Category Archives: Appointment

How to Use Appointment Planning to Secure Required Resources

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How to Use Appointment Planning to Secure Required Resources

When planning a meeting, setting the date and time is the easy part. The more difficult logistical challenge is making a list of everything else you need and checking it twice. Having the materials you need — or not — can make or break a meeting really quickly.

Once you’ve sent out appointment invitations to all of your guests, it’s time to iron out the nitty-gritty details. Different people will have intertwined responsibilities to keep track of. Room reservations, technology needs, even refreshments all need to be planned, prepared for, and executed. 

Sounds like a handful, doesn’t it? Now you can see why party planners get paid so handsomely! Fear not, using online appointment software can make sure you secure all the resources you need without breaking a sweat.

Set Deadlines for Confirmation

You often expect a guest to RSVP if they plan on attending an event. You should do that and more for attendees who also need to arrive to a work event with the required resources. They should have a deadline set before the gathering in question to report to you, or whoever is leading the event, that they are set to bring whatever they are responsible for.

Let’s say you’re planning a work conference that relies on Steven from accounting bringing a projector from home. Not only should he have an appointment reminder for the training itself, but he should have an additional one confirming that he will or already has brought the projector to work. This way you won’t have to stress until the moment it arrives, hoping that he and the projector show up on the same day. 

Secure Your Venue

Certain meetings and events require a venue that isn’t in your possession. In fact, you might not have even picked a site yet. You’ll need to set up some appointments to tour a couple of venues before you come to a decision

Once you’ve visited your locations of choice, you’ll only have so long to book them before someone else claims the dates you’re aiming for. Use your online appointment software to make sure you don’t miss the cut. Appointment reminders will help you stay on top of things.

Even if you own the venue in question, you might need to coordinate times with other parties who might want to use the space. A shared appointment schedule will ensure there are no double bookings when claiming conference rooms for meetings and more. 

Plan a Practice Run

Sometimes you won’t realize what you need until it’s already too late. This is a presenter’s and event planner’s worst nightmare. To prevent such an omission from spoiling your event, plan a practice run at least a day before the set date.

You can send a few attendees appointment reminders to attend your practice run so they can give you their perspective on how things went. This can include how well the chosen technology performed its function or whether the seating arrangement could use some rethinking. 

A simple meeting will likely only need a test run of the technology needed to direct the agenda. Larger events such as full-blown conferences might require more run-through, as there will doubtless be more moving parts. Be sure to take these varying time commitments into consideration when setting these appointments. 

Get Your Supplies Delivered

Running out of notepads for employees to take notes during a training session or copy paper to print out new manuals? You’ll need to schedule an order from your office supply vendor. You can use appointment planning to make sure you’re always stocked up no matter what’s on your calendar.

Most, if not all, retail businesses offer some sort of pick-up or delivery system. Using appointment planning, you can set recurring dates for supplies to be shipped. A monthly delivery can be easily planned and organized, and you’ll never have to worry about being short of materials again. 

Tune Up Your Systems

Not all of your required resources are tangible, so to speak. Take Wi-Fi, for example. Your entire business likely relies on a stable internet connection to function. So, too, will many of your meetings. You’ll want to be assured that your Wi-Fi and any other needed resource are in working order when your event rolls around.

If your infrastructure operations are ever in doubt, set an appointment with a professional who can give your system a check-up. You won’t always need someone to come in and check your Wi-Fi connection before a big meeting, but if you’ve been experiencing problems recently, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. 

Organize Your Staffing

Last but certainly not least is your staffing. For many events, you’ll need some bodies to help set everything up. Whether this is to help unload a trailer full of folding chairs or to clean up a venue after the meeting has adjourned, you need to get everyone’s watches synchronized.

Use online appointment software to coordinate your manpower. You can dictate when and where you want everyone to be with a simple shared schedule. With confirmation, you won’t have to worry about putting together your set-up and clean-up crews while you’re elbows deep in the event at hand.

Take a deep breath and get ready to nail down all the resources you need for your next meeting or event. Seeing it show up on your schedule will no longer bring a sense of dread now that you’ve used appointment planning to ensure there’s nothing left but smooth sailing. 

How to Use Appointments to Improve Your Decision-Making

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How to Use Appointments to Improve Your Decision-Making

Snap decisions often cause regrettable damage to our finances, relationships, and overall well-being. When confronted with a difficult decision, especially one that evokes an emotional response, it’s important to take your time and think through it from several angles. Try to let the emotional side take a back seat and consider your decision objectively.

This can be admittedly difficult to do. These decisions and the stress they cause can weigh on your mind and consume your time. How can you think about work or other important matters when such big decisions loom?

Sometimes, putting a placeholder on your calendar can relieve immediate stress and help you assess a wide range of situations more dispassionately. Doing so can also allow you to put the decision out of your mind so you can focus on tasks at hand. Your calendar placeholder ensures you won’t forget to revisit the decision, meaning you don’t have to fret it about in the meantime. That alone will give you some peace of mind.

Block Out Time for Projects and Decisions

Sometimes we have so much to do it’s hard to sit down and concentrate. Scheduling our time through our online calendars and apps can help us get important things accomplished. 

Look at everything you need to get done for the day. Then schedule out blocks of time for each task. This will enable you to really focus on one thing at a time and boost your productivity. 

Doing this also helps declutter your mind. Keeping all your tasks for your professional and personal life in your head can add to your stress and anxiety. Getting it all down in your calendar enables you to clear your mind so you can actually complete your to-dos.

You schedule appointments to get things done at work all the time. Why not do the same for your personal life? Add in your haircut or your kid’s soccer game. The less you have to keep in your head, the freer you are to be fully present. 

Adding appointments for time to reflect or do research will facilitate your decision-making as well. You might schedule time to pore over your budget to see if you can buy the SUV you’ve been eyeing. You might also set aside time to compare various models and the dealer incentives different brands are offering. Taking this prep time lets you keep your purchase a priority but prevents you from recklessly signing on the dotted line at the urging of a smooth-talking sales rep.

Assess How You Use Your Time

As you begin to schedule time for decision-making purposes, you might feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. How can you decide on the best uses of your time? Start by learning exactly what takes up your time at work and at home.

Calendar analytics can show you what you’ve been up to and inform your decisions about how you spend your time. Are you in meetings all day? Do you devote lots of travel time getting to a shared work space? Do all your kids’ sports have you on the road several days a week? With calendar analytics, you can learn the distribution of your calendar appointment types and see the locations of your meetings. 

With this information, you can re-evaluate and make necessary changes so you can make the most of your limited hours. If you need to schedule a time for decision-making purposes, it can open your eyes to the best days and times available.

Use Dead Time for Productive Purposes

After reviewing your calendar analytics, you might discover blocks of wasted or dead time. You might find yourself waiting at the doctor’s office or when picking your kids up. Maybe you have a 30-minute gap between meetings or a long commute. You can make better decisions about how you spend this time, too. These little blocks of time can really add up!

You can leverage this time to learn a new skill or catch up on an enriching podcast. These solo moments could also be a good time to come to a decision on an issue at the office or at home. When you see that gap, go ahead and add an appointment to your calendar. For example, “Reflect on ways to save money this month.”

Improve Your Time Management

When deciding on the best use of your limited hours, it all comes down to time management. Effective time management will increase your productivity and help you stay on top of your obligations both at work and at home. If you find yourself routinely completing work tasks at the last minute or paying your rent late, you’ll need to find ways to be more organized.

After all, disorganization can spill over into those big life decisions as well. Poor time management can cause you to have to make a quick, last-minute choice that you’ll regret later. 

When it comes to big decisions, giving yourself plenty of time to make informed, cool-headed  choices is key. Setting calendar reminders for these moments can give you the space and mental clarity you need to to set yourself up for a great life.

Why You Need a Productivity Purge

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Why You Need a Productivity Purge

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you were able to juggle only one thing at a time? You know — if you didn’t have to always manage multiple projects? Remember in Covid when you were juggling homeschooling with your kids while you’re on a Zoom call? Now it’s summer and it’s dèjá vu — same scenario! So how is everyone else doing with this reality?

Our lives are so busy it seems like a pipe dream to manage only one task. However, we’ve had a lot of science information come about in the last few years that tells us not to multi-task — have we been listening?

It is actually possible to do one thing at a time — and have great success. For example, take a look at when Albert Einstein was working on his theory of relativity.

The Einstein Principle

Let’s give credit where it’s due. Cal Newport popularized the Einstein Principle. If you recall, Newport is the author of the influential “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.”

In a blog post, Newport explains that from 1912-1915, Einstein was primarily focused on his theory of relativity — please don’t ask me to explain that! But, while Einstein had to make sacrifices, he published one of the greatest scientific accomplishments in history.

“We are most productive when we focus on a very small number of projects on which we can devote a large amount of attention,” writes Newport. “Achievements worth achieving require hard work. There is no shortcut here.”

“In a perfect world, we would all be Einsteins,” he adds. “We would each have only one, or at most two, projects in the three major spheres of our lives: professional, extracurricular, and personal.” In turn, we’d be able “to focus on this specialized set, in exclusion, as we push the projects to impressive conclusions.”

Of course, most of us aren’t that fortunate. And why would we? Newport argues that it’s risky, boring, and a tad unrealistic.

But, something does come close. It’s something that Newport calls a productivity purge.

What Exactly is a Productivity Purge?

A productivity purge “a simple strategy for coming as close as possible to satisfying the principle without giving up a quest for the unexpected next big thing.” The principle works as follows:

  • Grab a sheet of paper and create three columns; professional, extracurricular, and personal. Under “professional,” you would list all of the major projects you’re currently working on. Beneath “extracurricular,” jot down your side projects. And under “personal,” note all of your self-improvement projects, like reading.
  • Under each list, “select one or two projects which, at this point in your life, are the most important and seem like they would yield the greatest returns,” explains Newport. “Put a star by these projects.”
  • Next, identify whatever you can “stop working on right away with no serious consequences. Cross these out.”
  • Whatever projects are left unmarked, “come up with a 1-3 week plan for finalizing and dispatching them,” Newport adds. “Many of these will be projects for which you owe someone something before you can stop working on them.” If so, develop “a crunch plan for the near future for shutting these down as quickly as possible.”
  • After you’ve “completed your crunch plan, you’ll be left with only a small number of important projects. What that means is you’ve “purged your schedule of all but a few contenders to be your next Theory of Relativity.”

Newport offers a final important tip. “Try to go at least one month without starting any new projects. Resist, at all costs, committing to anything during this month.” Rather, target “with an Einsteinian intensity, on your select list.”

6 Ways to Purge for Productivity

The strategy listed above, in my opinion, is pretty straightforward. And, when done regularly, it is certainly effective. But, I’ve also applied this concept to known productivity thieves.

The result? I’m spending less time and energy on the unnecessary. In turn, that’s made me a lean, mean productivity machine.

1. Update your routine.

Routines can come in handy. They provide structure and make planning easier. And, when you have a routine, you don’t have to make as many decisions.

Here’s the thing, though. Is your routine actually effective? Just because you’re on autopilot doesn’t mean that you’re not on the right course.

Take a moment and assess your daily schedule. And answer the following questions:

  • Are you working when you have the most energy?
  • Have you left white space on your calendar?
  • Are you actually getting close to your short-and-long-term goals?
  • What recurring tasks can you delegate or remove?

Is there a perfect schedule? Of course not. But, in the words of Stephen Covey, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

2. Let go of old tasks.

Do me a favor and take a glance at your to-do list. If you haven’t updated this list in some time because you’re on autopilot, you may be in for a surprise. These tasks may no longer be relevant — or even worse, they may now be unimportant or vague.

Those items are actually clutter. So scratch them off your list. As for what’s left, prioritize your list using something like the Eisenhower Matrix.

Whatever is important and urgent, you would do immediately. Important but not urgent tasks will be scheduled for another time. Remember — anything that’s urgent but not important can be assigned to someone else. So, really, copy and paste these tasks to someone else right now.

3. Share your workspace with Mr. Clean.

Not literally. After all, Mr. Clean is a fictional character. So, that would be just weird if he were actually with you in person.

What sharing your space with Mr. Clean means is cleaning and organizing your workspace. It doesn’t have to be sparkling. But don’t let your space become a pigpen.

Some tips:

  • Whatever you don’t need, chuck or recycle it, such as junk mails.
  • Organize both paper and digital files so that they’re not on your desktop.
  • Think like a chef and practice mise en place. The French culinary phrase mise en place means “everything in its place.” Give everything a home and keep your most frequently used items close to you. Then, at the end of the day, put everything back where it belongs.
  • Create zones. You may do your deep work at your desk. But, you should have other zones for different activities. For example, you could create a resource area or outdoor spot for brainstorming.

4. Avoid information overload.

Being plugged in 24/7 and being surrounded by too much data is causing information overload. When left unchecked, it can hinder your productivity, performance, and collaboration. After all, the brain can only remember so much before popping like a circuit.

The best course of action? Be more selective about what you consume. Preferably, have the things you consume be relevant to what you’re working on right now. Additionally, you could also set a time limit on information gathering and learn to block out distractions.

Not enough? Give batching a spin. Don’t forget to occasionally let your mind daydream and wander.

5. Ask, “Does this bring you joy?”

I know — you associate this question with Marie Kondo when organizing your home. And while many people have found this helpful — I’ve only used the question when it comes to my calendar.

Here’s a recent example. Last weekend a friend had a small outdoor gathering. While I could have fit this into my schedule, I wasn’t just feeling it. That may sound selfish. But, I felt other things were more important, and, in my opinion, that event just wasn’t a priority at the time.

Just to let you know, I gave them plenty of notice that I wouldn’t attend. I also scheduled another time to catch up. I now apply this principle to any time request — whether it’s a new project, meeting, or networking event.

In the immortal words of Derek Sivers, “When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ — then say ‘no.’”

Keep this mantra top of mind right now when we, in business, are working to save the economy and our businesses. If you aren’t building yourself and your company, help someone else build or save their business!

6. Break free of stress.

Finally, purge stress from your life. If you don’t, you’re just not hurting your productivity; you’re also putting your health and wellbeing in jeopardy. And, you can get started by:

  • Identify your triggers so that you can remove them. For example, if a client keeps you up at night, you might want to let them go and work with someone else.
  • Take care of your body. You know the drill. Get your body moving, eat a healthy diet, and don’t neglect your sleep.
  • Meditate. Take a break from work and engage in mindfulness — even if it’s just for five minutes.
  • Learn how to self-soothe. When you’re stressed, try breathing exercises to calm down.
  • Do something that you enjoy. Examples could be reading, hiking, or spending time with friends and family.
  • Focus on what you can control. Seriously. Don’t waste your time obsessing over things that are out of your hands.
  • Take time off. When you’re overwhelmed, spend some time away from work in order to recharge.

‘Where Did We Lose You?’ Detecting Breaks in the Appointment-Making Chain

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‘Where Did We Lose You?’ Detecting Breaks in the Appointment-Making Chain

As great as it is in every way, online appointment software isn’t a cure-all for all of your customer experience issues. If you fail to look beyond the software, you’ll overlook the unseen frustration customers experience, which eventually will force them away.

Check out these tips for detecting and fixing some of the invisible breaks in the customer experience your clients may be having. Catching and resolving them in the early stages will keep your retention rates high and make sure every review your company gets is a positive one.

Waiting on Hold

This one is for all the businesses that still aren’t using appointment-scheduling software. Phone conversations can be some of the most important interactions your business has with customers — and the most likely to get messed up. 

Hold times are typically the first offender, with customers getting frustrated by being put on the back burner. In fact, 40% of consumers in a customer service survey stated that waiting on hold for more than five minutes irritated them more than anything else. 

In addition to long hold times, few things are more frustrating than getting routed from agent to agent trying to find the right person to help you. Nearly all of this can be avoided by using online appointment software. Many questions can be answered instantly, and a smooth booking process is practically guaranteed. This eliminates the need to even contact a customer service agent. 

Long Page Loading Times

Another test of customer patience is your website. Online appointment software won’t do you much good if your website takes forever to load each page. If a customer is stuck on a loading screen for too long, they’ll ditch your company entirely.

A key point to look at is mobile optimization. Your appointment system might run flawlessly on a desktop computer but not scale down to mobile use as well. A growing number of consumers will book appointments on their smartphones, so you need to make sure that loading speeds (and the resulting displays) are viable for them.

Spammy Marketing Tactics

It’s perfectly understandable to get antsy waiting for customers to book appointments. This is no excuse to let your marketing tactics get out of hand. If your marketing and messaging seem spammy and annoying, you’ll push customers away rather than draw them in. 

The thing is, sending messages to clients is important, so you need to find a balance. The best-case scenario is that customers opt into messaging, but many will miss the fine print. Try to limit yourself to one message per week max if it doesn’t pertain to an active appointment booking. 

You have a little more leeway with messages sent as appointment reminders. Your customers will appreciate a few nudges leading up to their appointment so that it doesn’t slip their minds. Daily reminders, however, would likely be a bit much. 

Restrictive Communication

Let’s say you’ve got your online appointment system up and running. While this should do most of the heavy lifting for you, it can’t be your only method of communication with customers. Restricting communication in this way will potentially alienate them from your company and prompt them to move on to others.

Keep multiple lines of communication open, each with a specific purpose. Phone lines will still be useful for customer problems or to discuss small details that might get missed by a program. Sometimes it’s nice to speak with another human being about the questions and concerns you might have. Social media can be used to answer quick, informal questions about your service. 

The best part about online appointment software is that it’s open 24/7 for customers to use. You can expand on that by including a chatbot on your website that answers simple questions for customers booking appointments outside of business hours. While this doesn’t provide the human touch, it helps you communicate with customers at all hours of the day. 

Hidden Fees

The second a hidden fee shows up in a bill, the customer receiving it will be gone. Transparency is crucial for businesses in 2021, where a host of global and societal issues have made consumers ever vigilant. Don’t be the company that tries to sneak in hidden fees to take advantage of unsuspecting customers.

If you do need to attach a fee to something, just be open about it. Explaining why credit card processing fees exist is much better than sneakily adding them to a bill. This goes for any fee that is involved in your appointment booking process or the services you provide.

Lack of Accessibility

Online appointment software is incredibly easy to use. However, there are people who will need some extra assistance to work through the booking process. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 states that it’s your duty as a business to make sure your services are available to all.

So look for ways to make your website and booking process accessible to everyone. Text-to-speech, voice commands, and different visual settings are just a few things you can do to make your online system accessible to people of all abilities

It’s easier to move obstacles than to coach your customers over them. Identify the snags in your own system so that every customer feels comfortable and cared for. That way, they won’t take their business elsewhere, and both sides can stay happy. 

Time Blocking and Appointment-Making: 6 Tips to Get Started

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Time Blocking and Appointment-Making: 6 Tips to Get Started

The jig is up. It’s time to admit that multitasking is not a productive strategy for getting stuff done. Research actually proves that the opposite is true. Multitasking makes you less effective at all of the tasks you’re juggling, but time blocking can solve this issue.

The question now is, how can you hope to get multiple tasks done in a single day without multitasking? If you’re using an appointment software package, the answer is right in front of you. This program can be leveraged to use time blocking to increase productivity. Here’s how to get started:

1. Get to Know Time Blocking

To get started, you first need to understand what time blocking entails. This is a time management practice that involves the use of a calendar or scheduling tool to organize your time. 

You start by dividing your daily schedule into blocks of time. Each block is then assigned a specific task. During that time period, all of your attention is focused on the task at hand until the time block transitions to the next.

For example, let’s say you have a bad habit of checking your email throughout the day, diverting your attention away from other tasks and projects. You can use time blocking to set specific times during which you’ll read and respond to emails. Outside of those time blocks, email will be left out of the picture. 

2. Create a To-Do List

How do you figure out which tasks belong in which time blocks? Start by creating a daily to-do list. Write out everything you need to accomplish in the coming days, both small tasks and large-scale projects.

Next, rank your tasks in order of importance. Some tasks will require more time and attention, while others have specific deadlines that must be met. Prioritizing these tasks as such will give you a better idea of how to organize your time blocks. 

Now that you have your list, it’s time to transfer it to your schedule. Make time blocks for your urgent tasks early in the day. Follow up with larger time blocks for your other projects and fill in the cracks with meetings, breaks, and anything else worthy of your time. 

3. Practice Discipline

Time blocking will not work if you don’t practice discipline. Your appointment schedule will mean nothing if you constantly allow outside forces to penetrate your time management plan. 

If you find yourself struggling to stick with the same task without getting distracted, try using the Pomodoro Technique. This time management approach is a spin on time blocking that helps you break down your schedule into manageable pieces. 

It works like this. You schedule your time out in small windows, or blocks, anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour. During that time you focus on nothing but the task at hand. After the block ends, take a scheduled break of five to 10 minutes to recharge. These small sprints will keep your focus level high and help you accomplish tons of tasks in a single day. 

4. Ease Into It

Time blocking will take some getting used to. It can be overwhelming to attempt to schedule out every minute of your day if you haven’t done so before. Instead of diving right in, ease yourself into time blocking for a smooth transition.

There are a couple of ways you can ease yourself into a time blocking schedule. First, consider setting only large blocks of time that don’t come with the stress of a tight deadline. Keep each time block at least an hour long to get started.

Another method is to use time blocking for only a portion of your day. For example, intense time blocking can help you have a productive and structured morning, while the afternoon is left more open and free. 

5. Make Time for Everything

One of the most common mistakes people make when time blocking is not leaving enough time to complete tasks properly. Not everyone can be like Elon Musk, who schedules his day in five-minute increments. You’ll almost always be better off blocking off more time than you anticipate needing for a task.

Let’s use a team meeting as an example. Normally these meetings would last about an hour. Instead of blocking off exactly 60 minutes in your schedule, block off 75 or even 90 minutes. This ensures you have the necessary buffer time to move to another meeting or project even if this meeting runs a bit long. 

If you finish a task before your time block is up, there’s no need to stress. Rather, do just the opposite. Use that extra time to stretch your legs and organize your thoughts before moving to the next time block. When your schedule is laid out to your liking, you don’t need to move things up when extra time appears. 

6. Get Some Rest

It’s been mentioned a few times already, but getting rest is so important that it deserves its own subheading. While time blocking can help you accomplish more with your day, it’s not meant to burn you out quickly. Blocking off time for rest and relaxation is key to unlocking your full productivity. 

Using the Pomodoro Technique builds in some short breaks, but to really stave off burnout, you need to schedule more rest than that. Use time blocking to get more done in less time so that you can get home to your family earlier or take that fishing trip you’ve been longing for all summer. You’ll feel just as accomplished and have more time to enjoy life outside of the office. 

Time blocking will show you just how much you can get done in a single day. Start using your appointment software of choice to organize your time and see just how much more you can accomplish with this time management technique

Appointment-Making in the New World of Remote Work

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Appointment-Making in the New World of Remote Work

Businesses navigating through the treacherous waters of 2020 all learned a similar lesson. It can be difficult to maintain meaningful engagement with employees because of remote work. 

Don’t get the wrong idea: remote workers can be just as productive as their office-dwelling counterparts, if not more so. The problem lies in connecting with remote work employees while keeping operations fluid. Engaged employees tend to be happier.

Whether your entire team is back in the office or not, using your scheduling software to increase engagement and deepen your connection with employees is a huge win. Here’s how you can begin to make that happen.

Use Video Technology

Whenever possible, use video technology to your advantage. Video is a powerful tool for connecting and engaging with remote work employees, especially when an in-person meeting is not an option. Video is more personable than a regular phone call, which eliminates the ability to do things like read body language.

Always include a link to a videoconferencing platform in your scheduling software. You might have hired a remote worker whom you have yet to meet in person. A video call will help you put a name to the face and enable you to connect with them better as a leader

Check In Regularly 

The past year was difficult for everybody. That should be a reason enough to commit to checking in on your employees more regularly. Whether they’re in the office or back at home, schedule one-on-one time with each employee to show that you’re there for them. 

Be wary, though, of becoming that boss who feels like a helicopter parent. Employee check-ins only need to be frequent enough to check progress and touch base with remote workers you don’t see often. They don’t need to be a weekly — and certainly not a daily — occurrence. Consult with each employee and come up with a routine that fits their schedule best. 

Remember that a check-in appointment doesn’t have to be a performance review. Ask employees about their family and hobbies or solicit suggestions on what you can do to make remote work easier. Each check-in should have the goal of incorporating the employee further into the company so that they feel more comfortable with their place in it. 

Make Hybrid Arrangements Work

If you do have a balance of remote workers and in-house staff, look for ways to formulate hybrid solutions that work for everyone. Your remote workers will be much more engaged when they feel like they’re a part of the entire team and not just a forgotten cog in the wheel.

Take staff meetings, for example. Would remote workers benefit from attending these meetings? If so, include them in your scheduling software invite list. Then put your tech skills to use to create a hybrid meeting that incorporates every attendee.

Planning a hybrid meeting isn’t as difficult as it might sound. All you need to do is set up a videoconference call with your remote work team and position it in a way that they can participate. A simple USB microphone and speaker will help with any audio troubles, and your remote workers will feel included. 

Broadcast Your Availability

With scheduling software, you can list availability for others to see. Your business can use this feature to book clients, or you can use it to show employees when you’re available for a visit. Broadcasting your availability will encourage employees to approach you with questions and comments they would otherwise keep to themselves.

Let’s say you have an open hour on Thursdays every week. Tweak your online scheduling software to reflect that. Soon, you might receive a call during that time slot from a remote work employee who has been dying to speak with you without seeming like an inconvenience. You’ll make a lot of progress with your employees when you welcome interaction like this with open arms. 

Include Some Fun 

Not every event you create with your appointment software needs to be so serious. A little bit of company fun never hurt anyone. In fact, it’s often promoted as a way to improve team bonding and reduce burnout. 

Be sure to plan some fun activities that even your employees that do remote work can participate in. While they may not be able to attend an office cookout, they can get together online to compete in a friendly game of Kahoot or Pictionary. This will provide an opportunity for the water cooler conversations that remote workers aren’t able to enjoy in an out-of-office setting. 

Coordinate Deadlines

Not every appointment has to be a personal meeting. Half the battle is coordinating the efforts of your remote work employees to make sure they’re up to speed with projects and are completing their tasks on time. Using appointment software to set deadlines should do the trick.

Perhaps all your employees who do remote work are writers creating content for social media and blog pages. Use appointment software to assign submission dates for each piece. The writers can work on their own schedule but have a calendar date that tells them specifically when tasks must be completed. 

An honest effort to engage your employees is all you need to start. Appointment software is just a means to this end. Look for ways to connect with both in-house and remote work employees, and you’ll see your team grow stronger together — and your business with it. 

Troubleshooting Automated Appointment System Complaints

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Troubleshooting Automated Appointment System Complaints

The benefits of automated appointment software are undeniable. Unfortunately, implementing a new system often comes with some bumps in the road. Setting up and then forgetting your new software may end up driving away customers.

If complaints arise, don’t just resort to tossing out coupons as a way to appease customers. Instead, develop a troubleshooting system that uncovers the root of the problem and leads you to solutions. 

Troubleshooting can be a frustrating and arduous process. Here’s how to make yours as painless and efficient as possible in order to help every one of your customers.

Identify the Problem’s Source

The first step is to determine if the complaint stems from an operator error or a system error. Operator errors can often be resolved with some top-notch customer service. System errors, on the other hand, require a bit more information and a hands-on approach.

How can you tell if the problem is a user error or an actual problem with your system? Start by focusing on the language. For example, a complaint might be “couldn’t fill out customer information lines.” At first blush, this might sound like an operator error. But if your form’s lines are too short to accommodate a longer surname, or the “Submit” button didn’t do anything, that’s a system fix that needs to be addressed. 

Don’t forget that some complaints may come from a system error that only occurs on the customer’s end. Someone loading your website with a computer from the ’90s may get a system error because of the outdated equipment. 

Improve the Resources for Customers

Even if your digging has unveiled an operator error, don’t blame the customer for their mistake. Instead, think of how to prevent future customers from experiencing the same confusion. 

For example, maybe a common customer complaint is that the instructions aren’t clear on your automated appointment system. Visitors get lost trying to follow steps and end up leaving in frustration. What can you do to improve their experience?

Perhaps a short video walking customers through your online appointment software will do the trick. Struggling customers can follow along with video instructions to make their first experience using new software a seamless one. 

Take Your System on a Test Drive

When was the last time you tested your online appointment software? The occasional test run will show you firsthand if there’s an obvious problem that customers are running into. You might even find that you fall victim to the same user error as everyone else.

Log on to your website as a guest. Better yet, get a friend or family member who’s less familiar with your system to go through the site. Does the functionality problem the customer mentioned happen to your friend? Or was it a one-time deal? 

If everything seems to be going smoothly, you should still adjust your approach and try a couple more times. You need to discover whether you can recreate the circumstances behind the system complaint. 

A good mechanic will do the same thing when you take your car in for a repair. They’ll take a test drive to recreate the noise you described when you dropped off the car. If you experience the same error as your customer, you’ll validate their complaint. It will also give you a better idea of what needs to be fixed. 

Look for Response Trends

You’ll get more insights from looking at response trends than fixating on individual complaints. Individual complaints may lead to band-aid fixes. Overall trends can help you find permanent solutions. 

Data is your best friend when you’re compiling and analyzing customer complaints. It allows you to connect the dots between isolated incidents. Once you find a pattern, you’ll have a better idea of where to focus your attention. Maybe you can even find the source from which all complaints stemmed. 

For example, you may find that a number of complaints boil down to poor loading speeds on your website. This could be a helpful discovery. It may be that your website has been struggling to process the load of your new online appointment system. With that info, you’ll be able to get the problem fixed in no time.

Look Into Your Back End

There’s a lot under the surface of your online appointment system. Unfortunately, understanding it all may be a little out of your wheelhouse. That’s especially true if you’re an entrepreneur outsourcing labor for your website. The good news is that your website developers should be able to do the heavy lifting for you. 

Get on a call with your vendor and discuss the nature of the complaint with them. They should be able to figure out what’s causing the customer’s problem and find a backend solution. In this scenario, you’re the intermediary between the customer and the techies who have the fix. 

Follow Up With Customers

When you’ve settled on a solution, follow up on its implementation. There’s no point troubleshooting complaints if you’re not planning to fix them. 

Following up with customers can accomplish a lot. For one, it shows them that you genuinely care about their experience with your company. It might even save you from losing them. After all, reaching back out to the customer encourages them to give your appointment software a second chance.

A simple email letting customers know that their complaint has been addressed will often be enough. When things really go wrong, though, you may want to call the customer. Thank them for bringing the problem to your attention. They’ll appreciate the courtesy and the resolution you came up with. 

Ready, aim, and troubleshoot your way to customer service excellence. Your effort to help every customer will make your business shine. Soon you’ll optimize your automated appointment system to the point that most complaints disappear.

5 Potential Barriers to Automated Appointment-Making

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5 Potential Barriers to Automated Appointment-Making

Automated scheduling makes life for appointment-based businesses so much easier. However, that may not be the case for all your clients. There are some potential accessibility barriers that every business must be aware of, especially when moving most of their operations to an online platform.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990 to help eliminate everyday discrimination against people with disabilities. This includes barriers to employment, schooling, and working with businesses. The internet has helped a lot of people with disabilities accomplish great things, but there are still struggles to overcome. Businesses should take the following factors into account as a strong first step toward making online scheduling available to all:

1. Visibility

The most common disability you’ll come across when operating online is visual impairments. There a variety of different issues that may affect your customers, each with its own required solutions:

Low Vision

There are lots of factors that can contribute to low vision, from cataracts and astigmatism to simple aging of the body. Individuals with low vision will struggle with small bodies of text, complex fonts, and poor spacing between words. Minor tweaks to your website and online appointment software, as well as enabling text enlargement as a feature, will accommodate their needs.

Some of your customers may be legally blind, rendering all the text and images on your website inaccessible to them. These individuals typically rely on screen readers to navigate the internet, getting all their information from sound. Read through your appointment process and see how each heading and set of instructions sounds in your head. If everything flows smoothly, you should be in the clear. 

Color Blindness

The average person can clearly distinguish different colors. Those who suffer from color blindness, though, lack such perception. This can be a challenge for them in many aspects of life, including working through websites that rely on color signals for navigation.

For example, red is a common color used to indicate an error in a form field that’s needed to finalize an appointment. Red can be a tricky color for many color blind people to identify, causing them to miss the details that require their attention. Using textures or symbols alongside colors will help direct them just as well as any other customer. 

Light Sensitivity

Some people are really sensitive to light, which can make it difficult for them to navigate your website if it includes bright colors. Many apps include a “dark mode” setting for this very purpose. Replacing white with black is a simple tactic that can make all the difference for those with high light sensitivity. 

You might think that adjusting the brightness on a device is enough, but don’t count on it. When looking to comply with ADA regulations, go above and beyond to meet the needs of every customer you serve. 

2. Hearing Impairments

While the internet is considered to be a primarily visual medium, there are certain aspects that only function with an auditory component. You might not realize that you’re alienating those with hearing impairments until you revisit your website with a fresh perspective. 

Does your website have a video that’s used to explain how your appointment software works? If you do, make sure that those with hearing impairments receive equal direction. Enable closed captioning or provide a transcript of the video so that all the information can be read as well as heard.

3. Dyslexia

Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia is not a visual problem. It’s considered a language-based learning disability that makes reading and writing a challenge. People with dyslexia are just as smart as anyone else. However, their brains have a harder time connecting letters and words together when reading things like your appointment booking portal.

Simple fonts such as Ariel are easier to process. Avoid using italics if possible, as this can cause letters to run together or seem foreign. In addition, videos and images can guide those with dyslexia through your appointment booking software if you make them an option. 

4. Motor Function

Motor skill disabilities pose another potential obstacle to online appointment booking. Trying to operate a sensitive mouse or trackpad can be frustrating for customers with even minor struggles with motor functions. Your job as a business is to make website navigation and appointment booking as easy as possible for everyone.

This demographic normally gets by through keyboard commands rather than a trackpad or touchy mouse. Make sure customers can navigate through your appointment booking software by using arrow keys and shortcuts. Even customers with perfect motor skills will appreciate having several options for website navigation. 

5. Sensory and Memory Issues

Ever experienced a sensory overload? When there’s too much going on in your vicinity, it’s practically impossible to focus. People with sensory processing issues can experience such sensory overload all too easily. If your online booking software is too loud and busy, it can be too overwhelming for these individuals to schedule appointments online.

There are also those with short-term memory problems who will struggle with a long and complicated booking process. Take time to evaluate how your online booking software can be simplified to cater to both of these types of customers, as well as anyone else who might simply be in a hurry. 

There are many unique disabilities and hardships that each of your customers push through on a daily basis. Get to know them so that you can serve them better, both through your online appointment software and your in-house service. You’ll feel a greater sense of satisfaction knowing that no customer will be turned away or feel discouraged when interacting with your business.

Avoiding the ‘Black Hole’ of Customer Engagement

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Avoiding the ‘Black Hole’ of Customer Engagement

Automated appointment systems make life so much easier for both businesses and their customers. Booking and executing an appointment have never been more efficient. However, you need to be careful about falling into the “black hole” of customer engagement that can form around automation. 

Too many automated appointment systems facilitate client interaction during the booking process but end there. There are no response mechanisms or continuing interaction throughout the rest of the customer journey. Make sure you don’t lose people after they click the “Submit” button by following these tips:

Keep an Agent Within Reach

While online appointment software and other digitized features have nearly endless benefits, sometimes customers just need to talk to someone. It gets frustrating when you’re stuck with a chatbot and need to ask a more complicated question that only a human can answer. 

One of your employees doesn’t have to be available to help customers 24/7, as chatbots are able to do. Still, make sure your customers know they can speak with a customer service agent during business hours for more complex problems and concerns. 

When solving customer problems, your CS representatives have an excellent opportunity to further engage with customers. They can ask leading questions to get customers to provide feedback that, in ordinary situations, they might just keep to themselves. Have your reps record any comments customers make so you can take action on the issues they think need to be addressed. 

Send Out Customer Surveys

Customer engagement after the appointment is just as important as engagement before and throughout. The feedback you receive from customers provides valuable information on ways you can improve or practices you should continue using. 

After an appointment, send out a short email thanking customers for their business. Include a survey link in each email and ask customers to respond to questions about their experience. Make sure the survey link is easy to locate within your message. 

Use Social Media Regularly

If you want to engage with your customers when they’re not at your business, turn to social media. Roughly 70% of Americans have a social media account, most of which are used regularly. There are plenty of opportunities for customer engagement here.

Social media can spur customer engagement in several ways. An ad campaign will gather clicks that can lead to more appointment bookings. Inviting comments on posts provides another platform for customers to voice their comments and mention concerns the company can address.

Track Key Data Metrics

When customer engagement gets placed on the back burner, you have to find new ways to bring it back to the forefront. Set goals to track key metrics using customer data. In order to accomplish these goals, you’ll have to monitor customer engagement via online interactions. 

Set up your website to track customer engagement online. You’ll be able to see how long customers spend on your website, what pages they visit, and your landing page bounce rate. This information will help you adjust the layout to place forms and resources where they’ll best be seen. 

Data metrics can be drawn from your in-house team as well. Tracking the percentage of customers who accept an upsell will show you how customers are responding to this sales tactic. If percentages are low, you’ll know you need to change your strategy.

Incentivize Engagement

Some customers will purposely place themselves in the black hole of customer engagement because they simply don’t want additional interaction. If something goes wrong, they’ll either grin and bear it or take their business elsewhere without a word. 

Customers have the right to keep their thoughts to themselves, but your business benefits from their feedback and engagement. To draw them out of the woodwork, incentivize engagement to get the highest engagement rates possible.

A common business strategy is to take survey responses and use them as raffle tickets. Customers who leave feedback are entered into a drawing to win free services or other perks that are valuable to them. Using this tactic, you’ll receive more feedback than just the occasional review from those with strong opinions. 

Be Transparent

Nowadays, customers might associate surveys and unprovoked emails with marketing schemes intended to make a sale. Be transparent about the real reason you’re looking to boost customer engagement so they don’t shy away from your overtures.

For example, you might be reaching out to customers to inquire about a service package your company provides. Make it known from the get-go that you’re sending the survey to gauge whether you should continue to offer the package (or whatever your reason is). Customers won’t feel like you’re only trying to sell them something and will be more likely to provide honest feedback. 

Make Engagement Count

Finally, when you gather feedback, do something about it! Customers will fail to see the need for interaction and engagement if your company isn’t listening or reciprocating. 

Let’s say customers consistently mention the long wait times they experience before each appointment with your business. Instead of just nodding in sad agreement, come up with a solution. Do you need to install self-check-in kiosks in the lobby or take measures to stop appointments from running long? Your actions will inspire customers to continue to provide feedback, as they’ll know it is being used to improve their experience. 

Learn to spot the signs of a customer engagement black hole so you can steer clear of it. As soon as you feel your business being drawn in, take the necessary steps to adjust your course. By doing so, you will retain more customers and keep your operations running smoothly.

7 Simple Ways to Make Team Meetings Count

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7 Simple Ways to Make Team Meetings Count

Team meetings play a traditional and sometimes obligatory role in office culture, but that doesn’t mean they’re appreciated.

On the contrary, a recent Harris poll revealed that 46 percent of employees would prefer to do anything else other than sit in a status meeting. Seventeen percent said they would rather watch paint dry. Yikes.

Transforming those counter-productive meetings into meaningful ones is no mean feat, but in this post, I’ll share seven simple tips ways to make team meetings count.

1. Keep it Casual

Instead of being an extension of office life, attending a team meeting should feel like you’re taking a breather from your work.

To make that feeling a reality for your workforce, try setting a more casual tone in your team meetings by starting with an interactive game, a quick story, or even a joke. However, be wary of being overly relaxed, lest your important team meetings become nothing more than social gatherings.

2. Ditch The Chairs

To further set your team meetings apart from the daily grind, empty out the chairs from your meeting room and have stand-up meetings instead.

Not only does standing up encourage engagement, but it also reduces meeting times by up to 34%, so your team can spend less time in meetings and more time producing results.

3. Refresh the Agenda

If your agenda rarely changes, you can’t expect anything other than stale meetings.

To keep your employees engaged, refresh your agendas with relevant issues, industry news, and new strategies that can help the company on micro and macro levels.

But whatever you do, don’t invent talking points in order to “fill up” your agenda. If nothing needs to be discussed, then so be it.

4. Rotate The Leader

Each meeting should be led by one person for the sake of efficiency. Rotating that leader will give your team meetings the variety they desperately need.

You’ll want to write up a short guideline for different leaders to follow, but ultimately, you should let your employees volunteer and enjoy the experience of leading a meeting.

However, if the meeting is being held in order to make an urgent decision, be sure that the leader is also a high-ranking decision-maker.

4. Celebrate Successes

If your company wins a new contract or an employee reaches a personal milestone — celebrate it.

Team meetings help make up the culture and personality of your brand, and if you aren’t marking the big occasions with some celebratory cake, you’re sowing the seeds for a disjointed workforce.

This also applies to project post-mortem meetings, where it’s best to end on a congratulatory note.

5. Get Feedback

Surveying your employees is perhaps the most efficient way to optimize your team meetings.

  • Ask them about what they want to discuss
  • How they want to discuss it
  • What suggestions they would make in order to make team meetings more enjoyable and useful

6. End With a Summary

Even when they’re kept short and sweet, your employees will typically forget the key points of a meeting by the time they return to their workstations.

To ensure that your employees are going back to work with the meeting’s most valuable advice in mind, spend thirty seconds at the end of each meeting summarizing the key takeaways.

7. Make Meetings Rare

Although team meetings can be made fun, productive, and inspiring; nobody can dispute that a team meeting is not real work.

I suggest you take a leaf out of 37Signals’ book and keep team meetings to a minimum. They prefer to make use of email and IM to communicate. As they say, “every minute spent outside of the meeting room is a minute you can get real work done instead.”

Make Team Meetings Count for Your Team

The disdain for team meetings is almost universal among employees.

But if your company can make team meetings enjoyable and meaningful, you’ll be set apart from your competitors. This can only be a good thing when your workforce inevitably shares stories about your company on platforms like GlassDoor.

How does your company approach team meetings?

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