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How to Use Appointments to Improve Your Decision-Making

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How to Use Appointments to Improve Your Decision-Making

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

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

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

Block Out Time for Projects and Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

Assess How You Use Your Time

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

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

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

Use Dead Time for Productive Purposes

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

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

Improve Your Time Management

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

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

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

6 Tips for Scheduling Appointments with Reluctant Customers

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6 Tips for Scheduling Appointments with Reluctant Customers

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon us a long, grueling, utterly unprecedented year. Everyone — from individuals to communities to entire countries — faced their own unique and strenuous challenges. 

Luckily, the pandemic appears to be on the wane at last. While case numbers continue to fluctuate, people across the country are receiving doses of highly effective vaccines. As the vaccine rollout accelerates, getting back to normal seems increasingly likely.

And yet, for owners of appointment-based businesses, the challenges of COVID-19 are still ongoing.

On the bright side, many companies have opened their doors and resumed in-person work. However, even if employees are happy to return, many customers don’t feel the same way. Thus, persuading these customers to return for face-to-face appointments remains a hurdle.

If you’re facing this issue, don’t stress out — you’re not alone. Read on for six tips on scheduling appointments with reluctant customers.

1. Follow your state and local COVID-19 guidelines.

Official COVID-19 guidelines were implemented for a reason: to keep us all safe. Adhering to these guidelines will benefit your customers and your employees alike. So before your grand office reopening, be sure to brush up on these essential rules. 

Every state is different, so you’ll have to do a bit of research on your own here. Fortunately, there are convenient tools that can help you keep track of state-by-state guidelines, restrictions, and more.

Not only does following applicable laws protect your business, but it also helps put your customers at ease. If they know that officials have deemed it safe to conduct in-person business, they’ll be more likely to book a face-to-face appointment with you.

2. Continue to adhere to social distancing policies.

Social distancing has been the name of the game for over a year now. Remaining six feet apart and wearing masks feels like second nature these days.

As a result, even though restrictions are easing up, lots of customers don’t feel ready to return to mask-free, shoulder-to-shoulder life. This is why staying socially distant for a while longer is the right move.

Basically, you should continue to take precautions to handle your appointments safely. Ensure that everyone in your office wears a face covering, stays six feet apart, and avoids eating or drinking in common spaces. To take it one step further, you could even require daily temperature checks or rapid COVID tests.

By continuing to follow strict health guidelines, you’ll show your clients that you’re still taking this pandemic seriously. Customers will feel safe, protected, and ready to show up for an appointment.

3. Communicate with your customers.

Communication is more important now than ever. It seems as if the world is constantly changing, especially as COVID-19 restrictions can loosen or tighten every day. Right now, it’s vital to respond accordingly and keep your customers in the loop. 

If clients are uncertain about your current mode of operation, they may be reluctant to reach out and schedule an appointment. That’s exactly why you should make an effort to keep them informed about all the details of your office reopening. 

In other words, be sure to let them know that you’re following tips 1 and 2 above. If you consistently maintain communication with your customers, you’ll be well on your way to a rush of new appointments.

4. Use social media to your advantage.

Social media is an indispensable business and marketing tool that’s only grown more popular during this pandemic. There’s no doubt it will remain just as important post-COVID.

As you and your business readjust to normalcy, don’t forget to leverage your social media channels. It’s an effective way to interact with customers, provide real-time updates about the business, and promote your company. 

Whenever COVID-19 guidelines change in your area, make sure to post about your business’s response to the changes. This will help ease any lingering concerns your customers may have about COVID dangers.

5. Give customers an at-home option.

Although we’re moving closer to normalcy each day, the pandemic is still not over. Yes, cases have gone down in most areas, and vaccinations are well underway. Despite this progress, however, many people are still uncomfortable with the idea of returning to in-person work and social events. 

Unfortunately, some customers won’t feel ready to return to your business just yet — it’s that simple. If this is the case, convincing them otherwise may be impossible.

The good news is that we live in the 21st century, and we have modern technology at our disposal. If the nature of your services makes it possible, allow your customers to opt for a virtual appointment if they desire. It may not be ideal, but it’s better than missing out on the opportunity entirely.

If you give customers the choice to stay home, they’ll certainly feel safer returning to your business in the future. Even better, they will greatly appreciate your effort to be accommodating. 

6. Be open to adaptation.

If we can offer one final tip, it’s this: don’t be afraid to adapt. After the year we’ve had, perhaps this goes without saying. 

When you discover that one of your normal practices isn’t working, it may be time to try something new. For example, a hairstylist whose customers are still hesitant to return for in-salon appointments could make house calls. Or, weather permitting, they could move one salon chair outside for alfresco haircuts. 

Much has changed in the past year, and there’s no doubt that things will continue to change throughout 2021. So as your business transitions from virtual to in-person, it’s important to remain flexible. 

The pandemic has forced all of us to reevaluate and rearrange our priorities, both business-related and otherwise. Just remember: you’ve made it this far. Stay adaptable, and you’ll be fine.

5 Integrations for Your Online Appointment Software

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5 Integrations for Your Online Appointment Software

Businesses of all sizes are making the shift to online appointment software. From enabling customer self-service to better managing staff scheduling, the benefits of an online appointment system are clear and compelling.  

Your appointment software can make you even more organized and productive when you supercharge it with app integrations. These integrations make it possible to synchronize information across several software applications. Among these are digital calendar, billing and payment, customer relationship management, email and communications, and web design solutions.

By combining information from various systems, your company can improve its customer experience. You can also further enhance the efficiency you’re already gaining from online appointment software.   

Digital Calendars

Digital calendars have become common in business environments due to their convenience and versatility. Unlike paper calendars, digital versions can be viewed, updated, and synced across any device that can connect to the internet. When your online appointment software syncs with your digital calendar, you don’t have to worry about updating it.

That means when customers schedule, cancel, or reschedule an appointment, your business’s digital calendar automatically adjusts. This translates to better staff scheduling and reduced miscommunication. You also reduce the risk of falling short of customers’ expectations, as they can see what’s available in real time.

Billing and Payment

When billing systems are synced with online appointment applications, customers find it easier to pay ahead of time. This makes them less likely to cancel or back out of an appointment at the last minute. It also gives them peace of mind, knowing that they’ve already paid and budgeted for the service.

Some customers prefer to pay online, knowing that their financial information isn’t being exchanged with a person over the phone. Being able to instantly transfer funds from a PayPal account without revealing any sensitive information makes customers feel safe. This can help your business capture sales that might otherwise be abandoned.  

If you’re a small business owner, streamlining your billing systems can free up more time for your staff. Sixty percent of small business owners wish they had more time to devote to other tasks. Thirty-nine percent indicate paperwork is one of their top time stealers.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management (CRM) applications are great tools for capturing leads and contact information. These applications also nurture relationships from initial interest to conversion and gather and track consumer behaviors. Integrating your CRM and online appointment software creates an added level of convenience for both you and your customers.

First, existing customers don’t have to constantly re-enter their information. Anyone who’s filled out a job application that asks for the very same information already provided on an uploaded résumé knows the frustration this causes. At best, the customer has a poor experience. And at worst, it becomes a lost opportunity. Creating more efficient appointment experiences leads to higher satisfaction, brand image, and loyalty levels.

Second, with a CRM integration, you’ll easily capture information about new customers, potential leads (e.g., those who abandon completion of their appointments), and customer activities. If you execute content marketing campaigns or digital ads, you can track which content and ads lead to higher customer acquisition. Other behaviors, such as responding to an email promo code, can help you gain insights into what resonates with customers.

Email and Communication Touchpoints

Some CRM applications allow you to automate marketing and customer service emails. However, you can also integrate email clients like Outlook and Gmail. This can come in handy when you send appointment reminders to customers.

By automating some of the communication touchpoints, you and your staff can concentrate on higher-level tasks. You’ll also meet customer expectations by letting them know the appointment times they selected are confirmed on your end. Reminders, of course, can prevent no-shows and allow clients to reschedule if something comes up.

Beyond these basics, additional touchpoints can include:

  • Customer experience surveys
  • Thank-you notes
  • Requests for testimonials
  • Marketing and PR for services or service packages
  • Promotions
  • Customer loyalty programs

If email isn’t your customers’ preferred method of communication, there’s the possibility of integrating your appointment software with SMS or text messaging applications. Providing links in the text messages that reconnect customers with your online booking system adds convenience. Alternatively, customers could have the option to cancel, reschedule, or confirm appointments directly from the text messages.  

Web Design

Integrating your online appointment software with web design apps mostly benefits you and your staff. If you make changes to the layout of web pages that contain appointment functionality, the two will automatically sync. You can also back up your appointment application’s data, ensuring it gets stored safely and is easy to find.

Another point to keep in mind is that web design apps often come with built-in templates. These templates can make it easier to incorporate the functions of appointment software. With templates, your staff can create a unified look that accentuates booking options for customers. 

If you’re using a lot of other systems, web design apps can potentially sync all or most of them. This prevents the need to manually transfer or consolidate information. You may also be able to avoid the costs associated with switching or upgrading to different platforms. It will be possible to wait until business growth or technology changes deem switching necessary.    

Ultimately, which applications and systems your business integrates with your online appointment software are up to you. Ease of integration, compatibility, functionality, strategy, and customer needs will all play a role. A good online appointment application will let you customize your app integrations as your business needs change.

The ideal way to determine what integrations you need is to look to your customers. Start by analyzing their feedback and behaviors. Your company’s service and marketing strategy will be important. However, your integration efforts should begin with the customer’s perspective in mind. 

The Best Amenities for Your Waiting Room

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The Best Amenities for Your Waiting Room

Think about your most recent experience in a waiting room. What — if anything — did you enjoy about the atmosphere? What bothered you? Now think about the customers that come to your business waiting room. What are they thinking as they wait for their appointments?

Time spent in the waiting room is inevitable for appointment-based businesses. While you can do your best to cut down on wait times, you should still provide the best waiting experience possible. You can improve your own lobby by offering these valued amenities to your guests:

Free Wi-Fi

Even during a short wait before an appointment, your customers want to stay connected. Whether they use it to scroll through social media, play a mobile game, or finish up some work emails, your clients will be grateful for the Wi-Fi connection you provide.

When offering Wi-Fi to your customers, keep cybersecurity in mind. You’re better off extending a private connection that requires guests to sign in before use rather than a public server. A private connection is more secure than the public alternative, reducing the risk for any users. You can set this up via a customer portal where only regular customers can connect. 

If you want to go the extra mile, include a workspace in your waiting room. This will be especially appreciated if your customer base largely consists of business professionals who could use the area to get some work down while waiting for their name to be called. Besides, everyone will be thankful for a place to charge their device while they wait. 

Space for Children

Many a parent will enter your business with a child in tow. Whether the appointment is for the child or the parent simply can’t leave them home alone, having a special place for children will keep them entertained as they wait. 

For children at a dentist or doctor’s office, a play area will help them relax and feel less anxious before their appointment. Parents will likewise be less stressed when their children are entertained and can get their wiggles out rather than struggle with boredom and confinement.

Keeping play areas clean is a top priority, especially while COVID-19 remains a concern. Opt for toys and games that can easily be cleaned, such as blocks and toy cars. Avoid anything that might be a choking hazard or could easily get lost. 

Comfortable Seating

Even a short wait will feel like an eternity when you’re stuck in an uncomfortable chair. The most basic aspect of your waiting room is the seating arrangement, so it makes sense that comfortable chairs should be a high priority.

The type of seating you have available will also impact the attractiveness of your waiting room. A couch will be comfortable, but it will probably only appeal to family members who want to sit together. Strangers will feel more inclined to keep some distance between themselves in individual chairs, especially during the ongoing pandemic. A variety of seating options will cater to every guest.

A massage chair may also be a welcome addition to your waiting room. Not only will it make wait times more bearable, some customers might even wish for a more extended wait so they can enjoy the massage for just a little longer!

Check-In Kiosks

The more efficient you can make your appointment process, the better. Online appointment software will help speed things along before the actual appointment. Once customers arrive, you can cut wait times with self check-in kiosks in the waiting room.

For busy appointment-based businesses especially, self check-in prevents lines from forming and helps customers get checked in faster. Once customers check themselves in, the front desk is alerted, and appointments can be set in motion. This operations system also makes it easier to work around late arrivals by enabling staff to adjust the queue to keep things moving fluidly. 

Refreshments

It’s hard to turn down a free cookie or bottle of water when the wait for an appointment makes you realize how empty your stomach is. Refreshments are welcomed by customers of all ages. They help hit the spot when being hungry or thirsty could otherwise make customers irritable before an appointment.

Many appointment-based businesses provide coffee to their customers. Think carefully before making this decision for your business. While a cup of coffee certainly helps a lot of folks in the morning, extra caffeine can work up already anxious customers. Considering your customers’ particular needs will help you decide whether caffeinated beverages are actually the best choice for your waiting room or not. 

Reading Material

A staple of waiting rooms for years is an array of magazines sitting on a coffee table in the center of the lobby. And for good reason — a 10-minute wait provides the perfect amount of time to catch up on celebrity gossip or digest an opinion piece. A range of magazines on different topics will appeal to the variety of customers you get every day. If you choose to continue the magazine tradition, make sure the issues you provide are up-to-date and in good condition.

A shelf of books is another way to provide reading material. Books of different genres and sizes can be just as entertaining, and they never become outdated. If a customer gets sucked into a particular novel, let them borrow it. Your bookshelf can turn into a small lending library that will encourage customers to book a return appointment.

Reading material can replace a wall-mounted TV or be a separate option for waiting guests. The problem with a TV is that the channel may be tuned to something customers aren’t interested in — or may even object to. Plus, reading is a much more fruitful and relaxing activity to participate in.

Adding some of these amenities to your waiting room will keep customers happy even if their appointment needs to be pushed back. Between keeping public areas tidy and providing these comforts and conveniences, you’ll be sure to have a winning waiting room.

How to Make Cancellations Less Common

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How to Make Cancellations Less Common

We’ve all been there: You’ve waited all day for a meeting, only for the client to cancel at the last minute. Last-minute cancellations can throw a wrench in your day, and sometimes your whole week

While cancellations happen, they shouldn’t be frequent occurrences. To help you cut down on frustration and revenue loss, here are some ways to keep cancellations to a minimum:

Understand Why Clients Cancel 

Everyone needs to cancel an appointment on occasion. A pattern of cancellations, however, may indicate a business-wide issue. 

Try to get into the mind of your clients. Understand exactly what’s causing them to cancel. For example, do they have kids and can’t always find childcare? Is their schedule so packed they can only spare a few minutes of their day? Or, are they not able to afford your hourly rate?

Don’t get defensive. Recognize that you, not they, may need to change. 

If you suspect travel time is an issue, for instance, try implementing a teleconferencing tool. Allowing clients to book you at the click of a button can do wonders for retention. 

Create a Cancellation Policy

Implementing a cancellation policy is one of the best ways to ensure your clients show up both prepared and on time. This policy doesn’t have to be complex; in fact, it can be as simple as charging a small fee in case of a missed appointment. 

Imposing a small penalty will motivate your clients to show up to their appointments on time. More importantly, it will reduce the likelihood that they become chronic cancellers.

Encourage each new customer to review your terms and conditions. Ask them to sign a copy when they sign up for their first meeting. This document should include the charges for no-shows, the penalties for repeatedly missing appointments, and details on how far in advance you require rebooking before you levy a fee.

Don’t Schedule Too Far In Advance

You want to stay at the top of your client’s mind. Try to schedule appointments within a week from when you last spoke with a customer. Any further ahead, and your client may lose interest by the time their appointment rolls around.

Use “when,” not “if” questions: When in the next week can they meet? Approach the conversation with a handful of specific dates and times that work for you. Look for alignment in your availability and, if none exists, offer an alternative. 

Send Reminders 

We all have a lot on our mind these days. Reminders can cut through our mental clutter, but only if we use them strategically. 

Consider your customer base. If your clients are primarily Millennials, then go with text reminders. Baby Boomers and Silents may prefer a phone call or a voicemail message.

Regardless, make sure not to send out too many reminders. You want to tread the line of being proactive without being too overbearing. Try sending a reminder as soon as a client signs up for an appointment, and then another 48 hours before the scheduled time. 

Offer Self-Serve Rescheduling

Some clients may not show up to a scheduled appointment simply because they are too nervous to reschedule. They may not want to deal with a lengthy email exchange, much less wait on hold with your receptionist. 

Nip this in the bud with software that makes it easy for a client to reschedule their own appointment. Even if it doesn’t cut down on cancellations, such a system will, at the very least, save you time. 

Use Rewards to Your Advantage 

Reward any client who regularly shows up on time for their appointments. There are plenty of creative rewards you can implement, such as:

  • A modest discount or a service credit for a future appointment
  • A quarterly drawing for a gift card
  • Priority scheduling, especially during busy periods

These little perks come at a very low cost to you, but they can really drive home your commitment to punctuality to your customers. 

Missed appointments can mangle your bottom line and throw your schedule for a loop. The good news is, communication, creativity, and education are all you need to keep most clients from throwing in the towel. What’s not to love about that?

7 Things Customers Want in Their Online Booking Experience

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9 Collaboration Mistakes You’re Making With Your Remote Team

Online booking and appointment software makes life easier for you and for your customers. But investing in software is just the start. How are you going to give them a great booking experience?

Customers have high expectations for online scheduling software. They want a personalized experience, just as they’d receive from your receptionist. But they also want certain things humans simply can’t offer, like always-on account access. 

Are you meeting their expectations? Here’s what they’re looking for:

1. 24/7 Access to Online Booking

Many people manage their personal appointments before or after regular business hours. Appointment software can and should be available 24/7. That way, customers can add, adjust, and cancel appointments at their leisure. 

If you’re worried about customers with unanswered questions hesitating to book after hours, set up a frequently asked questions page or, better yet, a customer service chatbot. These automated scripts can address most, if not all, of the questions customers might ask in the booking process. 

Just as important to customers as being able to access your appointment software at all times is being able to access it from any device. Make sure the program you use is accessible on mobile. Try it from a few different devices to be sure it loads well on screens of different sizes. 

2. Online Booking Speed and Efficiency 

Booking an appointment online should be a lot faster than it would be over the phone or in person. After all, no one wants to wait on hold for 15 minutes, just to be told that the time slot they desire has already been booked.

The less time it takes for customers to book an appointment online, the better. If there are still kinks in your system, take the time to straighten them out. Broken links or long loading time will not reflect well on your business. 

3. Prepay Options

Most online appointment software gives customers the option to prepay. Not forcing customers to pay on site makes their appointment experience run faster and more smoothly.

Consumers also appreciate companies that accept a variety of payment options. You’ll have customers who will want to use debit cards, credit cards, mobile wallets, gift cards, and perhaps even cryptocurrency. The more forms of payment you accept through your online appointment software, the better.

4. Online Booking Reminder Settings

Life gets busy. Forgetting an appointment is all too easy to do. Make sure your appointment scheduling system sends reminders to make sure customers know what’s coming up. 

With that said, not everyone enjoys getting reminder messages from companies. Make it possible for them to change their reminder settings. Some might prefer an extra reminder or two, while others may want to turn them off entirely. 

Make settings adjustable for other notifications as well. Some customers would love to know when you unveil a new promotion or close for the holidays.  

5. Instant Verification

Just as important as those reminder messages are verification statements confirming that an appointment has been made. After going through the online booking process, customers need confirmation that their appointment has been set. Wondering if their request has gone through may prompt them to make a second appointment, which can result in double bookings and general confusion.

Be sure your online appointment software sends confirmation emails. The copy doesn’t need to be out of this world; you just need a simple message to let customers know that their appointment slot has been secured. 

6. Appointment Viewable Availability

Don’t make your customers go through the entire booking process just for them to find out the slot they want is unavailable. From the second they open up your interface, they should have access to all available appointment slots for the next several weeks or even months. This way, there’s no question as to what times are available to them in the near future.

This shouldn’t be difficult to accomplish, as your online appointment software should automatically update your appointment calendar every time someone books. Make it an option for customers to receive updates when last-minute appointments open up, giving them a chance to walk in on a day they would have preferred originally. 

7. Simplified Check-In

Online appointment software shouldn’t just simplify the booking process; it should make check-in a breeze. Most systems do this by maintaining a profile on each customer, which is then made available to the customer service staff. 

Some online appointment software can transfer booking details directly to your CRM system. This integration makes it easy to start each customer’s appointment as soon as they walk in the door. 

Knowing what customers want is one thing; delivering it is another. If your booking software makes signing up for a slot easy, customers are all the more likely to do it again. 

Why Online Appointment Software Should Be on Your Christmas List

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Why Online Appointment Software Should Be on Your Christmas List

Most businesses probably have extensive Christmas lists after this tumultuous year: requests for more customers, better equipment, or even building renovations are likely stuffing Santa’s mailbox right now. Something that needs to be on every company’s list, though, is online appointment software. 

The benefits of online appointment software are plain to see and can make an instant impact on your business in 2021. Ready to learn more? Read through this article and then forward it on to Santa when you’re through:

Increases Appointment Volume

Want to get more appointment bookings? Look no further. Online appointment software makes it exponentially easier for customers to find and book appointment slots with your business. The increased convenience will draw in new customers and improve retention.

You can also insert your appointment software on your website and social media pages. This eliminates hurdles for clients looking to get in contact with your business, making it easy for customers to book an appointment with just the click of a button.

Something important to consider with any business implementation is return on investment, or ROI. With everything you do, you should strive for a positive ROI, meaning you make more money than you spent. Because online appointment software is relatively inexpensive and increases lead volume, the ROI is almost universally high. 

Balances Daily Schedules

An important aspect of setting appointments for your business is managing its daily schedule. Ensuring there are no overlaps and that enough staff will be available to handle the volume ensures every day is a smooth one for both business and customer. 

Online appointment software uses artificial intelligence to keep schedules balanced without supervision. It will monitor bookings to ensure there’s no overlap or that appointments aren’t attempted to be booked when there’s no availability.

Prevents Appointment Mishaps

One late customer can throw off the entire flow of your business. With busy schedules, sometimes an honest mistake will cause a customer to run late or miss an appointment entirely. Online appointment software will automatically send out reminders to customers to prevent this from happening as often.

On the other end, businesses can sometimes misplace customer appointment times or fail to confirm them, leaving them off the schedule entirely. Online appointment software will automatically update your bookings, so you won’t have to worry about mistakes being made at the expense of your customers. 

Provides Valuable Insight

Data metrics, when implemented correctly, can give your business a huge leg up. If you use online appointment technology to record all of your appointments, you’ll automatically be collecting relevant data that you can use.

For example, your software can tell you which one of your appointment packages is the most popular and which services might need some adjusting in order to sell better. You can also track customer data so you can see who your most loyal individuals are, as well as pinpoint key demographics for your marketing campaigns. 

Keep an eye on no-show rates, average duration of appointment, and any other metric you might find useful. This information can be of great use to the evolution of your company with proper access and implementation.

Increases Time Efficiency

Time is a valuable resource for both business and consumer. Online appointment software helps both sides to save time. For customers, appointment booking couldn’t be easier, taking no more than a few minutes to go through the process each time. 

For businesses, online software opens up time for employees who don’t have to man the phones and respond to emails throughout the day. They can spend more time focusing on customers, improving their appointment experience to encourage them to return again and again.

For both sides, payments can be made quickly and directly. Customers can see the change in their balance right away for budgeting and balancing. Businesses don’t have to worry about late payments or customers not covering their tab.

Improves Accessibility

Few customers want to call in and spend the time trying to relay the appointment information they hope to get into the system. In today’s world, people are simply more comfortable filling out a quick form online, and prefer to do it that way.

Online appointment software is available 24/7, meaning that your customers can book appointments at their convenience, regardless of their personal schedules. They can also make changes to their appointments without having to go through a hotline or a representative. 

Adds Online Value

If you’re trying to market your business online, as you very well should, then online appointment software is just the thing for you. Search results are becoming increasingly effective, with “near me” business searches growing at a rapid pace.

Online appointment software will improve your standing in online searches, making you visible to more customers searching for the services you provide. Once your name flashes by, the ability to book an appointment right away will lure in a lot of new clients. 

Helps Your Team

The benefits of online appointment software are not exclusive to helping your customers. The program will also be of great use for your team. You can use this tool to organize work schedules and time sheets so your employees know exactly when their shifts are in advance.

Online software also enables employees to more easily have shifts covered and swapped for greater flexibility of schedule. Changes can be approved right away, and the layout prevents too many employees from trying to ask off on the same day, leaving the company high and dry.

You better start writing to Mr. Claus so that your online appointment software will get here in time for the holidays. Transform your 2021 with programs like these, and your business will be thriving in no time. 

9 Gadgets to Warm Up Your Waiting Room

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How to Handle Appointment Scheduling When Schedules Change

While some people love winter, no one enjoys being cold. Customers who are freezing in your waiting room won’t be very happy during their visit. And if they’re not happy with their visit, they aren’t likely to come back. 

Although it might sound like a small consideration, it means a lot to your customers: Keep your waiting room warm and toasty. If your HVAC system isn’t up to the task, these gadgets can go the distance:

1. Smart Thermostat

The No.1 problem with keeping a waiting room warm is the constant opening and closing of doors. Each new customer brings with them a chilly breeze, preventing those already in the room from getting comfortable. You can solve this dilemma with a smart thermostat. 

A smart thermostat sense uses predictive technology to crank up or down the heat. Yours might signal to your HVAC unit that it should preheat the office at 9 a.m. to account for how frequently your front door opens. To save money, you can lower the office temperature when people aren’t there, perhaps from 5 p.m. until the next morning. 

2. Space Heater

Remember how your family kept that back bedroom warm in the winter? A small space heater can make even the chilliest of offices comfortable.

Space heaters come in many shapes, sizes, and price ranges. Do your research to find the right one for your waiting room. Smaller waiting rooms can get away with smaller heaters. Rooms that are larger or draftier, or have doors that are constantly opening and closing, may need a larger model. 

3. Electric Fireplace

Why not take the power of a space heater and add some holiday flair? An electric fireplace provides a cozy atmosphere that creates psychological comfort as well as actual heat. 

The one drawback to an electric fireplace is that it requires more setup than a standard space heater. You can’t just plug a fireplace into the nearest outlet and call it good. 

Look for a place where a fireplace would be appealing. If you buy a wall-mounted unit, pay for professional installation. Not only will doing so save you a lot of work, but it will reduce the risk of fire. 

4. Hot Chocolate Machine

Some days are so cold you need to warm yourself from the inside out. When layers of clothes and space heaters just won’t cut it, a mug of hot chocolate will do the trick. This delicious solution can liven up any waiting room. 

When installing a hot chocolate machine in your lobby, be sure to keep COVID-19 in mind. Use disposable cups. Clean the area as frequently as possible to prevent the spread of the virus. 

5. Draft Stoppers

Even when your company’s doors are closed, chilly air can still slip through the cracks. Stopping those winter winds will keep everything inside warm while cutting your heating bills down to size.

Best of all, draft stoppers are easy to install. A simple door skirt takes only five nails and five minutes to attach. A crack-sealing foam takes all of 30 seconds to spray. Give stoppers and filled cracks a fresh coat of paint to improve their visual appeal. 

6. Heating Pads

Many businesses provide little treats for their customers, like a doctor’s office with a jar full of lollipops. Who’s stopping you from doing the same with hand and feet warmers? Little personal heating pads would make a great addition to your waiting room for those customers who just can’t seem to warm up.

One difference between heating pads and treats is that the latter doesn’t need a warning sign. Encourage customers to be cautious with heating pads, especially on direct skin. Provide towels for them to wrap heating pads in. 

As with any shared office item, be sure to clean heating pads and towels after use. Look for ones that are machine washable to make this easy. 

7. Heated Massagers

A waiting room with a massage chair is an instant winner. Plus, back and feet massagers often come with a heating setting to melt away stress and sore muscles. 

Providing enough massage equipment for a full waiting room can be a tough bill to foot. Consider providing a few and placing a time limit on how long each customer is allowed to use it. That way, every customer gets a chance to de-stress and warm up. 

8. Drying Rack

Snow, hail, and freezing rain leave customers not just cold, but wet as well. Don’t make customers sit in their wet clothes. Provide a rack near the door so they can hang coats and gloves up to dry.

Unlike the massage chair, this is an inexpensive upgrade. If you want to do something unique, offer a shoe-drying station where customers can put their cold, wet feet until their name is called.  

9. Face Masks

This two-for-one solution might already be in place. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many businesses are requiring all customers to wear masks. While their goal is to reduce viral transmission, face masks also provide warmth.

To feed two birds with one scone, provide masks at the entrance of your business for all visitors. Doing so will keep everyone healthy and warm up noses that have been nipped by Jack Frost.

A warm customer is a happy one. Be careful not to bake them, but do make them as comfortable as you can. That way, as soon as they leave your business, they’ll want to go back. 

Planning Appointments Around Winter Weather

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The weather outside is frightful, and while your waiting room might be delightful, it’ll take some extra effort to get customers there this time of year. Cold weather, slick roads, and dark afternoons make it more difficult to book and keep appointments.

You don’t need to let the winter blues affect your business. With a few tweaks, you can make sure your customers feel welcome and comfortable:

Revamp Your Waiting Room

Few customers will brave winter storms to trek to your business if your waiting room is cold and dismal. Up the festivity by making your waiting area more comfortable and warm for your guests.

Start, of course, with social distancing measures that protect customers from COVID-19. Next, look for ways you can make the area more homey. Space heaters, Christmas decorations, or a COVID-safe hot chocolate bar are all solutions you can implement.

Amend Your Late Policy

Icy roads and snowy weather make driving difficult. They also make travel times unpredictable. 

You shouldn’t punish customers for travelling safely. Consider amending your late policy for the rest of the winter.

Show some leniency to late customers. For example, you might make it a rule that they must call to advise you of their tardiness in order to receive amnesty. You can also tack on a few minutes to your policy before late charges and cancellations kick in.

Your no-show and cancellation policies might also need a glance over if you live in an area that experiences heavy snowfall. A blizzard can put even regularly paved roads out of commission. You can’t blame your customers for not showing up if they can’t use the roads.

Increase Buffer Periods

Another step that can help careful drivers feel comfortable making appointments is by increasing your buffer times. This way, you have some wiggle room if a customer shows up late. 

Buffer periods are particularly useful in winter. A break between appointments can be used to shovel snowy sidewalks, switch out wet floor mats, or stoke the fire if your waiting room has a fireplace. 

Add Incentives

If you’re struggling to convince customers to venture out, it might be time to break out some incentives. Rewards can motivate even customers in deep hibernation to make the trip out, helping you flesh out your appointment calendar.

Holiday deals are an easy — even expected — marketing strategy to boost winter appointments. Discounted prices are always motivating, especially when holiday parties and presents take a big chunk out of consumer budgets. If you can’t afford to offer a discount, consider a goodie bag or gift card. 

Mind Your Exterior

When snow and ice come, prioritize taking care of the outside area of your property. Promptly clearing parking lots and sidewalks of snow and ice will prevent injuries. Plus, it increases your curb appeal, which can encourage walk-ins.

Check with your city counsel to see if they take care of snow removal in your area. If not, hire someone to plow your parking lots for you. If all else fails, send an employee out with a shovel.

Make House Calls

Here’s your chance to experiment with a new business model. If you’re having a hard time getting customers to come to you, bring your business to them. If your business allows it, this can be an effective way of maximizing your bookings. 

For example, hair stylists can bring their scissors, comb, and hair dryer to a client’s home. Mechanics can perform an oil change in someone’s driveway. As long as you can keep your employees safe and follow COVID-19 guidelines, give it a shot.

Do Some Cold Calling

Winter is made for cold calling. All jokes aside, reaching out to potential customers may be enough to get them to give your business a shot in the winter months. 

With each call, be sure to point out the efforts you’re making to provide an excellent appointment experience. Cover your COVID-19 precautions, your waiting room’s features, and your speedy service. The better it sounds, the more likely your sales pitch is to work.

Adjust Your Hours

If all else fails, you can adjust your business hours to accommodate your appointment list. Reducing store hours, for example, can cut down on your heating and electric bills. If you can’t get customers in the door, don’t waste your money. 

When in doubt, ask customers about their preferences. You may simply need to shift your business hours up or back a few hours. 

Winter can be a tough time for both businesses and consumers. Put in the effort to lift their spirits, and they’ll put a little something extra in your stocking, too. 

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

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

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

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

Sounds great, right? Let’s dig in.

Why Verifying Appointments is Important

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

Reduce Cancellations

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

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

Encourage Timeliness

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

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

Improves Brand Image

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

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

Solidifies Your Schedule

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

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

Easy Ways to Verify Appointments

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

1. Email

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

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

2. Text Message

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

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

3. Phone Call

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

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

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

4. Social Media 

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

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

5. Snail Mail

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

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

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

Get to Verifying

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

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