All posts by Jon Bradshaw

How to Plan Your Perfect Eating Schedule

By | Knowledge Base, Scheduling | No Comments

As wonderful as eating is, it takes a lot of time. Planning your meals can give you more time to enjoy your food, as well as more time to get things done. 

Meal-planning is not just about figuring what to eat. Eating at the right time can boost your energy, keep you feeling full throughout the workday, and cut down on your snack intake. 

We’re wired to think about eating in terms of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The trouble is, the same eating schedule doesn’t work for everyone. What if you work the night shift? What if you need to spend your lunch break running errands?

The solution is to find eating times that work for you. Here’s how to do it: 

1. Keep tabs on your productivity.

Everyone has their own daily rhythm. Some people are most productive in the morning, while others crank out their best work in the afternoon or at night.

To figure out when you should eat, think through your peaks and troughs. If you usually take lunch at noon but always feel groggy afterward, try a different time. Eating earlier in the day could keep you from crashing as hard. 

2. Monitor your hunger.

Hunger is your body telling you to feed it. Even if you’re in your groove at work, don’t ignore it. 

Try not to think of hunger as a binary. Are you hungry enough for a full meal, or would a granola bar be enough? There’s nothing wrong with putting a 3 p.m. snack on your schedule, as long as it’s truly a snack. 

Realize, too, that our body isn’t great at distinguishing hunger from thirst. Practice mindful eating: Sometimes, a drink of water is what we really need. At other times, our body might be responding to a nutrient deficiency rather than a lack of raw calories. 

3. Snack responsibly. 

Snacks can be part of a healthy diet, but they should not be arbitrary. Plan out your snack times so you don’t overeat, and so that you can focus on your work. 

Try to combine snacks with other break-time activities. Maybe you bring a bag of trail mix along with you on a walk. That way, your sole focus isn’t shoveling food into your mouth.

If you struggle with snacking, get an accountability partner. At home, encourage your spouse to say something if you grab the bag of chips right after dinner. 

In the office, social norms can keep people from speaking up. A good alternative is to ask your office manager to choose healthier snacks, which are both less tempting and less harmful if you do decide to binge. 

4. Consider when you exercise.

Planning meals around your workout schedule can be tough. If you prefer to exercise first thing, then you need to think through your morning routine: How are you going to wake up, work out, shower, eat breakfast, and still get out the door in time for work?

If you want to exercise after work, be sure you get a bite to eat 2-3 hours in advance. Depending on when you get off work, this might mean taking a later lunch than people typically do. And because making dinner takes time, it might also mean eating supper later in the evening. 

As important as exercise is, don’t let it dictate your meal schedule. Find a balance: Perhaps you work out earlier than you otherwise would so that you have time for a filling breakfast before heading to the office. 

5. Factor in your sleep schedule.

Most people have trouble falling asleep on a full stomach. Especially if you exercise after work, avoid eating dinner so late that it gets in the way of your sleep. Popping into the kitchen for a midnight meal is almost never a good idea.  

One exception? If you’re so hungry that you can’t sleep because of it, feel free to grab a late-night snack. Just be sure to practice portion control: Especially when you’re tired, it’s easy to overeat. 

6. Keep it consistent. 

Eating at regular times in the day keeps your metabolism stable. That, in turn, prevents swings in your mood and energy levels.

Be proactive: If you worry that you’ll be so busy tomorrow that you won’t have time for lunch, then it might be best to work a little more before you leave the office today. If you need to wake up early one day, postpone breakfast until your normal time. 

What about special occasions? Events like office parties and birthdays may require you to eat at odd times. That’s OK, as long as you get back to your routine afterward. 

Don’t let eating be a haphazard activity. Prepare healthy meals, choose the right time to eat them, and listen to your body afterward. For finding your ideal eating schedule, self-awareness is key.

6 Tips to Improve Your Posture at Work

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It may not be back-breaking labor, but office work can take a toll on your body. Sitting for long periods has serious health consequences.

The good news is, most of them can be avoided or improved with better posture. Sitting upright can boost your energy levels, fight anxiety, and reduce back pain. Mental and physical wellness are valuable in and of themselves, but they can also benefit your job performance. 

Don’t wait to worry about your posture until something goes wrong. Chiropractors aren’t cheap. Get ahead of misalignment issues with these simple steps:

1. Exercise your core muscles. 

Regular exercise is a critical part of your daily routine. And if you want to improve your posture, core exercises are a must. 

When you hear “core,” you might think about your abs. But the core also covers your midsection and trunk, including your lower back and glutes. Those muscles are directly connected to your spine, so they affect your posture. 

Your core workout regimen might look something like:

  • Leg extensions: 2-3 sets of 12-16 reps
  • Sit-ups: 2-3 sets of 12-16 reps
  • Planks: 3 sets, each sustained for one minute 
  • Crunches: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Superman: 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps 
  • Back extensions: 1-2 sets of 6-8 reps, each sustained for 15 seconds

If that workout routine looks like a lot, don’t sweat it: Start with a single set of each, and work your way up. 

2. Mind how you sit.

Your biggest obstacle to better posture? How you sit while you work.  

What’s good sitting posture? Practice it by:

  • Sitting on the edge of your seat. 
  • Putting your feet flat on the floor so that you can bend your legs at a 90-degree angle to the ground. 
  • Sitting up as tall as you can without arching your back. 
  • Broadening your chest and pulling your shoulders back. 

Hold that position for as long as you can. Even if it’s uncomfortable, resist the temptation to slouch or use your chair’s backrest. 

3. Adjust your work setup. 

Once sitting properly becomes second-nature, you can tweak your workspace to suit. An ergonomic desk setup will boost your productivity while reminding you to sit upright. 

First, invest in a good chair. Look for one that’s cushioned but not plush, and make sure its height can be adjusted so you can keep your feet firmly planted.

Once you settle on the right chair, think about your equipment:

  • Adjust your chair so that your computer monitor is eye-level. 
  • Keep your keyboard in a comfortable position so that you don’t have to completely extend or bend your elbows to type. 
  • Place your mouse, water bottle, and frequently used items within reach.
  • Situate your printer, fax machine, and infrequently used tools so that you have to get up to use them.

4. Stand up while working.

Who says you have to sit down while working? Standing encourages upright posture, burns more calories than sitting, reduces the risk of heart disease, and keeps you more alert at work.

Invest in a desk that lets you alternate between sitting and standing. You’ll eventually get tired of either position, and many of the health benefits of a standing desk stem from switching between the two.

5. Take breaks frequently.

When you start to feel sore or jittery, don’t soldier on; instead, get up and move around. Take a walk outside, stretch your back, or just go grab a coffee refill. 

Aside from improving your posture, breaks benefit your productivity in other ways. Getting some space from your work can heighten your focus, fight burnout, and refuel your creativity. When you come back, you might see a simple solution to that problem you couldn’t solve earlier.

Try the Pomodoro Method: Work for 25 minutes, do something else for 5 minutes, and then do it again. Taking smaller breaks more often keeps your blood moving and your mind fresh. 

6. Use gadgets as a last resort. 

Start with exercise, a better chair, and a standing desk. If those don’t work, consider a back brace or other posture-correcting gear.

Why shouldn’t you reach straight for medical devices? Because they can also cause harm. Get a doctor’s opinion before you put anything on your body, and avoid wearing it all the time. Otherwise, your back could become used to the extra support, resulting in weaker core muscles.

What’s more, posture-correcting equipment can be embarrassing. Although your co-workers should understand that you’re trying to improve your health, you don’t need the extra distraction. 

Worry first about your own posture, but don’t underestimate the value of better posture across your team. Instead of commanding your team to sit a certain way, however, be a model: Sit up straight, feel better, and share how you did it. Taking better care of yourself has a way of spreading to those around you. 

For Better Customer Feedback, Use Scheduling Software

By | Scheduling | No Comments

You leave comment cards by the door. You send email surveys. And yet, you never seem to get the customer feedback you need.

What’s the secret to getting better customer feedback more often, and from more customers? Believe it or not, scheduling software.

It all starts by letting customers schedule their own appointments. Not only can you ask for comments in the interface itself, but you can also set up feedback appointments. Both help you problem-solve and innovate your customer experience.

Don’t want for customers to complain about the experience. Reach out for feedback. Here’s how to do it through scheduling software:

1. Let them choose the channel.

Not everyone likes to give feedback in writing. Customers could schedule a phone call with someone at your company, they could engage through video chat, or they could join you in person.

Each forum comes with its pros and cons. An in-person feedback session is going to be more involved than one that happens over the phone. However, it might be better for establishing connections with customers.

It’s important to accept what your customers are comfortable with. Don’t force them to come to your office if they ask for a call. Offer as many channel options as you can. 

2. Promote feedback sessions.

Beyond offering multiple times and modes of communication, you need to find ways to excite your customers about giving feedback. Increase engagement with a promotion strategy. 4

To promote customer feedback sessions, you can:

  • Inform customers about feedback opportunities after regular appointments.
  • Announce a special week dedicated to feedback, such as a customer appreciation week.
  • Leverage social media to encourage customers to schedule.

Even if they just want to stop by for a ten-minute chat, get customers in the habit of using your scheduling tool to give feedback. Make it as convenient as possible, and they’ll be more likely to do it. 

3. Offer rewards for feedback.

When a customer takes time out of their day to give you feedback, make it worth their while. Rewarding them is common courtesy. There are plenty of ways to do it:

  • Provide a discount on your product or service when the customer schedules a feedback session.
  • Surprise customers who give feedback with gift cards to area restaurants.
  • Give shoutouts on social media to customers whose feedback helps you improve.

For repeat feedback-providers, go above and beyond. Follow up with a gift that is tailor-made for them. These are the kinds of actions that win customer loyalty. 

4. Never underestimate the power of food.

One way to liven up a feedback meeting is to provide free food. You can put special lunch meetings on your schedule and allow customers to book on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

A meal makes the conversation more casual. Eating during the conversation communicates that you aren’t in a rush, and that you enjoy your customers’ company. 

Meals also create an opportunity for group meetings. Getting a few extra servings delivered is worth it for a wider perspective. Treat it like a focus group, letting your customers have a conversation with one another while you mediate the session. 

5. Always be professional.

Just as you would with any other appointment, practice professional behavior at your feedback sessions. To respect your customers time and protect your brand:

  • Show up early to in-person meetings.
  • Dress in professional attire.
  • Make sure necessary materials are printed off and organized.
  • Let the customer set the agenda.
  • Don’t do all the talking.
  • Ask meaningful questions to encourage conversation.

6. Respond to criticism with compassion.

Not all feedback you receive will be positive. That isn’t a bad thing: Criticism is often more helpful than praise.

Don’t make customers feel guilty for giving you the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you get defensive, customers will shut down rather than say what’s really on their mind. 

Use questions to flesh out criticisms. If a customer says your wait times are too long, for example, ask what amount of time they consider to be unacceptable. If they are having trouble using your scheduling program, encourage them to pull up the program to show you their issue. Be honest if there are things you can’t change. 

Honesty and empathy are key. Try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes, and acknowledge your shortcomings. 

7. Actually make improvements. 

It should go without saying, but customers need to know it: Their feedback has to result in real changes. Otherwise, they will feel like their feedback was not taken seriously. 

Send them updates about how you’re integrating their suggestions. Either send it out via email, or set up a session for all feedback-givers to walk through the changes they inspired.

If you truly care about your customers, prove that to them by asking for improvement ideas. With scheduling software, you can always keep your door open. Your customers, as well as your bottom line, will appreciate that. 

Enhance Your Business Savvy During COVID-19

By | Business Tips | No Comments

Like so many of you, it’s been a challenge as of late. I’ve been trying to put on a strong face with the COVID-19 going on — but, internally, I’m a little anxious. I’m concerned about the health and welfare of my family, friends, employees, and business.

But, recently, I’ve decided to use this time as an opportunity to enhance my business savvy — as opposed to dwelling on the negative. And, here are some of the areas that I’ve been focusing on to improve my business acumen significantly.

Build better habits.

Habits, as Deanna Ritchie explained in a previous Calendar article, “are behaviors or tasks that we without thinking about.” As a whole, “habits can help us become the best possible versions of ourselves.” And when that happens, “we’ll be healthier, happier, and more productive.”

In short, habits are kind of important. Not just for our health and well-being. But also because they can help improve our business savvy. For instance, if you don’t have mental habits like positivity, resilience, and focus, it’s impossible to keep your eyes on the prize.

At the same time, habits can also be detrimental. “Examples would be hitting the snooze button, procrastination, watching too much TV, and smoking,” explains Deanna. “You probably don’t need to be reminded of this, but all are bad for your productivity and well-being.”

How can you perfect the art of better habits? Well, here are some suggestions from Deanna:

  • Start incredibly small and work your way up. Use the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM), as a habit recipe template to make this possible: “After I [TRIGGER], I will [TINY HABIT].”
  • Don’t be vague. Always create an implementation and make sure that it’s satisfying.
  • Stack your habits by tieing a new habit into an existing one.
  • Short-circuit the feedback loop to reshape any habit.
  • Remove any bias by creating the right environment.
  • Overcome possible excuses, like getting that guitar out of the closet and putting it next to your chair.
  • Create a habit calendar to track your progress and celebrate wins.

Create a Business Model Canvas.

“The Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a strategic management tool to quickly and easily define and communicate a business idea or concept,” explains Mike Ebinum, Sheda Director, in a Medium post.

It’s just a one-page document that works “through the fundamental elements of a business or product, coherently structuring an idea,” Mike adds. “The right side of the BMC focuses on the customer (external), while the left side of the canvas focuses on the business (internal).”

Both “factors meet around the value proposition, which is the exchange of value between your business and your customer/clients,” continues Mike. The BMC is often used “to quickly draw a picture of what the idea entails,” get a better idea of your business, how customers play a role, and where you want to go.

What’s more, this can help you clarify your value proposition and develop customer personas. It can even guide in which type of content to create and where to share it. And, the BMC will also identify the key activities, resources, partners, expenses, and revenue streams required for you to succeed.

Even if you’ve done this previously, it won’t hurt to give it another try. Maybe your business has changed over the years. Or, perhaps, it will allow you to spot any leaks and potential opportunities.

Listen to your employees, customers, and suppliers.

He may be a divisive figure. But, Steve Jobs had an excellent quote regarding hiring. “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

I hate to burst your bubble here. But, you don’t have all of then answers or here capable of running a business on your own. That’s why you brought on a talented team. They’re doing the things that you’re not great at. And, they probably have a pulse on aspects of your business that you aren’t aware of. For example, since they’re frequently interacting with them, your customer service reps can let you know their pain points.

In other words, your team is an untapped reserve of knowledge. Schedule one-one-ones with them and pick their brains so that you can learn as much as you can about their responsibilities so that you know every facet of your business. Besides, this gives you a chance to check-in with them, which builds trust and improves your leadership skills.

In addition to your employees, connect with your customers, suppliers, and vendors. Social media is a great way to interact with your audience to gather feedback on how your business can improve. Chatting with suppliers and vendors can build rapport and change your business for the better. It can also encourage you to make a change. Maybe after doing some digging and speaking with a vendor, you determine that they’re too unreliable.

Keep on learning.

Is there any better time than the present to finally improve your skills, expand your knowledge, or learn something new? In my opinion, this won’t just enhance your business savvy; it’s also a much-needed distraction. And, best of all, you can do this from the comfort of your home.

How can you keep on learning? Well, here are some ideas for you to try out:

  • Attend an online business school, training resource, or certificate program. Check out Coursera, Skillshare, or Wharton Online.
  • Read as much as possible. I’m talking about books like Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher & William Ury, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman, Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . And Others Don’t by Jim Collins. And, don’t rule out leading business blogs and websites. Obviously, there are millions of options out there. So, your best bet would be to search for whatever are you need assistance with. For example, if you want to bulk up your online marketing you might want to follow Copyblogger or Moz (or recommend these to team members, and then discuss them at a later date). To get you started, here’s a list of 100 business blogs compiled by the good folks over at Quickbooks.
  • Listen to podcasts. These are great when you’re going for a walk or doing things around the house. Jennifer Spencer put together a solid list of 20 podcasts that will help your business grow on Entrepreneur. But, I would add Entrepreneur on Fire, the Garyvee Audio Experience, and How I Built This.
  • Find a mentor, advisor, and coach. A mentor could be a local business owner, professor, someone like Richard Branson. You’ve never met him. But, he’s influenced you via the books he’s written. Advisors are those who you have a deeper relationship with you can help you improve in a specific area. Coaches are people that you hire to assist you in becoming a better business owner.
  • Volunteer. On top of giving back, this allows you to network and enhance your existing skillset. Of course, you can’t do this in-person currently. But, there are virtual volunteering opportunities for you to explore.

Pay attention to the latest business news.

I know that the news can be overwhelming and exhausting right now. But don’t completely shelter yourself from the latest business news. I mean, you don’t want to miss out on the recent developments and emerging trends, right? If so, you might be missing out on new business and growth opportunities.

You probably can’t go wrong with the old standbys like CNBC, Fortune, or the Wall Street Journal. Personally, I’m a fan of Morning Brew, SGN, and the Skim. Both are daily email newsletters that you can quickly consume. They’re also smart and witty, so it doesn’t always seem like doom and gloom. And, best of all, they keep me updated first thing in the morning so that I don’t have to watch the news all day.

Join a professional organization or an online community.

Some business owners and entrepreneurs might dismiss this. But, in my opinion, this is one of the best time investments you could make. After all, becoming a part of a professional association or online community expands your network, helps you learn new skills, and exposes you to industry trends. You can also use these organizations for professional growth opportunities, to meet or become a mentor, and getting your name out there.

Right now, unfortunately, you can’t do this in person. Thankfully, most of these groups have gone virtual. For example, the Chamber of Commerce is hosting virtual events and webinars. What’s more, there are more than enough online communities for you to join that can help you in business-related areas you like. Suggestions would be Startup Nation, GrowthHackers, LinkedIn groups like Bright Ideas and Entrepreneurs, The Small Business Bonfire, and Slack channels like Online Geniuses.

Develop (or update) your contingency plan.

“A contingency plan, also referred to as a disaster recovery plan, is a set of steps, written down and communicated to all, that describes how you and your team will respond in case of a future, unforeseen, disaster or hardship,” explains Debbie Madden over on Inc.com. The reason? It can help minimize losses and “continue operations as close to ‘normal’ as possible.”

“The key is to create a contingency plan early, communicate it to the entire company, and update it often (ideally annually),” suggests Debbie. And, to achieve that, it could contain the following four pillars:

  • Employee safety. Your people always come first, so make their health and wellness your top priority.
  • Communication plan. Determine a way to communicate with each other. It may sound outdated. But, Debbie has a landline just in case there’s no cell service or people can’t charge their devices.
  • Data backup and recovery. Purchase insurance, place everything on the cloud, and consider purchasing a generator. I’d also recommend that you step-up your cybersecurity knowledge to prevent attacks.
  • Finances. Create a budget and stick to it. And, make sure that you have an emergency fund in place. Debbie also suggests keeping cash-on-hand.

After getting all four pillars in place, “round out your plan by thinking through the specifics of your business,” writes Debbie. “You aren’t going to be able to predict which disasters will hit and when.” However, “if you think through a few worst-case scenarios, as unpleasant as this task is, you’ll be better prepared.”

Also, go through multiple disaster categories to help you prepare for both short-and-long-term events. You could also brainstorm with your team to know how your business is impacted and the steps needed to recover.

Go outside your wheelhouse.

Do something that’s not a part of your regular responsibilities. Maybe write a blog post, develop a social media marketing campaign, answer customer service questions, or do some bookkeeping. If you don’t feel comfortable doing a specific task, then don’t. The idea, though, is to help you learn new skills and how every cog in your business works. You may even empathize with specific team members after walking in their shoes.

And, now is the perfect time to experiment with new tools and strategies. For instance, maybe you’re trying out some time management and productivity techniques now that you’re working from home. Or, to stay in touch with your team, you’ve test-driving various tools that make virtual meetings more accessible and effective. And, you could finally give a new marketing campaign or service a trial run to see what sticks.

7 Before-Bed Steps to Prepare for Tomorrow

By | Time Management | No Comments

You toss, you turn, and you toss some more: You just can’t seem to stop thinking about tomorrow long enough to fall asleep. 

A great way to put your worries to bed? Get a jump on the next day. Doing a little prep work in the evening can help you be more productive tomorrow.

Be proactive: Think through what parts of your morning routine you can do the evening beforehand. There are plenty of things to do before calling it a night. Here’s where to start:

1. Schedule Your Next Day

There’s something romantic about planning your schedule at the crack of dawn. But the morning isn’t the best time of day to get your schedule together. 

Before going to bed, figure out what you’re doing the following day. This activity can help you clear your mind. Scheduling becomes one less thing to do in the morning. 

When putting your schedule together, remember that the most productive people:

  • Focus on one task at a time.
  • Group similar tasks together.
  • Automate or delegate what they can.
  • Put their most difficult task first on their to-do list.

Spend five minutes each night putting together your plan of attack. That way, in the morning, all you need to do is refer to what you created the night before. 

2. Pack Your Lunch 

Preparing your lunch the night before work does a couple of things for you: First, the task doesn’t eat up your morning time. Second, you won’t waste time at work contemplating what to eat for lunch. 

Even better, you can prep your lunches for the whole week on Sunday night. You can also use the time to prepare lunch for your kids as well. If they’re old enough, they can even join in the preparation. 

Once you’re done, simply store the food containers in the fridge. Grab them on your way out the door, and you’re done. 

3. Prepare Breakfast 

Why stop with lunch when you can do the same thing with breakfast? From egg cups to breakfast burritos, there are plenty of easy morning meals you can prepare at night.

Most importantly, get your coffee ready. If you have a fancy coffee maker, you can set it to brew when you wake up. If not, just add the grinds and the water. That way, you only need to flip a switch.

As with lunch, your kids can also join in on breakfast prep — but probably skip the coffee for them. 

4. Select Your Wardrobe

One of the more time-consuming morning tasks? Picking what to wear. If you have a lot of options to choose from, you might waste 15 minutes simply finding your favorite sweater.

If selecting clothes before bed is difficult, try simplifying your wardrobe. Use the 10-5 rule: 10 pairs of underwear, socks, and shirts; five pairs of shorts and pants. 

Fold your chosen clothes and put them next to your bed. Just like making your bed, keeping your clothes tidy can help you feel more put together. 

5. Do a Quick Clean-Up

Undone chores have a way of staring you down in the morning. Before going to bed at night, get some chores out of the way. 

You don’t have to do a full-on cleaning, but do tackle the things that are bothering you. A few priorities include:

  • Sweep or vacuum common areas.
  • Put dirty clothes in your laundry basket.
  • Organize your toiletries.
  • Wash your dishes. 

Cleaning is an underrated form of self-care. When you declutter the physical space you inhabit, you also declutter your mental space.

6. Hop in the Shower

We’ve all taken showers that were longer than they needed to be in the morning. Standing under warm water can make it more difficult to get started, especially when it’s cold outside. 

There are pros and cons to showering at night instead of in the morning. If you are looking to save some time, though, hitting the shower before bed might be right for you.

Showering before bed can help you sleep better and allow you to shower at your own pace. Showering at night is also a good hygiene option to keep your bed cleaner. 

7. Pack Your Essentials

At night, go ahead and pack up your work bag. Make sure you’ve got your laptop, folders, notebooks, and whatever else you need.

Be sure to also put things like your keys and wallet somewhere that won’t be easy to misplace. It’s a good idea to keep them in the same place all the time. Do so, and you won’t need to spend precious time searching for them when you’re trying to get out the door for work. 

Once you’ve started doing your next-day prep at night, it’s hard to imagine doing it all in the morning again. Make the switch: Mornings are not the time to cram, and bedtime is not the time to stress. 

Slice Your No-Show Rate With These 5 Tips

By | Scheduling | No Comments
appointment guide

It’s not just you: Cancellations and no-shows are time-wasting issues at every service company.

Missed appointments cost the healthcare industry alone $150 billion dollars a year. With those stakes, you can’t just accept frequent cancellations and no-shows.

You may not be in charge of your client’s schedules, but there are ways to significantly reduce cancellations without upsetting or alienating customers. Take a look at the following ways to do just that:

1. Check for a common cause.

If you see a spike in cancellations, it doesn’t mean that your customers are careless or inconsiderate. There are plenty of other reasons that could be to blame, such as:

  • Customers have issues with your scheduling system that they don’t know how to articulate.
  • Your hours of operation have recently changed.
  • You aren’t sending out appointment reminders.
  • External circumstances, such as the pandemic, are keeping customers away

To get to the root of the issue, reach out to your customers. If they cancel by phone, you can simply ask them. If they cancel on scheduling software, you can provide a portal that lets them check their reason among common ones or provide their own. 

Get data from at least a dozen customers before taking any action. You may need to readjust your availability, send stronger reminders, or provide incentives like discounts to get customers in the door.

2. Default to self-service scheduling.

Having a centralized scheduling software for your company can save you time, not to mention the headaches that come with cancellations. Unless clients request otherwise, ask them to book appointments themselves online. 

With self-scheduling, customers can:

  • Schedule appointments at any time.
  • Choose times that work best for them.
  • Reschedule appointments.
  • Sign up for waitlists.

Customers crave autonomy. Even if something comes up at a time they schedule, they’re much more likely to reschedule if they can handle it themselves.

When that happens, scheduling software helps you shift your own plans. There might be a waitlisted person ready to take their place, for example. 

3. Institute a cancellation policy.

A strong policy can deter cancellations. Just the mention of “policy” can get customers to take your time more seriously. 

A cancellation policy is an opportunity to let your clients know how cancellations and no-shows affect your business. Done right, it can help them understand their role in your success. 

What should your cancellation policy include? Outline a preferred time frame for cancellations as well as a method for notifying your company. Within a certain number of days of the cancelled appointment, a fee may apply. 

Once you create a cancellation policy, be sure to let your clients know about it. Revisit it quarterly, and again make sure clients are abreast of any changes you make. 

4. Require payments beforehand.

If you’ve already paid for an appointment, you are incentivized to actually make it. That’s why prepayments can be a lifesaver when it comes to reducing cancellations and no-shows.

Clients don’t have to pay the full price for the appointment, either. You can charge a deposit beforehand and bill the remaining balance at the time of service.

What if clients want to pay afterward? Offer that option to reliable customers. Treat it as an additional incentive for them to make their appointments.

5. Enhance your customer experience.

One reason that you might be getting frequent cancellations is that customers simply are not excited about the experience you offer. A stronger experience not only reduces no-shows, but it also attracts more customers in the first place. 

Maybe the issue is ho-hum customer service. Perhaps your clients worry that they will wait too long to be seen once they arrive at your office. These are the kinds of mistakes that spur negative conversations about your company, causing others to second-guess their appointments. 

It’s critical to create the sort of environment where customers feel welcomed. Instead of dreading their appointment, they ought to be excited for it. Signs that you’ve got it right include positive feedback and early arrivals. 

Cancellations happen, but they should not get to a point where they make you sweat. You have more control over cancellations than you think. The key is solving them in ways that put the customer first. 

Sales Meeting Hacks During COVID

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Has anyone ever been excited about attending a sales meeting? Probably very few. Now try convincing your sales team to get pumped about an upcoming meeting during a pandemic. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Thankfully, you can use the following hacks to ensure that your meetings will be fruitful and worth their time. And, they may actually have a little fun and look forward to these events during this strange and stressful time.

Sales Meetings 101

It’s a stressful and uncertain time right now. The last thing that you want to is to pile on even more stress onto your team member’s shoulders. That’s why you need to do a little planning and preparation in advance before scheduling a meeting.

If you don’t think that meetings have been stressing your team out, think again. Between getting pulled away from their work, the fear of public speaking, and experiencing technology problems (this accounts for 90% of meeting stress), it’s easy to understand why so many people dread meetings.

To relieve this stress, you need to make sure that all meetings aren’t just necessary — but also productive. You will assure a session is productive by:

  • Setting a single goal or objective for the meeting.
  • Designating a meeting leader, time, date, and location.
  • Setting a time limit and keeping it short — preferably around 30-minutes.
  • Inviting the right amount of people — ideally around seven attendees.
  • Addressing tech issues before the meeting.

Does this preparation seem like a tall glass to fill? Your preparation is not only possible but beneficial if your meeting contains the four elements of a successful meeting.

Use a standardized agenda.

An agenda lets participants know exactly what to expect. It’s the foundation of any productive meetings as it contains the following components:

  • A header that identifies who’s calling the meeting, assembling the body, type of meeting, date and time, start and end time, and location.
  • Key objective that answers two crucial questions. Why are we meeting? And, what do we hope to accomplish?
  • The topics that will be discussed — limit this to 5. If you want to get your team more involved, ask for their input on what they want to be covered. Milestones, pipeline updates, obstacles, monthly targets, noteworthy insights, and what your competitors are doing are solid topic ideas.
  • The meeting work plan. Also called the agenda body, this is everything that will be discussed and in what order. Always start with your most time-sensitive or urgent matters.
  • Allocate the right amount of time to each topic.
  • At the conclusion, make sure you follow-up with the attendees by distributing minutes and assigning responsibilities.

The agenda should always be sent to invitees a day or two in advance so that they have time to prepare.

Provide value.

You want your team to walk away with valuable information that they can use to close more deals. Examples would be training, customer feedback, or the latest news or trends influencing your business.

Team participation.

Don’t bore your team. Keep them engaged by adding some interactivity to it. Ideas would be answering questions, playing games, or breaking your team into groups and having them answer questions.

Also, include use data visualization. It’s more efficient, allows everyone to focus on what’s important, and helps attendees make faster decisions.

Be consistent.

More then ever, we’re striving for normalcy. And, routines and rituals can provide that since they give us certainty. Think of rituals as actions with meaning or emotion attached to them,” Tonya Dalton, a productivity expert, told Healthline. “Rituals keep our day moving along but are infused with joy, pleasure, or positive emotion.”

What does this have to do with meetings? Well, if they’re recurring, then make sure that they take place on the same day and time.

Super-special bonus element: Make your virtual meetings rock!

As of this writing, you have no other choice but for the location of your sales meeting to be remote. So, pass along the following tips so that your virtual meeting will be productive and professional.

  • Work from a quiet, carpeted room.
  • Use a neutral background and have good lighting. But, if it’s within reason, encourage attendees to have some fun and change their backgrounds digitally.
  • Have the meeting on a laptop and not your phone.
  • Test the technology before the meeting, as well as your mic and camera.
  • Raise your webcam to eye-level.
  • “Make the conference application as small as possible and position it adjacent to your computer’s camera,” suggests Joseph Liu on Forbes.
  • Always dress like you’re in a real, professional meeting.
  • Turn off all notifications during the meeting.
  • Look at your camera, not screen, when talking, and mute the mic when you’re not.
  • Avoid multitasking.
  • Learn videoconferencing tricks, such as these six tips about Zoom that Calendar Co-Founder shared on Entrepreneur. If you use Teams, here are 25 gems over at Medium.

Shake Up Your Sales Meetings

Even though you want to give your team consistency, you also don’t want them to get into a rut. That’s why you should occasionally switch things up. It will keep your team engaged, motivated, and will give them something to look forward to.

If you need some creative ideas, Salesforce has the following 6 suggestions:

  • Pump up the volume. “Ask a different team member before each meeting to share a track that gets them particularly motivated or energized before they begin their first outreach to customers in the day.”
  • In the news. Open the meeting “with a brief overview of the trends or stories that stand out, and discuss what they might mean for what the sales team needs to do in terms of approaching customers and prospects.”
  • We shall overcome. Your meeting is the perfect time to provide your reps with strategies and tactics. Or, “even additional information they can use to persuade customers to think differently about whatever’s stopping them from making a purchase.”
  • Sell me this pen. Close your meeting with a fun role-playing exercise where team members must pitch for something like, well, a pen.
  • Here’s what I noticed. When recognizing your reps, outstanding work “be specific about the behaviors and actions that demonstrate a real effort to provide value to customers or the organization.”

Need some other ideas? Well, you could have a meeting with colleagues from departments or experts to expand your rep’s knowledge and skillset.

Another idea would be to have goal-setting sessions. And, you can never go wrong with meetings helping your team overcome roadblocks, reviewing metrics, sharing prospect feedback, and sharing company information.

Because the word “meeting” is often associated with negativity, you could even call these events by a different name. Examples could be:

  • Calling your recurring meetings “team cadence,” “daily huddle,” or “weekly meetup.”
  • Instead of a status update, try “progress check.”
  • A one-on-one could be referred to as a “coaching session.”
  • You could use a “brainstorming session” when generating ideas.
  • For problem-solving, try “root-cause resolution.”
  • Training meetings could be titled “skills certification.”
  • When making an announcement, use “press briefing.”

Use Sales Meetings to Boost Morale and Motivation

“Psychological experiments have shown that the way a meeting starts, sets the tone for the whole meeting,” says Alexandar Kjerulf, aka the Chief Happiness Officer. “Start the meeting with complaints, problems, and mutual blame, and that’s what you’ll get.”

However, if the meeting has a more positive vibe, they will be more engaging and fun. That’s why Kjerulf suggests that you kick-off each meeting by asking participants “to briefly (= less than 30 seconds) share something positive.” Examples would be sharing successful sales stories, asking what they’re grateful for, or telling an exciting or funny story.

You can also use sales meetings to boost your team’s morale by:

  • Recognizing your team’s hard work and dedication and thanking them for all that they do.
  • Let your team members show off their unique skills and help them enhance their existing skillsets.
  • Prioritize time with each team member so that you can find out their personality traits. Knowing this allows you to customize meetings and rewards.
  • Remind them of their purpose. Research from Dr. Valerie Good of Michigan State University shows that purpose is the primary source of motivation in sales. “Instead of focusing on financial payouts for sales personnel to perform better, concentrating on meeting the intrinsic needs of salespeople can lead to better objective performance outcomes.”
  • Always be honest and transparent with them — even if it’s not good news.

Harness the Power of AI

“Artificial intelligence, which consists of natural language processing, machine learning, and bots, is still in its early stages,” explains Calendar Co-Founder John Hall. “We’re already witnessing its influence in areas like scheduling. Take intelligent calendars as an example. By using machine learning, they can “suggest when and where a meeting should occur after reviewing past invites. You can also create a new event just by speaking into your smartphone.”

That can be a game-changer right now. Instead of going back-and-forth with the team, who currently are juggling not only their work but also home responsibilities, a smart calendar could determine that 1 p.m. is an ideal time.

We may not be there just yet, “but AI can record meetings and transcribe and email notes after they’ve concluded,” adds Hall. That information could be used for future reference and replace having someone keep minutes. “It can make smart suggestions on the invitees and documents needed” and “automatically assign tasks and meeting roles.” AI “may even be able to read the room so it can make suggestions on how to keep specific attendees engaged.”

6 Tips to Supercharge Customer Support With Scheduling Software

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What distinguishes your business isn’t just the quality of your product or service; it’s also how your product or service is delivered. In fact, 73% of consumers say the experience is their main consideration after price and product quality. 

One way to ensure that you’re delivering a great experience is using scheduling software. By using automation technology to manage from appointments to service calls to follow-ups, you’ll help your company stand out. 

Scheduling software is a set-it-and-forget-it system for customer support. But like any system, it isn’t foolproof. Use these six tips to get it right:

1. Default to self-service.

Most scheduling software gives you a choice: Either you schedule clients’ appointments, or you let them do so themselves. Letting clients choose is a win-win: Your team saves time, while your customers are able to book when and as often as they want.

From transportation to lodging to restaurant reservations, online booking is what today’s customers are used to. In healthcare, for example, 77% of patients see self-scheduling as important.

Why do customers insist on self-booking? The practice lets them:

  • Schedule appointments during hours when you’re closed for business. 
  • Take time to compare your availability to their own calendar.
  • Cancel and reschedule appointments on their own.

 

2. Send purposeful reminders.

Reminding customers about their appointments is important because they have busy lives. In the rush of modern life, it’s easy to forget even things they schedule themselves. 

Sending reminders can reduce your no-show rate, but it can also demonstrate that you are eager and ready to provide for your customer. Customers shouldn’t have to contact you to make sure you’ll be ready for an appointment. 

The reminders you send should be timely and meaningful. You wouldn’t send the same notification to someone whose appointment is booked for tomorrow as you would a person who has an appointment a couple of months from now. And if every reminder looks the same, customers are less likely to pay attention to them. 

With scheduling software, you can automate reminders based on how far away the meeting is. These can be delivered through emails or text messages, and you can tailor the notification to match the circumstance. 

3. Be flexible with payments.

Depending on your line of business, you might be able to accept payments before or after an appointment. If you can, give customers that option.

Some people like to make payments when they book so they can forget about it. Others would rather wait to pay in person. Still others want to receive the service before they pay. 

Scheduling software that integrates with payment services lets your customers choose. Providing that flexibility shows that you’re confident in your product or service. 

4. Add value with follow-ups.

With scheduling software, you can keep customers in the loop of what’s going on at the business. Doing so takes you from just a business to a part of their community. 

When you follow up, include an incentive or educational content — and ideally both. You can offer customers a range of items, such as:

  • Discounts
  • Bonus gifts
  • Invitations to events
  • Tip and tricks
  • Refund policies

Like reminders, these follow-ups should be unique to the situation and customer. Try dispensing certain ones, like discounts, after a set number of appointments. Others, like bonus gifts, might be best sent for the customer’s birthday. Exclusive event invitations might be based on the customer’s package or price point. 

5. Keep their data secure.

Customers value security. Keeping their information secure is simple with scheduling software. 

For example, you can set appointment notifications to be sent only to team members who need to know about them. This is particularly important in industries like healthcare, which are governed by privacy frameworks like HIPAA.

Scheduling software also encrypts sensitive information. That way, payment details or patient records aren’t compromised in transit. 

6. Always ask for feedback.

Do not expect customers to give feedback if you don’t ask for it. After an appointment, around renewal times, and whenever you roll out a new service, reach out to customers for comments.

Use your scheduling software’s reminder and follow-up features to do this. Include a quantitative portion — a 0-10 satisfaction scale — and a qualitative prompt. Often, the best insights into what you could be doing better come from customer comments.

There’s no single formula for customer support, but there is a singularly important tool: a scheduling system. To take your customer experience to the next level, embrace it. 

The Best Remote Work Setup To Keep You as Productive as Ever

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Just a few months ago, remote work was a luxury. But for many of us, it’s now a necessity that’ll take some getting used to. 

Not only do you have to adapt your workflow and make communication simpler for team members, but you also have to adjust your work environment to optimize productivity. That desk in a dark, dingey corner of your basement is far from an ideal workspace. 

What does an ideal remote workspace look like? To get more out of your day, upgrade your desk with:

1. Your office favorites

When you’re at the office, you have access to all the tools you need for the job. Highlighters, legal pads, your favorite pens — whatever helps you work faster and more efficiently. At home, you may not.

Splurge a little next time you’re at the office supply store. If you really want that top-of-the-line desk organizer, get it. Throw those cute paper clips that cost too much in the cart, too. Those small joys are worth it. 

Think, too, about your personal wellbeing. A water bottle at your desk keeps you hydrated. If you don’t have a coffee maker to keep you when the days get long, invest in one.   

Other than that, be selective about what you keep at your desk. When you take a broad essential, it opens the floodgates for a stream of inessential things. Before you know it not only does your desk get cluttered but also your mind. 

2. Lighting

You know how hard it is to work in a dim space. Adequate light reduces eye strain and fatigue.

Studies suggest access to natural light trumps a host of other office perks. It makes workers more energetic and can even improve mental health.

Keep lighting in mind as you perfect your home office setup. Instead of working in a space that is wholly reliant on artificial light, move your workspace to a room with a window.

If you don’t have that kind of natural light available, there are also lamps that simulate daylight. These are great for fighting seasonal affective disorder during times when you find yourself inside a lot. They are also useful if you need to work at night. Don’t let your circumstances keep you from getting the right amount of light. 

3. Plants and greenery

Another way to foster a productive work environment is to surround yourself with plants. Like natural lighting, greenery brings the great outdoors inside. 

Studies have shown that plants can give you a productivity boost of up to 15%. The reason is reduced stress levels: A little nature can help you move forward with ease and certainty. Caring for your plants can provide a sense of purpose.

Maybe now is the time to start the garden you’ve been wanting to grow in your home. If you don’t have a green thumb, you can always buy pre-grown plants. Either way, the added greenery will cheer you up whenever you look away from the screen. 

4. Sounds

Home noises can be distracting, but not all sounds are bad for productivity. Boosting your productivity is as easy as tuning into the right ones. 

Classical music can actually enhance brain function. It’s called the Mozart Effect, and it’s been known to help students perform better on tests and study better. The same kind of focus is great for powering through your more involved work tasks.

If you’re not a classical music fan, a great alternative is nature sounds. A relaxing waterfall or a chorus of birds make great background noise. And if you need a pick-me-up along the way, you take a break to listen to some of your favorite songs.

To enjoy your nature sounds or songs to their fullest, get some stereo speakers. Noise-cancelling headphones are an even better solution, but they can be pricey.

5. Art

You might assume that a focus-first workspace should be as bare as possible, but that’s not the case. Enriching your environment with art can actually increase your productivity. 

What art you choose isn’t necessarily important. What matters is that your selections inspire you and make you think. You don’t need to be an expert in art history to appreciate something that’s aesthetically pleasing to you. 

Experiment with different media. Choose some paintings for the walls. Add a small sculpture to your desk. Hang something with stained glass in your window. 

6. Aromatherapy

Your home workspace should look, sound, and feel like your own — but it should also smell appealing. Aromatherapy is a great way to give your home office that finishing touch.

Smell is an underappreciated sense. An essential oil diffuser can give you a whiff of lavender when you’re stressed. Try mint or eucalyptus for an energy boost. If you’re feeling short on fresh air, why not go for a soft forest scent?

Whether you’re working remotely by choice or doing so by necessity, you can always improve your space. Experiment: If a stationary set doesn’t bring you joy, find one that does. Make it your own, and you’ll see the difference in your mood, output, and more. 

5 Scheduling Issues Your Clients Aren’t Telling You About

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Scheduling software is more popular than ever. But just because you know how to use it doesn’t mean all of your clients do. 

The truth is, your clients don’t want to bother you. They may not know whether you can solve their issue, so they just accept things the way they are.

But even if your clients aren’t speaking up about scheduling issues, they are judging your business by them. Scheduling software is supposed to make you more efficient. If you aren’t addressing problems with similar efficiency, your clients will become skeptical. 

Invite clients to talk through their scheduling issues. In the meantime, take a look at the following problems to get a sense of what you may be dealing with:

1. They’re not getting reminders.

Has a client ever had to call to confirm a meeting or appointment? Do you find that happening often? If so, your scheduling system may not be sending them reminders like it should. 

Reminders give clients confirmation that their appointment will be upheld. They should not have to worry about arriving at your company and not being able to meet with the person they booked. 

Be sure to set your scheduling software to automate reminders so that you don’t have to send them manually. Adjust the number of reminders based on how far away the appointment is. Make sure one is sent when the appointment is made and another 24 hours in advance. 

Another tip is to make sure that your reminders are worthy of a response by including a question about whether they’re able to make it or personalizing the notification. When clients respond, they’ll either signal they’re still planning to make the appointment or ask to reschedule. 

2. They’re struggling with time zones.

If you are on the East Coast but want to schedule an appointment with someone on the West Coast, you have to account for the time change. And sometimes it can be difficult to know if they’re talking about your 9 a.m. or their 9 a.m. This can lead to awkward moments and missed meetings.

If your scheduling software doesn’t automatically adjust for different time zones, it’s time to invest in one that does. Not only will this benefit clients, but it will also benefit remote team members. Encourage everyone to be considerate of normal business hours.

3. They can’t get the slots they want.

When it comes to scheduling, we can’t always get what we want. It can often feel like the perfect time for us just so happens to be the perfect time for someone else.

Every company has peak hours, but it’s important to cater to your clients’ schedules. If you can’t afford to hire additional team members, try restructuring how people’s availability is displayed. Make availability based on time rather than a particular person: This way, the task and time chosen will simply be directed to the next available person. 

Another way to mitigate this issue is to use a waitlist in your scheduling app. In case someone cannot make their appointment or needs to change it, the next person on the waitlist will get a notification right away. 

4. The details are wrong.

When a client schedules an appointment, they need to know more than when it is. Make sure that your system is updated with the other details they need. Check, too, that they’re recapped correctly in the system’s email reminders.

If your office has recently moved, did you remember to update the address in your scheduling system? Is your cancellation policy current? If they can’t make an appointment, what number should they call?

5. They don’t know how to use the system.

Chances are, you still have clients that make their appointments by phone or in person. Even though they know about your online scheduling option, they may not know how to use it.

The trouble is, this can throw off the efficiency of your scheduling system by decentralizing it. To get things back to where they need to be, put together tutorials on how to use your scheduling software. During their next visit, ask if they would like you to walk them through it. 

Remember, you’re not just selling a service or product; you’re also selling an experience. Show them how seamless online scheduling can be. The faster they can get in and get out, the happier they’re going to be.

These scheduling issues are not the end of the world, but they are real and frustrating for your clients. Be proactive in solving their problems. That’s what client service is all about, isn’t it?

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