Google Wants to Book Your Salon Services for You, but We’re Skeptical

Google added to its Reserve With Google service by allowing users to book their salon appointments on its site and app. (Photo: Getty Images)

In its quest to creep into every part of our lives, Google announced a new Reserve With Google feature that would allow salon-goers to book their appointments directly through its platform.

The feature, Google says, provides a shortcut for people who want to book at their favorite salon or find a new salon through an Internet search, without the hassle of calling different businesses.

Here’s how it works: Users can find a salon or spa on Google Maps or Search and click a “book” button on the business listing, which will then prompt users to choose the time, service, and staff member they’re looking for. The feature also provides business recommendations for people who aren’t sure where they want to go.

A look at the Reserve With Google service. (Photo: Courtesy of Google)

Google says the scheduling feature works through partnerships with the software companies that your favorite salon may already use. Those software companies, like MindBody — a software management firm that helps fitness, beauty, and wellness-focused small businesses manage everything from digital reservations to payroll — will “power the back end” of the Google reservations, according to a MindBody spokesperson.

But while Google’s intent to make consumers’ lives easier might be admirable, the execution is flawed. 

First, the Reserve With Google service has a few functional issues. For example, when you search “salons” on a computer Web browser, dozens of listings appear, but the “book” button that Google instructs you to look for isn’t easily found. The booking feature doesn’t populate on Google’s smartphone apps, either.

When Yahoo Beauty notified a Google spokesperson about the issue, they flagged the problem to the company and instead prompted us to use the Reserve With Google direct website. Having to go through two websites doesn’t exactly make a client’s experience more seamless.

Google already allows you to book your fitness classes using Reserve With Google; it piloted the program in three cities at first and now makes it available nationwide. The company declined to say how many people use the feature, but said that “beauty and fitness are toward the top of things most-searched on Google.”

It’s one thing to book a fitness class online, but it’s a little different when it comes to beauty. You can leave a fitness class early if you’re unsatisfied, but you can’t leave halfway through a hair appointment. (Well, you can. But the results likely won’t be pretty.) 

That’s one reason many salon-goers rely on personal relationships they’ve built with their stylists or salons over the years. Assuming it’s not a routine service, a client is more likely to contact a stylist directly instead of impersonally booking an appointment online.

Finding the right salon stylist or technician is a lot like dating, in that clients like to do their research and get to know the person who’ll have a pair of sharp scissors inches from their scalp over a few hours. That’s true even in states with major metro areas like Los Angeles or New York City, where there are more than four times as many nail salons as McDonald’s and it’s easy to hop around from salon to salon.

The personal accounts are endless. Yara, a working mom in Washington, D.C., says she calls her hairstylist whenever she needs to: “I’ve known him for over 10 years. He knows the whole family and I know his.” Theresa in Michigan says her nail technician is one of her best friends: “I text when I need her. Plus, she’s my therapist.” 

Some clients rely on their stylist’s input before they even book an appointment. “I email my stylist and tell her what I want done, and then she either makes the appointment for me because she knows how long I should be on the schedule for, or I call the front desk and tell them what I’m having done,” says Kate, a video producer in New York City. 

And Michele in Texas says she relies heavily on Instagram (“I stalk potential hairstylists, peep their work”) before booking directly through that social media platform, another problem for Google. 

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is quite the thorn in Google’s data-hungry side. The company told Yahoo Beauty that roughly 8 million businesses have profiles on Instagram, and 80 percent of Instagram’s users follow a business. Earlier this year, Instagram enabled clients to book services for U.S.-based businesses directly. 

But it’s not just the salons themselves that have Instagram profiles to attract clients; stylists build their clienteles by beefing up their own social media presence, so that no matter which salon they work at, their clients will follow. 

Not to be forgotten is Yelp, the online review platform that lets users request appointments directly via its website, much like Instagram and Google. Since 2014, users can message businesses directly through Yelp, and they can now request quotes for services. Yelp says that more than 4.5 million appointment requests were submitted via its site last year, and 80 percent of businesses respond to appointment requests within a day.

But direct messages, emails, and online booking aside, sometimes an old-fashioned phone call works just fine.

Read more from Yahoo Style + Beauty:

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day. For Twitter updates, follow @YahooStyle and @YahooBeauty.

Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style + Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.