All posts by Gunjan Saini

4 Covid-19 Changes to Keep for the Long Haul

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4 Covid-19 Changes to Keep for the Long Haul

Covid-19 has forever changed our work, our social interactions, and even how we view ourselves. We’ve come to understand our own limits better, even as we’ve learned the importance of self-care. That doesn’t mean, however, we’ve enjoyed the experience. 

Let’s be honest: Plenty of those changes we’ll be happy to discard once it’s safe to do so. Which of them, however, should we consider keeping for the long haul?

While you’re likely sick of social distancing, there are a few changes beyond more frequent handwashing that you should keep long after the pandemic has ended:

1. Setting Your Own Schedule

Covid-19 turned our world upside down and turned our days into a grey fog of sameness. We learned, intentionally or not, how to clear the haze by controlling our schedule. 

We need our work time, our quiet time, and our family time. As Calendar suggests, we thrive on routine, and losing it can leave us feeling lost and disoriented. 

Make a point, if you don’t already, to separate your work and play spaces. Set clear work and “office” hours. When it’s time to put one down, take the other up with a vengeance. 

To be clear, you don’t need to have every minute of the day rigidly scheduled out. But if there’s one thing you should hold on to once the pandemic is over, it’s the importance of making time for all aspects of your life. 

2. Embracing Mental and Emotional Care

You’ve likely heard the phrase “collective trauma” more than once over the past year. You may have even experienced its symptoms: chiefly irritability, frustration, and depression.  

For many of us, this has required making a conscious effort to cope. It’s meant figuring out what keeps us sane in a world that has, too often, seemed like it’s gone mad. 

Maybe you need to schedule in gym time, some counseling sessions, or even a Covid-safe spa day. Or, to the point above, it might just entail making sure you have uninterrupted family time on your calendar.

Do what you need to take care of yourself. Make your mental and emotional health your top priority this year.

3. Taking Being Sick Seriously

Too often, we treat common colds as annoyances we have to push aside and power through. It’s understandable: colds aren’t, generally speaking, serious illnesses. Covid-19 reminded us that some infections, however, are. 

According to LinkedIn, workers took an average of just 2.5 sick days in 2018. Sick employees aren’t only less productive, but they risk infecting others and affecting their productivity. 

The bottom line is, overextending yourself when you’re sick doesn’t help anyone. Focusing on what’s important and taking the time to recover, on the other hand, helps everyone.

That might involve staying in when you want to go out with friends. It might mean rescheduling a meeting or moving an in-person appointment to a virtual one. Realize that your being ill affects others. So stay home and focus on recovery. 

4. Telecommuting

This change should catch no one by surprise. Over the past year, “telecommute” has become almost as familiar a word as “pandemic.” 

To be sure, not every job or industry is suited for at-home work. Not everyone will have the option to work remotely once Covid-19 has passed. 

For those who can telecommute, however, the arrangement can be a godsend. Remote workers are as productive as, if not more productive than, their in-office team members. Leaders can leverage the perk to expand their talent pool and to save on office costs. 

Make no mistake: offices, gyms, and schools will reopen once the pandemic is over. But at the same time, telecommuting is here to stay. 

Although it can be difficult to see silver linings in something like a pandemic, Covid-19 has its share. The challenge, of course, is seizing them at the same time you steer your life back to “normal.” Fortunately, you have the entire world as company. 

How to Tell Challenging Customers the Truth

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How to Tell Challenging Customers the Truth

It goes against every professional instinct to disappoint the person signing the checks, but the truth is, the customer is not always right. 

If a client has you working around the clock, rearranging your online calendar around their needs, or scrambling to provide services you don’t usually offer, it’s time to have a conversation. Can you reasonably meet their expectations?

Perhaps not. Sometimes, you’ll need to push back on challenging customers without hurting your relationship or losing business. 

Threading that needle is not easy, much less enjoyable. Here are some tips to help you have constructive conversations that reinforce your boundaries and prevent client relationships from deteriorating:

1. Go Back to the Contract

A lot of client overreach is born not out of entitlement, but out of the fact that the client has simply forgotten the scope of work. This is why it’s so important to establish clear expectations at the beginning of a client relationship, and to put those expectations in writing. If you don’t, you will have a much more difficult time telling a pushy client why something can’t be done.

Moreover, pointing to a contract is a respectful way to turn down a request, and one few reasonable people will argue against. If the client still wants you to perform extra work, you can offer to renegotiate their contract — and find opportunities to upsell them in the process. 

2. Take Time to Listen

When a client makes a demand that sounds unreasonable, it’s easy to assume they’re disrespecting you and your time. But it’s possible that they’re facing extenuating circumstances you don’t know about: Perhaps they’re under immense pressure from their own boss, or perhaps they simply don’t understand how much time and effort their request would require. 

Before saying “no,” schedule a meeting to talk through their request. Ask clarifying questions, and practice active listening when they answer. Fully understanding their needs will help you brainstorm a solution that works for both of you. And if you do still need to turn them down, the respect and consideration you showed them will soften the blow. 

3. Pick Your Battles

Being flexible without becoming a pushover is a difficult balance to strike, but an important one to master. If a task is technically out of scope but wouldn’t significantly strain your resources, consider the pros and cons of taking it on. If your contract allows you five business days to complete your deliverables, but the client’s CEO wants it on their desk in four days, it’s likely in your best interest to make an exception. 

In these situations, it’s helpful to make sure your client is fully aware that you’re pushing the bounds of the contract. Tell them, “While we usually prefer five business days to complete this task, we’re happy to expedite the process in this particular circumstance.” This reminds them what the norm is while highlighting the fact that you’re going above and beyond for them.

4. Be Specific

This should go without saying, but just saying “no” without an explanation won’t do much for your customer retention. The more clarity you offer your client, the more likely you are to end the disagreement amicably.

When explaining why a request can’t be met, point to specific aspects of the client’s request that are misaligned with what’s in their contract. This gives the client more clarity into what you can and cannot do. Plus, it emphasizes the fact that your denial is due to business needs, not your personal feelings. 

5. Remove Emotion from the Equation

When dealing with pushy clients, it’s easy to feel frustrated, angry, or insulted. But it’s important to remember that the matter probably isn’t personal for your client; it doesn’t have to be personal for you, either.  

When speaking with the difficult client, take a mental step back. Think of yourselves not as two individuals having a disagreement, but as two business representatives trying to work out the most mutually beneficial business deal. Speak in a calm tone, explain the situation with professional precision, and avoid getting into arguments.

There’s little you can do if your client behaves rudely. But if you make an effort to avoid retaliating in kind, you can prevent the conflict from getting worse. 

6. Consider Matching Their Request 

In some situations, you may be able to get some concessions from the client that make their request a little fairer. Just be sure you don’t insult them in the process.

“If the client asks for something outrageous,” Shortpress’s Sam McKeith suggests, “it can sometimes pay off to deflect with something equally as impossible.” 

Say a client asks for a massive discount. You could say that discount is available if they lock into a two-year contract or if they refer you to their own clients. This way, you can turn an extreme request into an opportunity for new business. 

7. Keep the End Goal in Mind 

Clients can often have you running around in circles as you try to meet their every whim. What they forget is that their own actions are delaying completion of their project. 

It’s your responsibility to keep the end goal in focus. Avoid letting them sidetrack you with irrelevant requests. Remind your client what you’re there for, and emphasize that it’s in their best interest to focus your joint energies on that end goal. 

8. If All Else Fails, End the Partnership

“Firing” a client can and should be a last resort. After all, they’re the one who initially hired you. But a client relationship that isn’t mutually beneficial isn’t worth maintaining. 

Remember that your company is in the business of making money, not providing charity to your clients. If an overbearing client is costing more in terms of manpower and morale than what they pay you, it may be time to end the relationship. 

Keep opportunity costs in mind. Your team could better use its time serving the clients that value their relationship with you. Your efforts could improve retention, generate more upsells, and create a healthier business in the long run. 

In most cases, though, consulting your contract, listening to your client, and communicating openly is enough to ease client challenges. Either way, professionalism and honesty go a long way toward encouraging clients to better respect your time. 

How to Handle Appointment Scheduling When Schedules Change

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How to Handle Appointment Scheduling When Schedules Change

As Americans return to work, many are losing their 9-to-5 freedom. No longer can they book appointments whenever they please thanks to the flexibility of remote work prompted by COVID-19. Appointment-based businesses must know when and how to adjust their own schedules as work practices revert to the old norm. Here’s what you can do to handle your appointment schedule when schedules change:

Manage Walk-Ins Wisely

Walk-ins can be both a blessing and a curse for appointment-based businesses. On the one hand, walk-ins represent welcome revenue on slow days when appointments are hard to come by. On the other hand, turning prospective customers away due to high volume is always a bummer. The best approach is to allow a set number of walk-ins per day or per hour and to work everything else through appointments.

Some of your customers might not know their availability until after they clock out. This may prompt them to stop by in an attempt to squeeze into your schedule. Instead of playing the odds, use their desire to your advantage. Send out notifications to your customers informing them of available appointment slots throughout the day. This way they’ll know beforehand whether you’re full to the brim or whether there’s a slot they can book right then and there using their device. 

Adjust Your Business Hours

When your regular customer base returns to a 9-to-5 schedule, your own business hours might see a decline in appointment volume. To cater to changing needs, consider adjusting your business hours to accommodate schedule changes. This could involve opening up a little earlier and staying open a couple extra hours to give everyone an opportunity to stop by.

Before making any changes, gauge the interest customers would have in amended store hours. If you’ve been developing a personal relationship with them, you can ask directly. Otherwise, send a survey asking for input or do a week-long trial run to see whether the new hours are popular. 

Be sure to get your employee work schedules straightened out beforehand, though. You’ll need to know that you have people willing to fill the new time slots. 

Go Virtual

If the nature of your business allows it, try incorporating virtual appointments into your services. This allows customers to book appointments and phone in even while they’re at the office, filling your 9-to-5 slots when physical appointments are infeasible. The convenience of virtual appointments will also benefit stay-at-home parents who struggle with dragging the kids around for errands.

While we’re still a long way from virtual haircuts, plenty of appointment-based businesses can pull off virtual appointments. Healthcare providers can check in on patients’ treatment plans, for example, while counselors only need to speak with their clients to make an impact. 

When deciding to go virtual, make sure to do it right. Invest in proper sound equipment, solid internet service, and robust videoconferencing technology for a high-quality appointment experience. Ready yourself for virtual appointments by doing extra preparation in advance and brushing up on online etiquette

Take Advantage of Customers’ Availability

Even as your customers return to their desk jobs, you can still take advantage of certain times to lure them in. The most reliable is the lunch hour, when employees might grab a quicker-than-usual bite to eat so they can fit in an appointment before clocking back in. Capitalizing on these brief moments of availability will give your business a nice boost of revenue each day.

Take a page out of the restaurant industry’s book. To get workers to stop by for lunch, they offer specials available only during certain times of day. Any appointment-based business can use this tactic to give customers an incentive to book a lunchtime slot. For example, a car detailer can offer a free exterior wash for any customer who brings in their ride between noon and 2 p.m.

Bring Your Business to the Customers

Back in the olden days, doctors would travel to private homes to care for their patients. Bringing back this old trend mould allows busy professionals stuck at work until 5 p.m. to book more appointments with you. 

Remember our car detailer? They could travel to their customer’s place of business and clean out their car in the parking lot. This way the service is still being performed without the customer having to take time off work or sacrifice part of their evenings or weekends. Any appointment-based business with enough creativity can pull this off as long as there’s demand. 

Adjust Your Late and Cancellation Policies

What happens if a customer can’t make it to their appointment because their boss asked them to stay late? Take a look at your late and cancellation policies to determine how best to accommodate these types of scenarios. Some leniency on your part will encourage customers to try — and try again — to visit your business and develop loyalty to your brand.

Of course, there will always be times when your late and cancellation policies must be enforced. Repeat offenders shouldn’t be given the same benefit of the doubt as loyal customers who have to cancel last-minute due to unforeseen circumstances. 

As a business owner you’ll always have to make adjustments on the fly when circumstances change — and the workplace upheaval caused by COVID-19 is certainly one of those circumstances. As the 9-to-5 norm is re-established, work to give your customers the service they deserve, and you’ll always come out on top. 

The Right Appointment Reminders Will Get Your Customers Through the Door

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The Right Appointment Reminders Will Get Your Customers Through the Door

Any business that works with appointment bookings should be sending reminders to all of its customers. Even the simplest reminder can slash no-show rates and late appearances by customers who have a hard time keeping track of their schedule. Online appointment reminders can also be automated, so there’s no additional work for your team.

However, the best appointment reminders require a little more thought and effort. Carefully crafting your appointment reminders will improve their effectiveness in bringing customers through your doors. Here are a few tips to bear in mind when developing your own appointment reminders:

Provide Multiple Options

Not all forms of appointment reminders will be effective for all your customers. Some will prefer email reminders, while others are more likely to respond to a text message or automated phone call. Having a variety of options lets customers select the method that fits them best; multiple options will help ensure they never forget an appointment.

Also consider allowing customers to select the time of the reminder. Some individuals only need an hour’s notice to get ready for an appointment, while others will want a nudge 24 hours in advance. For clients who book appointments very far out, multiple reminders over a month or two will prevent you from falling off their radar.

In some cases, businesses are prohibited from sending direct messages to customers without their approval. Follow any opt-in requirements that may apply to your business to make sure your reminders don’t run afoul of the FCC. 

Include Appointment Information

You could have the loveliest copy and cleanest design, but your appointment reminder won’t be worth much if it doesn’t contain key information. Before you add bells and whistles to your reminders, start with the basic structure.

Be sure that the time, date, and location of the appointment are front and center. The purpose of a reminder, after all, is to call attention to the commitment a customer has made with your business. Your company name and logo should be immediately visible so customers know where the reminder is coming from.

Get (Reasonably) Personal

You probably can’t send a calligraphed note for each individual appointment reminder, but there are ways you can add a personal touch to each one. A little personalization helps customers feel important and valued, not just another face in the crowd. 

Automation allows you to easily give your appointment reminders some personal flair. It can add the customer’s name as well as other relevant information that makes the reminder theirs and theirs alone. Adding time, location, and — if possible — the name of the service provider will prevent appointment reminders from sounding too generic. 

Be wary of messages that are too personal, though. For instance, appointment reminders for a doctor’s office shouldn’t include sensitive patient information. Such information should be stored securely and accessed via an online patient portal with messaging that requires a username and password.

Keep It Concise

Don’t let a lot of copy defeat the purpose of your appointment reminder. A wall of text will swallow up the important information your customer will need in order to fulfill their appointment commitment. 

So keep it super simple. Address the customer by name, and notify them of their upcoming appointment. If you want to make more use of the reminder, you can include contact information. This way, should customers need to cancel an appointment or adjust their booking, they’ll know how to get in touch. 

Use the Right Tone

The tone of your writing should reflect your brand imaging in a way that resonates with customers. A high-profile lawyer wouldn’t use the same tone of voice as, say, a hair stylist. One is more serious, while the other allows for more flexibility and fun.

Think about your target audience and what sort of message would appeal to them. Customers of a more light-hearted business might appreciate a fun tagline with their appointment reminders or a quote fit for an Instagram post. Others, like our lawyer friend, will want to use official-sounding language that exemplifies their expertise in the legal field. 

Include a Call to Action

Use appointment reminders as a way to increase engagement by adding a call to action. This will prompt customers to act on your reminder instead of dismissing the notification and forgetting about it immediately. 

A simple click-to-confirm button will solidify bookings in your business calendar and get customers to take control of their appointments. Other calls to action can include taking advantage of deals or setting up a future booking from their device. 

Send Reminders From a Consistent Source

When sending out your appointment reminders, stick to the same phone number or email address. Customers will recognize the validity of your messages when they come from a consistent source. Otherwise, they might dismiss reminder messages as spam.

To remove all doubt, make it easy for customers to verify where you send messages from. Add this information to an easily accessible location on your website, such as a frequently asked questions page. You can also add your contact info to confirmation messages that come with the initial booking. 

The right appointment reminders will help customers keep their commitments and businesses maximize their time and revenue. Review your appointment reminders now — and often — so that they’re always optimized for the best results. 

How to Maximize Virtual Appointments

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How to Maximize Virtual Appointments

Every company has had to adapt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deliveries replaced in-store purchases. In-office employees went remote. Plexiglass dividers were erected between customers and service staff.

One change some companies have yet to master? Virtual appointments. Leaders are still figuring out what services they can offer and how best to connect with virtual customers.

The virtual appointment movement was started by medical professionals in order to reach patients from home. Now, everyone from counselors to tutors to accountants uses them to stay safe and save time. 

So, what’s the secret to virtual appointments? In fact, there are nine:

1. Digitize the Details

Virtual appointments require the customer and the company to get on the same page remotely. Online appointment software not only lets the customer choose a time that works for everyone, but it automatically sends out a reminder as the session nears. 

Online appointment software can also take care of payment ahead of time. That way, there’s no awkward credit card wrangling as soon as the call starts. 

2. Prepare in Advance

Virtual appointments can be held in a click, but that doesn’t mean they require no prep work. Whoever is handling them needs to show up prepared. 

The nature of that work will depend on your type of business. It might be as simple as pulling up a customer’s record, or as involved as putting together an entire business strategy to discuss on the call.

3. Upgrade Your Audio 

Nothing will lead to a rockier virtual appointment than audio problems. If you can’t hear the customer and they can’t hear you, literally nothing will get done. To prevent miscommunications or cancellations, invest in the proper equipment.

It shouldn’t take much to revamp your audio. A simple USB microphone can plug right into your computer. A quality headset will help you understand every word your customer says. 

This is particularly important in certain lines of work, such as counseling. A customer’s story may hold clues about how best to address their needs. 

4. Don’t Forget the Video

While audio is more important to most kids of virtual appointments, the visual experience shouldn’t be forgotten. Virtual appointments should replace in-person interactions as closely as possible. Without a solid webcam, they’re more like grainy phone calls.

Your computer or smart device may come with a built-in camera that makes the cut. If not, or if you simply want an upgrade, look into available webcam options. The clear video feed will help you and your customers better read each other’s body language. 

5. Use Screen-Sharing

Screen-sharing will add a new layer to your virtual appointment experience. You can display your own screen on that of your customers to share graphics, videos, or other rich media with them.

Most video conferencing tools allow for screen sharing. All it takes is the touch of a button to set it up. Having what you want to share ready in advance allows you to quickly flip through the resources you need.

6. Dress the Part

If your doctor logs on to your virtual appointment wearing a t-shirt at home, the experience won’t feel very authentic unless you know each other on a very personal level. To maximize your virtual appointments, be sure to dress the part. It will make a subtle yet tangible difference.

Even a company polo will be more impactful than casualwear. Also, be sure to check your surroundings to ensure there’s nothing distracting in the background. Remember, you’re still representing your company in virtual appointments.

7. Put a Premium on Engagement

Virtual appointments open up so many opportunities for businesses that wouldn’t work as well in person. Make it an experience all its own, rather than merely a substitute for an in-person visit. 

For example, a pediatric doctor can use graphics and game-like applications to engage youngsters. They may even start to look forward to their doctor visits if the experience is entertaining enough. 

8. Get Serious About Security

Imagine a stranger standing in the room during your doctor’s appointment. Unsettling, isn’t it?

Think of your virtual appointments the same way. Your customers put their trust in you. It’s incumbent on you to make your digital security efforts known to them.

Make sure that virtual appointment links are private and encrypted. Hold your appointments in a location where private information won’t be overheard. Set strict penalties for employees who mishandle customer data. 

While we might not see holograms for another decade or more, virtual appointments are no longer a thing of the future. Platforms like Zoom and Appointment make them possible; it’s up to you to make the most of them. 

7 Ways Appointment Software Supports Sales and Marketing

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7 Ways Appointment Software Supports Sales and Marketing

You know online appointment software can help customer service teams up their efficiency. But believe it or not, it can also make life easier for your sales and marketing teams. 

If you’re already licking your chops at the thought of squeezing in more sales meetings, then keep reading. This article will outline some of the ways appointment software can help you attract leads, close sales, and chisel your brand:

Online Booking Is Enticing

The simple perk of being able to book an appointment online is music to most customers’ ears. No longer will they have to wait on hold to ask about your availability and to hopefully get the slot they want. With appointment software, all they have to do is log onto your website and complete the booking process with a few clicks.

Ask your marketing team to come up with a campaign alerting new and existing companies of your new system. Social media and email marketing costs are minimal. Then, they can add small details to bring appointment software to the forefront of your branding, such as adding a “Book Now” button to your homepage.

Not only are buttons helpful for customers, but they also bring in new business. In other words, everyone wins. 

Customer Relationships Improve

A huge part of the sales process is building a relationship with the customer. The stronger the relationship, the more likely a customer is to commit to a purchase. 

Online appointment software starts the relationship-building process early. It incentivizes loyalty and makes it easy for customers to commit due to its sheer convenience. The software also tracks customer information for sales representatives to use when they reach out to clients.

Data Delivers New Insights

Speaking of tracking information, nothing helps a marketing team more than cold, hard data. Otherwise, marketers are forced to guess at what sorts of tactics and talking points lead to conversions.

There are a variety of data points appointment software can track for you. Some examples include:

  • No-show and late appointment rate
  • Age and gender demographics
  • Booking link clickthrough rate
  • Proportion of bookings per service line
  • Average amount spent per customer

This data can help your marketing team spot gaps in your audiences and services. If only a few women book appointments in a given month, for example, maybe it’s time for a campaign targeted specifically at them. If late appointments are common, maybe you need to institute buffer periods. 

Budgeting Becomes Easier

If you don’t know how many appointments to expect in a given month, it can be difficult to budget. How much you spend on office upgrades should depend on how much traffic your office gets, for example.

The more money you save, the more you can reinvest in your sales and marketing operations. Marketing might want to throw a live event as soon as the pandemic is over. Sales may need a new video conferencing tool, or perhaps a year-end reward to work their tails off.

Bookings Get Made 24/7

Your online appointment software doesn’t take breaks or expect weekends off. This means that your customers can continue to book appointments even when there’s no one around to answer the phone. 

This constant flow of customers also takes work off your sales team’s shoulders. They can focus on chasing down high-quality leads, rather than pursuing those that would have booked anyway.

SEO Gets a Boost

How your website ranks for relevant keywords has a lot to do with how much business it brings in. A higher position not only produces more traffic but also improves your brand’s credibility. 

Google puts a premium on the user experience. Making it easy for customers to book online improves your site’s UX, which should also help it appear higher in search engine results pages.

Knowing the Workload Dictates the Day

When customers book through online appointment software, your sales and marketing team members get a better sense of their workload for the day. Even if they aren’t directly serving customers, they probably get roped in regularly.

For example, on days projected to have few appointments, your sales team can make cold calls in an attempt to fill more slots. Your marketing team can also jump on board, perhaps by developing new ads or discount offers.

Online appointment software can make a night-and-day difference for every role on every team. Nowhere is that more true than sales and marketing. 

9 Gadgets to Warm Up Your Waiting Room

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How to Handle Appointment Scheduling When Schedules Change

While some people love winter, no one enjoys being cold. Customers who are freezing in your waiting room won’t be very happy during their visit. And if they’re not happy with their visit, they aren’t likely to come back. 

Although it might sound like a small consideration, it means a lot to your customers: Keep your waiting room warm and toasty. If your HVAC system isn’t up to the task, these gadgets can go the distance:

1. Smart Thermostat

The No.1 problem with keeping a waiting room warm is the constant opening and closing of doors. Each new customer brings with them a chilly breeze, preventing those already in the room from getting comfortable. You can solve this dilemma with a smart thermostat. 

A smart thermostat sense uses predictive technology to crank up or down the heat. Yours might signal to your HVAC unit that it should preheat the office at 9 a.m. to account for how frequently your front door opens. To save money, you can lower the office temperature when people aren’t there, perhaps from 5 p.m. until the next morning. 

2. Space Heater

Remember how your family kept that back bedroom warm in the winter? A small space heater can make even the chilliest of offices comfortable.

Space heaters come in many shapes, sizes, and price ranges. Do your research to find the right one for your waiting room. Smaller waiting rooms can get away with smaller heaters. Rooms that are larger or draftier, or have doors that are constantly opening and closing, may need a larger model. 

3. Electric Fireplace

Why not take the power of a space heater and add some holiday flair? An electric fireplace provides a cozy atmosphere that creates psychological comfort as well as actual heat. 

The one drawback to an electric fireplace is that it requires more setup than a standard space heater. You can’t just plug a fireplace into the nearest outlet and call it good. 

Look for a place where a fireplace would be appealing. If you buy a wall-mounted unit, pay for professional installation. Not only will doing so save you a lot of work, but it will reduce the risk of fire. 

4. Hot Chocolate Machine

Some days are so cold you need to warm yourself from the inside out. When layers of clothes and space heaters just won’t cut it, a mug of hot chocolate will do the trick. This delicious solution can liven up any waiting room. 

When installing a hot chocolate machine in your lobby, be sure to keep COVID-19 in mind. Use disposable cups. Clean the area as frequently as possible to prevent the spread of the virus. 

5. Draft Stoppers

Even when your company’s doors are closed, chilly air can still slip through the cracks. Stopping those winter winds will keep everything inside warm while cutting your heating bills down to size.

Best of all, draft stoppers are easy to install. A simple door skirt takes only five nails and five minutes to attach. A crack-sealing foam takes all of 30 seconds to spray. Give stoppers and filled cracks a fresh coat of paint to improve their visual appeal. 

6. Heating Pads

Many businesses provide little treats for their customers, like a doctor’s office with a jar full of lollipops. Who’s stopping you from doing the same with hand and feet warmers? Little personal heating pads would make a great addition to your waiting room for those customers who just can’t seem to warm up.

One difference between heating pads and treats is that the latter doesn’t need a warning sign. Encourage customers to be cautious with heating pads, especially on direct skin. Provide towels for them to wrap heating pads in. 

As with any shared office item, be sure to clean heating pads and towels after use. Look for ones that are machine washable to make this easy. 

7. Heated Massagers

A waiting room with a massage chair is an instant winner. Plus, back and feet massagers often come with a heating setting to melt away stress and sore muscles. 

Providing enough massage equipment for a full waiting room can be a tough bill to foot. Consider providing a few and placing a time limit on how long each customer is allowed to use it. That way, every customer gets a chance to de-stress and warm up. 

8. Drying Rack

Snow, hail, and freezing rain leave customers not just cold, but wet as well. Don’t make customers sit in their wet clothes. Provide a rack near the door so they can hang coats and gloves up to dry.

Unlike the massage chair, this is an inexpensive upgrade. If you want to do something unique, offer a shoe-drying station where customers can put their cold, wet feet until their name is called.  

9. Face Masks

This two-for-one solution might already be in place. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many businesses are requiring all customers to wear masks. While their goal is to reduce viral transmission, face masks also provide warmth.

To feed two birds with one scone, provide masks at the entrance of your business for all visitors. Doing so will keep everyone healthy and warm up noses that have been nipped by Jack Frost.

A warm customer is a happy one. Be careful not to bake them, but do make them as comfortable as you can. That way, as soon as they leave your business, they’ll want to go back. 

What to Do When People Show Up Late to Their Appointment

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Try as you might to get customers to arrive on time to their appointments, you’ll always end up with a few stragglers. How you handle these inconveniences says a lot about your culture and customer service. 

Do you let people show up late repeatedly? Do you tear into them for it? Neither are the right approach. Here’s how to handle delays effectively but tactfully:

Ask About the Cause

Confront late customers about what caused them to be late. Was there more traffic than anticipated? Did they simply forget? 

Questions are a soft way to get your message across. Plus, they help you discover trends that cause customers to be late. That way, you can address them across your customer base. 

For example, if you have several customers forget their appointment times in a given month, start sending out more or improved reminder messages. If customers are late because they can’t find your business, add clearer directions to your website and check your location on Google.

Take Care of Timely Customers

Interspersed with your late arrivals will be customers who show up on time. Reward those who adhere to the schedule by serving them promptly. Otherwise, they may feel punished for another customer’s tardiness — and think the tardy customer has been rewarded for their lateness.

Don’t be afraid to swap appointment times. This benefits the customer who showed up on time while still giving the late customer a spot in line. That way, you’re not missing out on revenue or letting bad behavior go uncorrected. 

Give a Fair Warning

No business can afford to deal with chronic tardiness. When you have a customer arrive late, give them an honest warning. This will inform them that repeated tardiness won’t be tolerated. 

Before you do this, make sure you have a late policy in place. An existing policy will hold weight; an in-the-moment approach won’t. Go through the details of your policy together so there’s no question as to whether a late customer understands it. 

The bottom line is, you can’t enforce a rule that doesn’t exist. Establish a policy that’s firm enough to be convincing, but not so strict that it scares customers away.

Issue a Penalty

For late customers to take your policy seriously, it needs to be tied to consequences. You could charge late fees, but a better approach might be to force late arrivals to reschedule. That way, they don’t disrupt your schedule and can’t refuse to pay the price. 

Be firm but fair when issuing a penalty. People who are only late once every couple of months deserve some leniency, but customers who inconvenience your business every time do not.

Remember that you also have a right to refuse service to problem customers. If it’s costing you money to maintain a relationship with a customer who is always late, it may be time to cut ties with them.

Keep Things Moving

A rule of thumb for appointment-based businesses is that customers will respect your time if you respect theirs. If your wait times are long and showing up on time for an appointment does no good, you can’t expect customers to adhere to a strict schedule.

Even when customers show up late, do your best to keep things moving. Show customers that you value their time by being prompt and apologizing for any delays. Look for ways to reduce wait times and improve efficiency so you can hold customers to a higher standard.

Help Them Find a Time That Works

If a customer can’t seem to make a certain time slot work, offer ones that might. They may, in fact, suggest this themselves.

Rescheduling on site ensures that a return appointment is made. Not only does doing so net you recurring revenue, but it’s good customer service. Walking them through available times and inputting information yourself comes across like a favor. 

Cut Appointments Short

If a customer is five minutes late, consider ending their appointment five minutes early. Not only is it fair, but it keeps late arrivals from pushing back other appointments. 

Let’s say you’re a dentist and a patient arrives a half hour late. You have a full waiting room but still want to take care of your customer. You might do a quick clean and then book them another checkup sooner than you otherwise would. 

Send Them Off With a Reminder

Not every late customer is at fault. Neither you nor they can control traffic patterns or stop family emergencies. But you can send customers off with a reminder to leave home a little earlier for their next appointment. 

If your late policy uses a “strikes” system, do this in writing. That way, you can enforce a consequence next time without worrying about the customer claiming they were never warned. 

The reality is, you’ll never completely eliminate late arrivals. But don’t let “good” be the enemy of “perfect.” Help your customers be on time, and many of them will discover that being late doesn’t benefit anyone. 

9 Easy Website Changes to Enhance Your UX

By | Knowledge Base, Maintenance | No Comments
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For a solid online appointment system, you need a website with a good user experience, or UX. The more easily a customer can navigate your website, the more likely they are to book an appointment. On the other hand, UX difficulties can frustrate customers and drive them away.

The good news is, you don’t need to tear down your website entirely to improve your UX. Small changes in the right places can make all the difference. These nine website adjustments are bound to improve your site’s UX:

1. Clearly Display Your Call to Action

If the goal of your website is to guide customers toward booking an appointment online, make it easy for them. Finding where to make an appointment shouldn’t be a treasure hunt; it should be front and center. 

Place your appointment CTA in an obvious place, if it isn’t already. A large button with bold lettering will attract attention and make it abundantly clear where customers need to go to book appointments

2. Adapt to Mobile

Not all of your potential clients will visit your website on a computer. More and more consumers rely on their mobile devices to do research, make purchases, and book appointments. If your website isn’t optimized for a mobile experience, you’ll be missing out on a lot of traffic.

There’s no need to create a whole app for this. Optimizing your website for mobile should only require a couple of tweaks. The layout will need to be slightly different for smaller screens, but the design and content can likely remain the same. Most content management systems will make sure your site is easy to navigate no matter the device.

3. Optimize Loading Speed

Run a test to check how long it takes for pages of your website to load. In particular, see how your online appointment system’s buffering time stacks up against your competitors’.

Long loading times discourage customers from sticking around and booking. They’ll either look for options elsewhere or opt to walk in instead.

A simple way to optimize your load speed is to compress any images you use. This is one of the leading causes of slow response time and one of the easiest to fix. More in-depth solutions, such as backend optimizations, can further improve your site’s performance.

4. Smooth Out — and Punch Up — Your Writing

Websites with beautiful designs and images immediately catch attention. But to persuade potential clients to book an appointment, you will need — as any preschooler can tell you — to “use your words.”

Headings and bodies of text should be easy to read, both in design and content. Text that is difficult or tedious to wade through will render your website almost useless.

You know the strengths of your business better than anyone, so express them in clear, engaging language. By laying out the benefits of an appointment with you in a concise and attention-grabbing way, you will guide customers to their first booking. 

5. Tighten Up Your URL

On a scale from 1 (booknow.com) to 10 (supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.com), how long is your website’s URL? While bookmarks and autofill settings certainly help out with long links, short and sweet is usually the way to go. Customers can discover your website much more easily and can commit your site to memory when the URL is a manageable size.

There are many companies that buy and sell domain names you can use for your business. If your .com choice is already taken, consider a .biz as an alternative.

You can also use a service that shortens existing URLs when including them in online promotions. Whatever you can do to make your URL more manageable and memorable for customers is a must. 

6. Keep It Simple

Customers attempting to navigate your website shouldn’t be forced to jump through hoops. Information and resources should be easy to access and locate. A complicated website will lead to a poor user experience.

That’s particularly the case when your goal is encouraging clients to schedule appointments. If setting up an appointment takes too many steps to complete, customers will bail out. Keep things simple, and you’ll encourage customers to return in the future. 

7. Include Communication Tools

Want to click with your customers? Adding communication features to your website can really reel them in when they visit your site. The right tools can quickly guide visitors to exactly what they need. When you reduce the time it takes site visitors to find what they’re looking for, you increase user satisfaction. 

For example, a chatbot can be programmed to respond to customers’ basic questions. These rapid responses will set the user up for success as soon as they access your site. If you get a lot of website traffic, you can even consider hiring live customer service agents to handle questions and concerns.

8. Add a Form

Forms are a simple yet effective tool for generating leads. Not only can you gather new customers this way, you can get feedback that reveals improvements you can make to your business.

Site visitors can use a form on your homepage to do something simple, like request email updates with promotions or coupons. You, in turn, can attach a survey to the form asking customers about their user experience. Act on their feedback to improve your UX and your general business operations based on their responses.

9. Incorporate Analytics

All kinds of website-related activity will yield useful data. Clickthrough rates, landing page hits, and conversions are all metrics that have value to your business. They also tell a story about your website’s user experience.

Set up an analytics tool that can start tracking key data for you. As you gather data, it will guide you to changes you need to make to your site. Whether the data points to some of the steps above or something entirely different, data-driven decisions are some of the most effective. 

Customers are the lifeblood of your business, and these days, they increasingly come to you through your website. Ensuring your site offers a good UX is key to encouraging that first appointment and prompting repeat visits. So conduct a website audit and identify ways you can improve your user experience today.

9 Tips for Promoting Appointment Policy Compliance

By | Appointment | No Comments
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An appointment-only policy is supposed to benefit everyone. Customers who make appointments are seen sooner, while employees get a smoother workflow. 

But what happens when customers won’t follow the policy? Even occasional non-compliance can spoil the system for everyone. 

Turning away business isn’t the answer. But there are a few things you can do to encourage every customer to follow your appointment policy:

1. Put your policy front and center.

Before getting upset with customers who aren’t following your appointment policy, make sure people are aware of it. If your appointment policy is unclear or unposted, you can’t expect everyone to follow it.

Add your appointment policy to your website, social media, and the front door of your business. Print it in large, bold lettering that will be difficult to miss. 

In case customers have questions about your policy, make sure they know who and how to ask. Include your phone number so customers can reach out to you directly. 

2. Understand why violations occur.

So many problems can be solved simply by listening. Remember to take the time to communicate with your customers. Exercising empathy can help you connect with them and cultivate trust.

Through communication, you can discern why certain customers aren’t adhering to your appointment policy. Knowing is half the battle. The rest, of course, is explaining how the policy benefits everyone. 

3. Explain the benefits.

One reason customers might not accept your appointment-only policy is because they don’t realize its importance. If you can convey the benefits in a way that resonates with them, they’re more likely to follow it. 

An appointment-only policy means customers will experience shorter wait times. They won’t have to show up at your business early hoping for a spot; they just have to arrive in time to check in. 

Plus, this policy lifts a burden off your employees. With walk-ins, workloads can be up and down. Trying to squeeze in last-minute requests can be stressful for your staff and cause problems for other customers. 

4. Make it easy.

When making an appointment is a challenge, it’s no wonder customers would prefer to just drop in. If you find yourself struggling to get customers to make appointments, this may be your issue.

Making it easier to book appointments can be as easy as updating your website. Make your booking link large and easy to locate. A user-friendly interface with few steps will simplify the process. You can also allow customers to book appointments through a variety of channels, such as through social media sites or over the phone.

5. Walk them through the process.

When a customer walks through your doors without an appointment, you don’t want to turn them away. Rejecting customers doesn’t benefit anyone.

Instead, explain to them that customers with appointments get first priority. You can then walk them through the process of making their own appointment.

Walking them through the process might take some time, but it’s worth it. They’ll appreciate your willingness to help, and they won’t have an excuse for showing up without an appointment next time.

6. Add a waitlist.

Sometimes, customers want an appointment at a time you can’t honor. Instead of rejecting them outright or booting another customer from their slot, add them to a waitlist. 

Waitlists provide the best of both worlds: Your customers may get the time they want, if another appointment falls through. And while it may not be at the customer’s ideal time, you’re able to book more work.

Waitlisting is also a way to reward customers who book early and through the proper channels. Next time, waitlisted customers will think ahead.

7. Incorporate walk-in hours.

There are some customers who simply are unable to commit to an appointment. Either their schedule is too hectic, or they don’t know in advance when they’ll need your services, 

To avoid alienating these customers, add some walk-in hours. Consider restricting walk-ins to only the afternoon or morning to avoid throwing a wrench in your appointments. 

The answer to customers ignoring your appointment policy shouldn’t be to throw in the towel. But accepting walk-ins on a limited basis could help you accommodate customers in tough situations. 

8. Implement no-show consequences.

To effectively enforce an appointment-only policy, you need to be prepared to address cancellations and no-shows. If customers don’t keep their end of the commitment, the whole process can fall apart. 

Make sure your no-show policy is strict enough to get customers to keep their appointments, but not too harsh as to turn them away. Something simple such as pre-payment or a deposit can encourage customers to fulfill their commitment because of the financial implications. 

9. Make it worth their while. 

Got some repeat offenders? Implementing incentives for booking appointments not only adds to your customer experience, but can also tempt new customers to give your business a try. 

Consider offering a discount to customers who book in advance, as opposed to walking in. Even a small treat at the office, such as a free coffee or snack, could encourage customers to follow the rules. 

Don’t let a couple of rebels discourage you from continuing your appointment policy. Get everyone on board, even if it means having some hard conversations. 

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