All posts by Jon Bradshaw

4 Security Measures Appointment-Based Businesses Should Implement This Year

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Security Measures Appointment Based Businesses Implement

Many modern businesses are placing a heavy emphasis on cybersecurity, and with good reason. With so many aspects of life taking place in the digital realm these days, it’s more important than ever to be careful with company data and personal information on the internet. However, this doesn’t mean that you should slack off on physical security measures for your appointment-based business.

Sad though it is, there are real dangers in the world you need to be ready for. It’s best to adopt the attitude of expecting the best while preparing for the worst. With that thought in mind, here are some security measures that your appointment-based business should consider putting in place this year:

1. After-Hours Security

Depending on the nature of your business, you may carry stock or supplies that offer an attractive target for thieves. For example, hair salons across the country have long been victimized by crooks who steal costly hair extensions, causing thousands of dollars in losses. Most such incidents will occur after hours when there’s no human presence to deter mischief. You can keep your guard up and dissuade misbehavior by installing a few gadgets and security measures in your place of business.

Auto-locks on doors will ensure that a back door for employees is never left unlocked by accident. Security cameras on the exterior and interior of your business will catch thieves or vandals in the act and also act as a deterrent that will cause those up to no good to think twice before trying anything. Motion-sensor lights are often enough to spook potential robbers away, illuminating faces for security cameras and giving the impression that someone might be nearby.

You can also install cameras and a lighting system on the inside of your business that will at least help you track down anyone who successfully breaks into your building. Be sure to have adequate locks on filing cabinets and any other places critical information might be stored. A break-in could result in information being stolen, so you want to make sure your business is protected. You might even go as far as to store customer information on hard drives that are locked up separately.

2. First Responder Connections

Establishing a good relationship with your local first responders is always a good idea. With this relationship in place, you can share plans you have developed in case of any sort of emergency situation. Being familiar with your place of business means that responders can be exactly in the right place at the right time when needed.

For example, you might reach out to your local police station and ask to arrange a short meeting with a representative. You can give them a walkthrough of your business, its alarm system, exit points, and any other factors that seem worth pointing out. This outreach will enable officers to more effectively address any security issues that occur even if they beat you to the site. Trained responders can also provide an accurate risk assessment to help you strengthen the security of your business.

3. Emergency Planning

As noted, an emergency plan is something you can share with first responders, but it’s also something you should always have on hand for yourself and your employees. Consider the emergencies you could potentially face — a catastrophic weather event, a hostile intruder, a flood, etc. — and develop response protocols for each. You never want to have to face an active shooter or an incoming tornado, but you’ll be much better off if you have a plan set beforehand.

A common example many establishments have is a fire escape plan posted throughout the building. The next time you take a trip, you might notice that your hotel room has a map showing you where the nearest fire exit is located. This isn’t because the hotel is expecting a fire to occur, but because they want to ensure everyone is kept safe should disaster ever strike. You should follow their lead to help ensure the safety of your customers and employees.

4. Adequate Insurance

You might not be able to thwart every single security threat you face. In that case, you’d better be insured. Insurance will help mitigate the cost of theft and damage that might occur to your business so that you don’t take too many financial hits.

There are several different types of business insurance you should look into, such as liability insurance, practitioner’s insurance, and auto insurance if you use a company car. You can even get data breach insurance for a cyberattack. Your insurance agent can explain the types of coverage you need, including some you may not have thought of. Then you can take the steps required to get protection as soon as possible.

It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry you didn’t do more to boost the security of your business. Rather than wait until the worst occurs, start implementing security measures today that will keep your business, your employees, and your customers safe.

Image Credit: Dan Nelson; Pexels; Thank you!

4 Cybersecurity Protocols to Add to Your Appointment-Based Business

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Cybersecurity Protocols Appointment Based Business

Running a business in the 21st century provides access to so many useful tools. From electronic mail to online appointment software, technology makes every aspect of business so much easier. However, there are some cybersecurity dangers of relying so heavily on technology that you should be wary of.

Cybersecurity threats cost businesses trillions of dollars annually. That’s right, global corporations are losing trillions of dollars due to different forms of cybercrime. You can lose a lot of money and credibility when data breaches occur in your own organization. Small businesses, in particular, can be delivered massive blows as they often lack the necessary resources to recover from a cyberattack.

To survive in this day and age, you need to add these cybersecurity protocols to your appointment-based business as soon as possible. This guide will walk you through what each of them entails and why they will be of benefit to you and your customer base:

1. Require Two-Factor Authentication

Most organizations require at least one form of identification in order to book an appointment. More often than not, all that is required is a username and password used to access some sort of customer or patient portal. While this is better than using no barriers at all, you can do better.

Two-factor authentication is gaining popularity among businesses because it’s a simple addition that adds a lot of extra security. In addition to the username and password, customers need to use an additional method of verification before booking an appointment or making a payment. This can be done by accepting a security code via email or text message in a matter of seconds.

Thanks to two-factor authentication, anyone trying to access your customer’s account will be stopped in their tracks unless they also have access to their smartphone or other devices. This extra barrier to entry doesn’t take up much extra time for the consumer, but it’s enough to fend off most intruders.

2. Implement Security Programs

There may be times when customers need to input sensitive info when booking an appointment or updating their customer portal. You hold a great responsibility to protect any information that customers share with you. Implementing digital security programs will help your customers feel safe and protect the information you collect from them.

For example, you can force visitors to your website to open a new secure window using a security program whenever they need to enter sensitive information. This is a strategy many banks implement to prevent the risks associated with account information.

Of course, there is a certain amount of responsibility that consumers need to take when handling their personal info online. Still, the company in question will almost always be the first to be blamed if data is ever breached. Don’t take any chances and use a security program to keep your customers as safe as is within your power.

3. Secure Your Mobile App

In addition to protecting customers using your website, you should also make sure to keep the mobile resources you use safe. In particular, if you offer a mobile app, you should have security options enabled and even required for consumer use.

Common security options for mobile apps include requiring an account ID with a PIN, including a secret word chosen by the customer, or even FaceID for select devices. Each of these options helps to keep customer accounts secure in a variety of situations.

Another feature you should consider implementing is automatic inactivity log-out. This feature boots customers off of the app or website if they are inactive for a period of time. This reduces the risk of someone having time to access their account in person or hack into it online.

4. Safeguard Your Network

Your cybersecurity protocols should extend all the way to your lobby. If you offer complimentary Wi-Fi to your guests, you should only do so on a secure network. Public Wi-Fi is notorious for being insecure and an unsafe browsing option. So, you don’t want your place of business to be an example of that.

Start by making sure your physical equipment is in a secure location. You can spend a lot of time working on the digital side of security, but someone with physical access to your internet router can override all of that.

Next, you can start working on the digital side of things. Put up an extra firewall, require login for internet use, and separate the access points between your business hardware and personal devices in your lobby. Keep your software and hardware updated, and you shouldn’t encounter very many problems.

One should never take cybersecurity lightly. You would be frustrated if a business you patronize lost your personal data, so don’t let a data compromise happen to your customers on your watch. Implement these protocols without delay and continue to look for ways to keep your security as strong as possible.

Image Credit: Cottonbro; Pexels; Thank you!

4 Ways to Make Your Appointment-Based Business More Efficient

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more efficient

The best businesses in the world are always looking for ways to be more efficient. Efficiency saves both time and money for you and your customers. By making your appointment-based business more efficient, you can provide effective services to more customers while keeping your expense column at a manageable level. Even small adjustments to your business strategy can lead to massive improvements in your efficiency.

Try a few of these tips to make your appointment-based business more efficient:

1. Review Customer Info

For many appointment-based businesses, a lot of customer information needs to be recorded in order to provide the best service possible. At times it’s as simple as taking notes on a customer’s most recent service record, like for a haircut. Or it can be more complicated, like when a doctor’s office keeps track of local pharmacies, recent treatment plans, and medical history. Making sure customer info is accurate is essential for running a smooth operation.

You should be periodically reviewing customer information to confirm that it is up-to-date. You can do this by calling frequent customers to confirm that the basic information you have on file is still correct or by adding a prompt in your online booking program that asks customers to review their information with every visit.

If you need to send out a bill to a customer and don’t have the right address, that entire process can be slowed down by a matter of weeks. Complications can also arise from outdated payment methods, delayed name changes, or a simple clerical error that wasn’t caught immediately. Frequent review periods will keep such mishaps to a minimum.

2. Remove Duplicates

Another thing you should be reviewing routinely is your customer database. From time to time, you may accidentally find some duplicates in your system. This might occur when you add a new customer into your system and their second appointment comes several months or even a year down the road. They then register as a new customer even though they’ve made a previous visit.

Duplicate customer entries can bog down your system and software, especially if you let them pile up. If only one customer entry has the correct information, you could end up mixing up two entries, leading to a lot of complications when sending messages, checking in, or even providing service.

Consider making it part of your monthly checklist to skim through your customer list and look for duplicate entries to remove. When you discover a pair, be sure to keep the entry that is most recent with customer and appointment information. Verifying information with the customer is also a good idea — and a good opportunity to try and book them for a new appointment.

3. Digitize the Check-In Process

One of the most underrated aspects of your appointment-based business is its check-in process. Customers are expected to check in so that service providers can be ready for them. This is also how customers can confirm they’ve upheld their agreement by arriving at the predetermined time.

The check-in process should be as quick and as painless as possible for customers. A smooth check-in ensures that appointments can start on time or even early. Digitizing your check-in process will make everything easier for your customers as well as for yourself.

For starters, by checking in for an appointment through a mobile app or website, customers can look at current wait times to see if their appointment provider is running late. This information allows them to get something else done during their day rather than sitting in the waiting room for longer than anticipated. Online forms are also easier to fill out, and recurring customers can quickly verify their information without needing to wait in line at a desk.

4. Automate Messages and Reminders

If you’re experiencing a lot of late arrivals and no-show appointments, it might be because you’re not sending out effective reminder messages. Life can get crazy for everyone, and customers can easily forget an upcoming appointment as they juggle deadlines for work, errand lists, responsibilities at home, and more. A good reminder system will help them to uphold their commitment to your business, as well as make your appointments more efficient.

The beauty of an automated messaging system is that you don’t have to handcraft every single reminder you send to your customers. This will save your team a lot of time they would otherwise be spending on the phone or drafting tedious emails.

Customers will also be able to make their own adjustments to how they receive reminder messages. If they prefer to receive their reminders the day before an appointment, they can select that option through your online system. If they only need a reminder the week prior, this can be done with a single click rather than through a drawn-out process with a business associate.

When more efficient processes become a priority for your business, you’ll encounter fewer errors and roadblocks in your day-to-day operations. Start implementing some of these ideas right away, and soon you’ll see just how smoothly your business can run.

Image Credit: Jopwell; Pexels; Thanks!

5 Easy Ways to Be on Schedule for Your Appointments in the Winter

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Appointments in the Winter

Planning and scheduling your appointments in the winter can be a distinct challenge. It can be hard to stay motivated when all you want to do is curl up by the fire. Travel may also be difficult. Road conditions can certainly throw a wrench into your plans by extending travel time or even causing events to be canceled.

Some people live in areas that rarely see snow or even freezing temperatures. Life goes on as normal for this demographic. But if you’re among those who have to brave the cold each winter, there are a few extra things you’ll have to do to make your schedule work. To ensure you’re always on time for your planned appointments during the harshest of winters, use these five strategies:

1. Connect an Online Calendar

If you struggle with being tardy to appointments, you need to log onto an online calendar. You can use a simple app on your phone that will forever change how you look at time management. In many cases, you can even connect this online calendar with your appointment bookings for instant synchronization.

With your appointment booking in your calendar, you can plan more strategically to make it to your events on time. If you have a meeting or obligation that ends right before your appointment is supposed to start, you’re more likely to end up running late.

2. Opt for Appointment Reminders

If the business in question offers appointment reminders, you should seriously consider signing up for them. Rain, snow, or shine, appointment reminders are a great way to make sure you arrive at your appointments on schedule. Businesses using online appointment software can send you reminders in a variety of ways.

For starters, online appointment software enables automated reminders that can be sent at the most optimal times for every booking. You can receive these reminders in an email, over text, or even with a robocall. You can often select how to receive your reminders according to your personal preference.

3. Check the Weather

Staying on top of the weather forecast will help you stay on time for your winter appointments. By checking the weather for the upcoming week, you can plan short-range appointments for the sunniest days when the roads are most likely to be clear.

Sometimes all it takes is looking at the 24-hour forecast to pick the right appointment time. It might snow one night, but be warm and sunny the next day, which will melt all the snow and ice away by mid-afternoon. Plan ahead to account for possible weather delays, especially if you don’t want to drive in rain or snow. Booking on good-weather days can help you remain punctual for appointments in the winter.

4. Prepare Your Transportation in Advance

On a day when winter conditions aren’t in your favor, the best course of action is to prepare your method of transportation well in advance. Whether you’ll be taking a car or public transportation to your next appointment, you can plan for it ahead of time. If you are taking a bus, subway, or train, check the departure and arrival schedules beforehand, as they are subject to change. Additionally, if you’re using a rideshare, pay attention to times when surge pricing is in effect so you can avoid those times.

If you are driving, start your car early on the day of your appointment. Letting it run for five minutes or so will warm up the interior so you’re not miserable. It will also get the inner workings of your car running smoothly for safe travels. This is especially important if you park outdoors. The heat from a warmed car will help melt any snow and ice that might obscure your vision while driving, making it easier to scrape off.

You should engage in other forms of preparation even earlier. For example, shop early for good snow tires. They will help you travel safely to your appointments in the winter, even during moderate snowfall. If you wait until the peak of winter to make the switch, you run the risk of getting stuck in the snow at an inopportune time. You could even spend a bunch of additional money if winter tire prices increase due to heightened demand.

5. Call Ahead on Snow Days

If the snow piled up the night before your appointment, give the business a call as soon as they open. This gives you an opportunity to ask whether they still plan on being open and serving customers that day. If they’re closed due to weather, you can reschedule your appointment. If the business has confirmed that it will be open, you can take advantage of your early travel preparations to get there safely.

Another possible scenario is that the business has decided to remain open but will allow customers to reschedule their appointments free of charge. If you’re concerned about traveling in snowy conditions, you can change your own booking without incurring the normal cancellation fee.

Alternatively, you might brave the snow if the bookings before and after yours have been canceled or rescheduled. You’ll have the comfort of knowing you can take your time traveling to the appointment without causing your service provider to get off track.

If you stay on top of things, no winter can slow you down. You’ll be able to stay on schedule during one of the most challenging times of the year.

Image Credit: SHVETS Production; Pexels; Thanks!

Make Appointments More Enjoyable With These 5 Amenities

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Make Appointments More Enjoyable With These 5 Amenities

Making your appointments more enjoyable is crucial if you run an appointment-based business. You should always be looking for new ways to improve your customers’ experience, as well as your system operations, in order to boost retention. As you do so, don’t overlook the small adjustments that can have a great impact.

This list of appointment amenities contains some examples of small changes that can make your appointments much more enjoyable for customers. It doesn’t take much effort to implement them, but you’ll see a lot of improvement in appointment metrics such as customer retention and overall business reviews.

Let’s break down the amenities included in this list and explore how each one can benefit your business and its customer base:

1. Optional On-File Info

Few things are as tedious as inputting your information every time you arrive for an appointment, especially when visiting the same establishment. To help your customers avoid having to fill in their info with every visit, make it an option to save information for recurring visits.

Many companies make this possible through the use of customer profiles. All your customers have to do is create a username and password with which they’ll store their information. They can make updates to this information and even change privacy settings as often as they’d like.

Depending on the nature of your appointment-based business, you can use this information to improve both customer convenience and the quality of your services. If you run a medical clinic, notes on past patient illnesses and treatments will enable you to provide better health care. If you operate a hair salon, writing down details of a patron’s recent haircut will help you re-create the style (if they so choose) on their next visit.

2. Online Check-In Options

Convenience will make your appointment experience more enjoyable for everyone. That’s why having an online check-in option is one of the best features you can implement.

Online check-in is quick, painless, and efficient. A few button clicks will notify your business that the customer has arrived and is ready for service.

Online check-ins are also great during this up-and-down time of COVID-19. Checking in for an appointment online limits your customers’ interactions with your staff and other patrons, which will reduce the chances of viral spread while also saving them some time. They can even check in while waiting in their car until the last minute.

3. Wait-Time Updates

In addition to enabling online check-in, wait-time updates provided on your website or through an app will help your customers out tremendously. There are many variables that might cause an appointment to run late, so being able to know exactly how long their wait might be is very useful. Customers can use this information to run some additional errands in the area or leave the house later than initially planned.

On the other end of the spectrum, seeing that there’s no wait time for service might indicate a potential early appointment. This can save customers time by letting them know they can arrive at their appointment early and get ahead of schedule.

A wait-time counter is also helpful when customers book appointments. A last-minute appointment is feasible if your website or app shows that the waiting time is low or nonexistent. If it’s not, customers will know they’re better off booking an appointment for a future date.

4. Complimentary Refreshments

Ever get hungry while sitting in a waiting room? Individually packaged snacks and bottled water, juice, or soda are great ways to make appointments more enjoyable to your customers while they wait. No one wants to be hungry as they while away the minutes. And, offering complimentary refreshments won’t add too much to your expense column.

You can get creative with the refreshments you supply as well. A fully stocked coffee bar or seasonal hot chocolate set-up will provide beverage offerings as delicious as they are memorable. There’s no need to overdo it, but a nice touch like this will improve your overall appointment experience. This, in turn, will help boost your customer retention rates.

5. Free Entertainment

Let’s say you have a customer arrive early, or unexpected circumstances cause appointment times to start running later than planned. Whatever the cause of their wait, antsy and impatient customers are not going to have a good time. Some free entertainment will help keep customers occupied while you try to speed things along.

Start by offering guest Wi-Fi so that customers can use their devices in the lobby as they wait. Watching videos, playing a mobile game, or checking up on emails is a quick way to pass the time. A variety of interesting magazines, an unobtrusive TV, or even a kids play area can round things out nicely, depending on what would appeal to your customers.

You should easily be able to make appointments more enjoyable by adding these amenities and more to your appointment-based business in the new year. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re keeping your customers in mind. And, make sure you are working to improve the appointment experience for them. This will lead to a prosperous and successful 2022 for your business.

How to Combat the Slow Season With Appointment Software

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How to Combat the Slow Season With Appointment Software

The winter months are often the slowest for many businesses. Whether it’s because of treacherous driving conditions or the desire to bundle up at home for the season, customers are in short supply for many appointment-based businesses during this time of year.

Instead of counting the days until summer, change your mindset and try to combat the temporary slow season. Not only will this help you keep revenue up during the slower months of the year, but you’ll also make valuable improvements that will come in handy when the busy season returns.

Keep Your Software Updated

Now is the perfect time to make sure that your software is up-to-date. Your online appointment software is a big part of your business process, so it deserves some love and attention during the slow season. Improvements that you make now will definitely come in handy once the busy season rolls around.

You should be using responsive, user-friendly, and fully functional programs. Use any downtime you have to conduct UX testing. Identify any snags customers may encounter while using your software so they can be remediated before becoming pressing concerns.

See What’s Trending

What is the latest trend capturing your consumers’ attention? Successfully riding the coattails of certain trends can carry your business forward, even during a slow period. Your business can insert itself into the spotlight where customers are currently focusing their attention.

Particularly effective trends to keep your eye on will be tech-related. By staying on top of the latest tech news and trends, you can ensure that your software is keeping stride with other industry leaders.

Pay attention to other appointment-based trends as they arise. For example, curbside check-ins picked up steam during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to continue seeing customers while enabling better social distancing. If you’re aware of this trend, you can implement it as soon as possible so that customers seeking appointments won’t pass you up for competitors.

Check In With Customers

With online appointment software at your fingertips, you can see just how much time has passed in between customer appointments. You can use this knowledge to touch base with your regular customers and convince them to book an office visit during this slow patch.

You might have received such a message from a business that you visited once or twice. Something along the lines of “We’ve missed you, here’s a special offer” is a common strategy employed by businesses to spur appointment bookings when business has slowed.

If you choose to reach out to customers and reel a few back in, do your best to personalize the messages you send. A message that clearly looks copied and pasted will not hold the same weight as a personalized message showing that you value the customer as an individual.

Request Feedback

Feedback can give you great insight into how your customers think and act. After compiling enough customer responses, you can make data-driven decisions that will improve their experience and your overall business model.

After appointments, send an online survey to your customers. This can easily be done with an automated email containing a thank-you message and a survey link. Your survey should remain short yet effective, containing simple questions pertaining to things like the check-in process, wait times, and appointment satisfaction.

If you’re having a difficult time getting customers to complete an optional survey, add a little incentive. For example, customers who bring proof of completion can qualify for a 10% discount on their next appointment. This will get you more survey responses to work with, improve your business, increase appointment bookings, and pay dividends for months or even years to come.

Plan for the Future

If you’re unable to pick up the pace right now, start making plans to accelerate in the future. You won’t see the benefits immediately, but building a strong foundation for upcoming appointments will place your business in an ideal spot for high profits and optimal productivity.

You should certainly be trying to book appointments for future dates, even if they don’t fall within the window of your slow season. This will give you appointment dates to look forward to, a light at the end of the tunnel if you will. These future customers could also motivate you to add other activities to your schedule, such as deep cleaning and organizing your business in preparation for the return of the busy season.

Your online appointment software will also come in handy when scheduling other things such as social media posts. Using downtime to create and schedule content will get your marketing resources lined up and ready to launch so you don’t have to stress about it when your appointment schedule is completely booked up once more.

Don’t let the slow season slow you down. Use appointment software to keep trekking forward and prepare for business to pick up again. With this tool, you’ll hardly lose your momentum.

5 Things to Consider When Setting Up Self-Service Scheduling for Your Business

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Things to Consider When Setting Up Self-Service Scheduling for Your Business

So you’re wanting to add more self-service options for your customers. This is a great idea for a number of reasons. It lightens the workload of your employees and provides your customers with additional flexibility. Appointment-based businesses will benefit from self-service solutions just as much as those in any other industry.

Before you hand the reins over to your customers and allow them to run wild, though, there are a few things you need to consider. Keep these five things in mind when setting up self-service scheduling for your appointment-based business:

1. Business Capacity

How many staff members are available to assist customers on a day-to-day basis? This will help you determine how many appointment slots to include when setting online scheduling options. If you allow people to book an endless amount of appointments, the influx of customers can overwhelm your staff.

Start by listing some important details about your appointment process. What are your hours of operation? How long does the average appointment last? How many appointments can you take at a single time according to your staff list? Do you need to include buffer time in between appointments?

That’s a lot of questions to ask, and there are more you can include, but each one is important when setting up self-service scheduling for your business. Your answers will determine how many appointment slots you make available and what sort of cancellation policy you want to put into place.

2. Cybersecurity

How secure is your network? If you can’t answer with absolute certainty that your security is up to par, then improving it is your first order of business. It won’t matter how many bells and whistles you add to your online appointment experience; customers will steer clear of your business if your data security is full of holes.

There are a number of steps you can take to build up your cybersecurity. Don’t be afraid to overdo it a little if it ensures your customer data remains secure. Install antivirus software, firewall protection, and data encryption to your system. Stay on top of data security practices such as recognizing phishing schemes and screening any third-party companies you might work with.

3. Payment Methods

The purpose of self-service scheduling is to provide additional flexibility to your customers. It allows them to book, change, or cancel appointments at any time of day or night. But don’t limit your system’s flexibility to just time management. While that’s a great perk on its own, you can use your online appointment software to expand your payment options as well.

Customers love convenience and flexibility on payments, and including additional payment methods can bring more people to your online appointment platform. Simply adding PayPal compatibility alongside debit and credit card payments will expand customer options. You can also look at integrating mobile payment apps or even find ways to let customers spend cryptocurrency at your place of business.

4. Customer Support

Once your self-service scheduling is all set up and ready to go, it might take some getting used to. Some customers will get the hang of the new system immediately, while others might need a little guidance their first time around. Smart business owners will prepare their customer support reps to help answer any and all questions regarding online appointment setting.

Make sure to train and equip your employees with everything they need to assist customers getting used to the new self-service system. With the necessary resources, they’ll be able to help every customer get their bearings.

The beauty of self-service appointment setting is that customers can use it outside of business hours. For those times when a customer service agent isn’t available to answer questions, a chatbot can fill in. Adding one of these digital helpers to your website can guide customers through the appointment process and answer frequently asked questions no matter what time it is.

5. Data Collection

We’ve already touched on how important it is to protect customer data. However, it’s also important to recognize the value of the data you do access and how its use can upgrade your business.

Because self-service scheduling is done entirely online, your business’s data-tracking potential is about to hit new all-time highs. The data your appointment software gathers can give you new insights into your customers so you can serve them better.

For example, before using online appointment software, you might not have had a clear picture of your main customer demographics. With the creation of customer profiles, you can get exact numbers on demographic characteristics like gender and age among your customer base. This will help you develop new services and tailor marketing campaigns to the people who will respond most positively.

Adding self-service scheduling will totally transform your business for the better. You’ll be able to help more customers, increase revenue, and create a more efficient workflow all by making this one influential change to your system.

5 Reasons Customers Prefer to Schedule Appointments on Their Own

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5 Reasons Customers Prefer to Schedule Appointments on Their Own

Nowadays, more and more people simply prefer to do things on their own. Whether it’s using the self-checkout at the grocery store, paying for gas at the pump, or ordering meals online, using technology to make processes faster and easier is a hit across all industries. It’s no wonder why online appointment software has experienced so much success.

Why Customers Prefer to Schedule Their Appointments

There are many self-service aspects that online appointment software will introduce to your customers. In fact, you could easily see your calendar fill up by using online software since many customers prefer to schedule appointments on their own. Here are some of the reasons why that’s the case:

1. They Don’t Have All Day

Your customers have things to do and places to be. They don’t want to wait on hold or stand in a line waiting to confirm an upcoming appointment. Even if they did, wait times are frustrating and typically a waste of time. Online appointment scheduling is much faster and can be done at the customer’s leisure.

Another aspect of appointment setting that can get tedious is the amount of time customers have to spend writing or dictating their personal information. When booking an appointment online, they can add this information faster. If customers have autofill enabled, the software can add their pertinent details so they don’t have to type everything in.

Once customers add information to an online customer profile, it stays there. Each subsequent booking will automatically update any necessary information. They will only have to make small adjustments as needed.

2. They Can Correct Their Own Mistakes

We make mistakes every single day. That doesn’t mean it gets any less embarrassing when we commit one. In the case of self-service solutions, customers can discreetly fix their mistakes if they accidentally book the wrong appointment time or input the wrong information.

Some changes are necessary not because of a mistake but due to a simple change of plans. For example, a customer might have booked an appointment and then received a surprise visit from the in-laws. By going online, they can easily reschedule an appointment without making a scene.

3. They Can Make Secure Payments Online

Online payments are quick and efficient and are actually quite safe. There is great benefit in being able to pay for appointments in advance in order to cut down time spent waiting in a lobby. Knowing that these transactions are completely secure means customers can rest easy while taking advantage of this convenient option.

Just as customers can choose to save their information with your business to save time while booking appointments, they can also save their payment information. While fewer customers will want to save payment information online, this can be a convenient option for consumers who want a faster checkout experience.

If you do offer online payments, don’t take data security lightly, especially when it comes to financial information. Make sure you’re staying on top of cybersecurity trends and train your employees on proper data security. Software and hardware offer a lot of protection when coupled with cybersecurity knowledge. So be sure you provide the safest payment options for your customers.

4. Questions Are Easily Answered

Want to know how many appointment slots are available next Friday? With scheduling software, customers no longer have to call and hope they can speak with a representative to ask. Instead of waiting while a customer service rep scours the calendar for an opening, they can check available time slots on their own.

This feature makes scheduling so much easier for customers. If someone is trying to plan out their week on a Sunday afternoon, they can look at appointment openings and even schedule a time slot without having to wait for your business to open the next day.

Your scheduling software landing page can contain other useful information and answers to frequently asked questions. Information such as how long appointments normally last, cancellation policies, and what a customer is expected to bring to their appointment can all be listed for them online.

5. The Options Are Endless

Not only do customers like to do their own thing, they like to have options. Online appointment software enables self-service, but it also allows customers to customize certain aspects of the booking process.

For example, customers can book appointments from any device whether it’s from a laptop, smartphone, or tablet. In some cases, they might even be able to create appointment bookings through texting or email chains.

Other customization options can include aesthetic details such as changing the display to night mode or increasing text size. While these changes aren’t monumental, they can mean a lot to customers who like to tailor their experience to their personal preferences as much as possible.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask yourself what self-serve functionality you would want when setting appointments. Look to make that possible with your own business. By doing so, you’ll see those appointment slots start to fill up much more regularly than they did before.

4 Customer Complaints About Scheduling Software; And How to Navigate Them

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Customer Complaints About Scheduling Software; And How To Navigate Them

Trying to please every single customer who walks through your doors is next to impossible. There will always be some difficult person to deal with who has lofty expectations that even the largest of corporations can’t fulfill. That said, trying to cater to as many customers as possible allows you to cast a wider net to bring in more business. 

One way to go about this is not by looking at what customers like, but by analyzing their most sincere complaints. Doing so will shine a spotlight directly on the flaws of your business so that you can make meaningful changes to your operations. Add targeted changes to a solid business foundation, and your customer complaints will be few and far between. 

The following is a list of four customer complaints that you might hear specifically regarding scheduling software. To thrive, appointment-based businesses will need to navigate them appropriately.

1. Limited Payment Options 

The world of fintech has been evolving rapidly, and along with it has come a myriad of new payment options that customers have fallen in love with. Consequently, you might hear the occasional customer complain about limited payment options at your place of business. 

For example, enabling digital payments through apps such as PayPal and Venmo will help numerous customers who don’t rely on debit cards — to say nothing of cash — as often. This will especially come in handy for mobile payments where customers might find entering their credit card information a cumbersome process. Even accepting different varieties of credit cards will expand your desktop payment options and avoid excluding certain consumers.

Cryptocurrency is starting to explode, and many people are looking at DeFi networks to make their daily transactions. Including a couple of the major cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, isn’t a bad idea. It might even put you ahead of your competition and demonstrate that your business is on the cutting edge. However, don’t worry about accepting payments for the week’s hot new coin, as the hype will be impossible to keep up with. 

2. Questionable Security 

One complaint you never want to hear regards your scheduling software’s security. Data privacy/security is a hot topic nowadays, with customers feeling a stronger desire to protect their data on the internet. Taking care of your customer’s information is absolutely vital for any modern-day business. 

Start by ensuring that all your transactions are secured through SSL encryption. Once you’ve got that protection in place, you can add a note to your scheduling software pages that notify customers of the security steps you’re taking. This will help them feel more comfortable booking appointments and paying for them online. 

The next step is making certain that all other customer data is locked up tight. Names, addresses, and any other personal information you might record should only be accessed by those with a need for that information. And your stored data should be safeguarded by firewalls, password protection, and any other cyber protections you might need to keep it out of dubious hands. 

3. No Rewards or Benefits 

If your business were an ice cream sundae, a rewards program would be the cherry on top. Some customers really like cherries, though, and they may get disgruntled if there’s not one in sight. While a rewards program isn’t essential to managing a good appointment-based business, it certainly makes the experience all the more delicious.

Dig in a little deeper, and you’ll see just how much value you can get out of an incentives program. Customers who book multiple appointments will be rewarded, which will increase your retention rates and help you to fill more appointment slots. Customers who receive benefits from rewards programs will also feel more valued and appreciated, another step in the right direction toward customer retention. 

The easiest way to implement a loyalty program is to reward customers who book multiple appointments. For example, a customer might get their tenth appointment for free after their first nine visits, or they might receive a free add-on service when they reach that threshold. Other small benefits will become hits as well, such as offering a discount to first-time visitors or customers who refer you to their friends. 

4. Restricted Platform Availability

Making scheduling software available on your customers’ desktops is a good start, but it won’t be a long-term solution. In fact, most consumers these days are making purchases and booking appointments on their phones. If your scheduling software cannot be accessed via mobile phone, you’re bound to hear several complaints.

Happily, you don’t need to develop an app to make this possible. All you need to do is ensure your web pages, specifically those pertaining to appointment setting, are as optimized for mobile as they are for the desktop. Only a few alterations need to occur, but the extra effort will mean your customers can book appointments just as easily on their smartphone as they would on any other device. 

Any appointment scheduling software worth its salt should be able to address these concerns and many more. When you treat consumer complaints as an opportunity to improve, your business can provide a better appointment experience to every customer. 

How to Run an Efficient Team With Fewer People

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How to Run an Efficient Team With Fewer People

A quick glance at the Fortune 500 will show you some well-oiled corporate machines that dominate their respective industries. Small companies and startups will try to emulate those same business models with varying degrees of success. Is it possible for a small organization to run as efficiently as a business behemoth?

The answer is yes, but you might have to customize your approach to fit your specific team. Running a small-scale team is a much more intimate and detail-oriented matter, but when done correctly, it can be just as efficient as any company you compare yourself to.

This article will help you and your team increase your efficiency and help your small business find great success even with fewer people on deck.

Lean on Automation

When operating with a small team, look for ways to automate basic tasks that take up a lot of time when performed manually. This frees up your team members and allows them to focus their attention elsewhere, getting much more done in a regular day. 

Take online appointment software, for example. With this solution in place, customers can book their own appointments, check future availability, and even make payments without the help of a customer representative. You’ll no longer need to have a team member on the phones all day helping customers do those things.

You can automate a whole bunch of tasks — outreach emails, invoice reminders, social media posts — if you have the right tools for it. Look for solutions that will take control of basic tasks so that your team can focus on more complex assignments. 

Focus on Communication

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it once again. Communication is absolutely vital for teams of all shapes and sizes. Even one miscommunication can be quite disruptive.

Improving team communication doesn’t have to be complicated. Try using project management software or an instant messaging platform to keep everyone on the same page. Hold consistent meetings and touch base with your employees on a regular basis. Ultimately, successful communication comes down to the effort you put into it, so don’t let a day go by where you’re not communicating with your team in some way. 

Another important aspect of communication is gathering feedback. Ask your team about what’s working and what’s not working, then use that information to change your workflows. Few things will improve your team’s efficiency more than listening to their process improvement ideas and putting them into practice. 

Manage Workloads

Some miscommunications are worse than others. One side effect of bad communication is poor workload management. With a small team, especially in a startup, there’s a chance that some members are taking on far more tasks than their peers, which creates a distinct disparity between co-workers. If the imbalance persists, it can begin to breed resentment.

You might appreciate that your hardest-working employee is taking on as many assignments as possible, but the truth is that they’re likely experiencing some diminishing returns on their productivity. If they’re biting off more than they can chew, it won’t be long before errors occur or something has to be pushed aside.

By managing the workload over your entire team, projects can be distributed more evenly. This will likely result in tasks being completed much faster than if a single person was trying to do everything on their own. 

Build a Positive Culture

Company culture might seem superficial, but employees are valuing culture more now than ever. A positive company culture will draw in better employee prospects, which will naturally increase your efficiency by introducing more good workers into the mix.

In addition, your culture will directly affect team morale on a daily basis. If your team enjoys coming to work every day and mingling with their co-workers, they’ll work harder and more efficiently together. A poor culture will cause team members to drag their feet and potentially even look for a different employer.

How do you build a positive culture? There are a number of different approaches, and the ones you choose will depend on your team’s values. Casual wear, a revamped break room, team lunches, and after-work activities are all possibilities to consider. 

Promote Autonomy

As a leader, it’s important to be hands-on with your team. However, you need to avoid becoming a micromanager. Going too far in the “helping” direction can actually hurt productivity and efficiency. 

While remaining involved, promote autonomy throughout your team. Make yourself available for questions and guidance, but don’t stick your nose in when you’re not needed. This might be difficult to achieve if you’re an entrepreneur working on your startup, but it’ll pay off in the long run.

If you want to measure how these tips are working for your team, start tracking some key metrics (hours worked per process, cost of goods/services sold, etc.) that you can compare over time. As you see those numbers improve, you’ll know you’re turning your small team into an efficiency powerhouse. 

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