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8 Simple Steps to Protect Customer Appointment Data

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8 Simple Steps to Protect Customer Appointment Data

Identity theft and credit card fraud are pressing problems that continue to rise. Consumers and businesses alike need to be increasingly careful about how they share and store sensitive information. 

Even data that at first glance does not appear compromising could prove costly if it were to fall into the wrong hands. From a business perspective, your company is responsible not only for its own data, but for any data entrusted to you by paying customers.

Companies take in a sometimes-surprising amount of data every time an appointment is booked online. Thankfully, fulfilling your role to protect customer data doesn’t require a full team of data scientists armed with state-of-the-art equipment. Instead, making certain your employees follow a few simple steps can go a long way toward full data protection.

1. Develop a Security Plan

Start with a plan for keeping customer appointment data secure. What steps will every employee take to secure information? What rules will be put into place that customers must follow when interacting with your organization? A data security plan will address both sides of the equation to be most effective.

Your security plan should also outline what steps to take in the event of a data breach. Do you have backups available in case of an attack or, better yet, a firewall that can stop one in its tracks? Failing to plan in this case is indeed planning to fail. It’s probably just a matter of time until someone locates and exploits vulnerabilities.

2. Keep Customers Involved

Let your customers in on the efforts you take to protect their information. Provide them educational information encourages safety and security practices, such as how to identify a phishing email. Notify them of any changes to your security measures, especially when those changes affect how they do business with you.

Customers should also be given clear, easy-to-understand options for how their data can and will be shared. If they want to withhold information that’s not needed, they have every right to ask, especially if it helps them feel more secure when doing business with you.

3. Require Account Protection

While customers should have some say over security options, account protection should always be required. At the very least, customer accounts should be set up with a unique password to keep a customer’s information for their eyes only. Putting one barrier to entry in place is exponentially more effective than nothing at all.

To really up your data security game, consider adding some extra steps to ensure that data remains safe and secure. Two-factor authentication is a security method that requires customers to verify their identity anytime an attempt is made to access their account. This can be accomplished in a matter of seconds using their personal cell phone. As an added bonus, it also acts as a warning trigger if a would-be intruder is trying to access their information.

4. Collect Only What You Truly Need

Some companies record every piece of possible data even when they don’t need it for the task at hand. Unnecessary data hoarding puts customers at excessive risk and exposes the hoarder to increased legal liability. You do yourself a favor and better serve your customers by only taking the information that’s absolutely necessary.

Additionally, make it a practice to regularly erase data that’s no longer being used. Your company can’t be held liable for data that it no longer stores. Examples might include appointments made months ago or data from a customer that you’ve not done business with in years. 

If your company keeps physical backups of customer information, make sure you dispose of it in a controlled and secure manner. Additionally, make sure any hard copies of customer data you do keep on hand are securely locked away from prying eyes.

5. Stay Up-to-Date With Security Measures

It’s safe to assume that fraudulent online activity will never stop. Keep yourself in the loop! Stay vigilant by subscribing to security alerts online and making sure your staff doesn’t fall victim to social engineering.

Security technology is constantly evolving, with newer developments proving to be more reliable for protecting data. Install antivirus software and spam filters onto all of your digital systems as appropriate. Make sure any processing equipment you use for payments is up-to-date with the necessary security features. 

Set aside a regular time slot in your work week, or more than one, to digest the latest information from security companies and industry leaders. See what they say about the future of data security. If their guidance is applicable to the way your company does business, dig deeper. It’s better to spend time learning about preventive measures than have to apologize to customers after a breach.

6. Be Wary of Third-Party Companies

Assuming your company has tightened up its security measures, you cannot assume anyone else with whom you do business has done the same. Some of your suppliers or partnering organizations may even be part of the problem, selling your data to other companies as an added revenue stream. When doing business with others, it pays to ask up front how they plan to use your information. If necessary, require data privacy as a condition of entering into a contract.

Pay attention to any uneasy feeling you or your employees get when the topic of data security is raised. Be prepared to walk away from the table if need be. If you aren’t certain the other company is as serious about protecting your customers as you are, you’ll save yourself headaches by finding another supplier.

7. Train Your Employees … All of Them

Even the most fortified castle wall can be breached when those inside allow themselves to make simple mistakes. A firewall worthy of the Pentagon means nothing if your receptionist writes out passwords on a sticky note affixes them to his monitor.

To ensure that your seriousness about data protection does not slip through the cracks, provide security training to all your employees. There are a number of cybersecurity training resources available. Depending on the sensitivity level of the data you collect, prepare yourself to invest more as a hedge against misuse. There are free options available online, but be aware that you get what you pay for.

8. Run Tests

Not sure how your data protection system stacks up? Run tests to see whether it resists compromise. There are any number of companies that can help you run a basic security test. Hire one to see whether they can hack your system or find holes.

A controlled breach will let you know just how permeable your security software is and where it needs to be strengthened. Study test results carefully to find areas where you can improve. Paying for extra tech and tests is much better than paying for lawsuits due to a breach of privacy.

Avoiding a data mishap will foster loyalty from your customers. Whenever news of a security vulnerability grabs your customers’ attention, they will be relieved to learn your company was unaffected.

8 Appointment Scheduling Metrics to Monitor

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Data can tell you so much about your business. This information provides deep insight that verbal, qualitative feedback simply can’t.

With that said, crunching numbers takes time. Ask yourself: What do you really need to know about your appointments and scheduling processes?

With so much data available, it can be tough to know where to start. Begin by monitoring these eight metrics:

1. Percentage of Appointments That Are No-Shows

No-shows put a wrench into your operations. They claim key spots in your schedule that could be allotted to other customers, and disrupt an otherwise flawless system. No-shows every once in a while are inevitable, but knowing how big of a problem they really are will let you know when to take action.

Without data, gauging how many no-shows you have in a period of time is a guessing game. You can also look at data about late shows, another class of customer that can mess up the flow of your business. Cancellations add another layer to the equation, as these customers at least gave you a heads up before not showing up.

2. Ratio of Walk-Ins to Appointments

Appointments run more smoothly than walk-ins. Bookings follow a schedule that can be planned in advance and executed with precision. Walk-ins tend to be sporadic, causing employees to scramble to fit people into their rotation.

Put hard numbers to the walk-ins and appointments you get each day. How do the numbers stack up? If you’re getting overwhelmed by walk-ins, look for ways to tilt the balance toward appointments. 

3. Percentage of Appointments That Run Long

What is your target length for appointments? Making appointments timely helps you run a smooth ship. Appointments that run long disrupt your flow and cause a domino effect throwing off the rest of your day.

You can use performance metrics to see the average duration of an appointment. If this number is higher than your target, you’ll know you need to work on cutting down appointment times. Keep an eye out for snags in your workflow that might be contributing to appointments running long.

Take into account that some appointments, like simple check ins, only require a short visit. Be sure to differentiate them from other commitments, or separate them into their own categories. 

4. Appointments Per Lead Source

Although your customers make appointments through your website, that probably isn’t where they first learn about you. Where do they come from? Web analytics can help you focus your marketing on these sources. 

For example, you might find out that two-thirds of your leads are coming from social media. If so, you should spend more of your marketing dollars there because you know it’s a successful source.

Beware that these trends can change from month to month. Recheck this metric whenever you debut a new campaign or target a new demographic. 

5. Customer Demographics

Speaking of, what kinds of people make appointments with your business? Knowing your client base will give you a better idea of how to meet their needs. 

While checking customer demographics, you may also notice that there are key differences between those who hold true to their appointments and those who are more likely to run late or not show up at all. With this data, you can come up with ways to better accommodate struggling demographics.

6. Proportion of Positive Reviews

Ask your customers to leave an honest review after their appointment. Offer to anonymize it in order to promote honesty.

Both positive and negative feedback are useful to your business. However, it’s important to understand how your total number of reviews break down along these lines. 

An easy way to quantify this is a five-star review system. To adopt this, send out a brief survey to customers after each appointment. Make sure to include a comment box where they can explain why they rated your company as they did. 

Be prompt with sending surveys so the experience is fresh in their mind. To encourage them to take it, consider entering them into a drawing for a small gift or free services. 

7. Number of Returning Customers

Getting new customers in the door is a priority for any business. But the real challenge is getting them to return for additional appointments. Retention metrics can give you a sense of how satisfied customers are with your service.

It’s much less expensive to retain customers than it is to acquire new ones. Consider shifting some of your marketing spend from acquisition to retention programs. Perhaps punch cards, loyalty discounts, or customer appreciation gifts would help you bring in more revenue. 

8. Bundles of Appointments Sold

The more appointments you have booked, the more revenue you generate. That’s why many businesses would prefer to sell not just one appointment at a time, but monthly or annual plans.

If you use this model, how many of your customers take you up on it? Is it a third of your customer base? Half? Set a target, and use promotions to help you meet it. 

Make metrics your company’s north star. Data-driven adjustments will have your company running at full tilt in no time. 

How to Empower Your Team Through Data

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Empowerment defined is the “authority or power given to someone to do something.” The explanation may not sound all that important. But, for your team, empowerment is vital. Here is how to empower your team through data.

As noted by The Wharton School, empowering your team creates a toxic-free environment where micromanagement is discouraged. It also encourages ownership, keeps everyone satisfied, boosts engagement, and frees-up your valuable time.

While you can do this by not always looking over your team’s shoulders, you can also use data to empower your team. But, first, let’s go over the benefits that your organization will experience after they have data at their fingertips.

Provides access to information promptly.

The main benefit is that your team will have fast and easy access to information that can help them become more effective and efficient. For example, if your team uses a tool like Calendar. Each person can track their time to see the time they’re spending in specific meetings, or at certain places. Knowing the specifics of their behavior, they can alter their schedules so that they’re devoting the right amount of time to the right things.

What’s more, this data can be used to pin-down performance metrics. In turn, this can boost productivity, agility, morale, and it keeps everyone on the same page. And, as an additional bonus, timely access to information can speed up workflows and the decision-making process. That may not sound overly important. But, as found in a report from Boston University, 47% of professionals stated that slow access to information impedes their ability to make decisions.

Improves your team’s performance, engagement, and motivation.

Every leader should make this a priority. After all, when you’re able to improve your team’s performance, engagement, and motivation, your team will be more productive and satisfied. And, thanks to data, this has never been easier.

In case you didn’t get the memo, money isn’t an effective way to motivate your team. They want to know that their work has purpose and meaning. And, yes, data can help you achieve this. For instance, you could display KPIs and employee goals so that your team can see the purpose and progress of their work. As a result, you’ll be less likely to micromanage them. And, this will grant them ownership, which will keep them happy and productive.

Helps you identify your top and bottom performers.

With data easily at your disposal, you can track each of your team members’ progress. That means you can quickly identify who your top performers are and then reward them accordingly. For example, let’s say a team member had completed a project ahead of schedule or made progress towards a goal. You could acknowledge their hard work and offer an incentive that they care about.

Additionally, you can also use this information to discover who your weakest links are. That doesn’t mean you have to let them go. But, this may allow you to meet with them and attempt to get to the root problem. Maybe they haven’t been able to make progress on a goal because they don’t possess time management skills, or they have too much on their plate. As such, you could redistribute tasks or help them solve their time management problems so that they can become a top performer.

Still not convinced? Well, other benefits include operational optimization and forecasting, streamlined procurement processing, customer analysis, and behavioral prediction, and cost optimization.

Using Data to Empower Your Team

Hopefully, you’re sold on the benefits of embracing business. Now, it’s time to learn how actually to empower your team using data.

Provide the right training and tools.

Training is essential when you’re introducing new technology, strategies, or concepts. Even if your team members are familiar with data, you still want to share with them the latest developments. Most importantly, you need to align business intel with their work.

In conjunction with training, you also need to arm them with the right tools. An example of this would be giving your sales the latest AI-powered sales app so that they have real-time insights about leads and customers on their phones.

Encourage communication and collaboration.

How can you empower your team if you’re keeping the data to yourself? That’s just counterproductive and poor use of data. Instead, share this information with everyone within your organization so that they’re up-to-date and on the same page.

Moreover, provide opportunities for your team to discuss and dig into the data. It’s a simple way to see how it’s impacting their performance. But, it also is a great way to get them more involved. As noted in a Forbes article, managers can “increase task identity by involving employees in more aspects of work by having them participate in the planning, reporting, and evaluation of projects rather than just the doing.”

Make the data more engaging.

Don’t bore your team with figures and numbers. Have a little fun with the data by making it more exciting and engaging by utilizing dashboards.

Dashboards, explains the folks over at Phocas “allow you to set the business indicators that are important to your business.” But, what makes for an excellent dashboard? At the minimum, it should “provide a visual, fact-driven overview of the indicators most important to your team, enabling them to see at a glance how the team is performing.”

Your dashboard will allow your team “to dive into the underlying data in the lightning-fast grid that sits behind the dashboard.” What about you, non-technical people? Well, they can “quickly build an interactive, customized dashboard, so your team can collaborate, revise, and print on the spot without help from IT.”

Use visuals and gamification as well.

Another way to accomplish this is by providing visuals. As Calendar founder John Rampton explained in a previous article, data visualization is the key to team productivity since visual learning is more efficient. It also helps you focus on what’s most important, advances AI and machine learning, and enhances communication and collaboration.

Just remember that to get the most out of data visualization, you should:

  • Understand the data you’re trying to visualize, such as the size and uniqueness.
  • Determine the data you want to visualize and what needs to be communicated.
  • Know your audience and their learning preferences.
  • Use visuals that present the information as briefly and simply as possible.
  • Use the right visual for the right situation. For instance, Gantt charts are ideal for updating the status of a project. On the flipside, Fishbone diagrams are better suited for finding defects in a process.

And, the Phocas team also suggests that you gamify your data. “By providing your team with an immersive and gamified experience, using data becomes engaging. If your team can manipulate data quickly and easily, they are driven to improve their performance through feedback.”

“By introducing gamification, you can present a fun and competitive way for your team to detect every opportunity to increase revenue and overall productivity.” And, ultimately, this can cultivate collaboration and motivate individual team members.

Integrate analytics into every aspect of your business.

At first, this may be intimidating. But. as Roman Stanek, the Founder and CEO of GoodData writes in Forbes, “companies who have recognized value from analytics have gone beyond their competitors to become empowered analytical organizations.” What that means is that they have “successfully integrated analytics into every part of their business to drive everyday business decisions and deliver substantial returns.”

The four attributes needed to assimilate data into your business.

  • Solve for business problems. “The first step to using data to drive decisions is to look at a business process that requires more clarity or one that has an easy-to-define workflow or apparent objectives for improvement,” writes Stanek. “Preferably, it’s an area that can easily measure improvements in tangible, metric-driven ways.”
  • Recognize that it’s an ongoing process. To deliver tangible results, you need to make a serious time and financial commitment “on the strategy, talent, and business plan.”
  • Embed analytics into all areas of the business. “Analytics has value for every layer of the organization, not just the c-suite or data scientists,” adds Stanek. Because of this, “the only way to get closer to the return on investment you’re looking for is to deploy analytics to as many people as possible to improve everyone’s decision making” and showing your team how data can help them solve problems.
  • Make sure executives do their part. “For a company to successfully transition to an empowered analytical organization, leadership will need consensus around the analytics project, and to truly understand why the IT budget will need to shift to support the kind of transformation expected,” explains Stanek. “They’ll also need to routinely participate in identifying key business processes that are ripe for improvement and encourage continuous learning and additional investment.”

Data Visualization is the Key to Team Productivity

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What is data visualization? That’s an excellent question since it plays a vital role in analytics — you know, which are two vitally important topics in today’s high-tech world. Anyway, data visualization as easily defined by the SAS Insitute as “the presentation of data in a pictorial or graphical format.”

SAS adds that this “enables decision-makers to see analytics presented visually, so they can grasp difficult concepts or identify new patterns.” That means using interactive visualization to “take the concept a step further by using technology to drill down into charts and graphs for more detail, interactively changing what data you see and how it’s processed.” Or, to put it more straightforward, data visualization is one of the steps you need to take in data analysis and science.

What’s interesting about data visualization, though, is that it’s not a not concept. It’s been used for centuries in the form of maps in the 17th century and the introduction of the pie chart in the early 1800s. However, one of the most well-known examples is the statistical graphics that Charles Minard mapped during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. The map, as SAS explains, “depicted the size of the army as well as the path of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow — and tied that information to temperature and time scales for a more in-depth understanding of the event.”

Data visualization today.

But, data visualization came into its own as technology advanced. Since computers are now able “to process large amounts of data at lightning-fast speeds,” we need a way to digest this information efficiently. By breaking down this data, we’re then able to identify problems and develop solutions. It can also be used to drive innovation, spot emerging trends, and uncover new insights — just to name a few.

While these benefits are incredible, did you also know that data visualization can be the key to team productivity as well?

Visual learning is more efficient.

Humans are visual creatures. Sure, some of us may be auditory or kinesthetic learners. But, a majority of us learn best visually. The reason? We’re just better able to respond to and process visual data than any other type of data.

It’s been found that the human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text. Also, 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Even more impressive, MIT neuroscientists have reported that the brain can identify images seen in just 13 milliseconds.

It’s also been found that when using visuals, the average worker can increase both retention and comprehension by 50 percent. Moreover, visuals can break down language barriers and motivate others.

Focuses on what’s important.

Let’s say that your organization uses a visual aid like a dashboard. For those unfamiliar, Stephen Few defines this as “a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance.”

A dashboard, adds G2’s Laura Nunneley, “makes your team’s most important data visible, understandable, and actionable so that they can measure and improve their performance.” Having this at their fingerprints can improve their performance in several ways.

At the forefront, this makes their critical data accessible, and this shows where they’re making the most impact. As a result, this keeps them motivated and inspired to take action. But, most importantly, it keeps your entire team on the same page by reminding them what’s most important.

“When your team is taking care of day-to-day tasks, they can get distracted and lose sight of what’s important,” writes Laura. “A dashboard avoids this by making any KPIs (key performance indicators) or meaningful and important objectives visible for your team.” In turn, this will encourage them to “focus on work that will make a difference. And, “when priorities change, a dashboard makes new objectives clear to keep your team on course.”

Data helps make faster and better decisions.

It’s been estimated that the average person makes an astounding 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day. So if you’re indecisive or hung up on decisions, then you need all the help that you can get so that you can proceed. And, this is most true when others can’t move forward until you’ve made a decision.

For example, before implementing a marketing campaign, you have to OK it before it’s launched. The longer you wait to make the decision, the longer your marketing team is just sitting there waiting.

How can data help in this area? Well, when you’re presented with data visually, you can spot any patterns or trends more easily and quickly –or even those that you may have never noticed. With this information at hand, you can make more informed decisions promptly.

Advances AI and machine learning.

Big data. Artificial intelligence. Machine learning. I’m sure you’ve heard all about these buzzwords. While each is unique, they’re also closely interconnected. For instance, you need to collect and analyze specific datasets for machine learning algorithms to make predictions and automate particular actions. Case in point, machine learning could learn you and your team’s schedule to make smart suggestions on how everyone should spend their time.

Of course, that’s just one example. Machine learning and AI can be used virtually everywhere, ranging from providing customer service to creating content for managing shipping logistics. In turn, this frees up your team’s time so that they can devote their time and energy on the most critical matters.

If this isn’t your wheelhouse, then that’s where data visualization comes in. It puts the data in context so that it can be applied to automating decisions.

Enhances communication and collaboration.

Finally, and most importantly, data visualization enhances both communication and collaboration. That’s because, through visuals, you can quickly and more effectively communicate your story to others. Furthermore, visuals give you and your team access to everyone’s strengths and skills. That means you can assign the right tasks to the right individuals and fill in the gaps when you need to.

Getting the most out data visualization.

Here’s one final advantage to data visualization; it can be accessed and shared from anywhere. That makes it an indispensable tool for both your in-house and remote teams. The caveat? You need to make sure that you’re using it properly. And, here are some ways to make that’s possible.

SAS suggests that before doing anything with data visualization, you should take the following steps:

  • Understand the data you’re trying to visualize, such as the size and uniqueness.
  • Determine the data you want to visualize and what needs to be communicated.
  • Know your audience and their learning preferences.
  • Use visuals that present the information as briefly and simply as possible.

Also, keep in mind that there are different diagrams for various situations that write Nishadha Silva over at Business 2 Community. Examples include:

  • Mind maps for brainstorming. They’re able to “stimulate creative thinking and work both the left brain and the right brain.”
  • Flowcharts to visualize processes and flows.
  • Gantt charts can be used when updating the status of a project.
  • Organizational charts “provide a visual hierarchy of your organization.” You can use this to clarify the various roles and responsibilities within your organization.
  • Fishbone diagrams, also known as cause and effect. These are perfect when you need “to find defects or inefficiencies in a process.”
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