retention, it’s going to be easier for customers to book than ever before, it’s going to use some of the artificial intelligence that we’re using around notifications, reminding people to book before they think of it themselves, like some awesome stuff there. So that’s going to really have salons, and it’s going to make your salon look really, really professional as well.

So, that’s one thing I’m really excited about. We’ve also got, around online booking, we’ve got some cool things coming. We’re going to use that portfolio stuff we were talking about, where we’re collecting portfolios of people. We’re going to use that imagery for each salon, so when people are booking online, and they’re wondering what’s that haircut, what’s a balayage, they’ll be able to see images from people from the salon that have had that service. And we know from testing that has an unbelievable conversion rate on attracting people to make that booking. So that’s a really cool feature that’s coming as well.

And in terms of other things that we’re looking to do, the TreatCard is going to be getting an upgrade as well, and then we’re also rolling out a learning management system, which Killian, I believe you’ve been involved with as well. And people are very excited about that, and basically the idea behind that is that people are going to be able to log on to Phorest, and they can still do trainings with people in Phorest as ever before, but they’ll also be a range of trainings for them to do in their own time. Particularly if they have a new staff member and they want them to learn the product, or learn some new feature in the product, they’re going to be able to do those in their own time.

You know a bit more about that Killian, do you want to share about that?

Killian Vigna: Yeah, I suppose what a learning management system is, in a nutshell, anyone that’s ever done any online learning, like Udemy, Coursera, even like lynda.com, people in colleges probably remember blackboard, and Moodle. Its just self-taught training, you can also to blended learning. So while live training is still very important here, because it really helps new clients get the most out of Phorest and how can it impact their business. We will still have self-taught modules, and this will be in Rob’s area as well.

It will streamline onboarding and training. So its more hands on for clients that like to just jump straight into training, its more a kind of learning the basic functionality of Phorest, and then they’ll move over and do some one to one training, or a group training with an actual trainer and see what the benefits are, what the impact of that is. So that’s going to be real cool, because it’s going to make learning a bit more tangible as well, so while users are in their Phorest system, they’ll actually be able to see the courses that they can enroll in, and they can see courses that they have attended. They’ll be able to get certificates, gamification rewards, so it’s just going to make training so much more fun, engaging, and it’s going to really help people utilise how to use Phorest. Very passionate about this one.

Ronan Perceval: Its cool man, yeah, I’m really excited about it. And the other big thing next year is we’re going to do… we talked about Instagram with the portfolio, but we’re going to take Instagram to another level I think. Its clearly now, for many people in the industry, the most important marketing channel. Its overtaking Facebook in lots of territories, not everywhere, but it’s going to take over everywhere.

So we’ve built the portfolio, we allow people to share stuff on Instagram. But what we want to do now is, helping them source quality content from their clients, and then be able to share that, link that back to booking online, and then being able to do advertising through Instagram as well. So, through the product, using filters, so if you think about it this way, if you do an ad on Instagram today, you just can select very broad categories that aren’t necessarily potential clients, but you’ll be able to do things in Phorest where you’ll be able to go, I just want to advertise, on Instagram, just to people whose been in the salon before.

Or imagine you can take that a little bit further, and you can do, I just want to advertise to people that look like my clients. So that Instagram would then look at all your clients through Phorest and Instagram integrated, and be able to go, heres another 500 people that are the same age, go to salons, may be friendly with these guys but aren’t your clients, and we can put ads just for them. And I think that’s an incredible way for salon owners to grow their business using the latest marketing tools. So we’re really excited about that one and probably looking towards mid-end of next year for that.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah, I remember that one being previewed at the salon digital summit in LA with the session that we had over there, and the reaction, even just from the people who were attending that session, was incredible. It’s going to be quite impactful I think.

Rob Norton: Yeah.

Killian Vigna: It’s going to be great because on past episodes we’ve talked about Finding Your Betty was a guest when we heard from Pamela Laird. And with this Instagram, it’s now going to help you actually advertise and target your Betty.

Ronan Perceval: Yeah, exactly. Paddy used to work game changer all the time, but I think that that alone, that feature alone, will be the biggest thing we’ve done in 3 or 4 years, it’ll be that big.

Rob Norton: Every time its introduced to somebody, and they haven’t heard it before, there’s a quietness in the room, it’s like everybody is so attentive, it’s like oh my goodness, this is like the best thing since sliced bread. That’s an Irish one for you.

Killian Vigna: So what are you two most excited about? I know for me, I’m really excited about the learning management system, or the LMS, because I’ve invested so much and there’s been a lot of people working on this, but what are you two really looking forward to in 2019?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: If you had to say it in a sentence, I suppose, yeah, how could you top that off?

Rob Norton: I suppose for me, we’ve invested a lot of money into other platforms to help our clients, and its about delivering the desired outcome of our clients, essentially, at the end of the day. So we want to have delivered what the clients are asking for when they come on board the Phorest platform. And how we can truly help them do that, and when we achieve one set of outcomes for them, set the next and keep that going through their lifecycle with Phorest. And when we have a customer succeed platform that we’ve introduced and for me personally, that’s going to be a big asset to the company and most of all, to our clients. We’re going to get that insight from the start and be able to help them achieve what they’re looking to achieve, not just what maybe Phorest may be advising. So, that’s really key for me.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And what about you Ronan?

Ronan Perceval: The thing I’m most excited about is kind of the thing I’m always excited about, which is helping salon owners grow their business, because that’s why I got into this in the first place, from working as a receptionist in a salon 15 years ago. Its always been about that, but next year I think, a lot of things we’ve put in place, including the things Rob was talking about – we’ve put a lot more tools in place internally in Phorest, and then we’ve added a lot of features on the product itself, all of which will help salons grow their business.

One thing on its own may only have a small impact, but when you add 20 or 30 little improvements together, you get a big impact. And we’re also going to be tracking… A big thing we’re going to be doing as well next year, is tracking are salons growing using Phorest. So we will know if they are or not, so that tells us in real time, yes this is working brilliant, or its not, we need to contact the salon, see how we can help them.

And that’s a big change, because most products you buy, and it’s supposed to do what it says on the tin, and if it does, brilliant, but if it doesn’t, that’s on the buyer if you know what I mean. So I think that’s a big change actually, is that we will be, look that salon isn’t growing using our tools, we need to help them more, and we’ll know that and that will help us have a much bigger impact for salon owners in all the places we are. So I’m very excited about that.

Anybody whose out there, that’s going to be at the Salon Owners Summit, please come up and have a chat, I’m really excited to see anyone there.

Killian Vigna: And yeah, for anyone that is attending, we… I think this is the third year now were doing the Inside Phorest.

Ronan Perceval: Yeah, so, something we do every year after the summit is Inside Phorest, where anyone who came to the Summit can come into the Phorest office for the day and learn about all these new things that I’ve been talking about here. Play around with prototypes, give feedback, particularly to the development team, around changes they think should be in there or new ideas. And its always been a great day, like really good fun day, and salon owners who do come really love it. So I just encourage anyone that is going to be around Dublin Tuesday the 8th of January, if you’re in Dublin, and you own a salon, come along to that. It should be brilliant.

Rob Norton: It’s always great to meet people face to face, at the end of the day.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah, and we’re going to host, also, a love podcast recording in the middle of the 2 sessions. So, if you are a Phorest FM fan, and you want to see us live, that’s your chance1

Killian Vigna: Look, listen, Rob, Ronan, thanks very much for joining us on this show today. Great insight into Phorest there, and I think safe to say we’re all really looking forward to 2019!

Rob Norton: Thanks for having us!

Ronan Perceval: Cheers lads.

Killian Vigna: So, that was Rob and Ronan just giving us some insight into Phorest, and I was really looking forward to an exciting year this year. Still, lots, lots on the product roadmap to come, and in terms of Phorest as growth as well, which is the two things that they mentioned in their opening sentences. So, just few words from Zoe now.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah, for sure. Because we’re just around the corner from Christmas and New Years and all of that, obviously we don’t have any webinars coming up or trade shows. But we do want to wish you a Merry Christmas, and Happy New Years. And for anyone listening to this show on a regular basis, thank you so much for tuning in week after week. We’ve got some great things coming of Phorest FM as well next year. There’s going to be a dedicated webpage for Phorest FM where you can get all your information, literally stream every single episode form one single page where you can access the transcript, download exclusive material. There’s loads of changes coming to Phorest FM in 2019, so its definitely something to look forward to. In the meantime, if you have an interesting story to share, or know someone who’d be great on this podcast, please do get in touch with us through email, through social media. We’re always there at the touch of a button, and if you have any feedback, were always looking for suggestions on how we can improve the show. So feel free to leave us a review on iTunes, or on Stitcher, otherwise, have a wonderful break, and we’ll catch you in January!

Killian Vigna: All the best.

Thanks for reading! #LetsGrow

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