When you are running a business, time is a precious commodity. Scheduling appointments and managing your business calendar can be quite difficult, though, especially when you're just starting out.
You most likely want to take care of your appointment scheduling yourself. It feels like it's easier that way and there's less chance of error... right? But how much time could you save if you chose a more efficient, automated solution?
By using an appointment scheduling platform for your business, you'll free up valuable time for other things — like growing your company, sourcing more customers, and paying more attention to delivering standout customer service.
If business is booming, it won't take long before your customer volume exceeds your ability to handle appointments effectively without an automated solution. Read on to find out how appointment scheduling software can help your business thrive.
- Defining appointment types
- Benefits of appointment scheduling
- Resourcing for scheduled appointments
- Ways to improve appointment scheduling and your customer journey
- Appointment scheduling system types
Defining appointment types
There are two main ways you can serve your customers: as walk-ins or as appointments.
If you’re reading this article, your business likely already offers – or is planning to offer – appointment slots to customers that they can book ahead of time. There are a number of options you can offer to customers when it comes to scheduling an appointment: via phone, email, webform, app, or even in person.
A good appointment scheduling platform will allow you to offer all of these options. If a customer is booking themselves, they’ll be able to choose from open times based on the service they want. If your staff is assisting the customer via phone, email, or in person, they’ll be able to do the same thing. The beauty of using an appointment scheduling app is that regardless of how appointments are booked, they are all automatically centrally managed in a single place.
The other appointment type is a walk-in. Offering the option to walk-in for a service in addition to booking ahead of time gives your customers maximum flexibility and convenience. Plus, it often means that you can serve more guests in the same amount of time – increasing your sales.
The beauty of queue management software like Waitwhile is that you don’t have to choose one or the other. You can offer both appointment scheduling and a virtual waitlist to customers with the peace of mind that customer flow will be seamlessly managed by the platform.
Related: What are virtual queues?
Benefits of appointment scheduling
If your business currently operates on a primarily walk-in appointment basis, transitioning over to a queue management system with appointment scheduling features can help you better manage your schedule, improve customer service, and reduce no-shows.
Here are the core benefits for both your customers and your business.
Better customer satisfaction
There’s no better way to completely eliminate wait times at your business than offering the option to book a slot in advance. With careful planning, you can ensure that you alot the right amount of time for each service you offer, so you always stay on schedule.
A recent Waitwhile consumer study found that waiting in line most commonly elicits feelings of apathy, boredom, annoyance, or frustration. Cutting the wait entirely means that you don’t have to worry about unhappy customers. Starting the interaction off on the right foot can go a long way to ensuring your customer satisfaction is high.
Customers also love the convenience of booking ahead of time. In under a minute, they’re able to see which slots are available and secure the one that works best for them. When it comes to rescheduling, customers can easily find an alternate time in case something comes up.
And, since everything in an appointment scheduling app is automated, offering this flexibility doesn’t create any additional calendar management work for you.
Keep reading: 9 Ways to Improve Customer Experience
No more unappealing, long lines
If you have high-traffic areas where people must wait around your store or office in order to get an appointment or be seen, they are more likely to give up and go elsewhere if they don't see any progress being made in their wait time.
Long lines can really put a dent in how people view your brand. If your business becomes associated with frustrating waits, you’re likely going to see negative impacts on your bottom line.
More positive brand image
The modern consumer is digital-first. We’ve become accustomed to technology enriching and bettering our lives. So when it comes to brick-and-mortar businesses, consumers are expecting to see the elevated experiences they’ve become used to in the digital realm.
A well-designed appointment system that’s easy to use will give your customers the convenience they’re seeking. It’ll suggest a more sophisticated, customer service-oriented business and make your business more appealing.
More consistent time management for staff
Using a queue management system means that you'll have access to real-time data about how many customers you serve on average each day so you can plan staffing levels accordingly. This means that your staff are more likely to have enough time to complete their tasks without feeling rushed or stressed out.
It's also an excellent way to avoid burnout. Your staff won't feel overwhelmed by the number of clients who need attention, and they'll be able to work more efficiently with fewer interruptions from new arrivals.
For businesses like barbershops or salons, where staff can often set their own hours, an appointment scheduling platform gives staff the ability to change their availability on their own. Because all calendar management is automated, each staff member gets ultimate flexibility without adding any work to managers or business owners.
Greater ability to plan the daily flow of resourcing
If you're using an appointment system, you'll know exactly how many appointments are booked each day — and what time slots are most popular with clients. Based on this information, it's much easier for you to plan the flow of resources (i.e., which of your staff members will work during which times).
This ensures that there are always enough people available when clients need them most. If you need any specialized equipment to handle a particular appointment, such as a wheelchair, hearing aid, or any other device, then you can make sure it's available at the right time.
Improved customer retention
When you have a queue management system in place, you can invite overflow customers to make an appointment for another day instead of being forced to just send them away to come back another time. Plus, if you make it easy for your customers to secure a slot, you increase the chances they’ll return for another visit.
Less overcrowding of waiting areas
Because customers arrive on time for their appointments, you avoid overcrowding your waiting areas. If your business model operates with walk-ins in addition to appointments, using a queue management system like Waitwhile will allow you to offer virtual queues to guests who do want to wait.
With a virtual queue, a customer gets a wait time estimate and regular updates via their phone, so they are free to do whatever they wish (like run some errands or browse your store). When it’s their turn, they’ll get a notification. If they need more time, they can text or email and Waitwhile automatically adjusts the virtual queue accordingly.
Resourcing for scheduled appointments
Business resources are not unlimited. Success in business means careful management of your time, money, and people. That begins with managing the pace and flow of customer service, across all operational levels.
Managing appointment scheduling is more than just giving customers and clients designated times for them to be at a certain place at a certain time. Here’s everything you need to consider.
You need to make sure that you have enough staff to accommodate demand. Having a queue management system in place helps you do this.
With in-platform analytics, you can not only get data about how many people you’re serving, but you can also see how fast you’re moving. Granular data is available at the employee-level, so you can see which employees work fastest and surface potential roadblocks to your efficiency. This way, you can spot potential issues early to ensure that everyone is performing at their optimal level and meeting the needs of your customers.
With an appointment scheduling tool, you can more effectively manage your space by controlling your customer flow. By setting the right number of available appointments for your physical space, you ensure that there’s enough room for customers at all times whether they’re being served or waiting.
You want your customer experience to be as seamless as possible. That means making the right equipment available at the right time. Using a queue management system lets you do this by giving you real-time visibility over the business resources you're using, so you'll know when something needs replacing or restocking.
Plus, you can collect information about your customers’ needs at the time of booking. Depending on the types of services you offer, you may want to know what you’ll need to most effectively prepare for the appointment ahead of time. You can also collect special requests – such as the need for an interpreter or mobility assistance – so you can be prepared for when the customer arrives.
Ways to improve appointment scheduling and your customer journey
Your customer experience begins before anyone even walks through your door. It begins with the scheduling of appointments. You don't want a slow or difficult scheduling process — especially not today when competition is at all-time high and it’s easier than ever for potential customers to take their business elsewhere.
Speed, convenience, and ease of use are critical factors in keeping customers happy and coming back. When you solve customer problems following those principles, they'll be more likely to leave a good review, refer you to their friends, come back, and even pay more for your services.
Here’s how to elevate your appointment scheduling process.
Focus on user experience
Appointment scheduling software should be user-friendly. The customer should not have to spend time learning how to use it or feel like it is difficult to understand.
Be sure to find a platform that is also customizable. You want to ensure that your customer experience is unified from start to finish. A customizable platform will allow you to do more than just upload your logo – you should be able to change things like font type and color.
Advertise how easy it is to schedule an appointment
Make sure that your customers know how to schedule an appointment. Deploy messaging both in-store and on digital channels (e.g., website, social media, etc.). Consider leveraging customer testimonials that convey how easy the process is.
Send appointment confirmations and reminders
This will help your customers know exactly what's going on with their appointments. It also gives them an opportunity to ask any questions they might have about what goes into each service or treatment.
Sending appointment confirmations and reminders is also an opportunity to give customers more information about what they can expect from their experience. If they need to bring in certain forms, for example, you can send them ahead of time along with clear instructions on what to do.
Related: How to Use Personalized Email & SMS
Use a clear process for rescheduling and cancellations
With an appointment scheduling tool, you can deliver clear instructions to your customers about how to reschedule or cancel an appointment. If you are running into issues with repeated no-shows, consider implementing a no-show policy that’s clearly communicated to guests at multiple points ahead of their scheduled appointment.
With Waitwhile, you can set automated messages to deploy at set times to deliver appointment and no-show policy reminders.
Don’t forget about the check-in process
You want to ensure that your customers know where to go upon arriving at your business. If you don’t have a reception/welcome desk, you can do this either with notifications given at the time they make their appointment or with signs posted at your office.
To automate the check-in process, you can also set up kiosks at the entrance. That way, customers can let you know they’re here and relevant staff can be automatically notified.
Related: How to Set Up a Self Check-in Kiosk
Appointment scheduling system types
Many traditional methods of offering appointments are labor intensive and time consuming for both customers and staff. These include:
- Phone calls and texting: This is the most common way to schedule appointments today, with a customer calling or texting to schedule. While this method provides a nice level of personalization, it is manual and inefficient.
- Appointment books and handwritten notes: These are only ideal if you have a very low volume of customers and if you don’t mind the manual labor.
- Apps like Google Calendar or Calendly: These apps allow clients to schedule appointments online by looking at your calendar. The app will then send an automatic confirmation email to both parties so there's no need for follow-up phone calls or emails. These apps offer the flexibility customers and business owners want, but are limited in their features. For example, you’re not able to fully customize the experience to align with your brand and if you also accept walk-ins, you’ll have to manage them separately.
None of these methods offer an optimal user experience.
The rise of cloud computing and other information technologies has made it easier to manage appointments in an automated way. Not just that, but we live in a digital-first society, and customers (and your employees) are accustomed to a level of convenience and interactivity that’s not offered by the options above.
Choosing the right appointment scheduling system
This is a matter of finding what works for your business. The best system will vary based on business type and size, but generally as your business grows, it will become more essential to find a digital appointment management system.
With Waitwhile’s appointment scheduling features, you can:
- Automate workflows by putting scheduling tasks on autopilot and letting staff focus on your customers. Waitwhile will automatically take care of scheduling, rescheduling, sending reminders, filling no-shows, fixing double-bookings, and other repeatable tasks.
- See the big picture at-a-glance with a real-time calendar. You’ll be able to sort by service type, staff member, or team. Waitwhile updates your calendar and messages you if anything changes so you don’t have to keep checking.
- Communicate with your guests via 2-way messaging. Automated reminders and self-serve appointment management lets your customers easily reschedule, cancel, or say they’re running late.
- Find out how your staff is performing, where bottlenecks occur, and how customer satisfaction is being impacted with data & analytics. Waitwhile collects data and gives you actionable insights that help streamline operations and provide more personalized customer experiences.
- Fully customize and integrate your appointment scheduling tool. Waitwhile seamlessly connects with your CRM, POS, calendar, ticket manager, Slack channel, website, app, and other tools.
Take Waitwhile for a test drive. Try it free here.