All posts by Jon Bradshaw

9 Courtesies Every Customer Will Appreciate

By | Appointment | No Comments

Getting customers to make return appointments is just as important as attracting them in the first place. Just look at the numbers: It can cost up to five times more to acquire a new customer compared to retaining one you already have. 

The question now is, how do you keep customers coming back? The way you treat them during appointments plays a big role. Here are nine appointment etiquette tips you can use to improve your customer retention:

1. Keep Appointments On Time

Businesses always stress the need for customers to arrive on time to their appointments. Remember, this is a two-way street:

Do your best to keep overtime appointments to a minimum. If a customer shows up early and is forced to wait later than their appointment time, they’ll wonder why they bothered to arrive when they did. 

Appointments run long for all sorts of different reasons. Perhaps your default appointment duration is too short. Maybe it’s time to hire another employee. Poor communication between the front- and back-office staff could be to blame.

If appointments do run long, don’t rush your customers. Simply do your best to keep things moving, apologize for their wait, and make it right for next time.

2. Remember Names and Personal Details

Your customers are more than just statistics and dollar signs. Make an effort to connect with them as soon as they walk in your door. 

A simple way to do this is by remembering their names. Referring to customers by name breaks down emotional barriers they may have. 

If need be, pull up their chart in advance to refresh your memory. Record personal tidbits they tell you, such as their job or their hobbies, so you can better connect on subsequent visits. And remember, a friendly smile goes a long way. 

3. Engage With Every Customer

A friendly “hello” is not enough to keep a customer coming back. Engage in small talk with every customer.

Don’t expect customers to be the ones to strike up the conversation. Have talking points in your back pocket, such as what’s going on around town or the backstory behind a piece of art on your wall. 

Just as important as engaging with customers is knowing when to hold back. Don’t be rude, but do realize some customers prefer peace and quiet. Read their body language to know whether or not they want to continue the conversation.

4. Be Casual but Professional

Customer relationships, no matter how strong, are different than friendships. While casual conversation can help them feel at ease, don’t make the mistake of confusing casual with unprofessional.

Remember, you represent your company. Act unprofessionally, and they’ll opt to go elsewhere.

Never gossip about your employees or other customers. Don’t act rude or childish, even if you’re having a bad day. Steer clear of conversations about religion and politics, even if you know they agree with you. 

5. Send Reminders

Life gets busy, especially in 2020. Even if a customer has booked an appointment, there’s a chance they’ve forgotten about it. 

The day of the appointment, send them a reminder email or text. Invite them to respond with questions, change their appointment, or hop on the phone. 

While you don’t want to discourage anyone from attending their appointment, most people want to uphold their commitments. Even if a customer does need to cancel, they’ll be more likely to come back if you handle the process efficiently and with grace. 

6. Keep a Clean Space

Nobody wants to sit in a filthy waiting room or use a crusty old bathroom. Keep your office space neat and tidy, and it won’t scare customers away.

Go the extra mile: Once your space is spic and span, you can add amenities, such as a kids’ play area or a coffee bar. When in doubt, ask your customers what they need to be comfortable while they wait.

7. Focus on the Job

No matter how friendly you are, the truth is that your customers do business with you because you get the job done. In customers’ minds, quality service always beats bells and whistles.

Check in at least quarterly with every team member to ensure that they understand their role. Double down on your training processes, even for veteran employees. 

While your employees are on the clock, make sure they’re focused on their work. Post guidelines about inappropriate uses of company time, such as personal cell phone use. Implement consequences for repeat offenders. 

8. Ask for Feedback

Ask your customers: How was their experience? What did they like about it, and what could you have done better?

Even if someone is blown away by your service, they’ll appreciate your thirst to improve. And someone who’s totally dissatisfied may be brought back by a promise to act on their feedback. 

What’s important is that you actually make changes your customers suggest. Feedback shouldn’t be a formality. If you can’t implement something, explain why and thank the customer for their input. 

9. Be Transparent

Be honest and overly communicative with your customers. If you ask for their personal information, let them know why you need it. If they don’t actually need a service they think they do, tell them that. 

Beware that customers can be unforgiving. If they feel that you weren’t fully transparent with them, they may not give you a chance to make it right. The bottom line is, not all customers will come back for more. But if you practice these courtesies, you’ll be surprised at just how many of them do.

Why Some Customers Are Hesitant to Book Appointments

By | Appointment, Scheduling | No Comments

As you fill up your bookings each day, you might be puzzled that some customers are reluctant to commit to appointments. Why, given that scheduling appointments benefits both sides, won’t they play along?

It’s a perplexing, frustrating problem. But understanding why these customers hesitate to book appointments will help you serve them better. By providing clarity and comfort, you’ll be able to address the eight reasons customers balk at booking appointments with you:

1. Their schedules are unpredictable.

Some customers shy away from set-in-stone appointments because they simply can’t commit to a day or time. The nature of either their job or their lifestyle makes every day unpredictable. They’re afraid to book an appointment on the off chance that something will come up, causing them to cancel (and potentially incur a cancellation fee).

A busy schedule can be just as problematic as an unpredictable one. Customers who aren’t sure they can find time for an appointment in their schedule won’t even bother. They might stop by if they happen to free up the time, but nothing is guaranteed. 

Consider leaving some cushion in your schedule for walk-ins so you can accommodate these free spirits. They will be grateful for your flexibility and feel more inclined to schedule appointments when they know they’re able. 

2. Your scheduling system is confusing.

Businesses that rely on an online scheduling system should make it as user-friendly as possible. Otherwise, potential customers might bail when the going gets tough. 

Streamlining your scheduling process as much as you can. How many steps does your scheduling process take from beginning to end? Just the sight of numerous hoops to jump through would cause anyone to hesitate.

Do bookers need to create a user account? Think up — and remember — yet another password? Look at your online appointment software through the eyes of a visitor and make note of anything that might cause them to turn away.

3. They’re wary of your cancellation policy.

What if you were to book an appointment only to have something urgent come up and need to cancel? This is a very real fear for many customers, especially when a service provider has a daunting cancellation policy. If they book an appointment, that cancellation fee will be hanging over their heads until the appointment is completed.

Take a moment to review your cancellation policy. Is it perhaps a little too harsh? Consider lowering your cancellation fee or being more flexible about advance notice (e.g., 12 hours versus 24 hours).

Excusing a client’s first violation — but only the first — will demonstrate that you’re accommodating but not a pushover. While a cancellation policy is important for keeping customers accountable, being too strict can stop people from committing at all. 

4. You haven’t convinced them to commit to your business.

If you haven’t completely sold your services to the customer, they might not feel inclined to book an appointment. They may think there are better or more affordable options elsewhere. Consequently, they won’t want to lock into an appointment with you before searching for superior options.

What about your business is causing this hesitation? Perhaps your prices are too steep, or the quality of your service is no better than your competitors’. Look for ways to stand out, and customers will be more likely to commit to appointments with you.

5. They don’t see the need.

If there’s no need to book an appointment, why bother? Customers who don’t see a clear requirement to reserve a time slot will likely skip it altogether. In their mind, an appointment is more of an inconvenience than a necessity.

Explain to your customers why booking an appointment is important. Your time is limited, so they need to make an appointment to guarantee their place in line. You can get this point across on well-worded signs, your business card, and your social media feeds. The clearer you make this argument, the more likely customers will get it and act accordingly.

Besides not seeing a need, customers might also lack incentives for booking an appointment — so it’s up to you to provide them. Point out that making an appointment will result in shorter wait times. You might even offer discounted rates for scheduling appointments or incentives for booking several of them in advance. This is a great way to secure a steady flow of customers. 

6. They don’t want to — or can’t — prepay.

If you require a deposit or full payment in order to book an appointment, some customers will start looking for other businesses that offer walk-ins or make fewer demands. The inability to prepay is a more common problem than you might think.

Some customers simply prefer to pay in cash, making it impossible for them to prepay online. Others may need their next paycheck to arrive before they can fit an appointment with you into their budget. The need to prepay will cause them to hesitate before pulling the trigger.

7. They decided to drop in at the last minute.

An unexpected walk-in might be just as surprising to the customer as it is to you. Some people aren’t planning to stop by your business until the last minute. They had extra time in their lunch hour and decided to drop in, or a situation arose that prompted them to stop by that day.

Understanding that some customers show up without planning to beforehand should help you be more patient with them. After all, if you make a good impression when they walk in, you could convert them to repeat customers who set their appointments in advance. 

8. They have safety concerns.

In normal times, safety concerns wouldn’t be a reason to forgo appointments. But these aren’t normal times. The risk of exposure to COVID-19 is a real one, and businesses should take this concern seriously. 

Start by providing masks and rearranging your waiting room to enable social distancing. Then inform customers of these changes via your website, through social media, and at the front door.

Making customers aware of the safety precautions you’ve implemented will put them at ease and encourage them to book appointments in your facility.

When you understand why some customers are hesitant to make appointments, you can work to overcome those objections and serve your customers better. By displaying empathy and addressing their concerns, you can encourage them to show up on schedule and develop a lasting relationship with your business.

How to Handle Appointments Safely During COVID-19

By | Appointment, Business Tips | No Comments

Even as states and businesses open up once more, COVID-19 remains a major concern. To prevent another wave from decimating your company or driving customers away, you need to implement some basic safety precautions.

Maintaining social distancing guidelines not only ensures the success of an appointment during these uncertain times, but it also helps customers feel more comfortable booking a slot with your business. 

You need paying customers to stay afloat, after all. Use this guide as a way to continue operations safely.

Keep Guidelines Posted

After so many months of the pandemic, you’d think that everyone would already know the drill. No matter how many times we’ve heard the guidelines, however, it never hurts to have a reminder. 

For your business, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Posting coronavirus safety guidelines at your business serves two purposes: It offers needed safety information and indicates to employees and customers that the practices will be enforced.

When businesses make safety expectations clear at the entrance, customers have no excuse not to follow them. Post this information prominently, and maintaining social distancing becomes that much easier. 

Require Face Coverings

The CDC considers face masks a vital tool in the fight against the coronavirus. What’s more, people who wear masks or face coverings are much more likely to follow social distancing guidelines than those who don’t. Mandated masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and remind everyone — pandemic fatigue notwithstanding — that precautions are still in place.

You will undoubtedly have customers who oppose a mask rule. Train your employees on the proper responses to prevent confrontations from escalating. Provide disposable masks at the door for customers who show up without a face covering, so they won’t have an excuse for not wearing one.

Rethink Your Waiting Room

Appointment-based businesses have designated spaces to accommodate walk-ins and allow customers to wait for their scheduled appointments. They strive to make these areas comfortable and welcoming to make the wait as painless as possible

With social distancing measures in place, you’ll have to mix things up a bit. Start with your seating arrangements. Keep chairs six feet apart, per CDC recommendations; if seating is conjoined, you’ll need to tape off every other seat.

For the time being, you should also reconsider some of the amenities you offer in your waiting room. Magazines and coffee bars can be passing points for illness, so consider substituting a TV and individually packaged refreshments.

Space Out Appointments

It’s better to space out fewer customer appointments over the course of day than not to have any customers at all. Forgoing some business for improved safety is a sacrifice you’ll have to make to continue to endure during COVID-19. 

With fewer appointments bunched together, you won’t have to worry about a crowd forming. That’s important because your socially distanced waiting area won’t be able to accommodate as many customers as it used to. When you keep everyone six feet apart, there’s less room to fill before safety precautions go out the window.

Even with spaced-out bookings, though, you should be able to keep yourself plenty busy. When customers feel safe and comfortable at your business, they won’t hesitate to book repeat appointments or recommend you to their safety-conscious friends.

Order Some Plexiglass

Plexiglass barriers are one of the most common solutions you’ll see businesses implementing during the pandemic. These barriers act as cough and sneeze guards, protecting employees and customers from accidentally infecting each other through airborne droplets.

Often used to separate cubicles or retail counters, plexiglass has seen a huge spike in usage over the last few months. Hair salons, for example, can use plexiglass sheets to separate customers seated next to each other at stylist stations. While customers still have to be masked up with their stylist, this added safety precaution can reduce virus spread in a droplet-heavy environment.

Apply Social Distancing Stickers

Floor stickers are another frequently seen adjustment that businesses are making. Each sticker is placed six feet apart to show customers where they should stand when waiting in lines. Stickers are inexpensive and easy to remove once COVID-19 has finally been laid to rest.

When dealing with customers who have appointments, you’ll need to check them all in as they arrive. Arrival times often overlap, especially when you also accept walk-ins. Having these stickers in place will help customers keep their distance in line to protect each other.

Ease Your No-Show Policy

Companies that rely on appointment bookings often have a no-show or late policy that customers must adhere to. This prevents customers who reserve appointment slots from disappearing, which wastes company time and prevents other customers from taking that slot. 

This makes perfect sense in normal times, but during COVID-19, a layer of lenience might be called for. If a customer has any indication that they might be sick, encourage them to stay home without no-show consequences. Offer to reschedule appointments with no charge even if your policy states otherwise.

Sick customers will appreciate your flexibility and reward you with their business when they’re well again. Healthy customers will appreciate your commitment to helping them stay that way by keeping sufferers out of your waiting room.

Automate as Much as Possible

The less touching involved in an appointment, the better. You can reduce physical interaction by automating as much as possible. Processes that normally would be done by hand can be eliminated to reduce virus spread through contact and help maintain social distancing.

One of the best examples is payment methods. Allowing customers to pay online takes away the need to pay in person at your business. Card and cash transactions can spread germs just like any other contact, even if all other social distancing measures are in place. 

While everyone’s health and safety is of extreme importance, your business is important, too. Social distancing offers the best of both worlds. By taking these steps, you will help keep your customers safe and your business running. 

9 Ideas for Reducing Overtime Appointments

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What to Do if Appointments Keep Running Long

If your business can fill up its schedule with appointments day after day, congratulations: In a pandemic, that’s impressive. 

When you’re busy, however, you can’t afford for appointments to run long. Those that go longer than they should can disrupt the entire schedule and ruin a customer’s day.

The question for leaders is how to keep sessions to their scheduled length. A little experimentation can keep things running smoothly. Here’s what to try:

1. Add Buffer Time Between Appointments

If you’re consistently having trouble with appointments running long, consider adding a buffer between them. This small window of time will give you just enough leeway to finish up a longer appointment without it eating into the next one.

If you don’t use the buffer time, you can go straight into the next appointment if the customer is already waiting. They’ll be pleased with the quick service, so it’s a win-win.  If they haven’t arrived yet, take this time to tidy up and prepare for the guest to arrive.

2. Increase Appointment Durations

Instead of, or in addition to, adding buffer time, consider extending appointment times. The fact that appointments keep running long might indicate your customers or employees are struggling to squeeze everything in.

Gather data on how long the average appointment lasts. If the average is higher than the time slot designated for an individual appointment, expand it. You might not be able to take as many customers in a day, but you’ll be able to take better care of them.

3. Try a New Scheduling Method

Using a different scheduling method might provide better results. For example, you can try modified wave scheduling instead of the traditional time-blocking model.

Wave scheduling is a common appointment-setting practice in the medical field. Basically, it involves scheduling multiple appointments at the same time with buffer time at the end of each hour. 

Periodic downtime allows longer and shorter appointments to coexist, but it may mean asking some customers to wait. If you implement this, keep an eye on your waiting times. 

4. Cross-Train Employees

One reason appointments might be running long is because your employees are only trained in specific tasks. If only one worker on shift can complete a certain task, the customer might have to wait for them to be available, creating a bottleneck. 

Whenever possible, cross-train your employees. Make sure everyone is capable of answering the phone and working the register. The more capable the team, the quicker appointments become.

5. Improve Workflows

Whether your employees are cross-trained or not, look for ways to improve their workflow. If employees are unsure about which tasks to handle in what order, things can get chaotic rather quickly.

Make sure each employee understands their role. Prioritize tasks in a visual system, such as a whiteboard or task management tool, so they understand what needs to be dealt with first. Uncertainty on your team slows everyone down.

6. Establish a Late-Arrival Policy

If a customer arrives late to their appointment, it will likely go over time. A late-arrival policy will discourage customers from dawdling in.

Your late policy should be strict enough that customers will want to avoid it, but not too harsh as to drive customers away. Remember, sometimes people are late for reasons out of their control. 

Consider moving customers back in the queue if they haven’t arrived by the time their appointment is set. For those who have to wait, make sure your office is comfortable.

In addition to a late policy, make sure appointments start on time for customers who are punctual. Realize that this might mean pulling employees away from other tasks.

7. Implement Automation

Using technology, you can cut down on busywork by automating some tasks. You already let customers book online: Why not offload other parts of the process as well?

For example, you can automate your check-in process so that it doesn’t require an employee’s time. Perhaps you can implement a chatbot to answer some questions they have prior to arrival. 

8. Check in With Your Team

No one understands why appointments are running long better than your employees. They’re right in the thick of it and see inefficiencies that you may not. Going to them for advice is a great start.

Hold a meeting to discuss how to improve appointment management. Ask for their ideas on making appointments more efficient, getting customers to arrive on time, improving workflows, and rooting out other time-sucks. 

9. Upgrade Your Equipment

Are the tools your employees use old and run down? Purchasing some new equipment could enable them to do better work faster. 

While tools are expensive, remember that they’re an investment. They should cut down on appointment time, along with many other benefits. 

For example, a more efficient hair dryer can reduce the time hairdressers spend at the end of each appointment. Better software or a faster internet connection enables personal assistants to book the same appointments with fewer clicks.

Find out why appointments are running long, and use this list to come up with a solution. Handling appointments efficiently will keep customers happy, help employees feel less stressed, and increase revenue for your business.

9 Easy Ways to Encourage More Appointments

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Entrepreneurship has never been easy. But during Covid-19, small business owners have struggled more than ever to drum up appointments. Even as shops open again, consumers are hesitant to take the risk. 

While you can’t make the pandemic go away, you can implement some creative methods to encourage consumers to stop by. Use these 9 easy ways to encourage more customers to make appointments and venture out:

1. Enable Online Booking

The easier it is to make appointments, the more likely it is that customers will make them. Making an appointment online is much easier than making one over the phone or in person. In fact, some customers might actively avoid those interactions and prefer to do everything digitally.

It’s one thing to have online booking available; it’s another to make it user-friendly. Start with a functional, visually appealing website. Choose a booking platform that lets customers change appointment times, cancel appointments, and reach out with any questions. The easier it is to use, the better.

2. Start a Rewards Program

Customers might not immediately see a need to make appointments, so give them a reason to. A rewards program provides an incentive that can get customers on the fence to book. 

Research backs up the success of rewards programs. One study showed that businesses that used successful loyalty programs enjoyed two and a half times more growth than their competitors. Not only does it help retain customers, but it can draw in new ones.

3. Offer Recurring Appointments

Once you get a customer to book an appointment, ask them if they’d like to make another appointment as they’re checking out. In this short window they’ll remember their experience and, assuming it was positive, they are more likely to commit to another one.

You can also add incentives for booking multiple appointments up front. For example, you can offer a 10% discount to customers who book two or more appointments at a time. They’ll save a bit of cash, and you’ll get more certainty around your future revenue. As a bonus, customers who pay for their appointments upfront are less likely to become no-shows.

4. Send a Newsletter

All you need to send a digital newsletter to your clients is their email address and a bit of creativity. Newsletters can contain coupons and seasonal deals, and encourage them to make a visit if they haven’t for some time. 

In your digital newsletter, make sure to include a link that takes customers directly to your booking platform. Make sure this link is prominent enough for them to see in every newsletter. 

Be tasteful with your email newsletters. Obnoxiously frequent ones will be deleted before they’re read. Send them rarely, and customers may be confused as to their purpose. If newsletters are too wordy, customers likely won’t bother reading them. Too short, and what’s the point? 

5. Leverage Social Media

People spend a lot of time on social media these days. By posting regular updates and fun seasonal tidbits, you’ll keep your business top of mind. 

Some social media platforms let businesses add booking information directly on their pages. Get the right message out at the right time, and your bookings will fill up fast.

6. Update Your Voicemail

What do customers hear when they call your business? If the information is old, or the recording poor-quality, consumers may think twice about booking an appointment. 

Update your voicemail frequently. Make sure it includes instructions for online booking, your hours of operation, and the physical address of your business. These details help callers solve their own problems, while you focus on serving customers.

7. Minimize Wait Times

One of the main reasons people opt for appointments over walk-ins is to make their wait time as short as possible. If customers still have to wait a half an hour even with an appointment, then they aren’t likely to bother booking an appointment next time. 

Some days will inevitably be busier than others, but there are still variables you can control. Perhaps you need to schedule an extra hand on days that are packed with appointments. Or perhaps giving consumers the option to book further out can smooth out the up-and-down nature of appointments. 

8. Nurture Relationships

Nothing keeps a customer coming back more than feeling like they belong. When business leaders take the time to connect with their clients, they build relationships that keep customers around. 

Find ways to interact with each customer who walks through your doors. Get to know them beyond their business needs. Ask how their day is going. Small, caring questions and comments can make all the difference.

9. Plan Special Events

Want to really get people out of the house? Plan a special event they just can’t miss. Offer prizes and discounts, and you’re sure to draw a crowd. Use this opportunity to schedule future and recurring bookings.

With that said, special events shouldn’t be common. They’ll lose their power if they become a weekly or even monthly occurrence. 

Select a date and time carefully: When is the biggest subset of your customers likely to be free? After 5 p.m. on weekdays? On weekends?

Encouraging appointments requires effort, but don’t be discouraged. Your customers want your business to succeed just as much as you do. 

5 Ways to Show Customers You Care About Their Privacy

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Trust is the currency of every relationship, including those you have with your customers. Establishing it early is key for closing sales, while maintaining it over time lets you build loyalty. 

Among a host of other factors, ensuring your customer’s privacy is crucial for trust. Just because people often agree to privacy policies without reading them doesn’t mean they don’t care about privacy. 

Without trust, relationships deteriorate when they hit a rocky patch. Imagine that, god forbid, your company faced a data breach. Customers who trust you to make things right will continue to do business with you.

Don’t wait for disaster to strike. The smart move is to proactively address your customer’s privacy concerns. Here’s how to do it:

1. Conduct a privacy audit. 

In order to allay your customers’ privacy concerns, you need to assess your company’s current protocols. If not, the security promises you make will be viewed as empty. Your ultimate goal is to protect your customers, not merely to convince them that they are protected.  

Start with storage: Where do you house customer data? Who has access to that system? Is its software updated and patched properly? 

But storage is just the start. Think about transference. Beware of: 

  • Third-party programs that take liberties with your customer’s data 
  • A lack of encryption software
  • Insecure information exchanges between employees
  • Printouts tossed in the trash before being shredded

2. Make privacy policies accessible. 

No matter how strong your privacy policies, they won’t generate trust unless your customers can access them. Post them on your website, print them out for new customers, or do both.

Making the information accessible means breaking it down in ways every customer can understand. To promote accessibility:

  • Don’t put privacy information in legalese.
  • Use summaries, headers, and highlights to make your policy skimmable.
  • Include a contact number for comments and questions. 
  • Offer policies in multiple languages, especially those common among your customer base.

These steps cater to “privacy actives,” who make up about a third of your customer base. Deeply engaged with privacy matters, these people will switch companies if they feel their privacy concerns aren’t addressed.

3. Go above and beyond with tips. 

Beyond featuring your privacy procedures on your website, give customers tips on protecting themselves. This demonstrates an investment in their lives beyond what they can do for you. 

Realize this also benefits your company. Customers who are more careful with their own data won’t do things that create liabilities for your company, like send sensitive data to you insecurely. 

What privacy content should you be creating? Everything from changing passwords frequently to tweaking privacy settings on social media is fair game. Point them to data security blogs they may be interested in. 

4. Welcome criticisms and suggestions.

Despite your best efforts, there will always be a customer who insists on stricter privacy controls. Maybe you institute 128-bit SSL encryption — but a customer asks for 256-bit, the type many banks use.

Invite these conversations. Not only might you get some easy-to-implement suggestions, but actually addressing them shows you care about your customers’ feedback

What if you can’t implement a certain security measure? Be transparent about it. Explain why you don’t think it’s needed, or why it simply isn’t cost-effective. Suggest workable alternatives, such as exchanging information in person rather than by email. 

5. Provide avenues to opt out.

You never want to make your customers uncomfortable. If they don’t want their data shared with a certain partner, give them that choice. Let them say “no” by submitting a written opt-out to parts of your policy they object to. 

Remind customers, however, that certain types of data collection are critical for your service. For example, you can’t send text-based appointment reminders to customers if they aren’t willing to give you their cell phone number. 

Balancing privacy and convenience often means making trade-offs. Work with your customers to decide what they’re comfortable with. Allow them to change their minds with written notice, especially after you change how you store or use their data. 

Everyone wins when you store customer data securely. You’re able to improve your marketing game, send reminders, and offer promotions your customers want. Your customers, in turn, don’t have to fill out the same form every time they step into your place of business. 

The keyword is “securely.” If you don’t keep your customers’ data under lock and key, you risk losing loyal customers and even facing legal liabilities. Don’t take the risk. Safeguard their privacy, and make sure they see you doing it. 

6 Best Vacations for Boosting Productivity

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People take vacations for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s to spend more time with friends and family. At other times, it might be to fulfill an obligation. Some vacations, however, are specifically meant to help you return to work stronger. 

 

There are times when things aren’t quite clicking at work. You start expending more energy to accomplish the same tasks as before. And while some would recommend pushing through, be warned that this approach can backfire. 

 

Whether you’re a business owner or employee, overworking will actually ruin your productivity and your personal life. So when you feel overworked, it’s best to step away before burning yourself out. 

 

Unfortunately, not every vacation will give you the desired result. Some vacations can actually leave you feeling more drained. To make sure to get the most out of your vacations, check out the following kinds of vacations proven to boost productivity:

1. Wilderness Adventure

One of the best ways to get more done is to spend more time outdoors. Spending a few days in nature is a great way to relieve stress and come back refreshed. 

 

Going backpacking or camping is calming while building resilience. Why not schedule a visit to a nearby national park? National forests are also good options: They tend to be cheaper and less crowded but every bit as beautiful as America’s national parks.

 

What should you do on your wilderness adventure? Favorites include:

  • Hiking
  • Nature photography
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Kayaking or canoeing
  • Mountaineering

 

Whether you are renting a cabin or roughing it completely, you’ll come back feeling stronger and less stressed. If you’re looking to make it more social, bring your outdoorsy friends along.

2. Beach Trip

If camping isn’t your cup of tea, you can still enjoy the outdoors with a beach vacation. Here, you can soak up the sun and relax by a body of water. 

 

With this vacation, consider an all-inclusive resort. It saves the hassle of having to plan every little detail beforehand. And because food and drinks are typically included, it may not be as expensive as you might think. 

3. Wellness Retreat

Maybe you’re interested in a vacation that emphasizes wellness practices. Especially during a time like this, taking care of your mind and body is critical.

 

Wellness practices can help you be more focused, stay healthy, and grow in your personal life. Choose your retreat based on the specific area of wellness you want to focus on. Consider the following:

 

  • Intensive exercise 
  • Yoga 
  • Meditation
  • Spa relaxation
  • Diet transformation

 

4. Road Trip

Driving may not sound like a relaxing activity. But when you focus on the journey rather than the destination, it becomes a lot more fun. Think of the stops you make on the way as part of the experience rather than a nuisance. 

 

Being out on the road is a great opportunity to think and process life. The scenery moves around you in a way that can help you feel less stuck in your life.

Again, bring friends. Discover new music, enjoy deep conversation, and share plenty of roadside meals together.

5. International Vacation 

The Harvard Business Review reports that many of the most memorable vacations people take are to locations outside their home country. International trips are so fulfilling because everything about them feels new. They’re opportunities to both have fun and learn about new people and cultures.

 

With that said, these vacations can be the most stressful if you don’t plan well beforehand. Start planning this type of trip at least a month in advance. Think through everything from how you’ll get around to where you’ll exchange your currency, but also leave some room for spontaneity. 

 

Another key to an international trip is a local guide. Find someone to host your stay and tell you what to look out for. They can give you the knowledge you need to quell your fears of uncertainty. 

6. Activity-Focused Vacation

Everyone has a favorite hobby. This type of vacation is all about catering to it. Wine tastings, cooking trips, and artistic getaways are examples of activity-focused vacations. 

 

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, people get so busy that they neglect their hobbies and interests. They also don’t have the time to explore new things they might be interested in. 

 

On an activity-based vacation, you can explore a favorite hobby or establish a new one. You can also interact with other people who are interested in the same thing, helping you build new relationships. 

 

You have so many options when it comes to vacationing. The last thing you want to do is waste your time and come back even more stressed out than you were. With the right planning, these vacations can breathe new life into your work. 

How to Bounce Back from a Setback in the Workplace

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10 Deliberate Sacrifices You Must Make if You Want to be Successful

Business is full of pressure to succeed. As a leader, your team members depend on you to have a vision and answers to their questions. So what happens if you fail in front of them? 

Perhaps you dropped the ball on an important project. Maybe you misdirected your team in a way that hurt the company. Or maybe, you’ve upset your team in a personal way. These actions jeopardize the rapport you’ve built with them.  

As a leader, solving problems is an essential aspect of your role. But when you’ve caused the problem, solving it gets a bit more complicated. What’s more, the impulse to overcompensate is ever-present and can make matters worse.

Despite the complications, there are basic steps you can take to bounce back from major setbacks. Take a look at the following ways to do so without overcompensating: 

1. Accept personal responsibility.

Often when we fail, we may get defensive. These tendencies cause us to blame others or deflect from the issue. But bouncing back from a setback starts with accepting your mistakes. 

When you deflect and blame others, you become a victim of circumstance. But accepting personal responsibility gives you a sense of control. By seeing the ways that you contributed to a problem, you are able to be part of the solution. 

Accepting personal responsibility is a multi-step process. Get started by:

  • Reflecting on the process that led to the failure
  • Unpacking your thoughts and feelings associated with the failure
  • Responding graciously when others point out your mistake
  • Being intentional about rectifying the situation

 

Even if others contributed to the problem or failure, you’re better off focusing on your role. From there, you can begin to rebuild.

2. Don’t succumb to depression and anxiety.

Depression and anxiety are common responses to your problems and failures. And they can creep in as a result of accepting personal responsibility. 

When you’re going through these emotions, it’s best to take a step back. This might mean taking a short break from work. Or it might mean engaging in an activity that you love in order to recover. 

You don’t need to rush your recovery. Whatever it takes, take the time to get to a healthier state of mind. 

3. Reframe the issue.

One way to stop yourself from wallowing in your problems is to reframe the issue. It involves taking a step back and thinking of your situation from a different angle. 

Instead of viewing a setback as an insurmountable problem, try seeing it as an opportunity to grow. For example, if you’ve strained a relationship with an employee, focus on how reconciling can strengthen the relationship.

Reframing an issue is not necessarily about looking at the bright side. That approach can lead to toxic positivity. On the contrary, reframing is looking at the objective facts of a situation. Those facts will show you that failure is inevitable for everyone — but is also fixable by everyone.

From there, use those facts to embrace your potential. You are defined more by how you rise from failure than the failure itself. 

4. Address the problem with your team. 

Actions speak louder than words, but words are also important. It can be awkward in the office to carry on regularly as though nothing significant happened. You might think you’re saving face, but this is nothing more than overcompensation. You need to acknowledge these issues with your team. 

Doing so is key to maintaining transparency at your company. Unless you speak up, you’ll struggle to build and maintain trust with your team. This is especially important when your failure in leadership has caused persistently problematic team relations. 

A moment like this calls for a meeting. Give your team a heads up about what you’d like to talk about, and encourage them to bring their own challenges. After all, you’ll need everyone on board to move forward. 

5. Create a plan to remedy the situation.

Detailing the actions you’ll take to solve the problem is the final and most important step in a successful bounceback. As a leader, it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate your competence. 

The good news is, you won’t be in it alone. The input from your team members will help you refine your plans and put them into practice. Lean on them to build a healthier, more stable culture across the team. 

Good leaders are built through tests. A major setback might be hard to go through — but it may also be just what you needed to transform into a better version of yourself. 

How Far Is Too Far Out to Schedule Appointments?

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Imagine if someone wanted to schedule an appointment with your company 10 years into the future. You’d probably laugh it off. A lot can change in a decade. 

That may seem like a wild scenario, but the underlying question is an important one: How far is too far into the future to schedule client appointments?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Just because your scheduling software lets you book years in advance doesn’t necessarily mean you should. 

So how can you decide on a cutoff? Maximize your scheduling software by asking yourself the following questions: 

1. What are the limits of my tools?

Before you can even think about customer preferences, know the limitations of your scheduling tools. 

How do you attract clients? What about booking their appointments? And how do you send out reminders and handle change requests?

Although some platforms can do it all, many can’t. In each program, click as far as you can into the future. When you can’t go any further, you know how far into the future you can schedule appointments.

What if it’s not as far as you’d like? Start searching for a program that can meet your needs. 

2. Is there customer demand?

Everything you do — including how you schedule appointments — should be based on what your clients want. If customers like things as they are, there’s no reason to switch things up. But if they want the ability to schedule sessions further out, then give them what they want. 

When it comes to scheduling, beware that customers won’t always tell you their issues. They may not even know that they have a say in your scheduling practices. 

In order to figure out what they might want, check out your appointment management platform. How far in advance does the average customer book their appointment? What about the fifth and ninety-fifth percentiles? Try to accommodate even your pickiest customers. 

Just as importantly, ask them directly for feedback. Soliciting feedback can come in the form of an email, a text message, a survey, or a conversation. 

However you do it, check back in after you set new booking parameters: Do your customers appreciate the changes?

3. Does it make sense with my business model? 

Scheduling appointments far in advance makes more sense for some businesses than others. Consider where you fall in the range of companies that typically use appointment scheduling software:

  • Call centers would likely want to confine appointments to a shorter time frame.
  • Event planners and caterers would likely prefer to schedule far in advance.
  • Academic advising appointments make sense to schedule within the semester.
  • Dentists and doctor’s offices may prefer to schedule checkups 12-16 months in advance.

When in doubt, learn what’s typical for your industry. Ask partners how far in advance they book appointments.

You don’t necessarily have to do what your competitors are doing, though. If you discover nobody is booking appointments a year out, maybe it could be your competitive advantage. Do what will set your brand apart without hamstringing your team. 

4. What does my customer volume look like?

The limits you place on far-ahead scheduling depend on how many people are booking appointments. If there’s always an opening on a given day, then there may be no reason to schedule something a year or two in advance.

If there’s a high volume, though, open up your appointment schedule. You may have heard of restaurants that have reservations years in advance. The reason is probably their popularity: People simply need to wait that long in order to get a table. 

Booking appointments far in advance can create a sense of exclusivity. If that’s your strategy, however, do your best to cater to people who would prefer to be served sooner. 

5. How far ahead has my business planned?

Your company calendar will be a big factor in how far ahead customers can schedule appointments. If you have a ton of new initiatives in the works for next quarter, then it may not be a good idea to book it up already.

Remember, customer expectations should be set at the time of booking. If you know your service offerings are going to change, then it’s probably best to shut off bookings past that period. 

Another way to think about this is based on the season. Your company may see a surge in clients in one season and a drastic decrease in another. If that’s the case for your company, you can prepare for the busy season by getting appointments booked far ahead. 

6. What are my goals for recurring clients?

Some businesses automatically schedule recurring clients after their most recent appointment. A dentist’s office, for example, typically schedules clients every 6 months. That kind of schedule can get customers into a rhythm. 

Some people prefer to plan in advance, while others like to live by the seat of their pants. Some are more diligent than others about keeping appointments. Others tend to go with the flow. 

Extending your scheduling horizon can help you accommodate all types of clients. Your stricter customers will like having something locked in, and you’ll still have space available for those who like to book at the last minute. 

Appointments are a juggling act. There are pros and cons to scheduling things far out, just as there are for short-term scheduling. Let your customers guide you, and you’ll make the right call more often than not. 

How to Simplify Scheduling for Working Parents

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Having a quality product or service isn’t enough to attract more customers. Getting more business is a matter of minimizing the obstacles preventing people from engaging. And a key demographic with significant obstacles is working parents. 

Working parents are constantly struggling to balance their careers, families, and personal lives. And that job is even harder in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the school year begins, many parents will have to homeschool on top of their other parenting and professional duties. 

Because they have to prioritize, many of them let their appointments fall by the wayside. Therefore, anything your business can do to make scheduling and attending appointments easier on working parents benefits you both.

Working parents have their work cut out for them. Use these simple strategies to tap this valuable, time-crunched audience:

1. Normalize self-service scheduling.

Allowing customers to schedule their own appointments can be a gamechanger. Working parents, in particular, want this ability. They simply don’t have time to hop on the phone for every appointment they make. 

It only takes a handful of scheduling calls to disrupt your daily flow. But with self-service scheduling, you can book appointments at any time of day and on any day of the week. 

Letting clients schedule their appointments makes things simpler for them and your employees. Working parents need this kind of flexibility; if you can deliver, you’ll bring more of them in your door. 

2. Create special times for working parents.

A way to demonstrate your awareness of working parents’ circumstances is to offer special hours for them. This could double as a promotional opportunity for your company. 

Think about this strategy like parking lot spaces for expectant mothers: It’s easy to offer, and people will respect it because they understand the plight of working parents.

For an added layer of protection, give working parents special access codes for your scheduling software. Not only does that support them, but it helps you collect data on a key customer demographic: What proportion of your client base is working parents, and how often do they visit?

3. Initiate contact.

Working parents are a lot more likely to make an appointment if you initiate the process. Don’t think of it as bugging them; treat it like an additional service you provide your most loyal customers. 

The good news is, there are a number of ways to get the ball rolling:

  • Ask them about scheduling their next appointment after their current one.
  • Send an email reminder about scheduling after a predetermined amount of time.
  • Call them with their permission.
  • Set up recurring appointments.

All of these methods can help get your clients into a routine. The more they interact with your company, the more important you become to them. The result is fewer cancellations, no-shows, and difficult clients.

4. Bring your business to them.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing more customers in your door. But if you can, why not offer house calls? Parents who need to stay home in order to watch their kids will appreciate it. 

A big part of making an appointment is getting there. Remember, not every client lives right next to your business. Designate a radius you’ll drive to for house calls, and make this public on your website. Blast it out on social media, and see how many working parents sign up. 

If house calls aren’t a fit for your business model, consider delivery. While you can’t deliver a service, it would certainly help working parents if their eye doctor would drop off contacts to try on, for instance. 

5. Make your office kid-friendly. 

Parents often worry that bringing their children to an appointment will disturb others. In a kid-friendly office environment, it’s not nearly as much of a concern. 

Setting up a play area in your office could solve this problem easily. Provide kids with toys and space, and they’ll stay out of other customers’ hair. Include a water cooler and some snacks in case kids — or their parents — get hungry or thirsty while they wait.

Working parents aren’t a rare breed. There are bound to be working parents at your company who can attest to that. Accommodating their — and their kids’ — needs isn’t always easy, but it can make a night-and-day difference to your company’s bottom line. 

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