Category Archives: Appointment

5 Integrations for Your Online Appointment Software

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5 Integrations for Your Online Appointment Software

Businesses of all sizes are making the shift to online appointment software. From enabling customer self-service to better managing staff scheduling, the benefits of an online appointment system are clear and compelling.  

Your appointment software can make you even more organized and productive when you supercharge it with app integrations. These integrations make it possible to synchronize information across several software applications. Among these are digital calendar, billing and payment, customer relationship management, email and communications, and web design solutions.

By combining information from various systems, your company can improve its customer experience. You can also further enhance the efficiency you’re already gaining from online appointment software.   

Digital Calendars

Digital calendars have become common in business environments due to their convenience and versatility. Unlike paper calendars, digital versions can be viewed, updated, and synced across any device that can connect to the internet. When your online appointment software syncs with your digital calendar, you don’t have to worry about updating it.

That means when customers schedule, cancel, or reschedule an appointment, your business’s digital calendar automatically adjusts. This translates to better staff scheduling and reduced miscommunication. You also reduce the risk of falling short of customers’ expectations, as they can see what’s available in real time.

Billing and Payment

When billing systems are synced with online appointment applications, customers find it easier to pay ahead of time. This makes them less likely to cancel or back out of an appointment at the last minute. It also gives them peace of mind, knowing that they’ve already paid and budgeted for the service.

Some customers prefer to pay online, knowing that their financial information isn’t being exchanged with a person over the phone. Being able to instantly transfer funds from a PayPal account without revealing any sensitive information makes customers feel safe. This can help your business capture sales that might otherwise be abandoned.  

If you’re a small business owner, streamlining your billing systems can free up more time for your staff. Sixty percent of small business owners wish they had more time to devote to other tasks. Thirty-nine percent indicate paperwork is one of their top time stealers.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management (CRM) applications are great tools for capturing leads and contact information. These applications also nurture relationships from initial interest to conversion and gather and track consumer behaviors. Integrating your CRM and online appointment software creates an added level of convenience for both you and your customers.

First, existing customers don’t have to constantly re-enter their information. Anyone who’s filled out a job application that asks for the very same information already provided on an uploaded résumé knows the frustration this causes. At best, the customer has a poor experience. And at worst, it becomes a lost opportunity. Creating more efficient appointment experiences leads to higher satisfaction, brand image, and loyalty levels.

Second, with a CRM integration, you’ll easily capture information about new customers, potential leads (e.g., those who abandon completion of their appointments), and customer activities. If you execute content marketing campaigns or digital ads, you can track which content and ads lead to higher customer acquisition. Other behaviors, such as responding to an email promo code, can help you gain insights into what resonates with customers.

Email and Communication Touchpoints

Some CRM applications allow you to automate marketing and customer service emails. However, you can also integrate email clients like Outlook and Gmail. This can come in handy when you send appointment reminders to customers.

By automating some of the communication touchpoints, you and your staff can concentrate on higher-level tasks. You’ll also meet customer expectations by letting them know the appointment times they selected are confirmed on your end. Reminders, of course, can prevent no-shows and allow clients to reschedule if something comes up.

Beyond these basics, additional touchpoints can include:

  • Customer experience surveys
  • Thank-you notes
  • Requests for testimonials
  • Marketing and PR for services or service packages
  • Promotions
  • Customer loyalty programs

If email isn’t your customers’ preferred method of communication, there’s the possibility of integrating your appointment software with SMS or text messaging applications. Providing links in the text messages that reconnect customers with your online booking system adds convenience. Alternatively, customers could have the option to cancel, reschedule, or confirm appointments directly from the text messages.  

Web Design

Integrating your online appointment software with web design apps mostly benefits you and your staff. If you make changes to the layout of web pages that contain appointment functionality, the two will automatically sync. You can also back up your appointment application’s data, ensuring it gets stored safely and is easy to find.

Another point to keep in mind is that web design apps often come with built-in templates. These templates can make it easier to incorporate the functions of appointment software. With templates, your staff can create a unified look that accentuates booking options for customers. 

If you’re using a lot of other systems, web design apps can potentially sync all or most of them. This prevents the need to manually transfer or consolidate information. You may also be able to avoid the costs associated with switching or upgrading to different platforms. It will be possible to wait until business growth or technology changes deem switching necessary.    

Ultimately, which applications and systems your business integrates with your online appointment software are up to you. Ease of integration, compatibility, functionality, strategy, and customer needs will all play a role. A good online appointment application will let you customize your app integrations as your business needs change.

The ideal way to determine what integrations you need is to look to your customers. Start by analyzing their feedback and behaviors. Your company’s service and marketing strategy will be important. However, your integration efforts should begin with the customer’s perspective in mind. 

Approaching Walk-Ins as an Appointment-Based Business

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Approaching Walk-Ins as an Appointment-Based Business

How does your appointment-based business work to meet the needs of your customers? Do you have an appointment-only policy, or do you handle a mixture of walk-ins and appointments daily?

Many businesses operate by scheduling appointments, such as healthcare providers, spas, salons, and veterinary clinics, to name a few. Having an appointment serves both the client and the business in several ways. First, the client knows when they come into the business, they have a specific time to be seen. It can also make several things within the business structure easier to manage. Understanding things such as staffing, planning out your day, and revenue expectations are just a few examples. 

The problem with an appointment-only approach is that it does not account for late customers and no-shows. That last one is no small matter: one study found that up to 42% of customers skip their appointments.

By allowing for walk-ins, your business can fill the gaps in your schedule that those missed appointments leave behind. You can also add revenue, gain new customers, and create future brand loyalty. 

Although walk-ins can offer great benefits, they can also interrupt what your business had planned for the day. If you don’t manage them properly, walk-ins can result in longer wait times and poor customer service. So how do you manage time slots for walk-ins within your appointment-based business?

The following six tips can help you approach walk-ins in the best possible way:

1. Use Online Appointment Software

Walk-ins wouldn’t be a problem if you accepted all clients on a first-come, first-served basis. But you’re an appointment-based business. By and large, you want to know when people intend to arrive and when you’ll be serving them.

To determine how to work in walk-ins among existing appointments, you need to know when those appointments are scheduled. When you utilize online appointment software, you’ll be able to see all your appointments at a glance. You can also update your appointment calendar in real time so that if a spot opens up, you’ll know right away. That will enable you to give a walk-in the “Sure, I can fit you in at ___ p.m.” response they want to hear.

2. Leverage Social Media

When you get a last-minute appointment cancellation, that empty slot on your calendar could mean lost revenue. That is, unless you hop on your social channels and let your followers know, pronto, that there’s an opening they can take advantage of.

Social media lets you reach your customers in real time at no cost to you. You can also include booking buttons on your social media pages to encourage your fans to book an appointment via your online scheduling software. Maybe a customer can’t capitalize on the opening you just posted on Facebook, but seeing that post — and having ready access to your scheduling system — could prompt them to book an appointment at a time that works for you both.

3.  Track Your Walk-ins

One way to begin formulating a plan for handling your walk-ins is to keep tabs on them. Taking note of how many clients arrive late or are no-shows is helpful in scheduling, as is tracking walk-ins. Recording the average number of walk-ins and their timing over the last week or month lets you see patterns you can plan for. 

To account for these walk-ins, you might leave a few extra spots in your schedule. And don’t just track these numbers once. Continuing to audit your schedule for various appointment types will also reveal patterns at different times of year.

4. Set Off Some Time for Walk-ins

Depending on your type of business, having a dedicated block of time for walk-ins can be key. Take what you’ve learned from tracking your appointment types to look for trends. Are there days or hours where there are often gaps in appointments? If so, try to promote walk-ins during these times to boost your business during slower periods

You might add “Walk-ins welcome: Tuesdays, 2-4 p.m.” to your sidewalk sign. Or you could use your website and social media channels to advertise times when you accept walk-ins. As noted, social media is a great place to promote open time slots. It’s free to post, and those who follow you tend to be customers already.

5. Account for Staffing

Depending on your business, the walk-ins you see will vary. A nail salon or quick haircut salon will likely see more walk-ins than, say, a dentist or attorney. Relatively low-cost services in areas with high foot traffic tend to bring more walk-ins. 

Because you’ve tracked your walk-ins, you’ll have an idea of how many time slots to hold open for impromptu customers. Knowing the number of slots will, in turn, let you know how many employees you will need to accommodate them. 

Some salons might dedicate newer employees for walk-ins while established employees take the clients with appointments. This can help accommodate walk-ins while retaining loyal customers. It also gives a new stylist the chance to meet potential repeat customers who will request them in the future.

6. Disclose Wait Times to Walk-ins

It’s important to treat walk-ins the same as you would customers with appointments. If you want them to have a positive experience and return, don’t treat them like an inconvenience. Encourage them to stay, but be honest about potential wait times. 

If you are currently booked solid, let them down gently. Apologize that you can’t take them right away and show them the next available times in your calendar. If they would like to make an appointment for one of those time slots, help them do that.

Following these tips can help your business begin to manage tricky walk-ins. As with any aspect of business, results tend to flow in the areas you spend time focusing on. By tracking your walk-in customers and leveraging technology to help integrate walk-ins and appointments, you’ll soon have a better handle on your scheduling logistics. And that will let you get back to what you love to do — serving your customers.

Common Obstacles for Appointment Booking and How to Tear Them Down

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Common Obstacles for Appointment Booking and How to Tear Them Down

There are appointment booking obstacles in the way of every business and new customers. Identifying these obstacles and breaking them down is how companies are able to promote growth and deliver quality products and services to consumers. 

Appointment-based businesses have their own unique struggles when it comes to getting new customers to book their first appointment. Below are some of the most common obstacles for customers when it comes to appointment booking. 

Commitment Issues

Committing to an appointment time is a struggle for some people. Maybe they have an unpredictable schedule, so making a commitment seems impossible. 

It could also be that your available openings do not fit their schedule. Perhaps you need to specify one night a week that you’ll accept evening appointments or open at 8 a.m. each day to catch customers before they start their workday. Figuring out how to accommodate customers’ varying schedules will help you fill up your bookings and keep everybody happy.

Committing to your business is also a factor that may give customers pause. Booking an appointment isn’t like entering a grocery store or eating at a restaurant. The appointment process requires more information to be given out and a relationship to be established. If a customer isn’t ready to make that commitment to your business, they won’t be booking an appointment any time soon. 

How do you help customers get over their commitment issues? Maybe you need to improve your online rating or focus on getting more referrals. Word-of-mouth advertising is a powerful tool when it comes to convincing customers to give your business a try. Trust is already established through a friend or family member who speaks well of your services. 

Poor Accessibility

If you’re not using online appointment software yet, you’re missing out. A big deterrent for new customers is an obstacle-strewn path to booking an appointment. If customers have to find a time to call in — risking an unanswered phone or being put on hold for an indefinite period of time — they’re more likely to try their luck as a walk-in (if that).

Online appointment software resolves that issue easily. Online bookings are open 24/7, meaning a customer can book an appointment on their own at their convenience. They can even look at daily availability on the off chance they find an extra hour in their day when they can sneak in an appointment. 

Of course, you should also continue to accept phone bookings for those who prefer to call in. It may be that a portion of your customer base doesn’t have reliable internet access, or your online system could go down temporarily. The more appointment-booking options you offer, the more accessible your business will be.

No Perceived Need

If you’re being super accommodating with those walk-ins, chances are you’re hurting your appointment rates. Many customers won’t bother booking an appointment if they know they can just show up and get in during the next opening. However, too many walk-ins create a lot of variables that can slow down your operations and cause unneeded chaos.

If you want your customers to book appointments — and thus make your operations run more smoothly — limit the number of walk-ins you accept each day. Set clear guidelines so customers understand why they need to book an appointment. 

Your no-show policy will also impact appointment bookings for your business. If you have a lax no-show policy, you might get more bookings, but cancellations will frequently ruin your day. In addition, a high no-show rate might encourage even more walk-ins hoping to land a spot left behind by a last-minute cancellation. 

Poor Strategy

This obstacle is put up by businesses themselves. If you have a poor appointment strategy, you’re just making life more difficult for yourself. To encourage more appointment bookings, you’ll need to revamp your approach to meet customers where they are.

Start with your online presence. Do your website and social media pages clearly state information about appointment booking? Using technology in this way makes it clear to customers where they can book an appointment and how easy the process is. 

Next, take a look at your customer acquisition plan. Are you targeting the right audience? Is your marketing reaching them in the right place? Find the sweet spot with your acquisition strategy, and you’ll find more customers who are ready to book appointments with you. 

Faulty People Skills

The common denominator with appointment bookings across industries is human interaction. Even if a customer books their appointment online, they’ll come into contact with a receptionist or other employee at some point. If they’re treated poorly, you’ll never hear from them again.

Make sure your entire team is well-trained in customer service skills and habits. This is just as important for your mechanics and hair stylists as it is for representatives that handle phone calls. Answering one question the wrong way may cost your business an appointment booking. 

If you don’t know where to start with your customer service training, add a survey to the messages customers receive upon completion of their appointment. Their feedback will highlight exactly where your team members excel and where they need to improve. This will help you better train for customer service skills as well as gauge customer needs in other areas. 

Analyze your business and look for cracks in its foundation. What needs to be improved to make appointment booking easier and more desirable for customers? Once you’ve pinpointed those needs and resolved glaring issues, there will be fewer hurdles for customers to jump on their way to your waiting room. 

How Social Media Can Land You More Appointments

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How Social Media Can Land You More Appointments

With social media, the world is, quite literally, at our fingertips. With just a few taps, we can connect with friends, plan our next meal, or get inspired. 

While social media is entertaining, it can also be a powerful tool for business. If used with intention, social media can help you foster client engagement and even increase the number of appointment clients book with your business. Here’s how you can use your social media channels to help you land more appointments.

Post Consistently 

Today, having a social media presence for your business is non-negotiable. It’s also one of the most cost-effective marketing tactics around. Creating content and posting it regularly gets you in front of potential customers and builds trust. You can create standard posts, host a livestream, and add posts to stories that will live for 24 hours.

The problem is, posting engaging content can be a challenge, especially if you don’t have anything planned prior to sitting down to update your pages. Fortunately, this last-minute stress can be eliminated through the use of a social media calendar. By leveraging a social media calendar, you can create relevant content ahead of time and schedule posts all year long, holidays included.

A social media calendar will enable you to post consistently and build credibility for your brand. Not only that, but you’ll make your own life easier and will have more time to focus on your clients.  

Engage With Your Clients 

Sharing photos on your social media stories can help boost engagement, and you can make those stories interactive. With many social media stories, you can include polls for your followers to participate in. Instagram, for example, allows you to include polls, quizzes, and Q&A forms. These features offer a great way to get feedback from clients or answer any questions they have about their appointments. 

Many social platforms want you to go beyond the regular photo posts, and you should use this to your advantage. Your social media content needs to be engaging and memorable. One way to achieve this is by posting video content on your social pages. Try a how-to video, an animation, or even an interview with a thought leader from your industry. And when potential clients see videos of the services your business offers, they will be more likely to book with you. 

With appointment-based businesses, cancellations are inevitable. If you have a last-minute opening, social media is good for that, too. Announce any available time slots on social media so they can still be used productively.

Brag About Your Business

Don’t be shy when it comes to sharing your successes on social media. People want to have confidence that they’re making the right choice when it comes to spending their money and precious hours. So that means it’s time to boast and be bragged on. 

Most consumers make their purchasing decisions based on the reviews they read and the recommendations they hear from people in their circle. Including reviews and testimonials from past clients on your social pages can help future ones feel more secure in their decision to choose you over competitors. 

You can also share photos and videos of your satisfied clients. This will help your future customers imagine themselves in your current fans’ shoes. Including real clients will bring a touch of humanity and emotion to your brand. This makes it easier for clients, old and new, to support your business. It will remind them that they’re interacting with real people and not a robot that posts every day at noon. 

Make Booking Appointments Easy for You and the Client

Let’s face it, with technology, we’ve been spoiled. With just a couple taps, we can have whatever we want (almost) whenever we want it. When clients are ready to book an appointment after scrolling through your pages, they want to schedule theirs quickly.

You can share links to your website to book appointments or include a booking button on your social media pages. Adding this button is a snap, and you can even connect it to an automated program that moves the request along to staff for approval. This functionality will help you strike while the iron is hot, turning audience interest in your social content into more appointments in your (digital) schedule book. 

When you plan your next campaign to bring in more appointment bookings, don’t forget about social media. You can interact with your clients and answer their burning questions. You can provide updates in real time. And you can share the stories of your current clients and bring your brand to life.

Social media is a powerful business tool, and it’s only growing. If you plan your content with intention, you can use social media as an inexpensive marketing tool to land your business even more appointments.

Spring Cleaning Tips for Appointment-Based Businesses

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Spring Cleaning Tips for Appointment-Based Businesses

Spring has sprung, and with blooming flowers and singing birds comes the yearly rallying cry of spring cleaning. Something about those first rays of sun melting the snow motivates people to deep clean after their winter hibernation. While this is a beneficial practice for your home, spring cleaning should occur in your business as well. 

Whether it’s taking a broom and mop to the floor or cleaning up your operations, a good spring cleaning will keep your business running on all cylinders. The following ideas can help you direct your spring cleaning efforts to where they’ll be most effective:

Tune Up Your Website

When was the last time you looked at your website layout? There might not be anything inherently wrong with it, but it’s always good to tune up your online presence from time to time. After all, as an appointment-based business, you’ll get a lot of traffic to your website from customers looking to book appointments online.

Start by testing your loading speeds. If your website is taking longer to load as time goes by, focus your spring cleaning on backend solutions geared toward faster speeds. Also pay attention to how your website performs on mobile devices and determine whether a change in design is needed to recapture the attention of customers. 

Amp Up Your Marketing

While you’re online, take a look at your marketing strategy. Is it accomplishing what you set out to do? Is your ROI acceptable? Taking the time to reevaluate your marketing campaigns is always a good idea.

Even if your marketing efforts are exceeding your every expectation, you should be preparing your next approach. Rarely does a single marketing campaign survive without eventually going stale. A new strategy will attract customers whom your original plan didn’t appeal to and will keep your content fresh.

Your social media pages will need the most upkeep. Consumers are heavily influenced by what they see on social media, with over half of them using social media to research new products. Take a moment to review your profiles and newsfeeds and look for ways to improve your brand image. A change of wording or a new profile picture is a small touch but can make all the difference. 

Go Paperless

As useful as it can be, paper is easily wasted and can slow down your operations significantly. How many times have you dug through stacks of paper looking for a particular document only to come up empty-handed (or, if you did find it, taking twice as long as you had expected to do so)? Fine-tune your operations by going paperless.

Converting your paper-based system to digital platforms is much easier than it might sound. Cloud storage will take care of those paper stacks cluttering your back office, and online document management software will make it even easier for customers to fill out and sign paperwork associated with their visits. Other software applications will help with project management, communication, and any other requirement your business needs to fulfill. 

Clean Up Working Space

What’s spring cleaning without some actual tidying of your business? Now’s the perfect time to deep clean your workspace before the warmer weather and looser COVID restrictions bring customers pouring in. They’ll appreciate the clean and tidy atmosphere just as much as you will.

Start by cleaning everything visible to the customer. Bathrooms should be spotless, reception desks immaculate, and waiting rooms prepped for royalty. A clean business makes a good first impression and sets the tone for a successful appointment. 

Renovations are more expensive, but they are also worth considering. Long-term customers will especially appreciate the improvements you make to your business, such as a state-of-the-art waiting room, increasing the odds that they’ll continue to be loyal to your brand.

Organize Your Bookkeeping

Your business handles hundreds, if not thousands, of transactions per week. Bookkeeping is the active processing, tracking, and recording of these transactions. Bookkeeping is how invoices are sent and received, employee pay is monitored, and financial reports are generated. 

With so much information to keep track of, bookkeeping can be a daunting process. If the task is getting beyond your staff’s capabilities, consider outsourcing it to an accounting service or implementing accounting software like QuickBooks or Sage. Clear all your outstanding balances and check for discrepancies in your accounts. The more accurate and efficient your bookkeeping is, the better your business’s financials will be. 

Evaluate Your Goals

Your goals could probably use some dusting off as well. Are you on track to meet your annual goals? Have you been keeping pace with weekly and monthly goals? If your goal-setting has been lacking these past few months, now’s your chance to pivot in the right direction.

If your annual goals seem too lofty after the first quarter of the year, reevaluate them to make them more feasible. Let’s say your original goal was to triple your customer base by the end of the year. If progress has seemed slow, consider changing that to double. 

Then, establish weekly and monthly goals that will help you reach your new target. You might set a goal of getting five customer referrals per week or increasing walk-in appointments by 25% per month. By creating weekly and monthly goals that break down your year-end goal, you can use them as stepping-stones to get there.

Many hands make light work, so get your team together and dive into your business’s spring cleaning. Once you’re finished, make a plan to stay on top of all the areas you just tackled. Next spring, it will be much less of a project to rejuvenate your business.

Appointment Deals Your Business Should Consider

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Appointment Deals Your Business Should Consider

Every business, even appointment-based businesses, runs a deal at some point to bring in new customers and to give back to their loyal following. Special events renew interest in your brand and can tip the scales in your favor when customers are on the fence. 

Appointment-based businesses will approach deals differently than other industries. While promotions will have to be implemented in different ways, they can still be just as effective at building your customer base and giving revenue a short-term boost. Here are some ideas you can use for your next appointment deal:

Online Booking Promotions

If you’re trying to move toward online appointment booking software, run a promotion that rewards the first customers to adopt it. Even if you explain all the benefits of online appointment booking, you’ll have some customers who don’t like change and will be hesitant to make the switch. Offer them extra reward points, discounts, and flexibility during the first weeks of implementing the new software, and they’ll be more willing to jump on board. 

The real benefits will be enjoyed by your business. Online appointment booking is faster and more reliable than traditional booking. You can easily keep track of appointments, quickly make adjustments, and conveniently access customer information. Your customers can book appointments whenever they please and can even prepay online. 

Loyalty Punch Card

When extending deals to your customers, your primary goal should be to incentivize them to return as often as possible. While new faces are great, it costs five times as much to acquire customers as it does to keep them around. For that reason, many businesses across a variety of industries provide loyalty punch cards to their current fans.

The concept of a punch card is simple. Each time a customer leaves an appointment, they get a punch or a mark on their card indicating they’ve completed a visit. After a certain number of appointments — 10 is typically the magic number — they qualify for a reward. This could be a free appointment or any other incentive that would get customers to pursue the end goal. After their punch card is used up, they can start a new cycle.

First-Time Bonus

Just because getting new customers is more expensive than retaining existing ones doesn’t mean you should stop trying. A healthy business continues to gain new customers as others fade away and need to be replaced. To incentivize new customers to commit to their first appointment, offer them a small bonus.

A first-time appointment bonus should be big enough that it lures in new customers, but not so large that it devalues future appointments they would potentially book. A $10 cut in price or a free additional service will work just fine. A free service — an eyebrow wax with a haircut, say — will also give new customers a taste of what they can enjoy at future appointments. This will act as another incentive to get them to return. 

Bulk Discounts

Another technique to keep customers coming back again and again is to offer a discount for bookings made in bulk. Let’s say you run a chiropractic office, and a regular adjustment costs $60. Over the course of 10 appointments, the bill would run to $600. With a bulk discount, customers can pay for all 10 appointments up front, lowering their total cost by a set amount. A 10% bulk discount, for example, would result in a cost of only $540.

This program benefits your regular customers who were already prepared to pay the full fee for all their appointments. Additionally, it may sway some new customers in your direction as they weigh their options before committing to a business. The promise of a substantial discount on future services when compared to the competition will win over many.

You might be wondering whether this large of a discount will hack away at your revenue. After all, a 10% price reduction can add up over time, especially if multiple customers take advantage of it. What you need to consider is the fact that you’re filling up several appointments in advance. Appointments at a 10% discount still pay more than an empty appointment slot. 

Referral Bonus

Referrals are a powerful asset for your business. A Neilsen study found that more than 80% of U.S. consumers actively seek recommendations before making a purchase. They’ll ask friends and family or poll their social media following to get insight on the brands and businesses those individuals prefer before making a decision for themselves. 

With so many potential customers already looking for recommendations, your task is to get your current loyalists to bring those customers to you. A referral program will incentivize your fans to be more vocal about their decision to do business with you. They’ll talk with their friends and family and guide them to you, receiving a bonus for their efforts.

What should your customers receive for making referrals? For many, additional perks at their own appointments will be a welcome reward. Otherwise, gift cards, lottery tickets, and other prizes may do the trick. You can even hold a referral contest where the winner gets their next five appointments for free or dinner at the hot new restaurant in town. 

Offering the right deals to your customers will help your business grow and flourish — it will also make your customers happy. Don’t be afraid to cycle through these types of deals every once in a while to keep things fresh. New deals and promotions will continue to pique interest in your company year-round. 

The Best Amenities for Your Waiting Room

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The Best Amenities for Your Waiting Room

Think about your most recent experience in a waiting room. What — if anything — did you enjoy about the atmosphere? What bothered you? Now think about the customers that come to your business waiting room. What are they thinking as they wait for their appointments?

Time spent in the waiting room is inevitable for appointment-based businesses. While you can do your best to cut down on wait times, you should still provide the best waiting experience possible. You can improve your own lobby by offering these valued amenities to your guests:

Free Wi-Fi

Even during a short wait before an appointment, your customers want to stay connected. Whether they use it to scroll through social media, play a mobile game, or finish up some work emails, your clients will be grateful for the Wi-Fi connection you provide.

When offering Wi-Fi to your customers, keep cybersecurity in mind. You’re better off extending a private connection that requires guests to sign in before use rather than a public server. A private connection is more secure than the public alternative, reducing the risk for any users. You can set this up via a customer portal where only regular customers can connect. 

If you want to go the extra mile, include a workspace in your waiting room. This will be especially appreciated if your customer base largely consists of business professionals who could use the area to get some work down while waiting for their name to be called. Besides, everyone will be thankful for a place to charge their device while they wait. 

Space for Children

Many a parent will enter your business with a child in tow. Whether the appointment is for the child or the parent simply can’t leave them home alone, having a special place for children will keep them entertained as they wait. 

For children at a dentist or doctor’s office, a play area will help them relax and feel less anxious before their appointment. Parents will likewise be less stressed when their children are entertained and can get their wiggles out rather than struggle with boredom and confinement.

Keeping play areas clean is a top priority, especially while COVID-19 remains a concern. Opt for toys and games that can easily be cleaned, such as blocks and toy cars. Avoid anything that might be a choking hazard or could easily get lost. 

Comfortable Seating

Even a short wait will feel like an eternity when you’re stuck in an uncomfortable chair. The most basic aspect of your waiting room is the seating arrangement, so it makes sense that comfortable chairs should be a high priority.

The type of seating you have available will also impact the attractiveness of your waiting room. A couch will be comfortable, but it will probably only appeal to family members who want to sit together. Strangers will feel more inclined to keep some distance between themselves in individual chairs, especially during the ongoing pandemic. A variety of seating options will cater to every guest.

A massage chair may also be a welcome addition to your waiting room. Not only will it make wait times more bearable, some customers might even wish for a more extended wait so they can enjoy the massage for just a little longer!

Check-In Kiosks

The more efficient you can make your appointment process, the better. Online appointment software will help speed things along before the actual appointment. Once customers arrive, you can cut wait times with self check-in kiosks in the waiting room.

For busy appointment-based businesses especially, self check-in prevents lines from forming and helps customers get checked in faster. Once customers check themselves in, the front desk is alerted, and appointments can be set in motion. This operations system also makes it easier to work around late arrivals by enabling staff to adjust the queue to keep things moving fluidly. 

Refreshments

It’s hard to turn down a free cookie or bottle of water when the wait for an appointment makes you realize how empty your stomach is. Refreshments are welcomed by customers of all ages. They help hit the spot when being hungry or thirsty could otherwise make customers irritable before an appointment.

Many appointment-based businesses provide coffee to their customers. Think carefully before making this decision for your business. While a cup of coffee certainly helps a lot of folks in the morning, extra caffeine can work up already anxious customers. Considering your customers’ particular needs will help you decide whether caffeinated beverages are actually the best choice for your waiting room or not. 

Reading Material

A staple of waiting rooms for years is an array of magazines sitting on a coffee table in the center of the lobby. And for good reason — a 10-minute wait provides the perfect amount of time to catch up on celebrity gossip or digest an opinion piece. A range of magazines on different topics will appeal to the variety of customers you get every day. If you choose to continue the magazine tradition, make sure the issues you provide are up-to-date and in good condition.

A shelf of books is another way to provide reading material. Books of different genres and sizes can be just as entertaining, and they never become outdated. If a customer gets sucked into a particular novel, let them borrow it. Your bookshelf can turn into a small lending library that will encourage customers to book a return appointment.

Reading material can replace a wall-mounted TV or be a separate option for waiting guests. The problem with a TV is that the channel may be tuned to something customers aren’t interested in — or may even object to. Plus, reading is a much more fruitful and relaxing activity to participate in.

Adding some of these amenities to your waiting room will keep customers happy even if their appointment needs to be pushed back. Between keeping public areas tidy and providing these comforts and conveniences, you’ll be sure to have a winning waiting room.

Not an April Fool’s Joke: These Are Real Appointment Statistics You Need to Know

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Not an April Fool’s Joke: These Are Real Appointment Statistics You Need to Know

The numbers don’t lie: online appointment software will do wonders for your business. In this article, we’ll outline some of the most attention-grabbing statistics about the use of online appointment software by businesses. 

As you’ll soon find out, online appointment software can boost customer retention, save your business money, and more. There’s really no reason to not use online booking for your appointment-based business. One of these statistics is bound to convince you of the need to get started.

Businesses With Online Booking Are Winning

Online booking is rapidly becoming a necessity. In an Accenture survey of healthcare consumers, 68% of respondents said they prefer a provider that allows appointments to be made, changed, and canceled online. That means if your business doesn’t utilize online appointment software, you’re probably losing customers to the competition. 

That number will only climb as online appointment software becomes the norm for businesses. So what are you waiting for? Being among the early implementers of online booking will build a loyal customer base before the competition knows what hit them. You’ll also have more time to perfect your online booking system so that, by the time the technology is omnipresent, you can rely on your smooth experience as a competitive advantage.

Nearly Half of Appointments Are Booked After Hours

If customers can only book appointments during business hours, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities. A social media survey of salon owners showed that 46% of their appointments were booked before salons were open or after they closed for the day. That’s nearly half of the customers these businesses have on their schedules!

If you’re looking to fill all your appointment slots, online booking software is the solution you need. Customers may not be thinking about the appointment they want or need to make during operating hours. Allowing them to book at their convenience opens the door for so many more individuals. 

No-Show Rates Freefall With Online Booking

Due to its many benefits and features, online appointment software is proven to slash your no-show rates immediately after implementation. Research on several medical centers and practices saw no-show rates drop by as much as 42% after adding web-based booking portals to their websites. No-shows are costly and inefficient, and getting rid of them is a high priority for all appointment-based businesses.

For many customers, the convenience of being able to book appointments online and change them as needed encourages them to hold true to their commitments. Many other customers make appointments in person or over the phone because they feel pressured to do so. That pressure is eliminated when customers can make appointments on their own terms at any time or in any place. 

Most Customers Book on Mobile Devices

Market research has found that 82% of clients schedule appointments on their mobile devices as opposed to other platforms. As beautiful as your website might look on a desktop, you need to optimize your online booking experience for mobile users. 

To improve your mobile experience, start with the customer journey. Booking an appointment on a mobile device should be easy; otherwise, customers will get discouraged and log off. Make selections easy to find and the booking process as straightforward as possible. Loading times for your website also need to be adequate to avoid high bounce rates resulting from impatient customers. 

Millennials Are the Customer Segment Most Likely to Book Online

Of all the nation’s demographics, Millennials are responsible for a quarter of appointments booked online. This isn’t surprising, given this generation’s combination of tech savviness and needs that can be filled by appointments. The quick acceptance of online booking software by the Millennial generation suggests the trend will likely be popular with younger customers, too. Expect Gen Zers to slide in right beside Millennials as they begin booking their own appointments. 

Even if Millennials aren’t your primary age segment, they’re a great place to start when implementing online appointment software initially. You’ll be able to work out the kinks of a new system with an eager subset of your customer base. As Millennials continue to book appointments online, other customers will join in until you’re able to make online scheduling your only — or at least foremost — method of booking. 

Companies That Use Data Get a Leg Up

One of the greatest benefits of online appointment software is the ability to automatically gather data for your business. Data is one of your greatest assets while doing business in the 21st century. It eliminates the guesswork that often forms a part of your everyday decision-making.

A study done by the McKinsey Global Institute found that businesses that leverage data are 23 times more successful at acquiring new customers. Customer acquisition is one of the most important, and daunting, aspects of running a business. Data gives you a clearer picture of customer demographics, successful marketing strategies, and popular appointment times. Without data, you’ll be taking shots in the dark. 

Ready to heed the math? There’s no doubt that online appointment software will benefit your business in more ways than one. Identify your goals and put online booking software to work. Before you know it, you’ll have exceeded your expectations and then some.

Why You Still Need an Online Calendar Even When You Use a Physical One

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Why You Still Need an Online Calendar Even When You Use a Physical One

If you already rely on a physical calendar, you might not see the need to add an online calendar to your arsenal. Your current time management system might seem to work just fine, but you’re missing out on a lot of potential by shirking additional technology.

Using a paper and digital Calendar, map, or any other hard copy is entirely up to you and beneficial in many cases. If you still need some convincing, check out the ways your daily life will benefit from implementing an online calendar to your existing system:

Online Calendars are Portable

As great as a physical calendar might be at home or in your office, you can’t expect to carry it with you everywhere. Even pocket calendars and portable planners can be burdensome at times. Worst of all, a physical calendar can be easily left behind, leaving you in the dark.

You can access your online calendar on any electronic device. All you need is a cell phone and a connection to the internet and you’ll have your calendar easily accessible. You can even adjust the settings in your Calendar to be able to view it offline.

Sharing is Caring

A lot of the events on your calendar will involve others. You’ll need to coordinate with coworkers and family members regularly, which is more difficult to do when trying to sync paper calendars. Sharing an online calendar keeps everyone on the same page with real-time updates and notifications.

You don’t have to share every detail of your online calendar with others. Choose to share individual events, or create a separate calendar that keeps your private events hidden. You can also decide if those you share with can edit events or simply view them, depending on what you’re trying to organize.

Last-Minute Changes Happen

Life is full of unexpected events. Making last-minute changes on paper calendars is messy, and sometimes impossible if you don’t have it on your person. It’s much easier to go with the flow and adjust to unforeseen circumstances when you also have an online calendar handy.

Let’s say you have a meeting with a client scheduled for 3 P.M. You come into the office and see an email in your inbox asking if the meeting can be bumped up to 2 P.M. With your online Calendar, you can adjust right then and there.

If you have your paper calendar handy, this is also possible, but lacks a certain detail. Your online calendar can also send you reminders of upcoming events. A digital reminder that your meeting was moved from 3:00 PM to 2:00 PM will help you remember the change even on a busy day when your attention is divided.

Different Calendars Have Different Uses

Physical calendars get crowded really quickly. There’s only so much room to add events and details, and the more you add, the more difficult it is to read. A better strategy is to designate your paper Calendar for one use, and your online calendar for another.

Your paper calendar, which is likely hanging on the fridge, can be reserved for family events. Your online calendar will contain your work responsibilities, daily routines, and personal events. The ability to create multiple calendars online allows for even greater organization than keeping a stack of paper calendars lying about.

Physical Calendars Can Get Lost or Damaged

No matter how careful you are, there’s a chance your physical calendar can get lost or damaged. This is especially true if you have one in reach of kids who can grab, smudge, and rip the pages from your calendar. If your paper calendar is lost or damaged, there’s no way to get back the information you lost.

Online calendars store all their information online. Some online calendars even offer cloud storage options for maximum accessibility and protection. Even if your cell phone gets lost or damaged, your Calendar information can be accessed from a different device, retaining all the details you need.

Online Calendars Have More Features

Simply put, physical calendars just don’t have the bells and whistles you can find in online calendars. You can’t drag and drop events or change color-coding on demand. One of the best features of an online Calendar is tracking your time to the minute. Time analytics really unlocks your productivity levels on a day-to-day basis.

Physical calendars have their merits, especially for those who prefer to write things down and add some calligraphy flair. However, not everyone has a legible chicken scratch, so being able to type out your event details is a helpful bonus to your online Calendar.

For frequent fliers, an online Calendar is a necessity. Thanks to the power of the internet, your Calendar will automatically adjust to changing time zones. This ensures you don’t miss that important business meeting because your paper calendar is still on Eastern Standard Time.

Both Calendars Allow for Different Time Management Techniques

For those using a Calendar to try and optimize their time, an online Calendar blows paper ones out of the water. You can implement more complex time management techniques than you could with pen and paper alone, which allows you to make more use of your time. In addition to time analytics, you can also try:

  • Timeboxing: Separate your day into blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks and activities.
  • Pomodoro method: Work in stretches of 25 minutes with a five-minute break to encourage focus and prevent burnout.
  • Eisenhower Matrix: Prioritize your tasks to get the most important stuff done, set aside nonsense, and delegate when possible.

These techniques are much more difficult to pull off with just a paper Calendar, but might work well with both. For example, drawing out your Eisenhower Matrix might help you visualize it better so you can type it out into your online calendar with more precision.

There’s nothing wrong with preferring one type of calendar over the other. Just be aware that you might be selling yourself short by not giving them both a chance to thrive together.

How to Establish Lasting Customer Relationships With a Standout First Appointment

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How to Establish Lasting Customer Relationships With a Standout First Appointment

The first impression is often the most important. With so many choices these days, customers can afford to be picky and make quick decisions regarding the businesses they patronize. When you finally hook a customer for a first appointment, that’s the time to reel them all the way in.

You only get one shot at a customer’s first appointment, so make sure you do it right. Putting in the effort for those initial encounters will boost your retention rates and have your business booked up all year long.

Send a Friendly Reminder

Start off on the right foot by sending a new customer an appointment reminder. A good reminder sets the tone for an upcoming appointment. It lets the customer know that you’re ready to serve them and that you’re anticipating their arrival. You would hate for the person to show up late for that first appointment or not at all.

Express your appreciation to the customer for entrusting you with their business and your excitement about seeing them soon. Make sure the appointment date and time are clearly visible and that the reminder includes links to any information that may be required beforehand. 

Start on Time

Making a customer wait past their appointment start time will tarnish even the best appointment experience. New customers may fear that every appointment is going to start late, costing them valuable time. To avoid raising such concerns, do everything you can to make sure you start on time.

A huge factor in appointment timeliness is reducing the number of appointments that run long. Overtime appointments push back start times for customers with later booking slots, which isn’t fair to them. Try adding some buffer time in between your appointments or increasing your appointment duration if overtime appointments are a recurring problem for your business. 

Online appointment software can also help get appointments started on time, especially for first-timers. For many industries, the first appointment is the longest, as the business collects initial customer information and gets any needed documents signed. When customers are able to complete these tasks online, they can walk through the doors ready to get started. 

Serve With a Smile

The importance of customer service can never be understated for appointment-based businesses. A NICE inContact survey found that 80% of customers will switch businesses due to bad experiences with customer service. That’s why appointment-based businesses can ill afford getting off to a rocky start with new customers.

So provide customer service training to all of your employees, as there are numerous factors that go into a good appointment experience. Much of it has to do with soft skills; listening, communication, and patience are all vital for a good customer service rep. You can use online resources to boost customer service as well, such as a website chatbot and a user-friendly app to help new customers acclimate quickly. 

Be Generous

For the first appointment a customer books, go the extra mile to wow them. Make them feel comfortable and welcome, and give them a taste of everything your business has to offer. After one great experience, they’re bound to come back for more.

For example, a hair salon could provide a enhanced package for first-time customers, letting them try out additional services at no additional cost. They’ll leave feeling extra pampered and have something new to look forward to on a return appointment. It can be easier to justify an add-on when you got it for free on your first appointment. 

Personalize the Experience

According to Gladlys “2020 Customer Expectations Report,” 84% of consumers said a brand that offers them personalized customer service will earn more of their future spending. Personalization helps consumers connect with a brand and vice versa, rather than feeling like another customer statistic. Pulling a ticket number at the DMV is an example of how a lack of personalization leads to a feeling of drudgery and low satisfaction rates among visitors.

Giving your customers choices allows them to personalize their experience by themselves. Accommodating different payment options and providing a variety of services is a great place to start. Updating your customers’ profiles to reflect their choices will maintain that personalization through following appointments. 

Ask for Feedback 

At the end of that first appointment, ask each customer for feedback on their experience. What went well and what didn’t? Knowing what resonated with them and what fell flat will enable you to make changes and ensure a better return appointment. 

Businesses that take feedback to heart enjoy higher customer retention than their peers. Even a small adjustment shows customers that you have their needs and desires in mind, which builds confidence and trust between you and them. Furthermore, when you show you’re receptive to feedback, gratified customers will refer you to friends, growing your client pool.

(Mostly) Stick to Your Guns

Each business has rules and regulations to uphold. The best example for appointment-based businesses is a late arrival/cancellation policy. Inform new clients of your policy ahead of time to ensure the expectations are clear. But if a first-timer runs late because they had trouble finding your location (or a parking spot upon arrival), do try to be understanding. Coming down on them too hard could make their first visit to your business the last.

Remind them, however, that you will need to enforce the policy going forward. Not to do so would be unfair to your existing customers. If you continue to have problems, look for ways to make your company rules more visible and easier to access in order to avoid future confusion. 

Nailing that first appointment will build strong relationships with your customers from the start, encouraging them to return soon and often. Make sure to keep up your customer service efforts with every appointment after that to keep them coming back again and again. 

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