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5 Software Solutions for Better Time Management

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Better Time Management

As an entrepreneur, one of the most difficult things to manage is your time. You wear multiple hats, trying to balance everything from checkbooks to customer complaints and internal affairs with your employees. Making sure you have time for all of that, plus a personal life to keep you sane, is just as important as it is challenging.

While discipline and hard work are certainly answers to time management concerns, there are other solutions worth exploring. In particular, consider these five software programs that have already been proven to help improve time management and overall productivity.

1. Project Management Software

If you were able to work through the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably became familiar with at least one type of project management software. These tools made it possible for teams to continue working together despite not meeting in the same place. Even as offices return to normal, project management software is still seeing use because of how helpful it can be for time management.

Project management software can help you manage your time in many ways. Delegating tasks can be done much more quickly, and roles can be assigned publicly for the whole team to see. Many software programs include messaging capabilities to send quick updates and questions, whether you’re on your computer or mobile device. Most programs also allow you to integrate other apps such as Google Drive and Zoom.

Your entire team will become more efficient thanks to the features that project management software provides. Meeting times can be cut down due to increased communication, and resources can be more easily stored and accessed within the program. Over time your team will adapt the software to its needs making it become increasingly effective as time goes on.

2. Time-Tracking Software

One of the best ways you can improve your time management is to keep a daily record. You can do this on paper, but you’ll have a much easier time using time-tracking software. Not only is it faster to track your time through a digital program, but the software often comes with additional, helpful features.

One such example is Calendar, the aptly named online calendar application. One of its features is time analytics. As you update your events and appointments within Calendar, it breaks down your daily and weekly time usage. This allows you to visualize how your time is being spent. You may notice you’re spending too much time in meetings and not enough time networking thanks to these analytics.

Time tracking will also help you keep yourself accountable to projects and commitments. For entrepreneurs trying to get a start-up going this is especially important. Time tracking ensures that you’re putting in the effort required for success while still spending quality time with your family and friends.

3. Checklist Software 

When you have so many tasks staring you in the face it’s difficult to decide where you should start. Do you need to begin your day by checking emails, or should you finish that high-profile sales pitch first? What you need is a good game plan for your daily checklists. The less time you spend mulling over your to-do list, the more time can be spent toward action.

The first step is to make good lists. Checklist software can provide good templates for your to-do lists. You can organize tasks by type and urgency while adding colors and designs to set them apart. Visualizing your checklists will improve your ability to complete them.

Ranking your to-do list and prioritizing items in your schedule will be a little tougher. Try something like the Eisenhower Matrix to help determine which tasks should take precedence each day.

4. Automated Scheduling Software 

When it comes to time management, automation will always be your best friend. The more tasks you can automate, the fewer things you have to worry about each day. This frees up a lot of time for you to focus on a more concentrated list.

Let’s say you operate an appointment-based business. Clients can use automated scheduling software to book their appointments without needing to go through an agent. All of the time and effort needed to schedule appointments is now spent by the customer.

You can use automated scheduling software within your organization as well. A scheduling link can be shared with employees who might want to meet with you periodically. That same link can be shared with other companies or investors who work with you for optimized communication.

5. Knowledge Base Software

Also known as help center software, knowledge base software allows you to set up self-service content for your customers. A common use for this software is creating a Frequently Asked Questions page for your website. Informative blog posts or tutorial videos also fall under this category.

Such a tool is extremely valuable for small business owners who are more likely to be answering questions for customers. If prospective clients can get their questions and concerns answered on your website, there will be fewer calls to field and emails to respond to. Since most of these customer interactions can’t be planned for in advance, you’ll have an easier time sticking to a concrete schedule while building your business.

In addition to this list, there are many other types of software solutions that can help you better manage your time. Give at least one of them a try this month and pay attention to your time usage. Compare it to last month, and you’ll see which solutions are actually fixing your problems.

5 Ways to Prepare This Summer for Employees Going Back to School

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back to school

It’s normal for business to shift as the school year approaches, and this transition can affect employee availability and general operations. The academic calendar and breaks from school affect your business and your employees’ lives. So, how do you make their lives easier and maintain your daily operations?

Summer is an important time to prepare your business for the coming changes as some employees take classes in the fall. Don’t wait to plan your accommodations. Here are a few tips for managing back-to-school preparations during the summer:

1. Schedule Around School Hours

It’s a good idea to schedule your business with school hours in mind. As classes are in session, depending on your business, you may have more clients or less. If college students are a large portion of your customer base and they leave town for summer break, you might choose to be open less hours during that time. Then, the opposite is true for the fall when they come back.

It’s important to monitor these trends and adapt your operations. Ensuring business hours meet demand means that you’ll be able to schedule the appropriate number of employees and plan more strategically, even if your employees are in school themselves. You can also make sure these hours work for clients by asking them on social media, which improves brand engagement. Do your best to accommodate everyone’s schedules, and you can make up potential income dips elsewhere.

2. Consider Additional Hires or Shifts

It could be worth hiring additional employees to fill gaps as the availability of summer employees may shift as classes begin. Say that one employee will soon need a certain time frame free from work due to upcoming classes. You could hire a part-time employee to ensure their role is still fulfilled.

In addition to this change, you could also adjust your shift system to offer even more flexibility. Many businesses have a four shift system, with individuals working morning shift, mid-shift, evening, and overnight. To accommodate more workers’ schedules, you could offer additional hours. Maybe it’ll be easier for your new employees to come in with shorter shifts or different start and end times.

3. Stay Up to Date With Your Employees’ Schedules

Your business may be a seasonal one or have different workers during different shifts. In any case, you want to make the transition for incoming employees as smooth as possible. Check in with them as summer progresses, so they can update you with new needs and schedule changes. This also gives you the benefit of alerting customers should business hours need to change as a result.

If you have set up a shared employee shift calendar already, this is the perfect reason to use it. While you have all of the shifts organized on it, your employees can include their timelines right in the application. There won’t need to be any delay in finalizing shifts and operating hours for all to see online.

4. Permit Remote Work, If Possible

For a not-necessarily-in-person business, the remote option can make it much easier for employees to be available, faster. Being a student requires a lot of time dedicated to studying, and it’s typically easiest to do so at home. The less time they need to spend commuting, for instance, the longer they can focus on work before switching gears. They can even use the same devices to switch between these responsibilities, increasing efficiency on both sides.

Allowing remote work can also show your employees and clients how much you care about your personnel. In such cases, the former will feel a lot safer coming to you and therefore have higher morale and bandwidth. And the better the work your employees do, the more satisfied your clients will be.

5. Help Streamline Your Employees’ Workflows

Alongside scheduling around school hours, it can make the work feel more fulfilling if you streamline things for everyone. One way to do this is by planning difficult or high-effort tasks to be done earlier in the shift. When an employee needs to leave, they won’t feel guilty or anxious that important things are being momentarily put aside. Also, if you set up programs to automate little tasks, it can free up time for the important ones.

Instituting a new management system to keep projects on the public radar and up-to-date for those involved also improves workflow. This can eliminate the need for someone to sit down and plan something when they may not have the time. It can also keep everything and everyone organized without much human effort.

The end of summer doesn’t have to be a bad omen for business, if you prepare accordingly. The most important takeaway is to make sure that you’ll have the hands you need when you need them. Take your time and consider your employees’ needs, and you can help make them happen. When the fall comes around, you’ll be ready for anything.

Image Credit: Olia Danilevich; Pexels; Thank you!

5 Ways to Up Your Workplace Efficiency

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workplace efficiency

“Work smarter, not harder,” they say. We’ve all heard this modern productivity axiom by now, but there’s actually a lot of truth in the statement. Working hard is important, but working efficiently is even better. The two combined can lead to incredible results.

So, what’s the secret to making work more efficient? This is a question that business owners and managers ask themselves every day. This article outlines some ways employers can enable and motivate their workers to become even more efficient without working them into the ground.

1. Implement Self-Service Options

This one is a no-brainer for appointment-based businesses operating in the modern era. Self-service can open up so many possibilities for both your business and its customers. For example, having online booking options takes a huge load off of your employees and simultaneously empowers your customers. Clients can set and adjust appointment times whenever they want, and employees no longer have to spend hours on the phone coordinating bookings.

This frees up a lot of time for your employees during a regular shift. Instead of manning the phones all day, they can work on other projects. This could be as simple as staying on top of office organization or taking part in training to prepare for other roles.

In addition to online appointment scheduling, you can implement a self-check-in system for when customers arrive to their bookings. A tablet or kiosk can do all of the work that a front desk representative can. Customers can signal their presence and make relevant notes in their customer portal upon their arrival.

2. Embrace Office Automation

Businesses have myriad ways to automate processes, from CRM systems that will auto-email leads to social media tools that will auto-post on Instagram. But even humbler forms of automation can improve your workplace efficiency. There are myriad small tasks that consume workers’ attention during the day. A coffee maker set to auto brew will give your office manager 15 minutes back each morning, and that’s just one example.

A smart thermostat saves energy and keeps the temperature even so that extreme heat or cold don’t throw your employees for a loop. Smart light fixtures are likewise energy efficient and can also be set to dim or turn off without any human intervention. No one will have to traipse through the office at the beginning or end of the workday turning lights on and off. While these solutions might seem small, together they can make your workplace more efficient than you realize.

3. Retool — or Replace — Meetings

Companies waste a lot of time in meetings. Some estimates state that over 30 hours are squandered each month in meetings that aren’t necessary. Simply put, most meetings can be condensed or bypassed entirely to allow for greater workplace efficiency.

One solution is to plan meetings more effectively. Have an agenda prepared and share it with all participants beforehand. Practice getting to the point and rein in discussions to make sure the group doesn’t get sidetracked. Better yet, replace frequent meetings with constant communication through technology.

Take project management software, for instance. Instead of a status update meeting, you can use a digital chatroom to send messages, updates, and reminders. These can be addressed to the entire company, a specific department, or even to an individual. Such communications keep parties informed and don’t cut into productivity like a formal meeting where everyone is trapped inside a room with no escape.

4. Crunch the Numbers

The value of data cannot be underestimated. Insights gleaned from data can help you serve your customers better, increase revenue, and also make your workplace more efficient. Gathering data is easy; it’s knowing what to do with the data you have that’s the trickier part.

Let’s focus on workplace efficiency, which you can monitor with a time-tracking tool like Toggl or Harvest. Here are some examples of workplace data you can track:

  • Number of tasks completed on average per day
  • Amount of time spent per task
  • Amount of time spent per task category
  • Average time spent in meetings
  • Hours worked per week

This doesn’t have to be your full list, but it’s certainly a good place to start. Once you have a sufficient sample size, you can start to make some conclusions about what needs to change to increase productivity and efficiency. You may notice that efficiency takes a huge dive for the last hour of the day, for example. You might opt for a shorter workday or add an additional 15-minute break to try to keep energy levels high.

5. Improve Employees’ Quality of Life

No matter what the numbers say, sometimes the best adjustments you can make are to the quality of life in the office. Happy employees are more productive employees, so seek out work-life enhancement opportunities. Ergonomic solutions such as sit-stand desks and optimized keyboards can help employees work more comfortably for longer periods of time. Improved lighting can make early mornings and gray days more bearable.

Helping your employees outside of the office will often improve their efficiency on the clock. Benefits such as hybrid work or childcare services give workers fewer things to worry about at home, so they’ll be less distracted while working. Workers who also feel cared for by their employers are also more likely to stick around for the long haul. High retention rates improve company efficiency, as you won’t be spending a lot of time and resources on constant training and hiring cycles.

With greater workplace efficiency, you’ll see improvements in company profits, customer satisfaction, and work quality. To maintain optimal efficiency, you’ll need to continue to adapt, so keep looking for new ways to enable your workers to be the best they can be.

Image Credit: Pixabay; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Deal With a Customer Complaint Quickly

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Customer Complaint

No matter what industry you’re in, customers want quick responses when they contact you with complaints. Customer service agents similarly want to resolve issues on the first try. First contact resolution (FCR) is a metric that plays a crucial role in whether your customers keep coming back. It also affects whether they refer you to others. Let’s dive into some best practices for resolving customer tickets quickly — for the good of both your customers and your agents.

Train Agents to Ask Good Questions

Good FCR starts with training agents to ask questions that uncover the root causes of issues. Again, Role-playing can help agents learn to do this.

Let’s say your company sells architectural software. In one scenario, a customer named Sara calls your help center. Sara was unable to save a project and now needs help recovering it. In the scenario, the agent, Drew, helps Sara recover her project. Then, as instructed, Drew closes by asking if there’s anything else Sara needs. Sara says, “Nope! I guess it was user error! Hopefully, I’ll save it correctly next time.”

By asking a follow-up question, Drew revealed what Sara actually needed: clear instructions for how to save her projects. Drew responded by explaining the process to Sara and sending a follow-up email with the instructions written out.

Drew was able to both solve a customer’s root complaint and suggest a change to his company’s software manual. This scenario helped him become confident with digging deeper on calls.

Analyze Your Data to Find the “Why”

If your FCR is not where you want it to be — look at your data for clues. A few metrics to start with are customer effort score (CES), customer satisfaction (CSAT), and quality assurance (QA).

As you look at the data, be curious about why customers may be contacting your team multiple times. Is it because customers don’t understand how to communicate their problems? Or perhaps they need the solution in writing? Do you have a policy that is not customer-friendly? Once you have some answers, brainstorm your next steps.

In order for this exercise to work, you need reliable internal data. Consider implementing a quality assurance scorecard system using a platform such as MaestroQA. A quality assurance system software will automate repetitive data collection tasks and give your team access to the data. Access to this system empowers your team to troubleshoot first contact resolution (FCR) issues quickly and independently.

Provide Coaching for Your Agents

Have you found FCR-related issues caused by individual behaviors? Because customer service agent coaching is highly personalized, it can target that behavior. For example, an agent might escalate most calls. During a coaching session, the agent might share that they feel insecure about navigating the internal knowledge base. The coach can provide resources to help the agent become proficient at doing so.

In the end, coaching is an excellent way to increase your agents’ confidence and improve FCR.

Update Your Learning Management System and Knowledge Base

Good customer service basics don’t change much over time. But the specifics of your industry may vary and change a lot. So, someone in your organization should be responsible for keeping your learning management system (LMS) up-to-date.

When your training materials aren’t regularly updated, you might notice red flags. Second and third phone calls from the same customer might include complaints like, “That’s not what the last person told me.” Different agents might follow different workflows to solve the same problem. Creative problem-solving is good, but your customer experience should be consistently excellent. An updated LMS helps make that happen.

In addition, your internal knowledge base should be easy to navigate. Agents should be able to find information and easily navigate to related documents quickly. Customers notice when an agent can answer questions quickly. With quick, confident responses, customers feel more comfortable asking follow-up questions — knowing the interaction will be succinct. Fast and accurate feedback will improve your FCR.

Eliminate Steps For Your Customers

When someone submits a help ticket, it is generally impossible to resolve it entirely with one message. For example, if someone needs to exchange a pair of shoes, they might initiate a return via email but leave out critical info.

To streamline any process — your customer agents should be trained to gather all necessary information at one time on the first phone call or contact. Sometimes, this call is best accomplished via an online form. Other times, the solution is best accomplished via email. (“Please send a screenshot of your original order, plus the size you’d like.”)

Whenever possible, automate frequent needs. For example, you might create a place on your website where customers can cancel their subscriptions. Your solution can include the option to pause a subscription or to receive a discount instead of canceling. Clearly written solutions on your website will save customers time and your company money.

Finally, keep the dreaded phone tree as short as possible. A brief recording might answer frequently asked questions (for example, a restaurant could include its hours on its answering machine). But anything longer risks frustrating your customer, causing complaints, and thus making your agents’ jobs harder.

Invest in Best Practices

To provide excellent customer service, you can leverage available tools and innovations. You may find a new report that helps your team, or a new technology might be helpful. For example, a video call solution that integrates into existing CS workflows can help resolve issues that typically require a site visit. Creative solutions can infuse new life into your help desk.

But sometimes, you just need to spend the time reviewing simple, reliable data. Then you can implement changes and best practices to quickly assess and resolve customer complaints.

The payoff? Happier, more loyal customers and agents. And that makes investing time and resources into these best practices well worth it.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Deal With a Customer Complaint Quickly was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie

5 Ways to Customize Your Client Experience

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Client Experience

From start to finish, there’s a lot that needs to be done to take care of your customers. You want them to have a flawless check-in experience, an ideal appointment, and a clean exit. Satisfied customers will leave positive reviews and refer your business to their friends.

One way you can set yourself apart from competitors, while simultaneously enhancing the client experience, is by offering customization options. This way, each client can have a unique experience that fits their needs and preferences. Customization isn’t always easy in the brainstorming phase, so here are some ideas you can use to get started:

1. Provide Onsite Child Care 

Many clients have children, but they won’t always have access to childcare when they have time for appointments. Additionally, few businesses allocate resources toward onsite child care services. This monumental gesture could be huge for your local community, if implemented correctly.

Just think of how many parents will appreciate being able to go to the salon on a Saturday because they can take their child along. Parents with working partners also don’t have to postpone dentist appointments or doctor’s visits simply because they’re too busy with kids during business hours.

Onsite child care should have at least one designated employee to take care of any children present. Some sanitized toys and a TV are enough to keep them entertained for a half-hour appointment. Your clients will be extremely grateful and may return frequently due to this service.

2. Send Personalized Gifts

Who says you should only take care of your clients while they are inside your building? A lot of what can make a client experience unique occurs before and after their appointments. For example, you can go the extra mile by sending some personalized gifts to your regulars.

In your customer portals, you can keep track of birthdays or other special events worth recognizing. An email saying happy birthday with a gift certificate or coupon attached is a nice gesture that isn’t required. Going out of your way to send little messages and gifts like that can really set your organization apart.

To make this strategy work you really have to be sincere. Get to know your clients and remember key details about them. This way you can congratulate them when they grow their family, graduate from school, or accomplish other things outside of regular holidays.

3. Offer Loyalty Discounts

Appointment-based businesses are no strangers to loyalty and rewards programs. What you might not have considered is offering a variety of loyalty programs for customers to choose from. This way each client will receive bonuses and incentives that actually matter to them rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

Let’s say you set a benchmark of 10 appointments for the first loyalty bonus to kick in. Customers can have the option to accept a discount on their next appointment or receive an Amazon gift card, among other options. You’re offering them a simple choice to make, but the freedom to choose is a powerful gift.

Loyalty points are perhaps the most flexible way to incentivize and reward your clients. Points can be redeemed for discounts, gift cards, or even stockpiled for larger rewards such as electronic devices or even hotel stays. Some customers might strive to unlock the highest reward possible, while others will be content to receive a voucher for a free meal.

4. Keep Preferences on File 

If you get your haircut at the same salon, they likely remember exactly how you like it. This shows they put forth effort to customize each client’s experience and keep it consistent. Your business might fall under a different sector, but the principle is still the same. Keeping customer preferences on file can add a lot to their experience, especially when repeated.

A few examples would be recording a client’s favorite massage therapist or the nail tech who knows their preferred style. You can also keep track of details such as appointment times, so you can suggest the best date and time for a follow-up appointment. This information is best tracked in a customer portal that can be created and maintained through a CRM or customer relationship management tool.

5. Provide Snacks and Refreshments 

You should do everything you can to keep waiting times low. Unfortunately, due to circumstances that are out of your control, wait times might run longer than you’d expect. Additionally, some industries can’t help but have wait times, such as a mechanic’s shop providing an oil change.

If you have a lot of early morning appointments, a fully stocked coffee bar should be a big hit. You can provide all sorts of flavors and fixings to keep guests comfortable in your waiting room. A soda fountain machine or individually packaged snacks are other treats you can leave out for your clients while they wait.

After going through this list, stop and think about what your clients would appreciate the most. Be creative with the ideas you choose to implement. As long as you have their best interests in mind, you will find success in customizing their individual experiences.

Image Credit: Fauxels; Pexels; Thank you!

Use Your Calendar App to Snag the Best Bargains

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Calendar App

Everyone at some point sees a garage sale flier and takes interest, only to forget about it minutes later. With so much going on in your life, these little bargains are easy to miss. The same goes for any kind of sale, really — thrift stores, clothing brands, bake sales, etc. Whenever you come across an exciting sale, you can integrate it seamlessly into your schedule via your calendar application.

1. Follow Public Sale Calendars

Organizations that regularly hold these events (recreation centers, religious communities, etc.) usually have a publicly-viewable calendar. This can be a physical one on a bulletin board in town or an easily-accessible digital one. The latter is more common as time goes on and is incredibly convenient to follow. Then, depending on the app, you can subscribe to be notified of new postings or upcoming events.

Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a fully-integrable calendar for you to add to your app alongside your personal one. Remember that many people have similar interests as you, and you may find some helpful bargain-hunting communities online. Along with these opportunities come plenty of resources on the subject. If they have a shared calendar, they’ll do a lot of the work.

2. Note Every Sale That Catches Your Eye

Even if it draws you at first glance, not every sale will grab you enough to want to go. But you never know what you might find sitting in the back of a thrift store or outlet mall. So it’s worth taking a slight detour to see what a sale is all about, if it’s even of tangential interest. Then, whether you end up going or not, just jot down (or snap a picture of) the information for later.

Then, you can enter it into your calendar and reconsider as it approaches. Is it worth fitting the potential bargains in among your other duties? You can also take this time to look into the event a little more and get more information. If you end up removing it from your schedule, this experience will still help you learn more about bargain-hunting.

3. Separate Them Into Categories

Once your calendar starts to fill up, the different events can get confusing. Ideally, you’ll want to know which are higher priority and what types of items you’ll find just from a glance. Most calendar apps have multiple categorization options to make this happen. Depending on your platform, you can label events by type, color, tag, importance/urgency, topic, etc.

You can, for example, mark all sales of your favorite categories (like video games or cookware) as a specific color. Then, when you open your calendar for the month, you can see that color and immediately recognize what it stands for. Adding a textual tag (“church,” “garage”) can help you separate these events even further based on location or type. The more identifiable each category is, the easier it is to differentiate sales without reviewing each one visually.

4. Fit Sales Events Into Your Established Schedule

You can decide which events you want to move forward with, fitting in among your other responsibilities. Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to do the math if your calendar app has a visual editing component. You only need to click and drag things around to reschedule them in many instances. Then it won’t feel like you’re wasting time (which you aren’t!) by going to a sale — it’s already scheduled.

The mental effect of this is perhaps the most powerful part. People often don’t devote the time they need to the things they love without doing something similar. Your responsibilities are already set in stone, so there’s no reason not to fit these things around them. Scheduling free time helps balance work and life and gives it relative psychological importance for completion.

5. Get the Important Things Out of the Way First

It’s not always possible to fit the exciting things in among your more essential duties. However, it is possible to get the latter done first to open up your schedule later on. This is the objective of the MIT time management strategy — prioritize more essential tasks to complete them before moving on. This helps particularly if you get overwhelmed easily because you’ll only focus on a few tasks at a time.

As a result, you’ll be able to be more productive in completing what you need to complete. In addition, it saves mental bandwidth so you don’t burn yourself out early and time you can spend shopping afterward. The best part is lessening your anxiety when taking that time— you know you’ve already been productive today.

It sounds unnecessary to track sales on your personal calendar, but it is perfect for saving money. As long as you spend consciously, it can make a big difference in your finances. And calendar apps are genuinely well suited for such a task, so it’s a no-brainer if you’re passionate about saving. So next time you see a garage sale flier, put it in your calendar, and you may discover something wonderful.

Image Credit: by Pixabay; Pexels; Thank you!

Use Your Calendar App to Snag the Best Bargains was originally published on Calendar by Abby Miller

How to Help Your Team Prepare for Summer Vacation Season

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Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is upon us, and it’s a popular time for employees to take time off. Maybe they plan on traveling with their family or taking a few weeks to spend quality time with their kids at home. Either way, it’s a good idea to help your employees prepare to ensure a seamless absence.

This article offers tips to prepare for summer vacation. From having employees request time off early to integrating collaborative technology, here’s everything you should know:

1. Get Time Off Requests Early 

Summer is a busy time for vacations. Chances are, your employees are planning a few trips they don’t want to miss. That’s why it’s important your staff notifies you of their vacation plans early. This will help you prepare for their absence in advance, so you can avoid being understaffed.

Most companies want their employees to submit time-off requests sooner rather than later. Not only does that increase the likelihood you’ll approve their time off, but it helps you assign work accordingly. To ensure this happens, consider sending out an email reminding your employees to submit their summer requests.

You should also include a note to ensure workers know their requests may not be approved. While you want your employees to enjoy the summer, the truth is, you can’t always approve everyone’s time-off request. Make sure you set realistic expectations.

2. Display Time Off Requests

Instead of having employees blindly submit time-off requests, consider having a board that displays everyone’s availability. This way, if an employee sees several people are approved off one week, they’ll know to avoid requesting that time. And instead, they might request their time off for the following week when more people are in the office.

Some companies use software to display everyone’s approved time off. This is a great option, but it  could be costly, depending on the service. If you’re a small business, using a physical calendar or an online alternative could work. Just make sure your employees have access to each other’s calendars and mark their time.

The more transparent you are about approved time, the more seamless it’ll be for employees. In addition to displaying approved time off, make sure you track it as well. It’s important employees can see how much time off they’ve acquired, and what they have left.

3. Make Sure They Plan Ahead

Just because your employee won’t be in the office, doesn’t mean their responsibilities disappear. It’s important they tie up any loose ends before vacationing and communicate with whoever will be covering for them.

For instance, let’s say you work in customer service. Your employees could reach out to their clients to let them know they’ll be out of office. You should also advise them to provide clients with an alternative contact, in case of an emergency. Another good idea is to have your employees set up out-of-office email responses to automatically send when someone reaches out.

You could also have your employees create an out-of-office checklist for their team. This can help prepare others for anything that’s due while they’re out. It’s also a good idea to have employees mark themselves as absent on any communication/project management tools the company uses. This will hopefully keep co-workers from reaching out to people while they’re out of the office.

4. Explore Hybrid/Remote Options

The pandemic forced thousands of employees to work from home. But even now, new data shows remote work is still surging. That’s because some people still don’t feel comfortable working from an office. Then, others simply prefer the convenience of remote work.

Allowing your employees to work from anywhere means they have more flexibility. They can visit their family out of state and even travel out of the country, while still working. If you don’t have a remote option, consider putting one in place this summer.

Allowing remote work can also save your business money. For instance, you could significantly reduce your office’s electric bill with employees at home. If 100% remote work isn’t an option for your employees, consider exploring hybrid options. Three days in the office and two remote days each week will offer employees some more freedom this summer.

5. Integrate Technology 

If your company doesn’t leverage technology, you may be doing your employees a real disservice. Regardless of your industry, it’s important workers have a place where they can communicate with one another. This is even more important during the summer when employees are going in and out of the office.

Consider adopting technology that helps your employees stay connected, regardless of where they are. For example, you could use a messaging platform like Slack. You could also consider using project management software like Asana or Monday. Both programs can help employees stay up to date and be held accountable for projects.

Technology can be a great tool, but you don’t want to go overboard. Make sure whatever you integrate makes sense for your company, and streamlines your business.

6. Help Them Enjoy Their Time Away

According to research, almost half of American workers don’t take vacation time. While there are several reasons for this, one is that people are afraid to take time off. Some are worried that requesting time off makes them appear replaceable and impacts their job security. Some people, on the other hand, don’t have anyone that can cover for them.

While it’s admirable that employees choose to work, not taking time off can lead to burnout. Not only can this impact your employees’ personal lives, but can lower their performance at work. Both are things you don’t want.

To keep this from happening, make sure you encourage your employees to take time off. Then, do your best to ensure they enjoy their time. Encourage employees to turn off their notifications, and not worry about work while they’re gone. Ensure then that your company will still thrive without them being there for a few days.

The point of vacation is to take time off to reset and enjoy. However, you can’t enjoy a vacation when you’re worried about work. The tips above can help your employees prepare for their summer vacation so their work is covered, and they can relax.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!

5 Appointment Software Features You Should Be Taking Advantage Of

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Appointment Bookings

When you think of appointment software, the first thing you think of is likely to be simple booking. A customer logs onto your network and selects a time slot for their next appointment. With just this feature, appointment software is a valuable tool for your business. However, it isn’t the only feature that can provide value.

In addition to creating a simpler booking process, appointment software has numerous other features that make life for both businesses and customers better. The following are five examples of appointment software features that can enhance your business beyond appointment times:

1. Payment Integration

Every appointment your business books likely comes with an expected cost. How payments are processed is part of the customer experience, for better or for worse. Using your appointment software to make payments easier is one way to stay on your customers’ good sides.

Paying for appointments the instant you book them is fast and convenient. Customers don’t have to spend extra time at the service desk when attending their appointment. A more streamlined appointment experience is always welcome.

This appointment software feature is also helpful for customers who frequently change their payment methods. Whether they’re switching to a new credit card or want to try using Paypal, this feature allows them to do so on their own time. Customers can also get instant digital invoices for all the appointments they book through a singular platform.

2. Reminders and Wait Lists

Perhaps the most valuable appointment software feature of all is automated reminders. Appointment reminders have been proven to effectively reduce no-show rates and late arrivals. Both of these can cause major problems for your business and sending out reminders is an easy solution.

Humans are far from perfect. Even the most well-intentioned individuals can mix up dates, get distracted, or simply forget they made an appointment booking in the first place. Appointment reminders sent a day or even a week before appointment times help to jog their memory. At the very least, it reminds customers that they need to cancel or postpone appointments before it’s too late.

3. Rewards Tracking

Appointment-based businesses thrive off of customer retention. Getting a regular customer to book weekly appointments is much more valuable than getting a bunch of customers that never return. One way to improve customer retention is by implementing a rewards program.

Some programs have tools that can track customer visits to reward them for repeat business. This is more reliable than offering a punch card that can be lost or manipulated. Using appointment software for rewards tracking also allows both businesses and customers to easily view when the next milestone is approaching.

Appointment as a program itself has features for creating gift certificates and discount cards to give to customers. For example, on a customer’s 10th visit you can create a gift card for them equal to the amount of a day’s services. With appointment software you can also keep track of how and when gift cards were redeemed.

4. Calendar Syncing

As helpful as appointment software can be, sometimes you’re just more comfortable with your personal online calendar. This especially might be the case when your appointment software is specifically built for use on a desktop computer. When you’re on the road and only have access to a mobile device, it’s nice to have your appointments synced with your personal calendar.

Let’s say you’re getting ready to leave for work and you want to catch a glimpse at your appointment schedule for the day. If you have calendar sync enabled, you can get an overview of your schedule on your personal calendar. As new appointments are booked online, these will be added for real-time updates.

This feature also adds value for workers who travel. Consider a traveling massage therapist, for instance. They might not always have access to their appointment software on the road, as they visit clients. However, a quick glance at their phone’s calendar will ensure that they’re always headed to the right place at the right time.

5. Data Tracking and Reporting

As the years go by, data has become increasingly valuable for businesses of all sizes and industries. While numbers aren’t the end-all-be-all of business operation, certain data metrics can prove to be extraordinarily helpful. However, data is useless if it isn’t being collected properly, which is something you can set up with most appointment software.

Some examples of appointment data metrics include time spent at your business, the average number of visits per customer, and demographic information. These numbers can tell you about the type of customers you have, what strategies are working, and the weak points in your business model that you could work to improve.

You might be surprised by just how much value you can get out of a single piece of appointment software. Even accessing one of these features in addition to regular appointment settings can be a massive asset for your organization. Start looking into available features now so you can start reaping the benefits today.

Image Credit: Pixabay; Pexels; Thank you!

Add These 101 Phrases to Your Calendar for Productivity

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Why do we love quotes? Well, many of us can be inspired by a quote on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. For example, when need to be re-energized when motivation has lost its luster. In addition, using quotes as a ‌guide‌ ‌can‌ ‌help‌ ‌us‌ ‌achieve‌ ‌specific‌ ‌goals and increase productivity.

Whatever reason you tap into the power quotes, the key is to keep them front and center. And, what better place to do that than by adding the following 101 phrases to your calendar for productivity. This way when you review your daily schedule or receive reminders, you’ll also get that much-needed productivity boost when needed.

1. “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” — Paul J. Meyer

2. “A wind that blows aimlessly is no good to anyone.” — Rick Riord​an

3. “Focus on being productive instead of busy.” — Tim Ferriss

4. “Lost time is never found again.” — Benjamin Franklin

5. “It’s not knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know.” –-Tony Robbins

6. “Use your mind to think about things, rather than think of them. You want to be adding value as you think about projects and people, not simply reminding yourself they exist.” — David Allen

7. “Luck is only important in so far as getting the chance to sell yourself at the right moment. After that, you’ve got to have talent and know-how to use it.” — Frank Sinatra

8. “It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”– Henry David Thoreau

9. “Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.” — Dale Carnegie

10.. “Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn.” — Delmore Schwartz

11. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.” — Stephen Covey

12. “Action is the foundational key to all success.” — Picasso

13. “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” — Bruce Lee

14. “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” — Theodore Roosevelt

15. “Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.” — Franz Kafka

16. “If there are nine rabbits on the ground, if you want to catch one, just focus on one.” — Jack Ma

17. “Ordinary people think merely of spending time, great people think of using it.” — Arthur Schopenhauer

18. Stressing output is the key to improving productivity while looking to increase activity can result in just the opposite. — Paul Gauguin

19. “The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.” — Oprah Winfrey

20. “Life is too complicated not to be orderly.” — Martha Stewart

21. “It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less.” — Nathan W. Morris

22. “You may delay, but time will not.” — Benjamin Franklin23 “Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” — Coco Chanel

23. “Don’t confuse the urgent with the important.” — Preston Ni.

24. “The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends, there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.” — Thomas A. Edison

25. “The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.” — Thomas Sowell

26. “Make each day your masterpiece.”– John Wooden

27. “My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” — Francine Jay

28. “The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.” — Benjamin E. Mays

29. “The best way out is always through.” –– Robert Frost

30. “Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.” — Leo Babauta

31. “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” — Peter Drucker

32. “Position yourself to succeed by doing the other things in your life that rejuvenate you. Exhaustion affects your quality and productivity.” — Jeff VanderMeer

33. “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein

34. “Both good and bad days should end with productivity. Your mood affairs should never influence your work.” — Greg Evans

35. “You don’t need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.” — Seth Godin

36. “Saying ‘I don’t have time’ really means ‘it’s not a priority.’ If someone offered you a ton of cash to do whatever you claim you don’t have time for…you’d probably find the time!” — Laura Vanderkam

37. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” — Stephen King

38. “Sometimes the biggest gain in productive energy will come from cleaning the cobwebs, dealing with old business, and clearing the desks—cutting loose debris that’s impeding forward motion.” — David Allen

39. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” — Steve Jobs

40. “When one has much to put into them, a day has a hundred pockets.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

41. “Great acts are made up of small deeds.” — Lao Tzu

42. “‘Tomorrow’ is the thing that’s always coming but never arrives. ‘Today’ is the thing that’s already here and never leaves. And because that’s the case, I would much prefer to invest in today than sit around waiting for an arrival that’s not arriving.” — Craig D. Lounsbrough

43. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” — Walt Disney

44. “Stop measuring days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degree of presence.” — Alan Watts

45. “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” — Muhammad Ali

46. “Time is not refundable; use it with intention.” — Unknown

47. “Effective performance is preceded by painstaking preparation” — Brian Tracy

48. You can’t get much done in life if you only work on days when you feel good. — Jerry West

49. “The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.” — Tom Peters

50. “There is no waste in the world that equals the waste from needless, ill-directed, and ineffective motions.” — Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr.

51. “We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.” — Herb Kelleher

52. “You don’t get paid for the hour, you get paid for the value you bring to the hour.” — Jim Rohn

53. “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” — Zig Ziglar

54. “If you have time to whine then you have time to find solutions.” — Dee Dee Artner

55. “All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works at a single occupation, in accordance with his natural gifts, and at the right moment, without meddling with anything else.” — Plato

56. “Light tomorrow with today.”– Elizabeth Barrett Browning

57. “Don’t confuse activity with productivity. Many people are simply busy being busy.” — Robin Sharma

58. “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” –– Dwight D. Eisenhower

59. “Busy is a decision” — Debbie Millman

60. “People often say that motivation doesn’t last long. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” — Zig Ziglar

61. “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” — Amelia Earhart

62. “There is never enough time to do it right, but there is always enough time to do it over.” — John W. Bergman

63. “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.” — John F. Kennedy

64. “Just do what works for you because there will always be someone who thinks differently” — Michelle Obama

65. “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The Sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus” — Alexander Graham Bell

66. “Every day that I procrastinate, every day that I sit stagnant in fear, every day that I fail to better myself, someone else out there with the same goals and dreams as me is doing the exact opposite.”– Noel DeJesus

67. “Where your attention goes, your time goes” — Idowu Koyenikan

68. “I get to do what I like to do every single day of the year.” — Warren Buffett

69. “Pick a problem that hurts enough for enough people and go solve it – execution is much more important than the perfect idea.” — Cristina Junqueira

70. “If you commit to giving more time than you have to spend, you will constantly be running from time debt collectors.” — Elizabeth Grace Saunders

71. “Someday is not a day of the week.” — Janet Dailey

72. “Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.” — Caterina Fake

73. “Reflect on what you do in a day. You may have never realized how some simple, harmless activities rob you of precious time.” — Vivek Naik

74. “Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law” — Douglas R. Hofstadter

75. “A year from now you may wish you had started today.” — Karen Lamb

76. “The key to productivity is to rotate your avoidance techniques.” — Shannon Wheeler

77. “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” — Saint Francis of Assisi

78. “Sometimes, things may not go your way, but the effort should be there every single night.” — Michael Jordan

79. “Long-range planning works best in the short term.”– Doug Evelyn

80. “Over the long run, the unglamorous habit of frequency fosters both productivity and creativity.” — Gretchen Rubin

81. “Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes in a day.” — Denis Waitley

82. “The happier you are, the more productive you will become.” — Chris Bailey

83. “You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.” — George Lorimer

84. “Don’t worry about breaks every 20 minutes ruining your focus on a task. Contrary to what I might have guessed, taking regular breaks from mental tasks actually improves your creativity and productivity. Skipping breaks, on the other hand, leads to stress and fatigue.” — Tom Rath

85. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” — Martin Luther King

86. “Want to be more productive? Uncover the subtle nuances that steal your productivity and fix those.” — Allison Graham

87. “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. It comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.” — John Wayne

88. “Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” — Charles Richards

89. “Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.” — Sam Levenson

90. “Your daily choices and actions should be rational and productive.” — Sunday Adelaja

91. “Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” — Brian Tracy

92. “Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

93. “What gets measured gets managed.” — Peter Drucker

94. “What looks like multitasking is really switching back and forth between multiple tasks, which reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50 percent.” — Susan Cain

95. “You don’t need more time in your day. You need to decide.” — Seth Godin

96. “Each minute is a little thing, and yet, with respect to our personal productivity, to manage the minute is the secret of success.” — Joseph B. Wirthlin

97. “Fall in love with the process, and the results will come.” — Eric Thomas

98. “Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves.” — Lord Chesterfield

99. “My future starts when I wake up every morning. Every day I find something creative to do with my life.” — Miles Davis

100. “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” — H. Jackson Brown

101. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

Image Credit: Bich Tran; Pexels; Thank you!

Add These 101 Phrases to Your Calendar for Productivity was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie

Your Customers Want Self-Service — Here’s How to Give It to Them

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Self Service

Customers today are craving more self-service options from businesses. What exactly does this mean? Self-service means that customers are able to access products, services, and solutions on their own without heavy interaction. This saves time, money, and human resources while meeting their needs more efficiently.

Now that you know that customers want self-service options, how do you make that happen? For small businesses this can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t know where to begin. Look no further; these five starting points will put you in a great place to make self-service a reality for your customer base:

Enable Online Booking

The first thing you need to do is enable self-service options for regular business interactions. For appointment-based businesses, the initial step will be to enable online booking. You’ll need to set up a website or a mobile app that allows customers to book appointments on their own devices.

Customers can browse through time slots and make their own bookings without needing to call an in-house employee. Appointments can be booked, canceled, and rescheduled more quickly. This option also creates more flexibility for customers because they could make their appointment outside of regular business hours. The business will save time, and customers have more autonomy with their booking experience.

If you want to make sure customers are able to navigate through your online booking program, you can set up a chatbot. This automated tool will be able to answer basic questions and guide your customers through the booking process while still feeling like they’re doing it all themselves.

Upgrade Your UI and UX

If you’re unaware, UI and UX stand for user interface and user experience respectively. Both of these categories are absolutely vital when implementing self-service solutions for your customers.

Your user interface involves how customers interact with your online platforms. Chatbots, as mentioned previously, are an example of UI. They make it easier for your customers to navigate and use your website.

User experience is a little more self-explanatory. This simply describes how satisfied a customer feels after working with your company. A website with quick loading speeds, a simple navigation system, and an attractive design includes examples of aspects that would ultimately improve your company’s user experience.

Make Resources Available

When customers attempt self-service, they may encounter some obstacles. These types of customers may want to try and overcome obstacles on their own. After all, independence and control are big reasons why individuals prefer self-service in the first place.

To empower these customers, make your best resources available for their use. Start with a frequently asked questions page that provides quick solutions to common problems. You can follow this up with more detailed tutorials and guides through short videos. These videos can cover a wide range of topics and even double as a marketing campaign.

A maintained blog can be used for the same purpose. Not only will the content help drive more people to your business, blog posts can provide valuable insight and information to help your customers through their journey with your business. Last but not least, make contact information readily available in the case that a customer truly needs a helping hand.

Automate What You Can

Online booking is a major integration that you can add to your business, but why stop there? So many other aspects of your business can be automated as well. Picking the right automated solutions will give more power and flexibility to customers who engage with your business.

Take payment, for example. Offering secure, online payment methods will make appointment times shorter by cutting out the middleman or a front desk agent. Customers can even save their preferred payment methods to automatically cover future appointments.

Your entire check-in process can be automated as well. A mobile app can update wait times and allow customers to note their arrivals in real-time. These small automations offer a lot of convenience to customers, especially by notifying them of delays before they pack up to leave the house.

Give Your Customers Control

At the end of the day, self-service comes down to control. Customers feel like they’re able to dictate how their experience pans out, and that makes them happy. Some companies don’t like giving up control to consumers, but sometimes a small sacrifice leads to great rewards.

A small and simple way you can give customers some control is by allowing them to adjust certain settings and personalize their experiences. For example, you can allow customers to choose how they receive appointment reminders or make it possible to opt out of them entirely. This doesn’t change much on your end, but it’s a small gesture that makes the customer feel considered and valued.

Customer profiles also allow customization and are helpful for both parties. You can give your customers some control by allowing them to choose which information they share with your company. They can also use a notes section to save certain preferences, such as a regular order modification or their preferred massage therapist.

Self-service is the future of business. Other companies are already implementing solutions, so now is the time to make sure you’re keeping up with the competition and keeping your customers happy.

Image Credit: Norma Mortenson; Pexels; Thank you!

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