We take an inside look into the new Customer Beauty App, SOS Beauty, in our podcast episode with founder Faye Finero. If you’re a practitioner interested in downloading the app, it’s available in the Google Play store and the App Store. We’re delighted to work in Partnership with SOS Beauty, providing Beauty & Aesthetics Insurance policies to their referred members.
Key Benefits of the app
Check out the interview below;
How did it all begin?
Faye: So I originally came up with the idea back in January 2019. And I was just looking at the fact that I see so many people posting on Facebook saying, who knows where I can get my nails done on Friday?
And you’d see 20 people commenting or tagging friends into it. And then they’d be like, oh actually, I’m not available Friday, or I’ve got no availability for three weeks. And the person would have two days later, they’ve got 50 people now tagged on their post, but none of them is actually available still when they need them.
And I was also finding that people were getting tagged. From people that lived very close by. So, for example, my cousin was asking for a lash lift, and she’s like, does anybody know where I can get a lash lift? And I was like, my best friend lives on the next street to you.
She offers lash lift services from home, but they didn’t know each other, so they weren’t connected. And for how many people have got somebody living at the end of their street in the block of flats, you know that they just don’t know to offer a service that they need. So I came up with the idea initially, as I said back in 2019, and it took me three years to kind of get my act together and to make it a reality.
Faye: But during that time, I’d actually gone on to train in aesthetics myself. I also set up an accredited Aesthetics training academy as well. So I’d gotten to know the industry from both the customer’s perspective, but also then from the business perspective as well. And I started to see some of the issues that were kind of arising within the beauty industry, um, especially through Covid.
Covid was a real challenge for beauty businesses because I opened my clinic two weeks before the first lockdown. So you can imagine I generated a huge loss. I had loads of people that were interested in coming to my clinic. I’d done a lot of online marketing. A lot of people in the local area know me anyway, so I was like, this is great.
I’ve got deposits for all these appointments. Everybody’s going to be ready to go. And I had to close down two weeks later. I had to refund everybody’s deposits because we didn’t know when we could reopen. And then when we did finally open back up, I think it was like August after we closed in March, and I had to start completely again trying to find new customers.
And I was like, at that point, I was like, SOS Beauty would’ve been great now because I could have just created a free profile. I could have gone on there. People would’ve sent notifications when they wanted treatments, and I would’ve been able to get new customers. So that’s when the seeds started kind of being planted in my head.
Like, you had this idea a year ago. Maybe you should do something with it, because what a great tool to be able to help people to market their businesses. Also, what I’ve noticed is when we kind of came out of the end of Lockdowns, there were a lot of people that were cancelling beauty appointments because of Covid.
Faye: You know, I’ve had a positive lateral flow test and I kind of thought, Building SOS beauty is an opportunity for us as well to try and help manage some of this like new cancel culture that seems to have been created. People will say, “Oh, I’ve had a positive lateral flow test. I can’t come in.” Well, it’s, it is kind of an easy cop-out, and I’m not saying everybody uses it as an excuse, but it was giving people this opportunity to kind of be able to say, “Oh, you know, I don’t really have to provide any evidence.”
You don’t know if they’ve got a picture off of Google or if it’s a real picture, but if they suddenly decided, oh, I can’t really afford that treatment, or something else has come up, that it was just easy to say Covid and nobody could really question it. And so what we did, and what I did when I decided to start building this, was also looked at what tools the beauticians need on this platform to protect them as well from cancellations too.
So there was quite a lot of learning that went into this over the three-year period really from coming up with the initial idea, thinking how I’d use it as a customer, then going on to train in aesthetics and also becoming a training academy, understanding what made a good aesthetics practitioner, you know, and then also looking at what did they need in place to protect them and to make this system work for them as well.
As I say, it has been quite a process, but now I’ve finally got a product that I’m really happy with, and I feel that it’s going to be a great asset to beauty businesses and to customers.
Dawn: No, that sounds amazing. And it’s really great that you’re coming out with this idea. Cause I’ve personally seen those Facebook posts where they’re like, oh, can someone recommend somebody? And there’s like loads of people going like that, and then there’s no availability. And having that all in one place, I think, is going to be absolutely amazing and worthwhile to everybody that uses it.
How does a customer use the app?
Faye: Yeah, so basically, what will happen is a customer creates a free profile. They go on there, and they can send a specific request. So they can say what kind of treatment they want. So, for example, they want nails, and they want gel overlays. So they can put that on there. They can specify the date and time that they want the treatment.
You know, I’ve got a two-hour break on Friday. I ideally want that treatment on Friday because, again, another one of the issues is that what you find in the beauty industry is the customer’s trying to work around the beautician. And that’s sometimes why they’re unreliable because it doesn’t fit their own diary.
You’re trying to fit about around when the beauticians got availability, and you wouldn’t go to a restaurant. Well, unless it was a Michelin-star restaurant or somewhere that you’ve really had your eye on. If you decided I wanna go out for dinner on Friday at seven, you wouldn’t think, oh actually that restaurant hasn’t got availability for three weeks, so we won’t go out for three weeks.
Faye: You’d find another restaurant, and it’s really moving that way in the beauty industry. The customer will specify when they actually want the treatment, and they’re less likely to cancel the treatment if it fits into their own diary rather than them trying to fit into your diary. So they might say, Friday at five, I want to go and get something else done.
They then can specify do they want to go to a salon, do they want someone to visit them at home or are they willing to go and visit somebody else in their home? You know, some people struggle with anxiety. They don’t like to go and sit in a salon for two, three hours. They prefer somebody to come and visit them, or they’d be more comfortable.
They don’t, they might not want somebody in their own home environment, but they’d be more than comfortable to go to somebody else’s house and have the treatment on there, who’s maybe got a salon at the bottom of the garden or something like that. So they can specify what they want. They can also upload photographs of the results.
The Booking Process…
Faye: So, you know, I’ve been to one of these dodgy nail bars. I’ve had my nail absolutely buffered to death, and they’re in really bad condition. I can upload a photograph, um, so that when that request goes out to them, the nail tech, they can actually see what state my nails are in. So the nail tech also can create a free profile.
So anybody working in hair, beauty, aesthetics, holistic treatments, cosmetic dentistry, or any of those kinds of services, can create a free profile on the app as well. They will then receive notifications saying somebody in your area is requesting nails if you’ve put nails as a service that you offer.
Faye: So they’ll look at it, they’ll say, “Oh, I can see when they want it. I can see what they want. And I can also see what condition the nails are currently in. I’m going to quote 60 pounds.” So the customer will then receive all of the quotations in one place. So it’ll show the booking, it’ll show how many quotes have been received.
They can go onto that, and they can actually click through and view the profile of each person that’s quoted them. And they know that those people are available because that person has, you know, that that beautician has looked at the date before they’ve responded. So they’ve said, yeah, I’m free on Friday at five.
I can make that appointment. That’s fine. The customer then is only getting, um, quotes from people that they know are available, which saves them a hell of a lot of time, you know, just ringing around. Checking with 20, or 30 companies before they actually get an appointment, they can click on the profile, can see reviews from previous customers.
Faye: The reviews also allow the customer to upload photographs, so they’re not just seeing pictures in the gallery that have been photoshopped. They’re also seeing real-life customer photographs that look like the work that they’ve put in their gallery. You know that that’s an accurate representation of their work.
They can see their star rating. So they can also see the reviews. They’ve had a lot of information upfront, all in one place, about several different beauticians before making the decision who they’re gonna go with when they make that appointment. So they book it through the. They confirm it with payment.
So we hold the payment then until the work’s completed. Once the work is marked as completed, we then release the payment to the beautician. So the beautician only pays to be on the app. If they have a completed booking. We charge a 20% booking fee. The beautician can also leave a review for the customer.
So, you know, in the beauty industry, we’ve all had those nightmare customers. You do the best treatment in the world, but they put in a complaint, and they want a refund. We actually manage that refund process. So if somebody leaves a one or two-star review on our system, it automatically flags up to an admin.
We then do a little bit of an investigation. We’ll ask you if your side of it, and we’ll ask them for their side of it. We’ll make a decision whether we think that’s actually a fair review before it’s added to your profile because we know that sometimes you can have somebody who’s just having a bad day, and they’ve taken it out on the beautician.
Somebody who wasn’t clear on what exactly it was that they wanted, and you know, it didn’t turn out the way they expected it to, but that’s precisely what they asked for. So we try and kind of manage that, and we support the beauticians as well through the refund process.
But you know, generally across the board, any of our businesses on the platform, we would help them manage any cancellations, or we’d make sure that we didn’t think that reviews would be malicious. You can also review the customer as well. So a little bit like Uber or customer gets a rating in when you, when you get an inquiry come through, you can see and say, oh, that customer’s a bit of a nightmare.
You know, they’ve got a two-star rate. They’ve been to loads of different places. Every place they’ve gone to, they’ve tried to get a refund. So again, I’m constantly thinking about how we also protect our businesses on the platform as well as protecting our customers.
Dawn: That sounds absolutely fabulous. I think you’ve got it down to a tee as well, because especially with the customer reviews. There’s like a certain culture around “Karens”, for example. It’s not relating to every person who’s named Karen to any listeners that are listening, but more of the kind of nightmare customer that you find in any sort of industry.
And the last thing you need is one this slating you just because they want a discount on a service or they’re being ridiculous and unmanageable. So the fact that you want to protect both sides is absolutely brilliant, and I think that’s going to be really great to see how it develops as time goes through and more people use the app.
What other features do you have planned?
Faye: Yeah, there are a couple of other features as well. So what we decided to do was reverse engineer the process as well. So you know, as I say, I’ve got an aesthetics practice. If I’ve got a cancellation at five o’clock today, my salon is so empty for an hour, I can put a post out on Facebook, but it’s only going to reach the people that are directly in my circle saying I’ve got a cancellation today.
I might offer a reduced price so that it might have been lip filler, which should have been 175 pounds, but I’m going to offer it for 125 because I just want to fill that booking because I’ve already paid for the product. I’ve still got overheads to cover. So instead of just posting it on Facebook, you can actually send the shout-out on the app, which sends it to all of our customers within your area.
Faye: So they’ll receive special offer notifications as well, and you can send two of those out a day. We only, we limit that to two because we know big salons that might have 10 people working there could be sending out multiple posts each day. And what we don’t want is for our customers to get kind of bombarded with special offers.
But it just gives you an opportunity to fill any last-minute cancellations and grab customers that might not have been aware of you before realize you’ve got an offer. You might get them in on the offer price, but then they’ll come back as a reoccurring customer. And customers can also favourite you as their preferred practitioner as well.
So if they’ve come to you for treatment, they’ve had an excellent experience, they can add you to the favourites when they’re going through the review process. And that means that then the next time they want to go and get their lips done. Instead of sending out a public notification, they can send it directly to you first, and if you are available when they want the appointment, you can accept it, and if not, they can then make it public. So it gives you an opportunity as well to build a rapport with the client.
Dawn: That sounds incredible. I can’t wait. I might use it myself, if I’m honest!
Do you have any more plans for the app?
Faye: Yeah, so basically, with the app, it’s going to take a little bit of time because, as you can imagine, we can’t release to the public until we’ve got enough beauty businesses on the app in that specific geographic area.
So what we’re doing is a national campaign throughout May. We’re working with a national PR company. They’re helping us; we’ve got multiple red carpet events, newspaper, editorial pieces, and various things that are going out there to help us build momentum with this so that we can get on board quickly.
But people kind of need to understand that if you download the app, you create a profile for your business. Depending on the area that you live in, if you live in a small village, it might take slightly longer for customers to start coming through. Like, I live in a village, and I’ve used JustEat for 10 years, and I’ve still only got about eight takeaways in the surrounding area.
Faye: Obviously, there are a lot more beauticians in an area and hairdressers and aesthetics practitioners than there are takeaways. So hopefully, we can grow that a little bit quicker. But it will take some time for areas to start to build up places like Manchester, London, Nottingham etc. They might build a lot quicker because there are big city hubs, so it’s, it’s going to take some time for that.
What we’re also looking at now already is our stage two development. So we are looking at things like integrating a booking system, whether or not we work in partnership with one of the existing booking systems or our own. These are all things that we’re kind of going through with the developers at the moment because even though they create the appointment for walls, there’s no diary management that kind of feeds into your diary at the moment.
The customer gets appointment reminders and things through our platform, but again, it would be great if that could integrate with your other booking systems and diary management. So that’s coming later down the line. And we’re also looking at things like being able to add yourself as a training provider in the beauty industry.
So if somebody’s looking for a beauty training course, That’s on there as a beautician or hairdresser or whatever, they will then be able to request a specific training course in the same way that a customer requests a treatment. So this is all our stage two development, and there are a few other features as well.
I don’t want to give all of our trade secrets away, but yeah, we’ve got plenty of features that we’re working on in the background that are going to make. The system is better, and we’re always looking for feedback as well. So if people are using this, they’re like, you’re missing this treatment. You know, you haven’t got this listing, or what about adding this feature?
This would work great. We’re open to those suggestions as well, and people sending us an email and we can look into the cost and the time of actually being able to add that in.
Dawn: Oh, brilliant. Um, wow. I can’t wait to see it launch and hopefully absolutely bloom and grow and just go nuts, really. I reckon you’ve hit such a good niche, a little bit of the market as well. I mean, obviously, I’m not a dragon or a business expert, but I know for definite that at least five of my friends would want to download that app.
Faye: If everybody’s got five friends they want to refer, you know, and get onto the platform, that, that would be a great start. But I’ve already got about 3000 beauticians that have expressed interest in working. So we’re going to be on the app stores by the 25th of April 2022. We should be on both the Apple and the Google app stores so that people can download that app and get going.