All posts by Gunjan Saini

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

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Freelancer working

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

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9 Tips for Promoting Appointment Policy Compliance

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. 

When to Say “No” to an Appointment Request

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Businesses are built on loyal customer relationships. But what if even the most loyal customer is asking for too much?

You might feel that way with some customers’ appointment requests. Maybe they insist on a slot that’s unavailable, or perhaps they want to skip a critical part of the process. And while you don’t want to deny them, it’s sometimes necessary. 

Saying “no” is about establishing and maintaining boundaries. Declining appointment requests protects your time and gives customers clarity about what you can and can’t do. At the end of the day, you don’t need to feel guilty saying “no” to a customer if their request would harm your business.

With that said, you must be careful about when you say “no” to appointments. In these situations, it’s perfectly reasonable to reject a customer’s appointment request:

1. When there isn’t space

If you don’t have room in your schedule, you simply can’t accept a new appointment. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are required to by law their operating capacity. Making exceptions puts your employees and customers’ health at risk.

The good news is, this issue can be addressed with self-service scheduling software. Customers can see all your available appointments and choose one that works for both of you.

Beware, though, that some will call anyway asking for a spot. If you let one person bypass the scheduling system, others may follow suit. Don’t let that become part of your reputation.

Remember, you can always put a customer on a waiting list in case there’s a cancellation. Otherwise, say “no” to appointments when there’s no space. Most customers will respect your decision if you explain the circumstances. 

2. When a drop-in would be better

Not every customer needs a full-blown appointment. If someone has a quick question, don’t bother scheduling a time slot. In this case, a drop-in works best.

Drop-ins can be difficult to manage if that’s not the way your business runs. But if you can accept the occasional walk-in, you can save appointment space for those who really need it.

Your solution might involve directing people to drop in on a case by case basis. Another option is to post guidelines on your website. Perhaps you use an interstitial page to share your drop-in guidelines with customers before they book. Empower customers to make choices that benefit everyone.

3. When they want to schedule too far out

A customer may want an appointment slot that is too far in advance. Perhaps they want to save a slot during a particularly busy time, or maybe they assume you’re booked far into the future.

It’s good for customers to be proactive. Unfortunately, a lot can happen in a few months, and you may be planning a major transition.

Avoid booking appointments when you don’t know what to expect. It’s better to simply turn down an early-bird appointment request than to call back months later to cancel on a customer. 

4. When they want to schedule too close

Say a customer wants an appointment within an hour. You might have an open slot, but can you prepare in time? 

Organizations like law firms and doctor offices need time to review case notes. They may simply not be able to provide a professional level of service with such short notice. 

If that’s the boat your business is in, don’t be afraid to say so. Protecting your company’s reputation requires you to turn down requests that would result in sub-par work. Cutting it too close doesn’t result in a good outcome for anyone. 

Instead of denying these customers outright, give them an alternative. If they won’t accept a later appointment, you might suggest a DIY solution or refer them to a partner. 

5. When their request isn’t fair to other customers

If you have a customer that feels they should get their way at any cost, be polite but firm. It’s not just a matter of protecting your schedule; it’s also about treating your other customers well. 

Think about how you’d feel if someone else scooped an appointment from you at the last minute. You’d probably think twice about scheduling another one at that business. 

What about loyalty programs? They’re a way to reward customers. The special treatment in this case is unmerited and out of the ordinary. You may not satisfy this one customer, but your “no” does make a difference even if no one else acknowledges it.  

Saying “no” to customers seems like the opposite of what a business should do. But sometimes it is necessary to do so with appointments. The “no” you say to one customer is actually a “yes” to another one. 

5 Scheduling Conversations to Have With Employees This Fall

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With each new season comes an opportunity to rally your team. Whereas business often slows down in the summer, fall is a time to pick things up.  

There are a number of tasks to accomplish before the new season arrives. Much of them are back-burner tasks, such as cleaning and reorganizing the office. However, conversations around scheduling should be at the top of your fall agenda. 

Getting everyone’s schedules together before fall is crucial for planning. Not only can it give you a better sense of your team’s capacity, but it helps you plan for the next fiscal year and finish up annual initiatives. 

While every business is different, certain scheduling conversations apply across the board. Take a look at the following topics to broach with your employees this fall and ensure that everyone is ready for what’s ahead:

1. Team Meeting Days

Like them or not, meetings are part of working on a team. Decide whether your current cadence makes sense, and if not, when and how often the team should meet. 

Maybe you don’t necessarily need a full team meeting every week. Perhaps every other week is enough. Or maybe you simply need to settle on a different day and time than before. 

See how your team members feel about your current all-staff meetings. Figure out what tweaks could boost productivity and efficiency. Simply shaving 15 minutes off the meeting time could jog conversation along and give attendees time back. 

2. Vacation Plans

One great thing about fall is the reduction in vacation requests. Most people are back from the summer, so there’s less maneuvering around those who aren’t present. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect this aspect of scheduling. 

There may be people who did not take time off in the summer. Ask whether they have a fall trip in the works. Encourage them to put time off on the calendar sooner rather than later. 

While planning for the season, take a moment to review your PTO policy. Talk through hiccups from recent vacations to ensure everyone is able to take time off work without a hitch. 

Discussing vacation plans also helps you and your employees identify loose threads that need to be addressed before they head out. That way, nobody is left high and dry when someone didn’t complete their tasks prior to takeoff. 

3. Summer Hours Assessment

Your company may have changed its business hours in the summer. If so, fall is the time to bring everyone together to reassess those changes. 

In terms of worker productivity, there are pros and cons to having summer hours. Reducing hours in the summer encourages better work-life balance. It can also boost productivity during business hours because people are more rested. 

With that said, summer hours can be stressful. Employees may scramble to get the same amount of work done in less time. And because there are fewer windows for scheduling meetings, collaboration can be tough. 

When evaluating summer hours, ask your team:

  • Who prefers summer hours and who doesn’t?
  • Does the data show summer hours cause an increase or decrease in productivity?
  • Did customer volume change during the summer?  
  • Is there more to accomplish in the fall than summer?

If there’s not a significant change and workers prefer the summer hours, you may opt to keep them. If not, summer hours might not make much sense. 

4. Schedule Flexibility

The new season might be a good time to give employees more autonomy with their schedules. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on workers’ routines, so go ahead and experiment. 

Flexibility doesn’t mean that everyone makes their own schedule without considering others. That would be chaotic. Perhaps people can work from home most days, but on designated days they can head into the office for a team lunch meeting. Different departments could even build their schedules together. 

Flexible scheduling is about doing what makes sense for your team and your company. If everyone is doing good work with a flexible schedule, there’s no need to force a more rigid one on people.

5. Performance Reviews

As you plan through the end of the year, performance reviews will probably happen in the late fall. You should always be preparing for these by giving feedback to workers consistently, but you still need to set a hard date for the conversation.

Getting these evaluations on people’s schedules is a good first step this fall. At least a few weeks in advance, give employees an idea of when they will occur and what they will be focused on. 

When team members are involved in scheduling conversations, they feel more empowered in their work. In a culture of flexibility and empowerment, everyone wins.  

8 End-of-Summer Services to Schedule for Your Business

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Work doesn’t stop in the summer, but fall still feels like a reset. As the hottest season of the year winds down, it’s time to prepare for what’s ahead.

Internally, this means brainstorming and strategizing for your business. But getting ready for the fall also involves accomplishing some back-burner tasks. These are items that we tend to put off until the last minute. 

Many of these items are more urgent than we might think. Accomplishing them can avert future crises and keep customers happy. Luckily, they also tend to be services that people outside your company can do. 

Why not get ahead this year? Before summer ends, set up appointments to handle these tasks:

1. Deep-cleaning the office

Especially as COVID-19 rages on, keeping the office clean is an ongoing task. But once in a while, it’s necessary to do a deeper clean than usual. 

Think about the spaces in your office that receive less attention. Grime can build up and attract pests over time. So before the fall, hire a company to clean every nook and cranny. 

Treat this as an office reset. Encourage everyone to take home old trinkets, snacks, and other possessions they don’t need to do their jobs. 

2. Repainting

Your walls might need a new coat of paint before the summer ends. Small marks and scrapes build up, especially if you regularly have kids in the office.

Repainting is an opportunity to rethink your office color palette. Choose wisely to make the space more relaxing for customers and employees. Earthy tones can help you cultivate an atmosphere that is both inviting and productive. 

3. Cleaning the gutters

It’s easy to forget, but getting your gutters cleaned is a critical part of protecting your office.You need to clear them at least once a year to protect your roof, your foundation, and your landscape from excessive rainwater. 

Make sure the professional you hire is insured. Accidents happen, especially when people are on a roof. 

4. Checking your heating system

As fall approaches, the weather is going to start cooling down. It’ll be a nice respite from the summer heat at first, but it won’t be long before the chill sets in.

Don’t wait until your heater fails to get it serviced. Before the mercury drops below freezing, make sure it’s ready to handle the colder months. Your customers won’t want to sit in the cold as they wait for their appointment. 

5. Scheduling a group counseling session

Unlike the prior suggestions, this service is not for your building. But it could transform the dynamics of your team members for the better. 

As people buckle down and vacation season ends, getting the team together for a heart to heart is a great idea. Scheduling a group counseling session can let people air grievances and bond in ways that an all-staff meeting simply can’t. 

Unless you’re trained, don’t try to facilitate this yourself. To make group counseling work for your team:

  • Explain how you think counseling would help the team.
  • Coordinate everyone’s schedule to find the right time.
  • Ask a licensed professional counselor to come to your office — or to chat with everyone on Zoom.
  • Prepare your employees for what to expect beforehand.
  • Conduct a retrospective by asking each attendee’s takeaways.

6. Prepping Q3 taxes

Tax day is coming on September 15, but don’t panic: There’s still time to sit down with your CPA. Still, you don’t want to find yourself scrambling to get all of your paperwork together at the last minute.

If you don’t have an in-house accountant, reach out to local accounting services. Determine who has capacity to squeeze you in. Before deciding on one, ask around: Have other entrepreneurs in your area had a good or bad experience with any of them?

7. Redesigning your website

Has it been a while since your company website got an update? Hopefully, it’s updated with your company’s information. But a full-scale redesign might also be in order

Redesigning your website is a good way to revitalize your brand and roll out something special this fall. You can also make navigation more user friendly so that customers can more easily book appointments and make purchases. 

Bring a web designer in, and brainstorm ideas that they can work with. The right person can take what you give them to another level.

8. Servicing company vehicles

If your company relies on vehicles, make sure that they’re running smoothly before the fall. Get an oil change, rotate the tires, check the battery, and make sure the antifreeze is in good condition. You don’t want a nasty surprise, such as a vehicle not starting, when a member of your team is heading out to an appointment. 

The sooner you get these back-burner tasks done, the better you’ll be able to focus on what your business does best. End the summer with these preparatory tasks, and you’ll set your business up for an even better fall. 

Too Hot to Hang: 5 Indoor Team-Building Activities to Do at a Distance

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The great outdoors is, well, great. But in the late summer, the heat and humidity can be unbearable. 

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, that can cause problems if you’re trying to plan a team-building activity. Given that they allow for social distancing, outdoor activities are safer than indoor ones. But safer yet, of course, are remote activities. 

Don’t let the heat hinder you. There are activities you can do remotely and indoors that are just as engaging and valuable. Check out the following team-building ideas that you can do when the weather is far from ideal:

1. Trivia Games

Trivia is a classic team-building activity because it gets people talking and can promote healthy competition. It’s also very simple. You just need a set of questions, two or more teams, and a way to keep score. 

Doing trivia virtually isn’t much of a stretch, either. Simply follow these procedures:

  • Assign someone to be the host at the start of each new game.
  • Use breakout rooms to allow teams to deliberate.
  • Agree on how long teams should be allowed to discuss answers.
  • Establish an honor system to dissuade people from cheating.
  • Decide on a prize to motivate employees. 
  • Use an app or video conferencing service to facilitate the match.

What about the topic? It’s up to you. The questions could be based on pop culture, history, or something specific to your company. You might even try making all the questions about whoever is hosting. It’s never a bad idea to help your team get to know the people they work with a bit better.  

2. Group Wellness Day

One of the best ways to promote wellness at your company is to get together for wellness activities. A community of people can set goals and support each other. 

Consider organizing a remote wellness day for team building. You can synchronize computer screens and do things like guided meditations, yoga, at-home exercises, mental health conversations, and more.

Putting on this kind of event will take some planning. Gather some interested employees to help you plan it out. But even though it will take time, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Lean on free video sites, such as DoYogaWithMe, and trusted wellness resources, like the Mayo Clinic.

3. Anonymous Letter Writing

Writing letters is therapeutic. Plus, 81% of people consider it more meaningful to receive a handwritten letter than high-tech options, such as an email.

Think about it like a Secret Santa game. Assign each member of your team a colleague to write to. Then, decide on a theme for the letters. Ideas include:

  • Gratitude and thankfulness
  • Summer reflections
  • Hope and change
  • Mental health
  • Lessons learned
  • Funny stories and jokes
  • Frustrations and challenges

Once everyone receives their letter, get together for a video conference. Figure out who wrote what to who, and share high points from the messages. 

4. Book Club Meetings

You’ll be stunned by the way reading can bring a team together. And book clubs are a perfect way to learn and discuss various topics with colleagues. It’s as simple as choosing a book for your team and setting a date to discuss the insights you’ve gained. 

Not only can you meet virtually, but you can also set up recurring meetings to chat about each chapter. Don’t make it an obligation, but do invite anybody who might want to join. 

5. Dramatic Readings

Have you ever dreamt of being an actor? Well, a virtual play reading might be your chance to show off your acting chops. If you fancy something different, you could even recite a screenplay from a movie you all love. 

Reading through a play is simpler than it sounds: Assign a character to each team member. Encourage them to really get into the role. Costumes and accents can take dramatic readings to the next level.

How should you organize your reading? One way is to do a dry run all in one sitting. Merely getting through the play can give people a sense of accomplishment. Team members who worry about the time commitment might prefer this option.

Although it takes more time, the better choice is to give your team members some time to prepare. That way, they can get props together and really get into their character. The rest of your team can watch the performance remotely and give their standing ovation in the comfort of their own home. 

Who says team-building has to be a headache? There’s no need to suffer through sweat and dehydration to get people together. Summer team-building can be fun, simple, and yes, even comfortable. 

5 Ways to Lead Effectively as an Introvert

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We tend to think of good leaders as charismatic and extroverted. But being able to work the room doesn’t necessarily make someone a good leader.

In reality, good leadership is more about holistically solving problems than being outgoing. Introverts tend to be thoughtful, contemplative people. Thanks to those traits, they tend to be better leaders than people expect. 

Introverts enjoy low-key, solitary experiences. That enables them to make solid decisions without being unduly influenced by social pressures. 

Sound familiar? If you’re an introvert in a leadership role, use your personality to your advantage. Here’s how to do it:

1. Lead by example.

Setting the right example is important for any leader. But introverts are especially well suited to this: When you have a more reserved posture, people will be drawn to what you do more than what you say. 

Leading by example means showcasing the very characteristics that make you an introvert. Accomplish your with the same excellence you expect from your team. Model not just good quality of work, but good productivity habits. Treat others with respect and deference. 

When people see those traits in action, they gain a deeper appreciation of what introversion brings to the table. It’ll also inspire the introverts on your team to reach for leadership roles. 

2. Hold fewer meetings.

Nobody in their right mind would complain about having fewer meetings. But getting a whole team together for a meeting can be especially draining for introverts. Cutting them down can save a lot of energy. 

Yes, meetings are opportunities to display leadership, but they should be used like a spice. Some leaders hold so many meetings as a way to assert their leadership. At a certain point, it just comes across as overcompensation. 

Consider cutting out the following kinds of meetings:

  • Informal meetings without an agenda
  • Status updates that can be emailed
  • Brainstorming meetings
  • Meetings to discuss client issues 

In most cases, those meetings can be handled with a simple Slack or phone conversation. Introverted leaders know not every topic is best addressed in a meeting.

3. Delegate more.

When you’re leading a team, there’s already a fair amount of delegation happening. But if you’re an introvert, you could benefit by delegating even more than you think you should. 

Delegating isn’t just about lightening your workload; it’s also about building trust with your team members. And what better way to do that than by giving them opportunities to take charge?

Some ways to do this include:

  • Putting others in charge of team-building activities
  • Letting a new recruit lead a marketing campaign
  • Rotating speaking roles in meetings
  • Appointing a talented creative to manage brainstorming sessions

As a leader, your role is to facilitate rather than interfere. You can do more by doing less. Encourage others to take the reins in areas they excel but you struggle.

4. Take advantage of one-on-one time. 

Speaking with a group may not be your strong suit as an introvert, so be sure to make one-on-one interactions meaningful. These moments are more personal, so they deserve some extra attention.

You can make the most of both intentional and unintentional one-on-ones. If you are reviewing someone else’s performance, make the situation conversational. Play to your listening strength, and show empathy. 

Informal one-on-ones are just as valuable: Why not join someone sitting by themselves for lunch? Strike up a deep conversation whenever you give other team members rides. Simply drop by offices for coffee on occasion. 

Strong one-on-one interactions are particularly important with new team members. Not only can it help them feel like part of the team, but it builds trust. Together, those are ingredients for employee retention. 

5. Create a calm work environment.

Introverts need a calm space for focused work, but even extroverts can benefit from it. The good news is, creating one isn’t hard.

Put some potted plants around the office. Encourage people to hang a sign on their office door when they’re doing deep work. Give noise-cancelling headphones to team members as gifts. 

In a calm space, you can work around others with the same focus as when you’re alone. Rather than feeling drained after work, you’ll have enough energy to get out of your comfort zone. Isn’t that the sort of work environment you want to cultivate?

You don’t need to be someone you’re not to be a good leader. Introverts can command respect, rally team members, and plan ahead every bit as well as extroverts. If you count yourself among them, lead with your strengths. They’re more valuable to the team than you might think. 

6 Fast Ways to Build Trust With a New Client

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You can probably sense when a person doesn’t trust you. Maybe they leave out information about themselves. Or they question everything you tell them.

Building trust is tough enough on your team. When it comes to clients, it can seem downright impossible. 

New clients are especially prone to skepticism. You have yet to prove yourself to them, so why should they trust you?

It’s a fair point, but don’t panic. Don’t resort to toxic positivity, which can actually push people away. 

Although it’s important to build trust naturally, there are things you can do to speed up the process. Here’s what you can do:

1. Lead with ethics and values.

Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer shows that trust in businesses boils down to two things: ethics and competence. Although you can’t show your skills until you’ve done business together, you can speak to your ethics.

The way to do that is to make your values clear. Any business would promote values related to competence, such as discipline. Go further by pointing out actions you’ve taken to support social causes, sustainability practices, or other humanitarian work.  

When people know what you stand for, they’re more inclined to trust you. From there, you can prove you have the other part of the equation: competence. 

2. Know your clients.

Knowing your clients may seem like a given, but you can’t make assumptions. If you assume your clients are young people, you’re likely to turn off seniors who use your service. 

Without a sense of the demographic and psychographic categories your customers fall into, you’ll struggle to provide a strong customer experience. Build avatars with the following attributes:

  • Average age
  • Gender breakdown
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Geographic location
  • Income level
  • Educational attainment
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Values and concerns

Knowing these things can help you master your branding. But more importantly, it helps you make every relationship more personal and, as a result, trusting. 

3. Be genuine.

One of the simplest ways to build trust is to be authentic. If you put up a front, your customers will see right through it. 

Genuineness isn’t something you can teach. And it can be tough to be genuine when you’re overthinking it. Simply put your best foot forward, and don’t try to hide anything. 

4. Be confident.

If you communicate to clients exactly what you can do for them with confidence, they’ll give you a shot. The reason is, confidence is contagious. If you believe in your business, then so will your customers. 

Confidence should be tempered by realistic expectations. If you’ll say anything to get clients in the door, then they’ll soon see your confidence is a facade. 

Being real but confident with customers is a matter of knowing the ins and outs of what your company can do. If you promise them something you can’t deliver, they won’t stick around after you fail. If you under-promise, they won’t be impressed. Get it just right, and they’ll receive exactly what they expected — which shows you’re true to your word. 

5. Communicate transparently.

It’s no secret that transparency is key to building trust. So when communicating with customers, give them both the pros and cons of your service.

Say you’re a boutique ad agency. You might be able to secure placements nobody else can — at a premium price. Be honest about both pieces of the puzzle.  

If you only emphasize your pros, clients will assume your promises are too good to be true. In fact, they’ll respect you for sharing the cons. Think about them as opportunities for growth. 

Once you’ve given customers the skinny, step back. Tell them what they need to know, and leave the nitty-gritty details for later in the relationship. It’s all about balance. 

6. Emphasize security. 

Sometimes, a client will need to share sensitive information with you. If there’s any question about whether that information will fall into the wrong hands, that customer won’t be keen on working with you. 

Always acknowledge that clients’ security and privacy is critical. Explain upfront how you’ll use their information: Will it be passed to the marketing team? How will it be stored? What recourse does the customer have if it’s disclosed?

Operate with integrity. Don’t ask customers to sign things they haven’t read. Walk through the highlights, leave plenty of time for questions, and be patient if the customer isn’t ready to move forward. 

Trust is the foundation of business. The sooner you can build it with a new client, the better. And if you can maintain it, they’ll be loyal to you for years to come. 

8 Easy Ways to Make Customers Comfortable While They Wait for Their Appointment

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There’s a lot that goes into fulfilling an appointment. In many ways, one person’s appointment depends on the execution of many previous appointments. And during busy times, every company falls on occasion. 

When that happens, customers end up having to wait longer than expected. That can be frustrating for those who showed up early as well as those on a tight schedule. If it happens too frequently, customers may start showing up late or not arriving at all. 

You may not always be able to shrink your customers’ waiting time, but you can enhance their waiting room experience. A good customer experience is what keeps people coming back, and the waiting experience is a big part of that.

It doesn’t have to be complicated or extravagant. Take a look at these simple ways to ease customers’ waiting anxieties:

1. Send reminders about waits.

Reminders should already be a meaningful part of your company’s scheduling practices. And if you monitor your appointments carefully, you can alert people when you start to fall behind. 

A reminder about wait times helps customers mentally prepare. That way, they won’t be disappointed when they have to wait once they arrive. They may even opt to reschedule their appointment if they are in a time crunch. 

The key is to be as accurate as possible with the reminders. Don’t underestimate the time they’ll have to wait. Instead, give yourself some room to exceed their expectations. Keeping a customer comfortable in the waiting room begins with making them comfortable with the idea of waiting. 

2. Check your seating layout.

Aside from having comfortable seating in your waiting room, the way it’s arranged can also affect customers. No one wants to be cramped together while waiting, especially during the pandemic or if there are a lot of people in the room. 

By moving some chairs and tables around, you can redesign your waiting area to be more comfortable. Simply declutter the area, space out your chairs, and make electrical outlets accessible.  

Be sure to reorient your room in a way that breaks up the traffic. Doing so will probably involve some trial and error. Pay attention to where people tend to walk, and keep those areas clear. Make sure exits and entrances are clearly marked. 

3. Let in some natural light.

Harsh or dim lighting can make a waiting room unbearable. Natural lighting can significantly reduce the fatigue that builds up from waiting. 

If you’re able to, open the blinds and let in some light. On nice days, open the windows and use the screen door. If windows are scarce in your office, experiment with lights that imitate natural light. 

4. Make Wi-Fi easy to access. 

People tend to spend time on their digital devices when they have to wait. You are bound to get asked about the Wi-Fi connection. 

Reduce the need for customers to ask by doing the following:

  • Name your Wi-Fi after your company. 
  • Make the password visible for customers.
  • Include a guest Wi-Fi option.
  • Train the receptionist on Wi-Fi troubleshooting.

Surfing on cellular data while they wait may cost your customers money. Don’t underestimate how much that can get under their skin. 

5. Provide refreshments.

Food and drinks can be a good way to ease a customer’s wait. You don’t need to break the bank, but do set out some light refreshments. 

Water and coffee are standard. Go above and beyond by setting out juice, lemonade, or soft drinks. Set out a container of tea bags and an electric kettle. 

Snacks are also a smart way to keep customers entertained. Fruit, nuts, and chips are great picks for an office environment. To satisfy your customers’ sweet tooth, you could set out donuts and other pastries.

Always make sure the display is tidy. Remove any food that’s gone bad promptly. Restock the display regularly. 

6. Add art to the room. 

While they wait, nobody wants to choose between staring at a blank wall or at other customers. Hang some art on the walls. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it can actually cut down on the stress of waiting. 

If you have a little money to spend, consider featuring art from local artists. Make sure whatever you choose represents your brand well. Switch up your art periodically to keep things interesting for your most loyal customers. 

7. Set out reading materials. 

Magazines are a staple of waiting rooms. But if you want to step it up, include books as well. To keep kids entertained, pepper in some comics and coloring books. Make sure all periodicals are recent so customers aren’t stuck reading through old news. 

Go broad in your selection so that every client can find something they’re interested in reading. Before they know it, their wait will be over. 

8. Take care of the kids.

Restless kids can be a burden to parents in a waiting room. Worse, they can disrupt the experience of other customers as well. 

If you commonly have kids in your waiting room, create a play area. Colorful toys are a surefire way to keep children’s attention. If you’re lucky enough to have a playground outside the office, let them get some fresh air while their parents watch them from the window. 

Patience is a virtue, but you shouldn’t test your customers’ limits. If you need to ask them to wait, do your part to help them out. 

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