Category Archives: Appointment

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

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Appointments in the Winter

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

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

1. Connect an Online Calendar

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

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

2. Opt for Appointment Reminders

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

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

3. Check the Weather

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

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

4. Prepare Your Transportation in Advance

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

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

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

5. Call Ahead on Snow Days

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: SHVETS Production; Pexels; Thanks!

Make Appointments More Enjoyable With These 5 Amenities

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Make Appointments More Enjoyable With These 5 Amenities

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

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

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

1. Optional On-File Info

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

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

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

2. Online Check-In Options

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

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

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

3. Wait-Time Updates

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

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

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

4. Complimentary Refreshments

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

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

5. Free Entertainment

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

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

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

4 Ways to Send Appointment Reminders Without Annoying Customers

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Ways to Send Appointment Reminders Without Annoying Customers

A robust reminder system is an essential part of running an appointment-based business. Reminders help cut down on no-shows as well as promote on-time arrivals. When customers are present and punctual, you’re able to run a much smoother and more successful operation.

As vital as appointment reminders are, it’s important to keep in mind that not all customers are as gung ho about them as you might be. You need to be able to send effective reminders without annoying your customers. Even with the best intentions, your reminder messages can drive customers away.

Fret not, for there are ways to send appointment reminders that work without annoying your customer base. Here are a few tips to help you achieve just that:

1. Give Them an Appointment Card on Their Way Out

You should always give customers some kind of reminder about their upcoming appointment well in advance. Something as simple as an appointment card is an easy way to confirm future appointments and leave customers with a constant reminder.

An appointment card is a visual nudge to your customer that they have an upcoming appointment. This can be kept in a wallet, phone case, or even on the fridge. Your clients will have the opportunity to see that reminder every single day up until the day of their next appointment.

Appointment cards are most useful for reminding customers about return appointments. If a customer books their appointment online or over the phone, it won’t be feasible to mail them a card as a reminder. Instead, offer an appointment card as customers are leaving from an appointment and booking their next return visit.

2. Allow Them to Opt In for Automatic Reminders

If you don’t want to waste a bunch of cardstock by handing out dozens of appointment cards every day, go the digital route. Even if you do like physical appointment cards, allowing customers to opt in for automatic digital reminders is a great idea. This allows your patrons to get notified on their preferred device, wherever they are, without any extra effort on their part.

There are more options you should extend beyond just the ability to turn automated reminders on and off. Make sure you also give customers the choice to receive their appointment reminders via email, text, or even through an automated voice message. Getting reminders exactly how they want them is the best way to avoid annoying your customers.

Make it just as easy to opt out of appointment reminders as it is to opt in. Difficulties with adjusting reminder settings can be as infuriating as reminder spam can be.

3. Send Reminders at the Right Time

The best time to send a reminder is a day or two in advance of the appointment date. Sending a reminder a week in advance might seem like a good idea, but customers can easily forget about an appointment over the course of seven days. This bonus reminder then becomes more of a nuisance than a helpful notification.

Of course, you can allow customers to request more appointment reminders according to their preference, but sending a single reminder the day before an appointment date is a useful rule of thumb. This one reminder will do its job and be a helpful addition to the appointment process without bothering the customer in the slightest.

It’s also a good idea to send your appointment reminders within normal business hours or at other reasonable times of day. If a customer wakes up to an appointment reminder that was sent at midnight, they’re bound to be irritated. Unless a customer states otherwise, keep reminders to waking hours only.

4. Watch Your Wording

Take a moment to read your appointment reminder template. How does it come across? How your reminders are worded is just as important as sending them in the first place. Use the wrong tone or language, and your reminders might end up rubbing your customers the wrong way.

For example, reminders should be clear and concise. Put the focus on the appointment information, perhaps by putting it in bold lettering or a font that stands out from the rest of the message. That’s what the reminder is for anyway, so don’t waste your effort typing up a long notification that customers have to dig through.

Next, take a look at any wording that’s included besides the appointment information. Is there a way to personalize the message? Is there a call to action? Should you lighten the tone a little bit? You want to sound helpful, not hectoring. Ask these sorts of questions and put yourself in your customers’ shoes as you make adjustments to your reminder messages.

Happy customers will keep coming back, giving you a constant revenue stream upon which to grow your business. Appointment reminders will help you serve every customer with precision as long as you continue to use them wisely and effectively.

How to Combat the Slow Season With Appointment Software

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How to Combat the Slow Season With Appointment Software

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

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

Keep Your Software Updated

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

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

See What’s Trending

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

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

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

Check In With Customers

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

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

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

Request Feedback

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

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

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

Plan for the Future

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

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

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

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

7 Things to Have in Your Waiting Room This Winter

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Things to Have in Your Waiting Room This Winter

No one enjoys waiting. But the reality is, everyone has to wait from time to time. This is especially true when visiting an appointment-based business like the doctor’s office or hair salon.

Even if an individual made an appointment and arrived on time, they’ll probably end up spending a few minutes in the waiting room filling out paperwork or waiting to be seen. This can be frustrating and might even cause anxiety.

While integrating some type of appointment software to reduce their wait times and streamline productivity is important, it shouldn’t be your only priority. Making the waiting room as comfortable as possible is a great way to make customers and clients feel at ease. In this article, we share what appointment-based businesses can provide to improve their waiting rooms and the customer experience:

1. Clean Facilities

Now more than ever, people want to feel safe while out in public. This is especially true when patients visit a healthcare or service provider. If your waiting room looks dirty, it’s going to deter patients and customers. On the other hand, if the waiting room is clean, people will probably feel less anxious. Make sure you’re regularly cleaning your waiting room throughout the day.

You should also have cleaning products and PPE in place like hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves. Due to COVID-19, masks are mandated in many localities. It’s a good idea to have them available for patients or customers in case they forget.

Your waiting room shouldn’t be the only area you keep spic and span. Make sure your entire office is clean and sanitized, from the interior offices to the bathrooms. If you own a salon, encourage stylists to keep their areas tidy and free of excess tools and equipment. Do you run an oil-change service center? Keeping the garage bays organized will make a good impression on guests.

2. Entertainment

While people don’t go to doctor’s offices or service businesses to watch movies or play games, having entertainment options available can improve their experience. With that said, you don’t want to go overboard or over budget. You also want to make sure the entertainment is calming and not distracting. A few options include:

  • Soft music/nature sounds
  • TV turned to an arts and craft channel
  • Magazines and self-help books

3. Comfortable Furniture

Have you ever visited an office, only to spend what seemed like an hour sitting in a hard, plastic chair? After being uncomfortable for so long, you probably weren’t in a good mood for your appointment.

Comfortable seating can significantly improve the waiting experience. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a great deal of money on your seating, but keep patients and guests in mind. After all, some people might suffer from back pain or another condition that could be made worse with uncomfortable seating. Look for furnishings with soft but supportive cushions and fabrics that are easy to keep clean.

4. Personal Amenities

Waiting room amenities are a great way to improve the patient or customer experience. Think about it. When you go to a hotel, the first thing you probably look for are amenities like access to a gym, fancy shampoo and lotion, a fluffy robe, etc. While you wouldn’t be miserable without these things, they definitely add a nice touch.

Consider bringing personal amenities to your waiting room like snacks, coffee or tea, hand lotion, wrapped candy, etc. Many appointment-based businesses also provide small items like pens or sticky notes with their logo for customers to take home.

5. Wi-Fi

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine categorized Wi-Fi in hospitals and waiting rooms as a “developmental” standard. And while Wi-Fi in waiting rooms might not be mandatory, it’s something you should consider adding if you haven’t already.

If you decide to offer patients or customers Wi-Fi, opt for a public network (for security reasons) as opposed to giving people access to what your office uses. Display the Wi-Fi name and password somewhere they can be easily seen by guests, like by the sign-in sheet at the front desk.

Having access to the internet ensures visitors are able to go about their day as normal, even while waiting for an appointment. They can email their colleagues, work on cloud-based documents, scroll social media, and text with family or friends.

6. Food and Water

You might be hesitant to offer refreshments in the waiting room. And while there’s always the possibility something will spill, providing food and water can be helpful. This is especially true for healthcare provider waiting rooms, where patients may have to spend hours in the office between procedures or tests.

Keep in mind, we’re not suggesting you cater food every day. Instead, you could have a coffee station, a vending machine with snacks, or a refrigerator filled with water.

7. Real-Time Mobile Alerts

There are plenty of ways you can enhance the waiting room experience. But maybe one of the best ways is to integrate more technology.

For instance, you could have a digital board in the waiting room that shows the order of when people will be seen. This way, if there are four people in the waiting room, each person can clearly see their position without having to ask the receptionist.

Another option is to use real-time mobile alerts that tell patients when they’ll be seen. This is similar to the digital board, but it’ll be automatically sent to the patient’s phone. Some online appointment software offers this feature, so you don’t have to do it manually. This also allows people to wait outside or in their cars.

Providing excellent care should be the No. 1 priority for appointment-based businesses and service providers. That said, they should also consider the patient or customer experience. After all, if a patient or client doesn’t feel comfortable, they might not return for their next appointment. The tips above can help improve the waiting room experience so guests feel cared for and welcomed, no matter what kind of business they visit.

How to Decide the Minimum Amount of Appointment Cancellation Notice to Require

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How to Decide the Minimum Amount of Appointment Cancellation Notice to Require

In a perfect world, every appointment your customers make with you would take place. But in a perfect world, ice cream would be a superfood and a staple of every diet. Alas, that just isn’t the case. Unfortunately, cancellations are a fact of life. Lots of things can happen that result in canceled customer appointments. 

How your business deals with appointment cancellations will play a big part in its ultimate success. Some organizations require a fee to be paid if an appointment is canceled or issue a no-refund policy for every booking. That allows them to recoup some of the money lost when an appointment slot goes unfilled. However, a certain amount of lenience can provide a much stronger relationship with your customers. Working with a customer’s changing schedules and accommodating their needs as a business can create loyalty that is more beneficial long-term.  

For that reason, many companies implement a grace period before charging fees. This is part of an appointment-cancellation policy that customers are expected to follow. 

The biggest question with any cancellation policy is how much notice is required. How far in advance will you require your customers to cancel before they incur a penalty? The following variables can help you craft the perfect appointment-cancellation policy for your business and its customers:

1. Hours of Operation

The first thing you should consider when formulating an appointment-cancellation policy is your hours of operation. Businesses that are open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. may want to specify that their cancellation deadline hits when business doors open for the day (or even by close of business the previous day). This can be done to make it easier for business owners to plan their daily schedules and not have to roll with the punches of multiple cancellations, no-shows, and late arrivals throughout the day. 

Businesses with longer hours of operation might have to attempt more of a balancing act. For example, a salon owner who books time slots until 9 p.m might allow patrons to cancel appointments up until noon. The extra hours they have at their disposal could allow them to fill those coveted after-work appointments with people on their waitlist, minimizing disruption and revenue loss.

2. Staff Availability

Appointment cancellations directly impact your staff. If you’re gearing up for a full day of appointments, you may plan to have your entire staff on hand to absorb the anticipated traffic. When last-minute cancellations occur, a busy day can get completely off-balance. All those employees you asked to come in that day may not have enough appointments to keep them busy anymore.

If the number of appointments you have on a given day directly impacts your staffing decisions, you might want to opt for a cancellation policy that requires advance notice. For example, 48 hours’ notice allows employee schedules to be adjusted without a last-minute scramble. This will be especially helpful for any on-call workers you might employ who have more flexible schedules but appreciate at least some certainty. 

3. Appointment Demand

How in demand are your appointment slots? This might fluctuate depending on the time of year, but it’s an important component of your cancellation policy. If you have a long waitlist for daily appointments, short cancellation notices might not affect your business at all. As soon as an appointment slot opens up, it can be filled instantly, and your schedule will be none the wiser. 

For example, a tax accounting service may be incredibly busy in the first four months of the year, but business may slow in the summer. During slower months, you might appreciate having a little more notice for appointment cancellations when fewer people are waiting in line for open slots. You might even consider changing your cancellation policy during this time to accommodate changing needs for your business. If that’s what you decide to do, just be sure to make the changes clear to your customers so there’s no unnecessary frustration. 

4. Reminder Practices

Appointment reminders are one of the greatest tools your business can implement. By running all your appointments through online appointment software, the system can automatically send reminder messages that keep no-shows and late arrivals to a minimum. They can also help you when it comes to cancellations.

Most businesses will send reminders 24 hours in advance so that appointment reminders are fresh in customers’ minds. However, this is too late to include a reminder about your cancellation policy. Try sending your appointment reminder messages 48 hours in advance if you want to implement a 24-hour cancellation policy. Include a link for canceling or rescheduling appointments in the reminders you send, and changes should be made smoothly.

Your goal will always be to keep appointment cancellations to a minimum, but you should also be prepared for when cancellations inevitably occur. Draft an initial cancellation policy and weigh it against the four variables mentioned in this article. Once you come up with a good balance, share it with customers and observe how it affects appointment bookings over the next few months. 

5 Reasons Customers Prefer to Schedule Appointments on Their Own

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5 Reasons Customers Prefer to Schedule Appointments on Their Own

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

Why Customers Prefer to Schedule Their Appointments

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

1. They Don’t Have All Day

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

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

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

2. They Can Correct Their Own Mistakes

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

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

3. They Can Make Secure Payments Online

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

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

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

4. Questions Are Easily Answered

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

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

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

5. The Options Are Endless

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

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

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

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

5 Ways Self-Serve Appointment Scheduling Amplifies Your Business

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Ways Self-Serve Appointment Scheduling Amplifies Your Business

Being hands-on with your customer service strategy is a great idea. However, these days customers love being able to do things on their own. Self-service saves a lot of time for everyone and cuts down on human interactions that many people may wish to avoid if possible. 

While appointment-based businesses usually have a stronger relationship with their customer bases, there are still ways they can implement successful self-service options. Self-service can actually strengthen those relationships even though it may seem like customers are keeping their distance. Online appointment scheduling is a valuable integration that can really amplify your business in the following ways: 

1. It Offers 24/7 Scheduling 

Back in the analog day, appointment setting was very limited. You could only book an appointment over the phone during business hours when a company representative was available. This method of setting appointments was (and is) inconvenient for both parties.

With online appointment software enabled, customers can schedule appointments whenever they want. Someone could be lying in bed at two in the morning and book a dentist appointment. Thanks to your self-serve appointment solution, customers are less restricted when booking appointment slots.

Having the ability to schedule appointments 24/7 will do more than provide your customers with additional flexibility. By providing unlimited opportunities for customers to book appointments, you increase the likelihood that your time slots will get filled. Additionally, you’ll need to take fewer calls, which frees up your employees to tackle other tasks.

2. It Has Auto-Schedule Capabilities 

When you book an appointment after hours, there’s a chance you’ll forget the appointment entirely the next morning. However, you can easily avoid this by using another excellent appointment software feature. Calendar-syncing options are available so customers don’t have to manually add events to their calendars. 

Auto-scheduling helps keep missed appointment rates low. Couple this with appointment reminders, and your conversion rate will hit all-time highs. Online appointment software will do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to helping customers stay true to the commitments they make. 

Do you have loyal customers who make frequent visits to your establishment? Help them set up recurring appointments. If you have a client who always comes in on Monday mornings, automatic booking for those appointments will ensure they always get a time slot without going through the trouble of booking every single one. 

3. It Makes Appointment Scheduling an On-the-Go Affair

Not only can customers make appointments at any time, they can make them from anywhere. As long as customers have a device that is connected to the internet, online appointment software is ready and available. This means customers can book appointments while on the subway, at the gym, or even while at work. 

Online appointment software makes payment easier as well. Customers can choose to make payments online before even arriving at your place of business. This means they don’t have to spend as much time in the lobby. This will come in handy for customers who don’t have a very flexible schedule and might like using their lunch breaks to get quick appointments in. 

Simply having access to everything online is convenient. Customers can make changes to their personal profile, appointment preferences, and even upcoming appointment times on their own. 

4. It Reduces Errors

Let’s face it, humans are imperfect. Even your best employees will make mistakes from time to time. Reducing errors in appointment setting will save you a lot of headaches and keep your customers content.

With self-service, much of the responsibility falls on the customer when booking an appointment. The scheduling software will do the rest. Technology is programmed to keep errors to a minimum. As long as customers are careful about the times they select, everything should run smoothly. 

5. It Promotes Transparency

Along with self-service, increased company transparency is at the top of growing consumer desires. The more transparent you can make your business, the more you can amplify it.

For example, when customers use online appointment software, they can see the exact data settings you have put into place and can even customize them to their preferences. This gives you an opportunity to be upfront with how your company is using data and exactly what information you collect, as well as giving customers options. 

You can also be more transparent about things such as pricing. Calculating appointment costs can be tricky sometimes, especially when customizing services. If customers choose to pay upfront online, they can get a better idea of what your business is charging. 

There are many reasons why self-service will benefit your business in the long run. Besides, online appointment software is helpful in so many other ways that adding self-service is just one of many bonuses you’ll receive. Start implementing this solution today and watch how your relationship with your customer base continues to grow. 

Leadership Shows the Way for Productivity

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Leadership Shows the Way for Productivity

In order for the company to achieve its goals, everyone from top to bottom must be productive. Additionally, productivity will motivate employees, increase morale, and promote a more positive work environment. All of these, by the way, is essential if you want you and your team to get excited about work following COVID.

As you know, you must become an effective leader to improve your team’s productivity. But, that’s often easier said than done. Thankfully, you can improve your leadership skills using the following strategies. In turn, this will pave the way for productivity.

1. Don’t be a boss.

Initially, this may sound like a contradiction. But, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” As it turns out, the Bull Moose was 100% right.

As Building Champions notes, the key differences between a boss and a leader are;

  • Leaders focus on sustainable solutions, while bosses prefer quick fixes. Leaders show subordinates how and why to do things, while managers cultivate a micromanaged environment.
  • Unlike bosses, leaders are more emotionally intelligent. In contrast to subject matter experts, leaders are emotionally and people-savvy. Great leaders are empathetic, but also very capable of controlling their emotions.
  • Leaders manage people while bosses manage work. Leaders motivate people to achieve specific goals, while bosses control them. Influential leaders influence, inspire, and encourage others to make an organization successful.
  • Unlike a boss, a leader is someone who listens and speaks. Subordinates are expected to listen and obey their bosses when they deliver orders. Regardless of the title of the individual, leaders listen to everyone’s opinions.
  • Leaders encourage rather than criticize. Even though constructive criticism is healthy, excessive and constant criticism can be discouraging. An outstanding leader strikes the right balance between constructive criticism and rewarding employees when they excel.
  • Leaders create more leaders, not just circles of power. It’s considered a form of competition by the boss to hog all the power and authority. Instead, through delegation, education, and providing the right resources, a leader creates other leaders.

2. Effective communicators.

Communication is one of the most crucial aspects of increasing productivity among your team. Overall, members of your team should feel comfortable talking to you about challenges they are facing. But, if you want this to happen, you need to provide ample time to meet with them. And, you also need to make sure that you actually listen to them without judgment.

If this is an area that needs work, encourage your team to speak up during meetings. You can also put them more at ease by informally chatting with them, like during lunch. Other suggestions you can practice would be;

  • Make sure everyone is kept in the loop. Always keep the lines of communication open. Teams are more motivated when leaders are transparent and keep them informed.
  • Listen with empathy. Communication is a two-way street. As such, you must listen attentively to your employees. The more you listen to their concerns and implement changes, the more you will display respect as well as improve productivity and work processes.
  • Be careful about the medium you choose. Cooperation and healthy work culture will be enhanced with a suitable communication medium or tool. Examples include email, Slack, and Zoom.

3. Walk the talk.

Leading by example is a simple and effective way to increase your team’s productivity. If you do this frequently, your team will eventually become more productive. For instance, if you want your team members to show up to team meetings on time, you must make it a point to arrive early.

By setting the bar for productivity, your employees will most likely follow suit. After all, leadership is about influencing others to be more efficient.

4. Grant ownership.

Ownership is a powerful business principle understood by the best leaders. The best way to give ownership to team members? Let them make their own decisions and hold them accountable for those decisions.

You can induce a sense of responsibility in your team members when they’re held accountable for their work. As a result, it becomes apparent to them that their decisions can directly impact the performance of everyone else.

There are several different ways to take ownership of a project. For example, one employee could be a project manager, while another focuses on research. Regardless of the exact responsibility, this builds their self-confidence. How? Because it shows that you trust them to get the job done on time.

5. Bring more humanity into the workplace.

“As a leader, you can be the one to ignite more humanity at work,” write Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer in Fast Company. “Take time to pause and reflect on how you may be contributing to a work environment where people are disengaged.”

“Your people are watching you all the time, taking cues from what you do and say,” they add. “What is your impact? Are you helping their work feel deeper and more connected? When you do, people will give more of themselves, and business wins.”

In other words, without humanity, your employees will continue to suffer a toxic burnout. But, thanks to the following five practices, you can successfully bring more humanity into the workplace.

  • Creating safety. Having a sense of belonging allows individuals to feel safe, fully express themselves, and know what they have to offer.
  • Working together. Establish and work towards achieving a common goal. Also, “be sure every team member feels heard and knows their contributions are valued,” they advise.
  • Claiming values. Clarity and intentionality come from knowing what you stand for. It’s your job as a leader to help your employees learn about their values and to understand why they do what they do.
  • Owning your impact. “When you take responsibility for your impact, it creates personal accountability; your words and your actions align,” add Cohen and Roeske-Zummer. In order to own your impact, you have to be personally responsible for the work you do and the culture you create.
  • Daring not to know. Leaders who show they are human, vulnerable, and do not know all the answers, allow others to step up. The strength of an organization depends on not knowing. You can take charge by saying, “I don’t have the answer for that, what do you think?”

6. Encourage learning opportunities.

Companies offering extensive training have 218% higher income per employee than companies with no formal training, according to the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Moreover, these companies have 24% higher profit margins than those who haven’t invested as much in training.

As if that weren’t enough, employing training and development encourages engagement and retains your top talent. Whether if it’s paying for in-person/online classes, bringing in speakers, or attending workshops, everyone in your organization, including yourself, should be enhancing and learning new skills.

7. Offer incentives.

Research conducted by Genesis Associates in 2018 found that 85% of the employees surveyed felt highly motivated to perform their best when there was an incentive. Why? One reason is that when we feel appreciated, we’re encouraged to repeat the behaviors and habits that made us productive in the first place.

It is essential to consider the employee’s individual needs or preferences when deciding how to reward them. For example, some might prefer public recognition depending on your employees, while others would rather have privately expressed thanks. Besides simple words of appreciation, you can also consider the following incentives:

  • A handwritten note. By sending them a handwritten note, you show your appreciation and that you care enough to take the time to thank them personally.
  • Take them out to lunch. This is also an excellent way to get to them better. If they’re working remotely, you could have food delivered to their home.
  • PTO. If you don’t wish to give your employees a bonus or raise, you can offer paid time off in lieu of vacation and sick days.
  • Introducing a wellness program. You can reduce your company’s health insurance costs and sick days by implementing a workplace wellness program.
  • Lazy Monday/Friday Coupons. Employees can use these coupons to arrive late on Monday mornings or leave early on Fridays.

8. Reduce phantom workload.

Introduced by Marilyn Paul, Ph. D., and David Peter Stroh, phantom workload “is the unintentional work created when people either take expedient but ineffective shortcuts or avoid taking on such as essential.”

Examples include complex tasks like:

  • Clarifying mission, vision, and values
  • Asking questions that challenge what is ambiguous or unrealistic
  • Identifying and resolving conflicts
  • Clarifying and streamlining decision-making processes
  • Providing candid, constructive feedback
  • Differentiating people with sanctions and rewards
  • Launching innovative projects
  • Making decisions that require disinvestment in programs or projects

“When not addressed, the phantom workload leads to a variety of consequences such as rework, unproductive meetings, organizational conflicts, and fractured relationships,” explains Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. In addition, it wastes time since we keep working on “the same problem over and over again.” Eventually, phantom workload “leads to greater stress and a further reluctance or inability to engage in difficult tasks.”

The good news? You can rescue phantom workload through tactics, such as;

  • Setting a limited amount of realistic goals for you and your team.
  • Changing your behavior by identifying why you want to change.
  • Planning out your day and protecting your time.
  • Asking others for help.
  • Using rewards or inspirational resources like Ted Talks for motivation.
  • Overcoming procrastination through mindfulness or working on the most challenging task first.

And “experiment with different time management and strategies,” Deanna suggests. “There will be some trial and error involved. But, it’s the only way that you’ll discover what works best for you.”

9. Give each other feedback.

Introducing a team feedback process is the final but most important item on the list. When employees aren’t aware they are being inefficient, then how can they improve their performance?

With that in mind, that’s why performance reviews and constructive feedback are essential and not a nuisance. It’s a proven way to guide employees in strengthening their weaknesses.

Additionally, don’t forget to ask them how you could help them improve after giving them the feedback. For example, maybe a little bit more guidance would be useful on specific tasks. Or perhaps that could use a little more creative freedom. And, to further encourage a culture of trust and open dialogue, ask them where you can improve to become a better leader.

Make Sure Your Appointment Software Doesn’t Lack These 3 Qualities

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Make Sure Your Appointment Software Doesn’t Lack These 3 Qualities

One of the most important appointment metrics you can track is customer retention. For appointment-based businesses especially, returning customers provide a lot of value both to your brand and to your bank account. There are several reasons why your customer retention might fluctuate, and your appointment software may be one of them.

In general, implementing online appointment software into your overall operations is a huge win. Booking and managing appointments is so much easier with a software tool at hand. However, there are some specifics that might make or break your business when a customer comes to evaluate their experience. 

There are many things you can work on vis-a-vis customer experience, but these three appointment software qualities are a good place to start. Any online appointment software is better than none at all, but these three characteristics should be a high priority:

Customization Options 

In a world where fast-food patrons can select from among 165 different kinds of fountain soda, it’s safe to say consumers have come to expect customization. This idea translates — if not in quantity, at least in principle — to other consumer choices. Customers want to be able to choose how to communicate with businesses, how they shop, and even how they book appointments.

Online appointment software opens the door for a host of customization capabilities. You can start by customizing what you want in your appointment software. Display options such as text font and size, in addition to your business logo and color scheme, will make online software fit seamlessly into your website. 

Once you’re satisfied with how your online appointment software looks and feels, start providing customization options for your customers. This can be done by enabling a variety of payment methods, such as accepting both debit cards and online payments through apps such as PayPal. The creation of customer profiles and the ability to book appointments through multiple platforms are more options that can be enabled thanks to this technology.

While not explicitly a customization feature per se, online appointment software itself allows customers to book and manage their appointments on their own schedule. Booking an appointment at two in the morning is no problem at all; nor is moving appointments around without the aid of a service representative during business hours. That sort of flexibility will win over many new customers quickly. 

Automated Email or SMS Reminders 

Reminders are a big reason why appointment software is so successful. Automated reminders drastically cut down no-show rates and help to boost customer punctuality. Since they’re automated, there’s no extra work required by you or your team members after such software is implemented. 

Offering both email and text reminders is also important. Your customers will have different needs and preferences, so having an option for reminders will appeal to almost everyone. In some cases, you can even send both for maximum effectiveness. 

Sending any old reminder isn’t enough, though. The way your reminder is composed is also an important factor. When creating appointment reminders, be sure to:

  • Provide accurate information regarding appointment times and services
  • Use a friendly but straightforward tone in your writing 
  • Include relevant calls to action
  • Enable reminder personalization
  • Maintain consistency from reminder to reminder
  • Allow the customer to adjust appointments through a provided link or command

Check these items off of your list, and your appointment reminders will be all the more effective and memorable. You’ll be able to distinguish your appointment system from competitors’ and provide better service to your appointment-setting customers. 

24/7 Calendar Sync Options 

Previously mentioned was the ability for clients to access online appointment software at all hours of the day. That being the case, you will want your appointment software to make real-time updates to any added integrations. The most important of these is the online calendar. 

Syncing up appointments with a personal calendar helps customers remember their commitments and stay true to them. If your appointment software isn’t syncing with their calendars automatically, there’s additional room for error you can definitely do without. 

Be sure that your business calendar is also being updated in real time. If your appointment software integrations work promptly for customers but are delayed for you, you could face last-minute scheduling conflicts. 

There are other integrations you can add to the right appointment software, and you also want response times to be as close to immediate as possible there. For example, customers will really appreciate online payments being processed immediately so they can better track their funds and account balances in real time. 

Appointment software solutions offer other important capabilities — such as lockdown security, extensive reporting, and waitlist management — that might be just as valuable to your business. These features are just a few of many. Whichever appointment software you choose, though, make sure it has the three qualities outlined here. If it does, your business will be sitting pretty.

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