Tips & Tricks Archives - Appointment - Online Appointment Scheduling Software

5 Best Practices for Controlling Your Calendar Notifications

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5 Best Practices for Controlling Your Calendar Notifications

Buzzes, beeps, dings, and swishes are the sounds of the workday. They’re useful, but they’re also distracting.

Constant notification noises put you in reactive mode. Working reactively is stressful, gets in the way of proactive thinking, and zaps energy you should be spending on focused work. But aside from silencing your computer or phone entirely — which may cause you to miss a call or a key appointment — what can you do to control them?

Setting boundaries is important if you want to use your time wisely. Try these five best practices to quiet the noise and boost your productivity:

1. Know your options.

The default settings in your scheduling software are not your friends. Find the settings menu, and start exploring. Keep in mind your options will differ depending on the device you’re using. 

Start with your device’s global settings. If you have an iPhone, you’ll see a notifications menu in the “Settings” app. A similar menu exists on Android devices. Here, you’ll find options for where notifications appear, how long they linger, and if your phone buzzes or dings upon receipt. 

Take the same approach on your computer. You might find an option that provides a heads up without annoying noises. For example, did you know that Microsoft Outlook can send you text notifications, summarizing your calendar for the day? Knowing your alert options is the first step in developing a system that serves you. 

2. Be selective.

Again, notifications exist to serve you, not the other way around. To regain control of your calendar notifications, choose which apps you actually want to hear from.

Say you’ve elected to receive Slack notifications on both your laptop and smartphone. Slack can notify you about every message in every channel, only on select channels, or only when you’re tagged. Those settings can be customized for each device. 

If you operate on-the-go, you might turn off all desktop alerts but opt to receive notifications from certain channels on your phone. If you stay close to your desk, you could opt for the opposite.

Personally, I prefer to turn off all notifications on my phone, except for those directly related to calls or texts. On my computer, I opt for email and Slack notifications. 

3. Use your senses.

Toggling the on/off switch isn’t the only way to control audio alerts on your devices. Your device’s notification settings allow you to adjust which apps send you vibration or audio notifications.

A favorite trick of mine is adjusting the sound alerts in Outlook. I don’t want to hear a chime every time a new email or calendar reminder occurs. Only when I receive an email directly from my team do I hear a chime. That sound signals to me that I should put down whatever else I’m working until I check whether the email is important and time-sensitive. 

4. Do more with your inbox.

Even if my email inbox is overflowing, I prefer to receive a notification there instead of on my phone. Here, I can sort, prioritize, and save messages until I’m ready to address them.

Many scheduling tools, including the one I use, allow you to send yourself reminders at appointed times. I set a monthly reminder to pay my credit card bill, so I receive an email at 9 a.m. the day before the bill is due.

I might accidentally dismiss the notification on my phone, but I can’t miss the email reminder in my inbox. Then, I mark it as important to keep it top of mind.

Try setting your calendar to email you 15 minutes before a meeting. To take it a step further, assign that email a special sound. 

5. Get focused.

Notifications are the enemy of deep work. Especially if you are about to engage in multitasking, turn your devices to “silent” and move them out of sight. Close Gmail, Slack, and any other applications that you’ve set to send you notifications.

If you need a notification to know when to stop, set a kitchen or online timer. Don’t use your phone for this because once the timer dings, you’ll be tempted to dive back into the notifications. 

Give yourself a block of uninterrupted work time — as well as one for personal time — every day. Sleep with your phone in airplane mode (or out of the bedroom entirely) so that your morning alarm doesn’t greet you with a list of notifications. Ironically, setting a calendar reminder for notification-free time can help with this. 

If you’re constantly feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, try taming your notifications. Trust your brain to remember what’s essential, and set your devices to remind you of the rest.

6 Tips for Mastering Appointment Reminders for Your Clients

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6 Tips for Mastering Appointment Reminders for Your Clients

Your clients are busy people. They don’t need a reminder for every email you send, but sending no reminders whatsoever isn’t a smart strategy, either.

You could take the age-old approach of sending three reminders — one far in advance, the second a few days before, and the third the day of — but that’s a lot of reminders. When the appointment rolls around, your client may walk in annoyed with you. 

Going the no-reminder route can leave clients wondering whether the meeting is still happening, or whether it’s slipped your mind.

The question is, how can you strike a balance between the two?

1. Always confirm via email.

No matter how you set the appointment — over the phone, in-person, via text, or in an email — make sure to confirm the scheduled time via email. An email is a searchable record that clients can check if in doubt of the details.

If applicable, copy the client’s administrative assistant to make sure it gets on their calendar. To avoid crowding the client’s inbox unnecessarily, ask whether reminder emails should go only to the assistant in the future. 

2. Make time to personalize.

It wouldn’t be wise to promote an event or product without a plan; take the same approach with your meeting reminders. Every email and text message you send is a representation of your brand.

To track your meetings and appointments, invest in an online calendar tool. Block off time to create customized reminders. If you’re worried you’ll forget, set your calendar tool to remind you to do it. 

This might seem a little extra, but the personal touch is important. If you allow your online scheduling service to fire-off automatic, robotic appointment reminders, chances are clients will dismiss them in the swarm of other system-generated reminders they receive.  

3. Stay on the radar.

Reminders do not necessarily need to be about a meeting. Clients encounter your brand in all sorts of contexts, so be sure to use those touchpoints as subtle, positive reminders.

Take social media. Encouraging clients to follow you on Instagram and Facebook keeps you top of mind while they’re using those channels. The content you post can trigger them to think about the upcoming appointment. 

Do the same if you send an email newsletter. Add clients to your list so that your business regularly shows up in their inbox. And if you host experiential events, be sure to invite clients to those activations, too. 

4. Send a response-worthy reminder. 

An unanswered meeting reminder can leave you wondering if the client is still planning to attend. The solution is to write a reminder soliciting a response.

Try opening your message with a question. You might ask about the client’s progress on her latest project, or whether she caught the big game over the weekend.

One way or another, get personal. A message that suggests a real person is behind it is harder to put off. Plus, it’s a great way to maintain a long-term client relationship

5. Include an agenda.

Appointments can be a big waste of time if the agenda for them isn’t set ahead of time. Shortly after the meeting is scheduled, develop an agenda and set it to everyone who plans to attend.

A reminder with an attached agenda not only serves as a reminder, but it also gives the client a way to prepare. Meetings are maximally productive when both parties arrive prepared. 

6. Make multiple reminders meaningful.

Sending multiple reminders is not always a bad idea. If a client schedules an appointment months in advance, it’s a good idea to send at least two: one confirming the meeting, and one a day or two in advance of the conversation.

Those messages should not look the same. Use them to build social capital with the client or to grow the client’s knowledge of your business. An introductory survey with questions about the client’s business, interests, and needs can both break the ice and help you provide a better service.

As you learn the art of appointment reminders, check in with your clients. Do they see the reminders you send as useful? Is there some piece of information you might be neglecting to include? You might be surprised at just how much they appreciate hearing from you.

4 Fastest Ways to Ruin a Long-Term Client Relationship

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4 Fastest Ways to Ruin a Long-Term Client Relationship

Relationships, and particularly client relationships, require investment and maintenance. Without the proper care, even a long-term connection can break down. 

Losing a stable client can mean more than a hit to your profits: When a client cut ties, your business’s reputation is stained. That, in turn, may make other clients re-evaluate their relationship with you. And if you had a personal relationship with the client, that may suffer, too.

The good news is that with reflection and self-awareness, you can do your part to maintain long-term client relationships. Above all, avoid these four relationship-ruining mistakes:

1. You go dark when things go wrong.

It’s happened to all of us: The project begins to creep past its budget, or the timeline for delivery stalls.

It’s tempting to forget the problem and hope it goes away, leaving the client none the wiser. But the client will notice when his or her emails go unanswered. 

Always choose transparent, direct communication over avoidance. Transparency does not indicate weakness. In fact, transparent leaders are often admired because they admit to their flaws as well as their strengths. 

While it may be difficult in the moment, being upfront is important for maintaining a client’s trust in you and your brand. An informed client is a happy client.

2. You never initiate the conversation. 

Responding to a client’s requests for updates is important, but checking in without the client having to ask matters just as much.

First of all, waiting for the customer to come to you isn’t the best business strategy. It’s like waiting for a neighbor to pass by your lemonade stand instead of going door to door. Reaching out regularly to long-term clients keeps your services top of mind. 

Secondly, being the one to reach out builds social capital with clients. If you get to know your clients as people first, chances are that they’ll be more gracious when a deadline gets changed or a deliverable isn’t met. 

Treat clients like human beings: Ask about their families and hobbies. Celebrate successes with them, and likewise, send condolences when appropriate. If you’re worried you’ll forget, use automation to remind you to reach out regularly. 

3. You don’t set boundaries.

Boundaries might seem like just a buzzword, but guarding your time is important when you need to give lots of accounts regular attention. 

The best time to communicate expectations? The beginning of a relationship or, with long-term clients, the start of a new project. 

Ask your client how they prefer to communicate. Will he expect regular updates? Or would he prefer that you handle the project and only come to him with problems, questions, or a draft to review? Regardless, be clear that you aren’t available for out-of-the-blue calls or unnecessary meetings.

4. You repeat past mistakes.

Failure is hard to swallow in any setting, but it’s exceptionally difficult when it involves a long-term relationship. Clients who trust you will likely overlook one or two mistakes, but don’t expect them to do so if you keep making the same ones. 

What if you do make a stomach-churning, cheek-burning mistake? Don’t look outward for someone else to blame; turn inward and ask what factors might have caused you to make the error.

Take your cue from Brene Brown, who encourages leaders to “rumble” with their mistakes. Use phrases like “help me understand” and “I’m wondering” to put the onus for change on yourself.

What if you do make the same mistake again? Communicate clearly and directly, explain the situation, make an apology, and offer a path forward. In the long run, owning your actions and being a person of your word will always pay off. 

Strong client relationships are the cornerstone of any successful business. If in doubt about how to handle a long-term relationship, remember the Golden Rule: Treat them like how you’d want to be treated, and they’ll do the same for you. 

6 Follow-Ups Your Clients Won’t Forget

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Freelancer working

Follow-ups can make or break your customer relationships. Top customers, in particular, expect attention before, during, and after the sale.

How can you squeeze the most value out of those encounters? Be genuine, be generous, and be helpful. Here are six ways to do it:

1. With a thoughtful gift.

Giving a relevant, helpful gift shows that you see top customers as more than just numbers: You care about what they like, and you’re willing to go the extra mile for them.

Did a certain customer mention on an upsell call that she loves chocolate-covered strawberries? Send her a dozen of them a few days after that meeting to show your appreciation. 

2. By inviting them to a webinar.

Hosting events doesn’t just bring leads in the door; it can deepen your connection with existing customers. Add value by inviting them to a webinar.

Especially if you’re a B2B company, learn what continuing education your clients might want. If you’re a marketing firm, can you share some of your favorite tactics? Say you’re a health insurer: Could you put on a wellness event via videoconference?

3. By surprising them with a meal out.

Who doesn’t love going out to eat? There’s no better way than breaking bread together to turn a high-value business relationship into a personal one. Structure your day so you can make time for client meals without shortchanging family.

No one likes to make a decision on a hungry stomach. In a follow-up email, ask your potential clients where their favorite place to eat at is, and then schedule a meeting with them at that restaurant. 

4. By sharing relevant content.

You know how marvelous it feels when someone sends you exactly what you need right when you need it. If you know a client is struggling with a decision or unsure about how to do something, give that feeling to them.

Did your company just publish a whitepaper on the efficacy of social media advertisements? If you know a small business you’re pitching has a slim or non-existent social presence, send it to them!

Sharing relevant content shows potential clients that you care about what matters to them. When they see you’re tuned in to their needs, they’ll be that much more likely to do business together.

5. By taking a personal interest in them.

When you’re sincerely interested in someone, it shows. And thanks to the reciprocity principle, the customer or prospect you’re targeting will be tempted to return the favor of your genuine follow-up.

Don’t do this via email. Either in person or by phone, have a real conversation with them: Ask them how their day is going. What are their hobbies? What are their favorite books, movies, or songs?

6. By volunteering together.

Research shows that volunteering makes you happier. Not only does it provide a sense of purpose, but it promotes physical activity and social interaction. Inviting prospects or customers to a volunteer event with you spreads those warm, fuzzy feelings. When the conversation turns back to business, they’ll associate those same sensations with you.

Casually ask preferred customers about the causes they support. Schedule an hour or two to support one organization involved in those areas, and invite your prospect along. They may be busy, but at the very least, they’ll appreciate your sense of social responsibility.

What if your prospects don’t have any volunteer activities in mind? Bring a little cheer to a retirement home, take care of animals at a local shelter, serve meals at a soup kitchen, shelve books at a library, or pick up trash at a local park. The possibilities are as broad as your client base. 

All it takes to win over and keep top clients is some personal attention. Treat them as more than a sale, and you’ll see the payoff sooner than you think.

How to Break Down Big Tasks to Boost Your Productivity

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notebook-breaking-down-big-tasks

When you try to tackle a task that is too big for a single work session or strategy, it can feel like running right into a brick wall. Productivity can plummet, morale can suffer, and a general state of stress and anxiety can ensue.

The next time you come up against a task that feels too big to handle, follow these steps to break it down and meet the challenge one step at a time:

1. Brainstorm then order action steps.

When you’re not sure how to approach a big task, get out a pen and notepad. Start by brainstorming all of the things you’ll need to do in order to accomplish it. The right starting point will become clear once you see them all on paper.

Say you want to develop and launch a new product. It’s a big task, but you probably know the smaller steps:

  • Research product-market fit.
  • Wireframe the design
  • Develop a minimum viable product
  • Beta-test the product.
  • Analyze the beta test results.
  • Research the best time to launch the product.
  • Make alterations and re-test the product (and repeat if necessary).
  • Develop a marketing campaign.
  • Make alterations (if necessary).
  • Develop a marketing campaign.
  • Officially release the product.
  • Follow up with customers for feedback.

Even to someone without a background in product development, that order probably makes intuitive sense. But it can be tough to see that until you’ve actually listed everything out.

2. Don’t overthink things.

For most people, writing down the individual steps involved in a project makes approaching them easier. For others, though, it can trigger a case of analysis paralysis.

If you find yourself in that boat, don’t think about the project as a whole. Focus just on that first step: What do you need to do in order to get the ball rolling? Thinking beyond the step immediately ahead of you only puts more stress and pressure on your shoulders.

Mentally simplifying projects, especially at their outset, makes you more motivated. Keep a map of the broader project tucked away so you can reference it without giving it brain space all of the time.

3. Group similar tasks together.

As you work through the individual steps in a project, it’s wise to group similar ones together. Performing multiple actions that are closely related is known as batching, and it can be a great way to knock out large parts of a project quickly. 

Say you’re building a website and need to create an individual page for a dozen different products. Create all of the pages at once. Then, go back and write all of the product descriptions in a row. After that, go back and add the back-end metadata to every page. You get the idea.

Batching similar tasks lets you get into a flow state. Not only will that mental state make you more productive, but it will help you enjoy the work.

4. Tackle tough tasks during your prime time. 

It’s important to be aware of when you do your best work. Ernest Hemingway, for instance, was famous for writing as soon after first light as possible. Many others find that their prime working hours are in the late morning or the wee hours of the night. 

Identify your own “prime time,” and schedule the hardest parts of your project for those periods. Once you have a list of subtasks, you should be able to identify which things will be easy to do and what items may require a bit more work — physically, mentally, or both.

5. Schedule your time.

In the words of William Penn, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” If you don’t make an effort to schedule your time, you’re going to get bogged down as you go along. 

Schedule not just each phase or subtask of your project, but your entire day. Designating time to do things like respond to client emails and exercise ensures you don’t let other important priorities fall by the wayside as you make progress on your initiative. 

Proper scheduling will also give you the opportunity to take breaks regularly. Breaks are a critical part of maintaining long-term productivity.

Avoid working on the same task for more than two hours at a time without giving your brain a rest. Schedule a ten-minute break every two hours, or at least switch to a lighter task at that time.

6. Celebrate milestones, even the small ones

When you finish a step in a massive project, it’s tempting to move on immediately. Don’t: The way you handle those small wins dictates your future progress.

The human brain is reward-oriented. If you train it to expect good things when you finish a task, you’ll be all the more motivated to tackle future ones more efficiently.

Be sure, though, to reward yourself in healthy ways. Try:

  • Taking a walk
  • Making yourself a healthy meal
  • Booking an experience for yourself
  • Brewing a cup of tea or coffee
  • Calling a friend

Every massive accomplishment started with a single step. Plan well, schedule things smartly, give yourself plenty of breaks, and recognize the good work you do. Keep at it, and you’ll be there sooner than you know it. 

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