“My God, this is so convenient, why don’t other salons have it?” exclaim Beauty Point customers when they first make a reservation or have a question answered by the salon’s chatbot, Beautko. Every day, the salon receives at least one new booking through the chatbot. For months in the salon, there has not been a case of a customer who did not come at the appointed time – everyone makes changes to their reservations quickly, easily and in a timely manner through the chatbot. Beautko’s success has already been recorded in a case study. Today the conversation is about the story of the chatbot and its life with the person behind its creation – the owner of Beauty Point beauty studio, Desislava Despotova.
Desislava Despotova has a master’s degree in kinesitherapy, a Ph.D. student at the BAS, and a Doctor of Medicine, Biomechanics. Desislava is a graduate of the National Academy of Sports with more than 15 years of experience in the field of face and body aesthetic procedures. She is a cosmetology teacher at Professional Education Center for training cosmetologists. She established Beauty Point in 2012. Today, her vision for the salon is to become as digitized as possible, and the Beautko chatbot occupies a central place in the digitization of administrative activities.
– How did you come up with the idea of a chatbot and what made you use chatbot technology for your business?
– The idea was born on the 3rd day of the official announcement of the Covid pandemic in Bulgaria, around March 15-16, 2020. I found that the only way for people to reach us without us being physically involved in the communication process, is online. When you have to answer on the phone, via Viber or Messenger, then you have to take the time to answer customers in person. I decided that I needed a solution that customers could use to book appointments themselves and communicate with it, that would sell and be able to benefit customers without the need for human contact. I did research on chatbots. I thought that only foreign companies deal with such technology, and I was not able to find information about a chatbot as I imagined it. I contacted a client of mine who turned out to have worked with Umni and her company already had a chatbot on the Umni’s platform. I contacted Umni directly to have such a chatbot. Our studio has had a chatbot for over 2 years now and both me and our customers are very satisfied with it.
– What is the functionality you like the most and why?
– Booking an appointment without human presence, even at 23:58 at night, in the first place. Chatting with the studio’s chatbot at night is over 35% of the overall communication. In second place comes the changing and canceling of a booked appointment by customers. I noticed that a lot of those who wanted to change their appointment or cancel it didn’t do it not because they didn’t want to call us, but because they realized they couldn’t call us at the time they found out that they will not have the opportunity to come to the studio – for example, late at night, or they are shy to call us and give a reason for canceling. This functionality has helped us reduce the number of no-shows to Zero for the past few months. Customers also use other functionalities such as buttons for direct calling and asking questions. As customers see that they are talking to a chatbot, they minimize the “stupid questions”. The third most used functionality is the ability to book an appointment for a personal consultation without the need for talking with someone from our team – talking to a member of the team often lengthens the process of booking an appointment, and through the chatbot, it happens quickly and easily.
– What were your thoughts about the technology before you started using it?
– Unlike my acquaintances, who, without any knowledge of the technology, had a more neutral opinion, I was sure that the chatbot was the future. If a person wastes his time answering the same questions every day without any value, he becomes a robot. In this case, I think it’s best for a robot to be in that position, and for the human to handle the more complex tasks.
– Before creating your chatbot, did you have any personal experience with such?
– I have had contacts with chatbots when I was looking for something I was interested in and came across businesses offering chatbot for communication. The chatbot is very systematized, and in most cases when I interacted with the technology, I had to imagine what I wanted to ask in order to get an answer, and I always received adequate answers. In Bulgaria, however, I had not seen such technology until that moment, and it was difficult for me to describe what I wanted and to imagine it.
– What are your impressions of the technology now?
– Very good, the chatbot replaces us perfectly and customers really use it a lot. 30% of customers use only the chatbot to book an appointment. Others book their appointment in the salon while they are still there. There were, of course, some people who were nervous about using our Beautko chatbot, perhaps because they weren’t digitally savvy, and a conversation with the chatbot was more stressful for them. We used an interesting approach to help – whoever wants to take advantage of a promotion and discount can only make their reservation through the chatbot. It turned out to be a very good motivation for customers – 100% of promotional bookings are made through the chatbot. Younger customers (20-35) adapted to the technology easily, while older customers took a little longer to adapt.
– Did the loyal customers get used to the chatbot?
– Yes, they use it all the time, which is also due to the constant chatbot campaigns we do, showing them how to use it. All customers admire how easy it is to use the chatbot afterward. In general, most clients prefer to book an appointment through the chatbot and find out about our schedule at their convenience. Including our new customers – 20% make their first reservation in our salon through the chatbot.
– What is the attitude of the salon employees toward the chatbot?
– I recently hired a girl for the Reception Desk and she was not familiar with the technology. When I explained to her how the chatbot works, she was amazed and really liked this way of working. The chatbot also assists with some of her work. She can focus on more important tasks related to the customers, so her attitude is positive, as well as the rest of the team, who have been with me since the beginning of the chatbot implementation.
– What are the trends in your industry in terms of chatbot usage?
– My personal observations are that more and more colleagues want to have a chatbot like ours, and I am constantly asked questions about its specifics and capabilities. This is the future for me. The chatbot is really a convenience for customers and for businesses, adding much more value – even people who don’t use it appreciate it positively.
– If you had to “break up” with the chatbot for some reason, how would that affect the work of the team and the customers?
– What would happen as before the implementation of the chatbot – the constant messaging about price, availability for today, location, and other routine questions, which the chatbot now answers and saves me that very valuable time paying attention to clients who are currently in the studio or relaxing after work instead of being on the phone all the time. Most likely, the girl at the Reception Desk would have spent more time on the phone answering everyone personally and would not have had the opportunity to pay more attention to the clients that are in the studio.
The fact is that not everyone who asks questions is ready to make an appointment but only asks for information. This wastes our time, which could be spent on more valuable customers. The chatbot handles all these routine questions and requests, all at once. It saves us a lot of time and helps in increasing sales at any time of the day. When we are not available to pick up the phone, the client makes an appointment online. I also go back to the fact that if the chatbot didn’t exist and clients didn’t change/cancel their appointment quickly online, they would not show up for their appointment, that’s a lost business for us because we could have booked an appointment for another client.
– Is there any functionality the chatbot doesn’t have, but you wish it could have – coffee-making aside 😊?
– I really want the chatbot to be present in some form in the studio – for example, to be on a tablet, and the client, leaving a procedure, would not book an appointment from his/her own phone, but through the tablet. I would like to integrate Beautko here in the studio – have his own landing page and “revive” him to become another receptionist. I want one day the studio to become semi-digital: things that are human-like performing the procedure and communicating during it – remain employees’ work, but the administrative tasks and the routine to be completely part of the work of the chatbot.
– Do you think that by using chatbot technology you are more competitive?
– Yes, for sure, even my clients say: how can my hairdresser not have a chatbot, it’s absurd that everything can’t happen online, from anywhere in the world.
– Which of your chatbot social media campaigns has been the most successful for you as a business and for your customers?
– The most successful is the one where customers directly make a reservation with us, our reservation system sends them a confirmation message with a link to the chatbot. In the confirmation at the very beginning, we put a link to their booking details in the chatbot itself with an invitation to “view your booking in your personal chatbot”. Customers can check their information, change it quickly and easily, and thus learn about our chatbot if they haven’t seen it before. They always click to see what it’s about. This campaign has the greatest success in introducing the chatbot and its functionalities because this is how customers learn that through the chatbot everything happens the fastest.
– Tell us an interesting story related to the chatbot and your customers?
– What I have noticed is that quite often customers do not recognize that they are communicating with a chatbot, which is the goal. It’s very rare, but inevitable, that sometimes they don’t get exactly the answer they want when their question wasn’t specific enough and they have to call us. In that case, they may write a bad word to the chatbot because they are angry. This bothered me at first, but now I feel that there could only be lost profits if I or my team had to spend a lot of time responding to such people. They are also grumpy when communicating with the team. Instead, our chatbot screens them out. Those who really want to take advantage of our services have no problems with the chatbot and remain satisfied.