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!