While living in Milwaukee, there were parts I liked about going to the barbershop; however, there were parts that I really disliked.

The parts I liked: the environment, the community interaction, and the relaxation

The parts I disliked: appointment setting, waiting, and the transaction

1)      I could make an appointment by phone, by setting the next appointment after a completed appointment, or by physically stopping by the barbershop.

  • Phone – First, I had to find time to call during the working day.  Second, I had to call when the barber was not busy or was willing to put the clippers down to answer the phone.  Once we connected, we had to navigate his day planner, which he manually updated using a pencil, to find times that worked for both of us.  Overall, this was not an efficient process for both parties.
  • Plan Ahead – It meant that I had to know my schedule 10 days in advance, which was hard to do.  If I had to reschedule, I had to call (thus falling into the situation mentioned above) and hope that my available time slot(s) weren’t already taken.  In general, the time slots that worked with my schedule were filled up 4-5 days in advance.
  • Dropping by – This was the least efficient option.

 2)      I was forced to wait for two reasons: the barber underestimated the amount of time it would take to perform a particular haircut or one of the clients ahead of me was late.  Both scenarios forced the barber to run behind schedule.

3)      The barber only accepted cash so, if I forgot to get cash at the ATM or store during my regular routine, I had to set aside time before my appointment to get cash, which added an additional 10-15 mintues.

Like most, I brushed off these inconveniences as just “part of the process.”  However, after moving to Cambridge and finding a new barber, I discovered that these inconveniences did not need to be part of the process and could be eliminated.

My new barber was able to service his clients more efficiently because he had integrated technology into his operation.  Serendipitously, the efficiencies he was able to achieve addressed my three pain points.  First, rather than keeping a written day planner for appointments, he signed a contract with Genbook, an online solution provider who specializes in click-to-schedule appointment setting.  Through this system, via the barbershop’s website or Genbook App, the customer is able to see the barber’s schedule for the next couple weeks and set an appointment for one of the open slots.  All the barber has to do is input the days/times he is available to work.  This transparency allows his clients to make, reschedule, and cancel appointments without having to interact with the barber, thus saving time for both parties.

Second, the Genbook scheduling system forces the client to disclose the type of service he/she wants before the appointment can be set.  This allows the barber to more accurately predict the time needed for each appointment, thus decreasing the potential wait time for clients.  As for addressing the late clients, although Genbook cannot eliminate this efficiency damaging act, the software has features that try to help alleviate that problem.  When setting an appointment, the client must include his/her phone number and email address.  The software will then automatically send out email and text notifications reminding the client of their upcoming appointment.  This feature also helps the barber avoid the dreaded “no-show,” which is the worst case scenario for the barber as it dramatically increases the likelihood that he will sit idle for a given period of time.

Finally, although my barber does not accept credit cards, arguably the easiest and best option for the client, he allows his clients to pay him via venmo.  Once again, eliminating one more inconvenience.

Overall, I have to commend my barber for the progressiveness of his shop.  Many barbers understand that their business and revenue generation is based on maximizing throughput, minimizing idle time, and satisfying their clients, but few have done the research and have utilized technology in the manner in which this barber has.  I find the comparison between these two barbers interesting, because I see this story as an anecdote for the world of small business.

How many small businesses fail to reach the customer satisfaction, efficiency, or revenue numbers they aspire to achieve simply because they do not seek out or fail to find the cost effective solutions that are readily available?  In that same vein, what can be done to help small businesses discover these solutions?

By: Josh Stull

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