Category Archives: Appointment

5 Tips for Using Appointment-Based Businesses in 2022

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Tips For Using Appointment Based Businesses 2022

New year, same bookings you’ll need to keep scheduling at your appointment-based business. Celebrating the turn of the calendar is always fun and exciting, but now it’s time to get back to the old grind. That includes scheduling any upcoming appointments for services you’re going to need in the coming days.

Whether it’s a check-up at the dentist’s office or getting an oil change for your car, there are a few things you should remember as you schedule your appointments. By following these five tips, you can be sure you’ll be well received — and well served — in 2022.

1. Be on Time

This should be a no-brainer, but try to be on time to your appointments whenever possible. Being punctual limits the number of variables that appointment-based businesses have to deal with. If you arrive late to your appointment, you end up pushing back everyone else’s appointment bookings as well. This makes it difficult for appointment-based businesses to keep up with their schedules and keep everybody happy, even though they didn’t do anything wrong.

If you have a problem making your appointments on time, elect to receive appointment reminders directly from the business. Through online appointment software, establishments can send you automated reminders specifically for your bookings. You can choose to receive them via text, email, or phone call.

If you’re not already using an online calendar, consider doing so. There’s already one installed in your smartphone, with dozens more available to download. Online calendars are perfect tools for the perennially tardy, helping to develop better time management habits — including getting to appointments on time.

2. Double-Check Everything

One thing that will really help you stay on time is to double-check the time of your appointment bookings. Even if you’re getting appointment reminders, a passing glance and a wrong idea could cause you to miss your appointment by as much as a day or as little as an hour. If you make it a habit to always double-check when you’re scheduling appointments, you’ll be able to fix the commitment in your head accurately.

You should also double-check the information you provide when scheduling an appointment. This ensures you can be contacted if something changes and that you’ll be getting the service you need when you arrive.

Say you’re looking to have your hair colored by your favorite stylist. If you accidentally select a bang trim when booking the appointment online, you might be able to fix the error when you show up. Chances are you’ll need to reschedule your appointment, though, as your stylist probably won’t be able to complete a full color treatment in the time she allotted for snipping a half-inch off your bangs. Even if she does have the time, it will be an inconvenient last-second switch.

3. Be Patient

We live in a world where convenience is no longer considered a luxury, but a requirement. Answers to questions can be Googled in an instant, entire meals prepared and purchased in minutes, and the latest movie streamed from any device the moment it comes out. Even with that expectation of instant gratification, you shouldn’t let a hiccup in your appointment experience cause you to lose patience with your service provider.

Try not to get upset with the person at the front desk when you have to wait, even if you were on time. They cannot help that your doctor is seeing another patient at the moment. Perhaps the person before you arrived late, or the examination revealed a significant problem that required immediate treatment.

Stay in good standing with those at appointment-based businesses because they are still working during uncertain times to serve you. Working through waves of a pandemic isn’t easy, especially if many of the staff are home sick or getting tested for COVID, leaving the rest of the workforce stretched thin.

4. Practice Good Hygiene

Whether or not you attend appointments regularly, maintaining good hygiene is always important. This will help minimize the spreading of germs, especially during the winter when the cold and flu are more common.

Be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when the opportunity presents itself. The point isn’t to engage in health-and-safety theater, but to help prevent any illness from spreading, which is the courteous thing to do. After all, wouldn’t you hate to attend your scheduled appointment only to get sick the next day?

5. Practice COVID (and Common Cold) Courtesy

If you yourself are feeling unwell, reschedule your appointment. During this unpredictable time, many businesses are more willing to accommodate clients who need to make last-minute adjustments to their bookings. Try to give a heads up at least 24 hours in advance if you can. Most businesses are likely to understand and be willing to work with you on a scheduling solution.

If you do end up having to go out, try to be courteous by wearing a mask when inside business property. COVID-19 is still a pressing concern for much of the nation, and nobody wants to get sick, even if it’s just a nasty 24-hour bug and not the latest coronavirus variant. Wearing a mask for an hour is such a small sacrifice when it can help your community stay healthy and strong.

Keep these tips in mind, and every appointment you make in 2022 will run smoothly. There are bound to be some challenges that you will face with appointment-setting, but after everything you’ve endured these past few years, it shouldn’t be anything that you can’t handle with ease.

Image Credit: Alex Green; Pexels; Thank you!

4 Security Measures Appointment-Based Businesses Should Implement This Year

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Security Measures Appointment Based Businesses Implement

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

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

1. After-Hours Security

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

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

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

2. First Responder Connections

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

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

3. Emergency Planning

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

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

4. Adequate Insurance

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

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

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

Image Credit: Dan Nelson; Pexels; Thank you!

3 Ways to Be Productive Despite Uncertainty

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Stay Productive Despite Uncertainty

Humans tend to be creatures of habit, setting up and following routines that make them feel comfortable and safe. Within those routines is a sense of predictability that helps individuals find and keep their bearings. But what happens when consistency goes out the window or a lot of uncertainty starts to creep in? Every human being on this planet has had uncertainty in these last two years. But what can we do about it now?

Not knowing where things are headed and pivoting away from well-established routines leads to stress and anxiety. Magnifying that stress is the fear of the unknown and the pressure to respond to situations without guidelines. In addition, the energy it takes to manage ambiguity, and the unease that goes along with that ambiguity make it more challenging to stay focused. As a result, productivity can take a hit, whether your stress involves team issues, personal objectives, or stuff at home.

You Can Be Productive Despite Uncertainty

Despite the constant change around you, there are ways to work with it and establish some sense of normalcy. For example, you may need to redefine what productivity means, help reshape your environment, set different boundaries, or shift your focus. If you’re finding it challenging to stay on task during uncertain times, here are three ways to reclaim a sense of direction.

1. Adjust Your Work Environment and Schedule

When things change on a dime, you’re expected to respond urgently and rearrange your plans. Suddenly, your kids may not be attending in-person classes today and will need supervision while they learn from home. In addition, you might need to schedule critical appointments during working hours, care for sick family members, or practice social distancing.

Adjusting your work environment to accommodate unpredictable shifts in responsibilities and precautions can be an effective way to respond. For example, you could negotiate remote or hybrid work schedules for yourself and your team. In addition, having the ability to work from anywhere — like a remote worker — helps employees handle personal and professional obligations without stressing about them.

You won’t have to worry about finding someone to watch the kids or ill loved ones. The need to use sick time or PTO to take care of your well-being also won’t be as frequent. With remote or hybrid schedules, it’s easier to juggle doctor’s appointments and family events without losing productivity.

Focus on work assignments for a few hours, take care of personal responsibilities, and go back to your home office. You’ll probably find that you get more done in less time without as many distractions from colleagues. And with hybrid work arrangements, you’ll still maintain a sense of connection with the office and your co-workers.

2. Try New Time Management Strategies

You might already be practicing some form of time management on your Calendar, whether that’s block scheduling or prioritizing your tasks. But when your environment becomes more chaotic or uncertain, you may find that some of your techniques don’t work as well. For instance, the Eisenhower Matrix won’t necessarily apply to scenarios where priorities are constantly changing.

Everything could become an immediate task in a single day. And by Friday, you might have several former high-priority assignments scrapped or buried by five new ones. There could also be days when there’s not enough information to determine what’s urgent and what can wait.

Instead of relying on familiar strategies, you can look for redundancies and repetition. Time management techniques like the DRY Principle can help you improve efficiency regardless of what you’re tasked with. This technique involves tracking your time to identify what tasks you’re repeating.

Perhaps you’re sending the same emails to clients or co-workers. Repetition could also be occurring with scheduling, content creation, or meeting agendas. Productivity can be lost because managers and experienced employees aren’t delegating tasks or training others. Under the DRY Principle, you can establish ways to automate repetition, eliminate redundancy, and balance workloads. You can set up productivity protocols for these situations.

3. Make Contingency Plans

As a leader, how will you respond if several employees walk out the door at once? Or you lose someone who’s fulfilling a critical role or working on a high-profile project? Turnover has an immediate impact on employees because someone has to fill the gaps left by others.

Filling those gaps could mean temporarily redistributing responsibilities and increasing workloads. However, it could also entail restructuring positions, bringing more vendors into the mix, or relying more on existing external partnerships. If temporary assignment shifts or permanent restructuring will occur, how you communicate and plan those changes will impact the productivity of anyone involved.

In the face of uncertainty, don’t spring changes on any member of your team. For example, telling an employee that they are now responsible for website management on top of everything else is not productive. Just because you think someone has the skills to handle the tasks doesn’t mean they can, and they may currently be overwhelmed with tasks. More than likely, they’ll feel caught off guard and perhaps resentful that they weren’t asked in the first place.

Your employee may find themselves unprepared to juggle a new set of tasks or meet the demands those new assignments require.

Implementing fly-by-night solutions for staffing shortages that seem convenient might lead to more turnover. That’s why it’s more effective to develop several solutions in a well-documented and communicated contingency proposal. Then, although you can’t predict every two-week notice, you can plan for it at all levels.

Line up backup vendors or freelancers for departments that already have skeleton crews. Build relationships with temp or staffing agencies for front-line positions. Also, create a pipeline of internal and external successors for leadership roles. Most importantly, communicate the reasons and tactics behind contingency staffing plans. Be sure to solicit buy-in from employees willing to step up instead of assuming they’ll embrace anything you throw at them.

Stay the Course

Maintaining productivity is tough during uncertainty because the unknown often consumes your thoughts. The stress of many “what-ifs” can result in confusion, an inability to concentrate, and conflicting priorities. Accomplishing tasks with determination and efficiency isn’t as simple as going with the flow when chaos seems to be surrounding you.

However, you can reestablish control by adjusting work environments and schedules, trying new time management strategies, and making contingency plans. Putting these methods into practice will help keep productivity at acceptable levels in the face of ambiguity. While the shifts that occur during constant change aren’t always predictable, the ways you respond can be.

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5 Ways to Customize Your Customer’s Experience When Making Appointments

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Customer Experience Making Appointments

Customers today like to have control over their interactions with businesses. Customizing their encounters helps them to ensure that they’re getting the exact experience they want. Businesses that are flexible in providing customization options to their customers are likely to draw in and retain new clients.

For appointment-based businesses, being customizable sometimes requires thinking outside of the box. There are certain aspects of appointment setting that are rigid and, to remain optimal, can’t be changed. However, there are a few ways you can customize the appointment experience for customers if you’re open to trying some new things:

1. Offer Plenty of Options

Appointment customization won’t be possible if customers don’t have options to choose from. This should be your starting point. Think of some ways you can make appointments special for your customers, from exclusive deals to surprise discounts.

Some industries have loads of options already at their disposal. For instance, hair salons have all sorts of different products, hairstyles, and stylists to choose from. For the adventurous customer, every appointment can be a new experience.

Other businesses might need to get a little more creative. A dentist might mix up regular checkups by offering different types of prizes for kids to choose from for good brushing skills. A mechanic’s shop can offer different drinks or entertainment options in the lobby while customers wait for an oil change. All of these will contribute to the customization of the customer experience.

2. Include a Survey

After every appointment, send customers home with an optional survey regarding their visit. In this survey, you can ask each customer about any individual preferences they would like to include for their next visit. For example, one survey response might state that a customer would like the same dental technician for their next visit because they had a great experience with them.

With this knowledge, you can help clients customize their future appointments. Not every request can be granted, but assure your customers that you’ll do your best to accommodate them. Keep notes within a customer portal so your team can remember these individual details and carry them over from appointment to appointment.

Survey responses will also be useful for finding out which areas of your business need the most improvement. Feedback might show that your check-in process runs slowly or that the guest bathroom isn’t cleaned as often as patrons would like. Now that you know what customers are noticing, you can make real changes to improve the appointment experience for them.

3. Implement Multiple Tools

If you have multiple tools at your disposal, you can offer different forms of service to your customers. Let’s use appointment reminders as an example. If you have the tools to send reminders via email, text message, phone call, or even a social media message, you can provide a unique appointment booking experience to each customer based on how they best receive such messages.

Offering multiple payment options is another tool you can use to provide more flexibility for clients. Some customers will prefer to pay with cash, while others will want to use a card. Others may prefer to pay with a mobile app or simply want to prepay for their appointment online. Have the tools for all of these options, and every appointment experience can be a different one.

4. Track Key Data Metrics

Customers won’t always know going into an appointment what sort of customization options they would like. Neither will you without getting to know them better. Keeping track of all of your customers and their personal tastes is a tall order, but it can be done in part by tracking some key data metrics.

Data can tell you a lot about your customers, their habits, and future trends they might follow. Take a look at your customer demographics, for starters. The customization options you provide can reflect your primary demographics. If most of your customers are students from a local college, they might like different options in the lobby for getting some studies done or accessing the internet from their personal devices.

You can also look at different behavioral statistics. Your morning customers might enjoy a fully customizable coffee bar to perk up their appointments, while customers who arrive late in the evening might prefer various entertainment options toward the end of their day.

5. Let Customers Take a Stance

You can enable your customers to take a stance for what they believe in without forcing ideals upon anyone who is uninterested. Take recycling, for example. Some of your customers might be into recycling and other renewable efforts. Having that option at your place of business will really speak to them without pushing away those customers who feel indifferent.

How about customizing a donation program? Allowing customers to round up their charges to the nearest dollar and putting that money toward a good cause can make for a gratifying end to an appointment. Support multiple charities and outreach programs, and your customers will be able to choose where they wish to donate should they feel inclined to do so. Once again, customers who don’t feel like donating at the moment won’t be required to.

Be careful not to provide too many customization options, or your customers and staff might get overwhelmed. However, including some personalization to each appointment will go a long way toward building firm relationships with your clientele and boosting those retention numbers for years to come.

Image Credit: Alex Green; Pexels; Thank you!

How Appointment-Based Businesses Can Prioritize Convenience Today

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Appointment Business Convenience

Have you ever tested your appointment-based business’s appointment service? Even with an excellent hosting service, there are likely steps that are inconvenient for customers. Of course, it’s important to offer high-quality service. But sometimes customers want the most convenient option rather than whatever is top-of-the-line.

This article will help turn your appointment-based business into an organization that is both high-end and convenient for your customers. The ease with which they’ll be able to access your services and resources will help them to enjoy their experience so much more.

Put Everything Online

Digital advances have made life more convenient in many ways that your business can leverage. Providing as many resources as possible that your customers can access online is one surefire way to make the experience more convenient. For instance, you might enable your customers to access their records at any time and from anywhere.

When looking to provide resources, start by making sure your website is updated with all necessary information. This includes hours of operation, appointment availability, and even your late or no-show policy. Customers will be able to answer many questions on their own in an instant rather than waiting on hold to ask a representative.

Online payment methods are convenient for customers and save employees time. You can even add online prepay options. Being able to quickly prepay for upcoming appointments is a huge plus for many customers. It can speed things along at checkout and streamline the in-person appointment experience. With online payment methods, customers can complete required tasks while they’re taking the subway, eating lunch, or even while on their smartphone in bed.

Make Scheduling Fast and Easy

The scheduling process is a vital part of an appointment-based business, and it’s also the area where many customers get hung up. A frustrating booking process will turn customers away before you even get the chance to wow them with your service. Convenient and easy scheduling is what your business should strive for right out the gate.

One of the most tedious aspects of appointment scheduling is inputting all of the needed information. This might be necessary the first time a customer visits your business, but it shouldn’t be required after the initial visit. You can make return scheduling more convenient by creating customer profiles that save important information. This way, customers only need to log in to start scheduling their next appointment.

Making it possible to book appointments online, as mentioned previously, is a great start, but you’ll need to stay on top of a few things. Slow loading times on your website can be just as frustrating, if not more so, than waiting on hold. Look for ways to keep your website running smoothly and avoid outages so that customers can always easily book their appointments.

Manage Your Time to Perfection

As an appointment-based business, it is vital for you to respect your customers’ time. Otherwise, you’ll become an inconvenience to them. To avoid this, ensure that appointments start and end on time. This means you need to successfully juggle a number of variables, ranging from streamlining the check-in process to working with late arrivals.

As a leader of an appointment-based business, you need to be ready for anything. For example, you can include buffer times in between bookings. This way, late appointments don’t bleed into the next appointment slot. There is nothing more inconvenient than arriving for an appointment on time and having to wait because of a tardy fellow customer.

As another helpful aid, consider posting wait times on your website for customers to be able to view en route. Knowing that appointments are running slower than usual will inform customers that they can hit the road slightly later instead of wasting time in your lobby.

Solicit Customer Feedback

Want to know how to prioritize convenience today? Just ask your customers. They know exactly how they would like your business to improve. Give them a chance to speak their mind, and you can gain some valuable insight on how to rework your appointment experience.

Include an optional survey at the end of each appointment. This could be attached to a thank-you email or a payment confirmation. Your survey should be concise and ask a few specific questions but also allow customers to voice their opinions in a fill-in-the-blank option.

Say you take a poll of your customers and learn that it’s difficult to find your office in the business complex where you’re located. That can tip you off to the need for better signage and more thorough directions. This simple solution helps to reduce late appointments and makes the entire business function more efficiently. One suggestion has now turned into a substantial resolution.

If you’re struggling to find more ways to promote convenience in your appointment-based business, just put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What would bug you about the appointment process or experience if you were interacting with the business? This will provide additional insight into how you can continually improve your company.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!

5 Issues Appointment-Based Businesses Sometimes Face — and How to Resolve Them

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Issues Appointment Businesses Face

The best outlook you can have as a business owner is to expect the best but prepare for the worst. A positive attitude will get you far, but you should always be aware that issues will arise — and you have to be ready to deal with them.

Part of your preparation will be to know what issues you will most likely confront when running an appointment-based business. This short list contains some of the top issues appointment-based businesses around the country face on a regular basis and what you can do to address them.

1. System Errors

Operating your appointment-based business is a cinch as long as all of your software is running smoothly. So what do you do when there’s a system error bogging down your business? You can’t expect your customers to sit around while you call your IT guy, so you’ll need a quick solution until repairs can be made.

Many dentist’s offices keep paper records of the day’s check-ins in case an outage causes them to lose internet access. This way they can still manually check in patients even if there’s an ongoing system error.

How quickly you can fix a system error will depend on the know-how of your personnel. Having IT staff on hand or on call ensures that there’s always someone who can take care of an unexpected system outage. Learning how to fix small and simple errors on your own is also a worthwhile investment, as you’ll be able to help take care of customers immediately.

2. Payment Method Problems

Since most transactions these days are processed digitally, there’s additional room for error that wasn’t there when all transactions were handled via check or cash. While computerized banking has made payment faster and easier than ever, problems with cards, apps, and systems are always potential roadblocks that can get in your customer’s way during an appointment visit.

Offering multiple payment methods can cover the gaps created by individual payment problems. If your debit card processor isn’t working, you can always accept cash or even a Paypal transfer. This might not be the ideal situation for you and your customer, but it will get the job done and send them on their way while you take the time to fix things.

Another way you can eliminate payment issues is to enable prepayment. If a customer is able to pay the full balance of their appointment charges before they even check in, they won’t have to worry about being slowed down by your card reader being on the fritz.

3. Customer Issues

Mistakes happen even to the best workers and businesses, but not all customers will handle unfortunate circumstances calmly. From time to time, you will have to deal with a disgruntled customer who is upset at their appointment wait time, the perceived inadequacy of customer service, or some other aspect of their appointment experience that rubbed them the wrong way. How you deal with these customers is extremely important for your business’s longevity.

The reason that “The customer is always right” is that no business can operate without paying patrons. That’s why you need to be as patient and understanding as possible with customers who are experiencing problems. Try to work through the issue with them without playing the blame game. The way you handle a customer complaint determines the outcome. The better their complaint is handled, the more likely they are to return. Additionally, they are more likely to praise your brand to their friends and family.

Of course, there are lines that customers should never cross. This means you may need to make some exceptions to the established dictum. Your employees and other guests should never have to endure bigotry or abuse of any kind. Customers who cross such lines can be refused service indefinitely.

4. Scheduling Hiccups

As hard as you may try to craft the perfect daily appointment schedule, there are bound to be some scheduling issues and hiccups. Customers might arrive late to their appointments or fail to show up at all. Or you could have a large number of walk-in customers trying to squeeze into an appointment slot at the last minute. Learning how to roll with the punches when maintaining an appointment schedule is something you’ll have to get accustomed to.

The secret to schedule management is to be proactive, not reactive. For example, adding buffer time in between appointments now will come in handy on a snowy day when many of your customers arrive late. Thanks to this proactive decision, you can still fit everyone into their bookings without having to turn anyone away.

5. Health and Safety

Something that has been extremely relevant for the past couple of years is the health and safety of your clientele and employees. COVID-19 is not going away without a fight, and appointment-based businesses should remain vigilant while continuing to operate.

Keep your waiting room clean and sanitized, well-ventilated, and spread out. No matter how people feel about the current state of the pandemic, customers will always appreciate a tidy space when attending appointments. Your cleanliness should also extend to areas for employees only. It should be a high priority to keep them safe and healthy as well.

You’ll also need to be prepared for a workday with minimal staff in the event that some of your employees need to get tested for the virus or stay at home to recover after a positive diagnosis. Craft a plan for dealing with days that feature many appointments but fewer employees. You should allow clients to reschedule last-minute without penalty or have on-call staff members ready to help when needed.

The greatest businesses didn’t rise to the top due to luck. They learned how to deal with the common problems in their industry and used that experience to become better organizations. Your business can do the same by anticipating the roadblocks you might encounter. And from there, you could develop a plan to overcome every single one.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thanks!

The Appointment Economy: Customer Engagement

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Appointment Economy Customer Engagement

An appointment economy is emerging to improve consumer engagement, and field experiences as the globe opens up. So take a moment to check your Calendar and get your appointments scheduled and up to date.

An appointment-as-a-service indicates that time is valuable to both parties. Have you ever made a service appointment and been told to maintain a window of several hours open because they couldn’t commit to a time? Ever made an appointment at a hospital just to spend an eternity in the waiting room? Have you ever strolled into a company and wished you could arrange an appointment ahead of time? Or wished you’d scheduled a remote work conference differently?

We’ve all had these inefficiencies that are time-sucks — but you can tighten up your schedule for maximum productivity.

The Appointment Economy — Customer Engagement — and Productivity

Increasingly, clients demand creative, tailored, and time-efficient services due to the epidemic and increased digital penetration. In an “appointment economy,” you may rapidly become a competitive distinction in gaining client connections and loyalty if you’ll maximize your time — and theirs.

The pandemic changed businesses and customers

Customers’ personal and professional life became digital-first because of Covid-19 safety regulations and the fear of illness. People learned to browse and find products using digital applications and gadgets, whether they were purchasing groceries, a meal at a local restaurant, or a new vehicle or house.

A combination of health concerns and physical distance restrictions necessitated the rapid adoption of virtual applications such as remote learning, telemedicine and telehealth, courtroom litigation, insurance claims processing, and more.

Covid-19 changed culture and behavior swiftly along with the advent of digital-first activities came a new kind of client, Generation-N. A new routine and expectation in the experiences — business associates chose inspired new routines and expectations in the first 90 days of pandemic disruption.

Businesses and social contacts demanded services in both physical and digital contact points to be integrated, convenient, intuitive and frictionless, experiential and customized. Maybe you noticed, as we did — Many clients became more impatient and expected results on their timetable.

The order of the day was for firms to speed up digital interaction while introducing new experiences — and most of these constraints had to be done while we worked at home. And now, it seems, customers and clients want businesses to up the scheduling and appointment game even more — or think we can — because we are back at the office.

During the epidemic, businesses began to digitize obsolete procedures and infrastructure quickly.

Now is the time to invest in next-generation experiences, particularly in the new miles of consumer contact. Consumers increasingly find the usual four-hour appointment time inflexible and unappealing, and it’s paving the way for an appointment economy.

Reimagining the Service Path

We are seeing a reimagining of the service path, and this new path puts the digital-first client first. Recent research found that clients regard appointments as a way to save time. As a result, more appointments and scheduling are being made in business than ever before.

Changing your appointment and scheduling protocols

These new scheduling and appointment protocols are an opportunity to redefine field service as a critical personal contact points, boosting engagement and satisfaction among clients.

Digital infrastructure is required to facilitate seamless scheduling, on-site customization, and relevant follow-ups.

In a digital-first era, people prefer face-to-face service. 77 percent of US clients choose in-person appointments with digital alternatives — up from 67 percent in June 2020. So what do analog appointments represent for digital transformation in a world where digital-first is becoming the norm?

That means digital infrastructure from appointment scheduling to on-time engagement to post-service follow-up. In the future, one-third of clients aged 18-44 will choose virtual appointments over in-person meetings. While now a minority, it might be regarded as a sign of the appointment regulation’s future.

Saving time and accelerating results may become more crucial when younger consumers mature and become the market majority.

Customers want appointment-based business transactions and services.

Customers would feel more comfortable visiting a company in person if they could arrange an appointment. But that’s just the start. And what is the inclination of your client?

Eighty-two percent of your clients and customers would prefer to visit a firm with an appointment. It all boils down to action and who you choose to do business with. Over 75% stated they would be more inclined to visit a company in person if they had an appointment.

In the tech industry — we have always had people just drop by the office — and this is many of our clients and customers. But as we get back into the office, we see that nearly all of our clientele and customers prefer an appointment. So keeping everything scheduled requires an uptick in scheduling and for the teammates to pay an additional amount of attention to details of the business day.

Like the attention to detail increases, as people make and keep their appointments appointments — a remarkable thing is occurring — the productivity is up on a significant level.

Personalizing customer experiences draw new consumers and future-proof businesses.

Most customers (78%) feel customized care makes them more inclined to buy. Moreover, this figure will likely rise as AI fuels digital-first experiences.

The surprise to business is that teenagers and those in their twenties are far more likely to agree with the viewpoint of having an appointment. Maybe schools are preparing teenagers better to make and keep appointments. These meetings save consumers time and allow brands to learn about their customers in advance, either by asking questions or by using data like purchase history to give a genuinely tailored experience.

Youth prefer purchasing online and picking up in-store or curbside.

While this isn’t precisely “shopping with an appointment,” it does represent that younger and perhaps more digital-first consumers prefer to buy on their terms — and that often means on a schedule. They prefer screens to aisles and want to pick up their items when they want.

Their time is their most valuable asset — so plan accordingly.

Customers don’t want to give up their convenience, control, and better digital-first experiences as the globe opens up, but it appears our clients and customers won’t go back to normal. It’s clear that time and experiences matter in the appointment economy and businesses must progressively distinguish themselves via field service personalization.

Businesses may utilize appointment-setting to improve field service quality, plan better, employ resources more efficiently, and plan better.

You’ll want to clue your team to up their game in the appointment and scheduling department. We are still in January, and there is no better time in the first quarter. Appreciate the customer’s time and presence and find greater productivity that benefits everybody.

Offering the right experiences at the right time and scale is the hallmark of good business with the right technology. To see how you are doing with these new goals, invest in real-time analytics and scheduling. One of your most significant ways to facilitate digital self-service appointment scheduling, rescheduling, and cancellations are with your Calendar.

How to manage today’s scaled up appointment needs

Automate, self-service, and chatbots to manage today’s needs. Enable human agents to foresee and solve issues and achieve desired results by scaling automated technologies to gather and unify critical client contexts.

Remember that you will want to make experiences part of the unified customer experience, with digital at the center. So move beyond a “how did we do” email or survey and thank consumers for their business.

Video and voicemail messages

Try a video or voicemail message. Use your appointment and economic data to forecast the future. This is a business opportunity to adjust capacity if reservations surge or fall next month so that you schedule with predictability.

The expectations of service have shifted.

The expectations of services have shifted, and you still have to work on experiences and services — your upgrades are here to stay.

Conclusion

Your customers can and should be able to anticipate more convenient scheduling and tailored services both now and in the coming years. Companies that can effortlessly provide value to customers online, curbside, and in-person will succeed in the appointment economy.

Image Credit: Sora Shimazaki; Pexels; Thanks! 

The Appointment Economy: Customer Engagement was originally published on Calendar by .

4 Ways to Make Your Appointment-Based Business More Efficient

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more efficient

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

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

1. Review Customer Info

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

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

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

2. Remove Duplicates

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

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

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

3. Digitize the Check-In Process

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

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

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

4. Automate Messages and Reminders

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

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

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

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

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How Your Appointment-Based Business Can Stay Competitive This Year

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Appointment-Based Business

There are numerous ongoing challenges entrepreneurs face when starting and running an appointment-based business. One of them is learning how to position yourself against the many competitors in your industry. Where there’s one business in a particular space, there are many others vying for the same customers.

There’s no perfect business formula that guarantees you’ll be the best appointment-based business on the block. However, the list of competitive methods you can use to boost your business is extensive. These are just a few effective ways you can make your own company stay relevant this year:

Provide a Simple Online Portal System

The easier it is for customers to make appointments, the more bookings you’ll fill. A complicated appointment scheduling process is not a system that will keep you competitive.

Take a look at your current online portal. Start by analyzing the layout of your website. You want everything to be straightforward and easy to find. The simpler your navigation, the better. Use clear, clickable action buttons that guide users through the booking process and enhance the user experience.

The overall design of your online portal is also important. Use colors that can easily be associated with your brand without being oppressive or hard on the eyes. You can also fill blank spaces with images or other designs to make your online portal more attractive.

Offer Incentives

With so many businesses in the hunt, it can be a challenge at times to differentiate yourself from the competition. You should always prioritize improving your services over anything else. You should also consider providing some complimentary features to put your business over the top. Offering incentives is one way your business can set itself apart.

Incentives are especially effective at bringing in new customers. Prospective customers might be lured to your business over the competition due to an ongoing promotion. If you run a hair salon, for example, you might offer a free styling product with every haircut. A service station could do a free tire rotation with every oil change. Once you get new clients through the door using incentives, you can wow them with your services to convince them to return.

Speaking of customer retention, you can implement an incentive program for that, too. Frequent visitors can accrue points for free services or other rewards. A referral program can get you new customers and simultaneously reward your existing customer base.

Offer Online Payment Options

Many customers today prefer to make payments online rather than in person. Making a payment online takes much less time than scanning a card at the front desk or counting out the cash in one’s wallet. This leads to shorter appointment times for customers, who will always appreciate the efficiency.

Online payments also mean you get your money faster. Sending customers bills after an appointment will result in lag time before you receive payment. Worse still, such bills require your staff to print them out and mail them, costing time and money. With online payments, you can receive your fee as an appointment is being booked, even before the customer arrives at your place of business.

To make your online payment options competitive, don’t include processing fees for people who choose to pay online. These sorts of fees can easily turn customers away. Also look for ways to include all of your customer’s preferred online payment options, such as accepting multiple types of credit cards or even top payment apps such as Paypal or Venmo.

Provide COVID Updates

There are still lots of consumers out there who are worried about the different strains of COVID-19. Be respectful of these customer concerns and look for ways to make your business accommodating to them while still operating at full capacity.

A simple way you can assist these customers and keep your appointment-based business competitive in 2022 is to provide COVID updates for your area. You can include these updates on your business website or using your brand’s social media pages. This will let customers know what measures you’re taking to limit the spread of the virus, such as requiring masks or limiting appointment bookings as cases rise.

Don’t just stop at COVID news. Use your business influence to provide updates on other noteworthy community events. For example, you can use your website and social media pages to advertise local events such as fundraisers, food drives, and more. Getting involved in the community allows you to draw closer to your local customers and create an emotional bond that competing businesses will envy.

The most important thing to remember for your appointment-based business is that in order to stay competitive, you cannot settle. If you start to coast, you leave room for one of your competitors to catch up to you. Continue to set goals for yourself and your business throughout 2022 and be willing to try new things. You will always find yourself in the pack of the best appointment-based businesses around.

Image Credit: George Milton; Pexels; Thanks!

4 Risks When Scheduling Appointments Online and How to Avoid Them

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Scheduling Appointments Online

Online appointment software is one of the easiest ways you can keep your life in check. Scheduling appointments online takes much less time than doing so over the phone, saving you more time and businesses more money. The system is still less than perfect, though.

As great as online appointment software can be, anything done over the internet entails a few risks to keep in mind. You may share personal information when booking appointments, and you’ll need to take a few precautions to keep yourself safe. To help you do so, this guide will outline some of the common risks associated with scheduling appointments online and what you can do to keep them to a minimum.

Here are 4 Risks When Scheduling Appointments Online

1. Answering Potentially Irrelevant Questions

When you’re scheduling an appointment, especially for the first time, you’ll be asked a series of questions. Most of these will be standard questions (such as asking for your name) so you can reserve your appointment slot and easily verify your identity. However, you should be wary of questions that might be irrelevant or unnecessary for the business to ask.

For example, there aren’t many businesses that should require your Social Security number. Financial institutions are an example of an organization that would need your Social Security number, as well as a pediatrician looking to verify your guardianship of a child. That being said, you shouldn’t have to share such private information with vendors like your hair stylist or mechanic.

Oversharing can put your personal information at risk for identity theft and fraud. Other questions that could pose a threat to your identity include your place of work or even your address if the information simply isn’t necessary.

Before booking an appointment with a business that’s asking some curious questions, ask the business whether or not they require you to share this information. If it is optional, declining to provide it is a safer option. If it’s required, consider looking elsewhere for your services before making that commitment.

2. Using Public Wi-Fi

When you’re scheduling appointments online, be careful about the network you’re using. Public Wi-Fi leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to security. While it might be convenient to opt for public Wi–Fi over cellular data, it’s always safer to wait until you’re on a secure network before booking an appointment.

Nefarious figures can easily hack into public networks and swipe your personal information and location while you’re in the appointment booking process. Some people can even create false Wi-Fi networks you can connect to in public places and hand over your information without even realizing it.

Using cellular data is typically safer than using a public Wi-Fi network. Using your phone as a hotspot for another device is not as secure, but it is not encrypting the information you are sharing. If you are on the road and need to book an appointment, try to do so on your mobile device. Businesses with online appointment software enabled should have websites or scheduling apps that are compatible with smartphones.

3. Unsafe Browsing

If you have to use a public network for some reason, make sure you can verify its security and take as many safety precautions as possible before connecting. Additionally, there are certain cybersecurity measures that you should take even on a secure private network.

For example, saving your card information online is dangerous even if your home network is secure. The longer that information stays on the internet, the more opportunities there are for fraud and theft to occur. Autosaving other information such as your home address can also pose the same risk.

Safe browsing starts by being careful and prepared. While autosaving information certainly is convenient, especially when scheduling appointments online, remember how much safer it is to take a few extra seconds to manually input your personal info each time. Another thing to look for is a lock icon next to web addresses, as this will indicate whether the website you are using is secure or not.

4. System Errors

While not as catastrophic as someone stealing your information, even the best automated systems can experience a few hiccups. A single system error can ruin your entire appointment booking if you’re not paying attention to catch the mistake.

For example, if the online appointment scheduling system fails to synchronize with your personal online calendar, you can end up missing your appointment entirely since it won’t appear in your schedule and won’t send you any reminders. Besides having to reschedule, you could also be subject to missed appointment fees that will be difficult to dispute.

Other possible errors include misentered information, double bookings, and internet outages preventing people to finalize their appointments. Make sure you have a reliable internet connection and double-check all of the information you submit to keep such errors to a minimum.

Don’t let this guide dissuade you from relying on online appointment software with your business interactions. This software has a lot to offer, as long as you use it wisely.

Image Credit: Marcus Aurelius; Pexels; Thanks!

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