Category Archives: Appointment

How to Foster a “Connected Culture” Remotely

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While the COVID-19 may have resulted in more people working from home, the truth is, working from home was already having its moment. In fact, between 2005 – 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work. And, regardless of what happens when there’s hopefully a vaccine, the majority of people who have been working from home would like to continue doing so — even it’s just a couple of days per week.

And while there are flaws, those who work from home tend to be happier and more productive. However, if you want to take it up a notch, then you need to foster a “connected culture.” According to a survey from RingCentral, “58% of employees who said their companies are attempting to help them connect said they feel physically healthy.”

Furthermore, “75% of employees reporting high levels of emotional well-being said they feel more connected to their colleagues.” In short, if you and your team want to thrive in a remote world, then you need to make this a priority. And you can accomplish this feat by taking the following steps.

1. Culture is more than just ping-pong tables.

“The first thing to realize is that your culture has to be built around more than ping pong tables,” writes Wade Foster for Zapier. “Games and other group activities that lend themselves to being in person are simply not a possibility on a day-to-day basis for remote teams.” As such, “your culture has to be built around something more than playing table tennis to unite the team.”

Instead, Foster states that culture is about how you work. Specifically, it should be rewarding. And, most importantly, it should be built around your mission and values.

2. Promote clear, open, and frequent communication.

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” — Paul J. Meyer

Communication is, without question, the cornerstone of any healthy and productive community. In addition to making collaboration possible, this helps everyone get to know each other better. And, more imperative, this is how you share your company’s values and expectations.

What’s more, you need communication to give and receive feedback and address conflicts. And, it’s the only way that you’re going to keep everyone in the loop.

Tried and true solutions, like email, project management software, and conference calls are a start. But, you should also think outside the box. Some ideas would be:

  • Before your weekly Zoom team meeting, have everyone go around and recap their weekends.
  • At Buffer, team members share an aspect of their personal life they want to improve on Hackpad. You could also kick off each event by acknowledging a team member’s work or give them a birthday shoutout.
  • Host a weekly AMA (ask me anything) — make sure it’s the same time and day.
  • Plan a virtual lunch or after-hour events, such as a movie or game night.
  • Encourage virtual water coolers using tools Donut.
  • Have different Slack channels, like #Pets or #Music, so that your team can connect over common interests.
  • Create virtual clubs, like a book or film, for your peeps to bond over.
  • Schedule one-on-ones to check-in with your people.

And, to recreate an open-door policy, set your status to available on platforms like Slack or Hangouts. If others see that you’re online, then that’s when they can ask you quick questions or share a concern. If this will be a long time commitment, then share your calendar with them, so schedule a one-on-one.

3. Save teams from information overload and burnout.

Information overload, as described by Calendar co-founder John Hall, “is exposure to excessive amounts of information or data.” While not exactly a new phenomenon, we use media for an average of 12 hours and 9 minutes per day. Moreover, since we’re working from home, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to unplug.

As if that’s not enough, we’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information being consumed. As a consequence, this is making us more stressed. It’s also negatively impacting our relationships and productivity.

While communication is critical, you also don’t want to over-communicate with your team. For instance, to avoid Zoom fatigue, you could replace video meetings with email, Slack, or whatever text method you prefer. Since this requires some extra effort, you’re more likely only to share relevant and essential information.

You could also follow in the footsteps of Help Scout. The company switched their weekly all-hands call with a video recap that’s sent every Monday.

“I love the Monday video updates,” states Nick Francis, Help Scout CEO. “They’re a great way to keep our remote team connected, celebrate accomplishments and update everyone on company news. The weekly team update has turned into something we all look forward to and talk about over the course of the week.”

4. Create psychological safety.

“A culture of psychological safety enables employees to be engaged,” writes Jake Herway for Gallup. “They can take risks and experiment. They can express themselves without the fear of failure or retribution.”

“Juxtapose this type of culture with one where employees feel too intimidated to speak up or share a new idea,” adds Herway. “It’s hard to imagine these employees can mentally allow themselves to be engaged at work.”

How can you cultivate psychological safety among remote teams? Start with the following techniques:

  • Share your mistakes, struggles, and weaknesses with your team.
  • Encourage feedback and ask for suggestions.
  • Invite them to challenge your ideas.
  • Rather than pointing fingers, use mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • Find ways for quieter members to contribute. For example, if they’re not comfortable speaking in front of others, they can share their ideas with you through email or one-on-one.
  • Let all team members be involved in the decision-making process.
  • Grant autonomy by letting them work when and however is best for them.

5. Overcome a challenge together.

While this may seem impossible when apart, you and your team can still bond over a challenge remotely. At Calendar, we’ve set up health and fitness challenges over Slack. Groove HQ has also done this with a 30-day push-up challenge.

“It may sound a bit odd, but right away, it felt energizing,” noted CEO Alex Turnbull. “Like we had just developed a deeper relationship across the team in a matter of hours.” In fact, over the next month, “tackling a shared goal has helped us connect on a deeper level than we do in our regular day-to-day work.”

The challenge was also “another touchpoint for our team to communicate with each other on,” says Turnbull. And, it helped counter the dark side of working alone.

“Even those of us who prefer to work ‘alone’ can struggle with that isolation every now and then,” he writes. “That’s why it’s so important to take breaks, play, have a social life, or do whatever it is that keeps you sane.”

6. Create a mentorship program.

One study found that mentors were more satisfied with their jobs and committed to the organization. Additionally, mentoring programs can develop new leaders, increase diversity, and retain your top talent. Also, they create a learning culture, promote personal and professional development, and reduce stress and anxiety.

Best of all? You can use your existing communication methods. For example, you could pair a new sales team member with a seasoned vet. From there, they could have weekly video meetups or quick chats with instant messaging apps or MentorcliQ.

7. Listen to Bill and Ted.

Finally, as William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. famously said, “Be excellent to each other!” How you decide to be kind and show gratitude is totally up to you. It could be something as simple as letting a colleague vent or offering to help them solve a problem.

You could also randomly send them a handwritten note or text thanking them for all of their hard work. If you have the budget for it, you could also send them snack boxes or goodies for their families, like books or dog toys.

And, if your entire team knocked it out of the park this past month, throw a pizza party. Just pick a time and then order some pies from their local pizzerias. Once you arrived, you could hop on Zoom for your virtual celebration.

What to Do When People Show Up Late to Their Appointment

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Try as you might to get customers to arrive on time to their appointments, you’ll always end up with a few stragglers. How you handle these inconveniences says a lot about your culture and customer service. 

Do you let people show up late repeatedly? Do you tear into them for it? Neither are the right approach. Here’s how to handle delays effectively but tactfully:

Ask About the Cause

Confront late customers about what caused them to be late. Was there more traffic than anticipated? Did they simply forget? 

Questions are a soft way to get your message across. Plus, they help you discover trends that cause customers to be late. That way, you can address them across your customer base. 

For example, if you have several customers forget their appointment times in a given month, start sending out more or improved reminder messages. If customers are late because they can’t find your business, add clearer directions to your website and check your location on Google.

Take Care of Timely Customers

Interspersed with your late arrivals will be customers who show up on time. Reward those who adhere to the schedule by serving them promptly. Otherwise, they may feel punished for another customer’s tardiness — and think the tardy customer has been rewarded for their lateness.

Don’t be afraid to swap appointment times. This benefits the customer who showed up on time while still giving the late customer a spot in line. That way, you’re not missing out on revenue or letting bad behavior go uncorrected. 

Give a Fair Warning

No business can afford to deal with chronic tardiness. When you have a customer arrive late, give them an honest warning. This will inform them that repeated tardiness won’t be tolerated. 

Before you do this, make sure you have a late policy in place. An existing policy will hold weight; an in-the-moment approach won’t. Go through the details of your policy together so there’s no question as to whether a late customer understands it. 

The bottom line is, you can’t enforce a rule that doesn’t exist. Establish a policy that’s firm enough to be convincing, but not so strict that it scares customers away.

Issue a Penalty

For late customers to take your policy seriously, it needs to be tied to consequences. You could charge late fees, but a better approach might be to force late arrivals to reschedule. That way, they don’t disrupt your schedule and can’t refuse to pay the price. 

Be firm but fair when issuing a penalty. People who are only late once every couple of months deserve some leniency, but customers who inconvenience your business every time do not.

Remember that you also have a right to refuse service to problem customers. If it’s costing you money to maintain a relationship with a customer who is always late, it may be time to cut ties with them.

Keep Things Moving

A rule of thumb for appointment-based businesses is that customers will respect your time if you respect theirs. If your wait times are long and showing up on time for an appointment does no good, you can’t expect customers to adhere to a strict schedule.

Even when customers show up late, do your best to keep things moving. Show customers that you value their time by being prompt and apologizing for any delays. Look for ways to reduce wait times and improve efficiency so you can hold customers to a higher standard.

Help Them Find a Time That Works

If a customer can’t seem to make a certain time slot work, offer ones that might. They may, in fact, suggest this themselves.

Rescheduling on site ensures that a return appointment is made. Not only does doing so net you recurring revenue, but it’s good customer service. Walking them through available times and inputting information yourself comes across like a favor. 

Cut Appointments Short

If a customer is five minutes late, consider ending their appointment five minutes early. Not only is it fair, but it keeps late arrivals from pushing back other appointments. 

Let’s say you’re a dentist and a patient arrives a half hour late. You have a full waiting room but still want to take care of your customer. You might do a quick clean and then book them another checkup sooner than you otherwise would. 

Send Them Off With a Reminder

Not every late customer is at fault. Neither you nor they can control traffic patterns or stop family emergencies. But you can send customers off with a reminder to leave home a little earlier for their next appointment. 

If your late policy uses a “strikes” system, do this in writing. That way, you can enforce a consequence next time without worrying about the customer claiming they were never warned. 

The reality is, you’ll never completely eliminate late arrivals. But don’t let “good” be the enemy of “perfect.” Help your customers be on time, and many of them will discover that being late doesn’t benefit anyone. 

Why You Should Always Verify Appointments (And 5 Ways to Do So)

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Why You Should Always Verify Appointments (And 5 Ways to Do So)

Getting customers to book appointments is one thing. Getting them to keep those appointments is another. In the never ending tug-of-war to get customers through your doors, take the time to verify each and every appointment.

Verifying appointments ensures they run more successfully. Customers are more likely to adhere to their appointment times, and you can keep operations running smoothly day after day.

Sounds great, right? Let’s dig in.

Why Verifying Appointments is Important

Verifying appointments has a number of external and internal benefits. This simple action can:

Reduce Cancellations

Cancellations do nothing but waste time. When you plan your schedule around appointments, you don’t have flexibility for anything else. The trade off is that you get guaranteed customers — until they decide to cancel.

Verifying appointments urges customers to honor their commitments. The more who actually do so, the more consistent your company’s revenue, and the better you can stick to your schedule.

Encourage Timeliness

People are forgetful. Customers can lose track of time or forget they’d booked in the first place, resulting in late arrivals. These push back other appointments, which stresses out employees and can frustrate other customers. 

By sending out verification messages, customers will be reminded of their commitments and be more inclined to arrive when they should. Timely appointments allow operations to run flawlessly.

Improves Brand Image

Show each customer that they mean something to your business. By reaching out to them in between the time they set the appointment and the time they arrive, you show how much you appreciate them. 

Be careful not to be too clingy. Too much contact can be off putting. Consistent contact at the right frequency, however, can be reassuring and motivating for customers, especially those on the fence about their appointments.

Solidifies Your Schedule

A well-organized day is a productive day. By verifying customer appointments, you make it easier to stick to your plan each day. When customers don’t show up, your mental bandwidth is spent trying to put together a new plan. 

By sending verification reminders, you’ll also receive cancellations and postponed appointments. While these are never good news, be glad you’re learning about them sooner rather than later. The fewer last-minute surprises you can avoid, the better.

Easy Ways to Verify Appointments

Appointments can be verified in multiple ways. Choose the one that works best for your business. Reach out through more than one channel only if you’re not getting a response.

1. Email

Send a confirmation email with the customer’s appointment information. Make sure to include the appointment date and time in large, bold lettering that’s easy to see. Below, include your cancellation policy, contact information, and anything else that might be useful.

With this route, you can also send promotions and coupons that can convince customers to book return appointments. Be judicious, as too many messages in their inbox will earn you a one-way ticket to the spam folder.

2. Text Message

Sending a text restricts the amount of information you can send, but it’s a more direct form of communication. In fact, customers are 35 times more likely to view a text from a company than an email. 

Be sure to get a phone number from customers when they book online. Give them control over whether they receive verification texts. Some cell phone plans charge by the message, so don’t assume everyone wants to receive them. 

3. Phone Call

Verifying appointments over the phone requires the most effort from employees. Assuming customers do answer the phone instead of letting it go to voicemail, employees need to be ready for any questions or concerns that may arise.

Despite your urging to the contrary, some customers will hold off on said questions until the last minute. You might have to recite your cancellation policy on command, or change around appointment dates for customers who failed to plan ahead.

While less efficient than other means, phone calls do offer a great opportunity to reschedule appointments that customers can’t make. Give your team members a customer service refresher if you’re going to issue appointment reminders through this channel. 

4. Social Media 

You might have customers who prefer to contact you on social media. If so, sending them verification messages through the same channel makes sense. 

Beware that other customers may consider business outreach on these platforms inappropriate. Unless customers have previously reached out to you on these sites, sending appointment reminders through them should be a last resort.

5. Snail Mail

The slowest and most expensive delivery option, good old fashioned mail can work in some instances. For example, if your business caters to an older demographic, they may prefer to receive their reminders in the mail.

With that said, sending promotions and coupons through the mail isn’t a bad idea. Customers tend to take them more seriously than marketing emails. Consider starting a referral program in which a customer can get a discount for bringing in a coupon and a friend. 

Keep in mind that you can stagger your verification messages, in case the first one doesn’t get a response. Two weeks in advance you can send out an email, and then one week later send a reminder text. The day of, make a quick phone call or send a message through social media if you still haven’t received confirmation from the customer. 

Get to Verifying

The sooner you start verifying your appointments, the better for your business. You’ll realize more consistent revenue, and your customers will appreciate having a slot saved for them. Start locking in your appointments today. 

9 Courtesies Every Customer Will Appreciate

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

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

1. Keep Appointments On Time

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

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

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

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

2. Remember Names and Personal Details

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

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

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

3. Engage With Every Customer

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

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

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

4. Be Casual but Professional

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

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

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

5. Send Reminders

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

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

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

6. Keep a Clean Space

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

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

7. Focus on the Job

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

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

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

8. Ask for Feedback

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

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

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

9. Be Transparent

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

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

What to Do On Days You Don’t Have Many Appointments

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appointment guide

The truth is, most companies can’t fill their schedules with paying customers from the beginning to the end of every day. How your business uses those lulls matters just as much as how it conducts its customer appointments.

So what should you do on days when you don’t have many appointments? Here are some ideas for making each day productive regardless of appointment volume:

1. Do a Deep Clean

With so many customers coming and going on a regular day, office cleaning can be tough to keep up with. But at a certain point, customers will start to notice the dirt and grime piling up. And especially right now, nobody wants to do business in a dirty space.

For the slow days, put together a list of tasks the team can do to tidy up. Stylists can wipe off their counters and give the floors a good sweep. Doctor’s offices can organize and shred paperwork. These jobs need to be done eventually, and you definitely don’t want to stay late to tackle them.

2. Declutter Your System

The online aspect of your business needs a deep clean just as much as the physical one. Take a minute to log into your scheduling system and web interface. You might  realize that part of your company website is down, resulting in the lack of appointments that day.

This is a worst case scenario, but the greater point stands: Any digital barriers to bookings must be eliminated. That includes email accounts, where customers’ messages can get lost, as well as SMS-based appointment systems.

3. Tune Up Your Marketing Campaign

When your booking slots are looking a little lonely, take a minute to review the marketing campaigns you’re running. To start reeling in customers again, they may need some changes. As time goes by, campaigns can get stale due to repetition. Mixing things up is in your best interests.

Think about what will fill up those appointment times again. Maybe it’s time for you to announce a new special, in which first-time customers get a 10% discount if they book online. Perhaps you need to put your focus somewhere else, like targeting a new demographic or platform.

4. Balance Your Checkbook

Your company’s finances need to be reviewed regularly. At least once a quarter, check your budget allocations. Go through your receipts to ensure that expenses are recorded properly. Check that your revenue streams are still flowing freely. 

While how you manage your money is ultimately your call, employees can help with many related tasks. They can take a deposit to the bank, count the till, or work on next quarter’s forecast. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

5. Make Some Cold Calls

If you’re really dry on business, try to secure walk-ins by making some cold calls. Cold calling may not be fun or terribly effective, but it can help you break even when the customers are in short supply. 

Say you’re a mechanic. You might call customers whose vehicles are due for a tune up and inform them about openings that day. Even if you can’t fill up today’s schedule, you can probably beef up your upcoming appointment list. 

6. Plan For Tomorrow

How can you make tomorrow better than today? How you answer that question will be unique to your business, but there’s a lot you can do to promote future appointments.

Take the time to straighten out your company’s online calendar. Look for events that have been cancelled, which you can remove to free up more slots for customer appointments. Or, you could do some long-term planning to help your associates learn a new service line. 

7. Hold a Meeting

When was the last time you got everyone together to talk about whole-company issues? If you see a slow day coming up, it might be the perfect day to hold a company meeting

If so, tell employees to hold that time on their calendars while you develop an agenda. Ask them about discussion items they would like to cover.

Company meetings help align your team around its goals. They also give your employees a chance to bring up any concerns they might have about the workplace.

Just be careful not to hold all-staff meetings too often. Not only can they become unproductive, but they may give your team meeting burnout. 

8. Close Early

If it’s been a slow day since you opened, why not close up shop early? Not only does this give employees a welcome break, but it curbs overhead costs like labor and electricity use.

You could also split the difference and use a slow day for paid volunteering. Although this means your team is still on the clock, it gives your company a good name in the community. Over time, positive word of mouth can bring in a lot of business. 

When all else fails, get creative with how you spend days when you don’t have many appointments. Get to know your employees or coworkers better, set goals for next week, or catch up on some company reading. The only wrong choice is to twiddle your thumbs. 

Why Some Customers Are Hesitant to Book Appointments

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

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

1. Their schedules are unpredictable.

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

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

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

2. Your scheduling system is confusing.

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

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

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

3. They’re wary of your cancellation policy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. They don’t see the need.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. They have safety concerns.

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

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

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

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

Is WFH Making You Miserable?

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7 Easy Ways to Avoid Burnout at Home

For years those who were fortunate enough to work remotely praised its benefits from the rooftops. In fact, numerous research backed-up these claims. For example, Owl Labs found in its 2019 State of Remote Work Reportthe following:

  • 83% of survey respondents agree that the ability to work remotely would make them happier.
  • 82% of respondents agree with the statement that working remotely would make them feel more trusted at work.
  • 81% of respondents agree that working remotely would make them better able to manage work-life conflict.
  • 81% of survey respondents agreed that working remotely would make them more likely to recommend their company to a friend.
  • 80% of all survey respondents agreed that the ability to work remotely would make them less stressed.
  • 80% of respondents agree that working remotely would make them feel like their employer cares.
  • 74% of survey respondents agree that working remotely would make them less likely to leave their employer.

In short, remorse workers are happier, productive, and loyal. Reasons include autonomy, flexibility, and fewer workplace distractions. In turn, this is beneficial for their careers and well-being, as well as the bottom line.

Then the global pandemic yet. Suddenly people who had always dreamed of working from home who thrust into this new way of life. Some thrived, others didn’t.

You can’t fault them. A lot of folks just aren’t cut out for the WFH-life. Furthermore, there’s a dark side that’s making people downright miserable.

Why working from home is making people miserable?

“Working from home entails some degree of isolation,” explains business consultant Larry Alton. “If you live by yourself, you may go an entire day without seeing or talking to anybody.” But, even if this isn’t so, “you might customarily shut yourself away in a separate office.”

Why’s this such a big deal? Various research shows that social contact is paramount when it comes to our mental and physical health. Interacting with others can also calm and soothe us.

“Across multiple studies, controlling for factors like income, geographic regions, and even genetics, the single most important ingredient for long-term happiness appears to be how and how often we connect with other people,” adds Alton. “Loneliness, especially on a chronic basis, can subject you to depression, frustration, and career burnout.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s tempting to fall into unhealthy habits. For instance, during your routine, you might tell yourself that you’re only going to catch-up with the local news. Next thing you know, you’re playing along with The Price Is Right.

It may also be easier to sleep-in, make frequent trips to the fridge, and get less physical activity. If you have children, it’s a struggle trying to homeschool them while trying to get your work done. It’s more challenging to leave work at work — I mean, you are essentially living at work.

When you’re working by yourself, there isn’t an opportunity to take advantage of Equity Theory. According to Alton, “This is a sociological phenomenon in which individuals gauge their own performance and sense of belonging against the habits and actions of others. When there are no coworkers around to help you measure your own performance, you might develop a constant, nagging feeling that something is not right.”

The good news? If working remotely has gotten you down, there are ways to turn that frown upside down. And you can start by trying out the following.

Overcome detachment.

In a pre-COVID world, this really wasn’t much of a problem. You could set-up a shop at your favorite cafe. You could join a shared workspace or actually go into work a couple of days per week.

Outside of work, you could socialize with friends or family. I’ve even taken breaks from work to chat with my neighbor. And you could attend local networking events.

While you might be able to do some of the above, it’s definitely more difficult living in a pandemic. If you’re uncomfortable being around others or can’t safely practice social distancing, you can still connect with others.

Obviously, the most popular way is via video calls using a platform like Zoom. Whether it’s meeting with your team or catching up with a friend, this has been a lifesaver. Just be cautious not to overdo it so that you miss a case of Zoom-fatigue.

Also, there’s nothing wrong with just picking up the phone and making a call. If you feel isolated, give your best friend or mentor a ring.

Set rituals, routines, and boundaries.

When you went to the office daily, you had a routine. That structure made it easier to schedule your time. More importantly, it helped you establish boundaries between work and home.

Does this mean you have to follow the exact same routine? Not exactly. The beauty of working from home is that you can set your schedule to fit your productivity peaks and personal obligations.

For example, if you’re a morning bird, you could wake-up before everyone else in your house. While it’s quiet and you have the energy, you can work on your most important task for the day. During your breaks, you could spend time with your family and get some exercise in.

Regardless of how you schedule your day, be consistent. And find ways to transition between your personal and professional lives. It could be something as simple as turning off your computer to changing your clothes.

Create a home “office” space.

I know it’s tempting to work from the comfort of your bed or couch. But, remember, you need separation between where you get things done and chillax. As such, you need a dedicated space that you associate with work.

Ideally, it should be somewhere quiet. A spare bedroom, basement, garage, or even closet would suffice. Additionally, it should also have the right tools and equipment — think desk, high-speed internet, and whatever else you need to work.

But, those are just the basics. Brighten your workspace with natural light, plants, and colors that match your work. For instance, if your job requires a ton of focus, surround yourself with the color blue.

And, go ahead and personalize your workspace by throwing in personal items like photos or memento from a past trip. Most importantly, keep this area clean and organized.

Use your breaks to get a dose of joy.

It’s no secret that frequent breaks throughout the day can boost productivity. The key is to use these breaks to rest and recharge and do something fun.

For me, that’s taking my dog for a walk after lunch — san phone. It’s been found multiple times that spending time outside can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. But, you could try anything that makes you happy, such as phoning a friend, drawing, or dancing.

Take advantage of working from home.

While there are disadvantages of remote work, look on the bright side. You don’t have to put up with a daily commute. As a result, you’re saving more time and money — which can be spent on something more fulfilling.

Also, you might be able to have your dog be by your side all day. Or, you get to spend more quality time with your kids. And, unless you have a video meeting, every day is casual Friday.

Accept your negative feelings.

Finally, embrace any negative feelings that you’re experiencing. It’s a proven way to help you work them. Besides, constantly seeking happiness can backfire.

“Any time you’re setting a standard for your mood when you don’t meet that standard, it’s painful,” said Brett Ford, a psychologist who studies emotions at the University of Toronto. “You’re basically adding pain on top of a lack of happiness.”

“We can’t be happy all the time, but we can be OK with whatever emotions we are having,” says Dr. Judson Brewer, a psychiatrist who studies behavioral change. “And in that sense, there’s a level of contentment that comes with that.”

“I’m content that I’m happy,” says Brewer. “I’m content that I’m not happy. Whatever emotion is here is here.”

How to Handle Appointments Safely During COVID-19

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

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

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

Keep Guidelines Posted

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

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

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

Require Face Coverings

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

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

Rethink Your Waiting Room

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

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

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

Space Out Appointments

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

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

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

Order Some Plexiglass

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

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

Apply Social Distancing Stickers

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

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

Ease Your No-Show Policy

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

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

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

Automate as Much as Possible

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

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

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

10 Simple Ways to Make Appointments Memorable

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Offices across the country are slowly opening up again, and clients are making appointments that the Covid-19 pandemic had long delayed. Getting your customers to book return appointments will be easy if you make their visits memorable for the right reasons.

The better the customer experience, the more likely they are to become regulars. How you take care of your customers is just as important as the service you offer.

There are a number of different ways you can make each appointment unforgettable. Doing so will improve customer retention, garner positive reviews, and increase your company’s revenue. Time to get started!

1. Make Appointment Booking Easy

If booking an appointment with you is unnecessarily difficult, your customers will definitely remember it—and not in a good way. Endless back-and-forths or unanswered phone calls will turn into a consumer horror story that your patrons will share with their friends.

Make your appointment-booking process as simple and painless as possible. When you do, the thing your customers will remember is its user-friendly nature. Customers will tell their friends how getting in to see you was a breeze, instead of warning others to stay away.

2. Greet Customers at the Door

Start off each appointment on the right foot. Expressing appreciation for each customer as soon as they cross the threshold of your business lets them know how important they are. If, on the other hand, you ignore them or treat them curtly, that rocky start will be difficult to recover from.

Even if you’re busy with something or someone else, make sure that you or an associate acknowledges every guest who walks through the door. Let them know you’ll take care of them as soon as possible. 

3. Deliver on Promises

You’re doubtless using some sort of marketing to reel in customers. Now you need to make sure you back up all your claims come appointment time. Are you boasting the best haircut in town or the fastest service in the area? Prove it.

A memorable appointment must include delivering on these promises. Customers who come in hoping these claims are true will be pleased to see that they are—and they’ll remember that satisfaction when they book their next appointment. 

4. Give Little Gifts

You can thank customers who make appointments by giving them a gift. You might recall the excitement you experienced as a kid when you received a lollipop at the doctor’s office. That small present turned an otherwise dreaded appointment into a joyful experience.

If a candy isn’t your style, you can offer discount coupons or referral cards to customers. This will encourage them to return and bring a friend. While the individual proceeds of each appointment will be reduced, the increased business will make it worth the effort. 

5. Make Your Waiting Room an Inviting Place to Be

Reducing wait times is important for all businesses that rely on appointments, especially during the pandemic. However, there will always be variables out of your control that will cause waiting times to increase now and then. 

How you handle long wait times says a lot about your business. Make your waiting room experience the best it can possibly be. Consider providing reading material, a television, a frequently sanitized place for kids to play, or individually packaged snacks (at least until your coffee bar can make a return). Customers will remember and be grateful to businesses that make them feel comfortable during inconvenient situations.

6. Look for Ways to Educate

Customers make appointments in order to receive services. While you most certainly will deliver, you can make appointments memorable by adding a teaching element on top of that.  

For example, let’s say you run a chiropractic office. Instead of just aligning your patient’s back, you can explain your methods and the benefits they provide. Customers will leave feeling better physically while being soothed by their increased understanding. 

7. Focus on Convenience

The less your customer has to do at the time of their appointment, the better. Streamlining their appointment experience and doing any necessary work for them allows them to sit back and relax instead of stressing about details. 

Look for ways to make appointments convenient for customers. You might allow them to complete any necessary paperwork online or let them check in through an app to reduce wait times. An easy appointment is a memorable one.

8. Get to Know Each Guest

Developing relationships helps businesses retain customers, but it also makes appointments memorable. When customers can feel a bond growing between them and their service providers, the experience will stay with them longer.

Think of ways you can develop relationships with customers while they’re within the walls of your business. Focus on communicating well and getting to know their backstory. These efforts to reach out will make a long-term impact from day one. 

9. Ask for Feedback

In your efforts to improve your business experience, ask your customers for feedback after their appointments. This will prompt them to focus on the details of their appointment, helping them remember it more fully. 

Feedback helps you fine-tune your business approach so you can make appointments more memorable for returning and prospective customers. Proactive improvement will enable you to provide the best services and edge out the competition. 

10. Go the Extra Mile

Ultimately, you should strive to go above and beyond with everything you do. Customers will note the attention to detail, and the extra effort you put into your business will resonate with them.

Be careful, however, not to overdo things. Attention that borders on officiousness can be off-putting, creating a negative experience for customers despite your best intentions. Strike a comfortable balance. 

Making your customers’ appointments worthwhile will increase your client base and draw new patrons to you with ease. With these 10 tips, you can make your appointment experience memorable—in a good way.

9 Ideas for Reducing Overtime Appointments

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What to Do if Appointments Keep Running Long

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

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

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

1. Add Buffer Time Between Appointments

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

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

2. Increase Appointment Durations

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

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

3. Try a New Scheduling Method

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

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

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

4. Cross-Train Employees

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

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

5. Improve Workflows

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

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

6. Establish a Late-Arrival Policy

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

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

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

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

7. Implement Automation

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

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

8. Check in With Your Team

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

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

9. Upgrade Your Equipment

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

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

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

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

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