As business processes become more advanced and automated, the pen-and-paper appointment book has become a thing of the past.
With the rise of online shopping and the impact of a global pandemic, businesses must offer online booking to succeed and ensure a quality (and safe) service to their customers.
But what are the problems associated with pen-and-paper appointment planners? Can your business get away with keeping this outdated process?
We’ll explain the ten problems caused by appointment books, and how appointment booking software solutions can take your business further.
1. Appointment Books Lose Customers (And Revenue)
The way customers interact with businesses has changed dramatically in recent years. As online shopping grows exponentially, so does the customer’s expectation that they can contact your business after-hours.
When it comes to booking appointments, businesses that are still using a pen-and-paper appointment book are missing out on a huge number of customers looking to book online. Over 35% of customers prefer to schedule online outside of traditional business hours.
But, if your business is still using a pen-and-paper appointment planner, how can these customers schedule an appointment with you?
With increasing evidence that customers prefer to book online, businesses without this capability are losing customers - and ongoing revenue.
This helpful table shows the common scenarios where your appointment planner is holding back your business and how appointment scheduling software can help:
With an appointment book
With appointment scheduling software
Customer decides to book an appointment late at night
Business can’t offer online appointment scheduling, so your customer waits until your opening hours - and then forgets entirely
Business is available 24/7 for new and recurring customers to book appointments at their convenience
Customer requires urgent professional assistance
Business is unable to assist by offering online booking for next-day slots, so the customer chooses a competitor who has this capability
Business can cater to urgent requirements from new or recurring customers with online booking
Customer can’t remember when they booked their appointment
They must wait for the business to open, call their receptionist, and wait for them to find their correct appointment time - increasing the chance that they’ll no-show
They can check their smartphone for the automated notification sent by the appointment booking software
Customer needs to cancel their appointment after-hours
Business can’t cancel or reschedule outside of opening hours, so the customer no-shows and the appointment slot is wasted
The customer can cancel via appointment booking software, and the business can fill the slot with a waitlist customer as quickly as possible
Old-school appointment books restrict businesses from offering a responsive service to customers.
By going digital and using online appointment scheduling software, your business can increase appointment attendance, maximize ongoing revenue, and attract more customers to use your services.
2. Using An Appointment Planner Is Unproductive
Does your business still use a pen-and-paper appointment book? How much time do you think is wasted by flicking through pages to find the right booking - or calling customers to remind them about their appointment?
Pen-and-paper appointment planners seem straightforward at first but quickly become time-consuming and difficult to manage when things are busy.
When a customer calls to book an appointment, the receptionist takes their details and makes a note of their booking in the calendar.
Now consider how an appointment book slows productivity with the following common scenarios...
- Appointment cancellations
- Human error
- Last-minute changes to business hours
- Appointment reminders
If a customer needs to cancel their appointment, they must call during business hours to speak with the receptionist. Then, the receptionist must stop what they are doing to find the customer’s appointment in the book, cross-out their appointment details, and find an alternative appointment time.
Even the most experienced receptionist can make mistakes, such as writing down the wrong name, phone number, or email address - or even scheduling an appointment on a wrong day. This leads to extra time spent correcting the booking, or worse, a missed appointment and an unhappy customer.
If the business must close unexpectedly, the receptionist must go through the appointment book to contact every single customer who had bookings to cancel and reschedule appointments.
The same goes for appointment reminders, where a pen-and-paper appointment book forces the receptionist to call appointment reminders manually. This can take up the whole day.
In all four scenarios, the receptionist or customer service agent is forced to undertake long-drawn-out tasks that could be automated through appointment scheduling software.
The time spent chasing up appointments, managing cancellations, and writing down appointment details is time that could be better spent on important administrative tasks and delivering personalized service to customers who are on the premises.
With the accuracy and automation of appointment scheduling software, businesses can massively increase productivity as those time-consuming and monotonous tasks are handled by an intelligent software solution.
3. Pen-And-Paper Processes Are Wasteful
Appointment books and other pen-and-paper business processes aren’t just inefficient, they’re bad for the environment.
The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper every year, which is a huge environmental and business cost that could be dramatically reduced with appointment scheduling software.
Consider the following 5 pen-and-paper processes:
- New customer or patient forms
- COVID-19 pre-screening checklist
- Consent forms
- Feedback forms and questionnaires
- Appointment books
These processes are essential for your business to function effectively and deliver a high-quality service. But by relying on paper you’re not only increasing your carbon footprint, but also your overheads and storage costs to purchase documents and keep them safe.
As businesses grow and the number of appointment slots and regular customers increases, so does the amount of paper that is used - and wasted.
But businesses are starting to address their carbon footprint, and the use of appointment scheduling software is now an attractive way to minimize unnecessary waste by going paperless.
By implementing a software solution, all necessary business processes that were restricted to pen-and-paper can be moved to an effortless online system for both customers and staff.
4. Appointment Planners And Important Documents Can Get Lost
When staff record appointments, customer details, and other important information using a physical appointment book, businesses run the continuous risk of losing important documents.
Appointment books and other important paperwork can be lost due to a disorganized workplace, an incorrect filing system, or even theft at your business premises.
These scenarios are fairly common and can have a disastrous impact on your business.
Here are just a few of the consequences that arise from losing your appointment book or important paper documents:
- Poor communication between staff
- Dissatisfying customer experiences
- Ineffective performance monitoring
- Legal trouble
No business wants to risk the impact of losing important documentation, especially as they grow and become more reputable.
By going digital and choosing an effective appointment scheduling software, business owners and managers have peace of mind that important forms and appointment information is kept safe and secure in the cloud.
This means it can be accessed and retrieved from any location, even in the event of a natural disaster or theft at your business premises.
5. It’s impossible to track performance with appointment books
Business owners and branch managers need to keep track of business performance to make informed decisions, allocate resources effectively, and have peace of mind that their management strategies are successful.
But by using a weekly appointment book, the task of monitoring performance becomes increasingly difficult - especially if multiple appointment books are used by different agents at multiple locations.
To know how their business is performing and make decisions, certain metrics and indicators should be monitored.
Some are more industry-specific, but here are 5 general KPIs that should be tracked by business managers:
- New customers
With just a physical appointment book as a reference, it’s nearly impossible for managers to effectively monitor and review their business’s performance.
Making comparisons between other locations, agents, or months of the year is also difficult, as well as tracking the performance from different locations if the business has multiple branches.
For businesses to grow and improve, consistent and accurate performance monitoring is essential.
With an integrated appointment scheduling software that can manage and track performance metrics, managers gain valuable insights into their business without having to decipher an appointment book.
6. Businesses Using Appointment Planners Have Worse Customer Service
Using a pen-and-paper appointment planner risks many business management problems, and all of these ultimately lead to poor service delivery and negative customer experience.
When customers arrive at your business, they expect to feel welcome, be treated respectfully, and receive a high standard of service from start to finish.
But businesses who only use an at-a-glance weekly appointment book to schedule and manage customers set themselves up to make critical errors, such as incorrect appointment details, limited staff availability, poor follow-up processes, and less personalized service.
Here are a few common scenarios that could be improved with an appointment scheduling software:
With an appointment book
With appointment scheduling software
Customer wants to make an appointment during the busiest time of the day
Customer must wait in line or stand at the desk until an agent is available to book their appointment
Customer can make an appointment 24/7 via an online portal or app
Customer needs to urgently reschedule their appointment
Customer must wait until opening hours or until an agent is available to reschedule their appointment
Customer can reschedule their appointment anytime at their convenience
Receptionist using the appointment book has illegible handwriting
Business risks mispronouncing a name, scheduling an appointment incorrectly, or fails to follow-up with the customer due to misreading the appointment book
All appointment details are consistently neat and legible due to digital format
Customer wants to be reminded of their appointment in-advance
Staff must make time for appointment reminder calls and the customer doesn’t receive a reminder due to staff being too busy
Appointment reminders are sent automatically via push notification
More than half of customers won’t return to a business after having a negative experience. Businesses who fail to improve by implementing an appointment scheduling software run the risk of losing valuable customers due to a poor customer service experience caused by ineffective appointment management.
An automated appointment software can help your business deliver a consistently high-quality customer experience by making sure all the basics are done correctly.
7. Businesses With On-Paper Appointment Planners Are Less Competitive
Any ambitious business should implement an appointment scheduling software, or they risk losing customers to their competitors.
This is the case for all competitive industries, but also for healthcare providers such as dentists, as both retail customers and patients are choosing businesses that allow online booking.
It’s also important to show awareness of what the next generation expects from your business, as 71% of millennials like to schedule appointments online and receive appointment reminders via smartphone.
Implementing an online appointment scheduling software makes businesses more competitive for the following reasons:
- New customers searching after-hours will choose your business over competitors
- Offering online booking is a great marketing message to attract new customers
- Online booking appeals to a growing millennial audience
- Your competitor’s customers will switch to your business if you offer a more modern appointment booking service
Keeping up with technological innovations is important for businesses in every industry or they risk losing customers and revenue to competitors.
Choosing a modern appointment scheduling software is a great way to make your business more competitive and demonstrate that you are leading the industry.
8. Appointment Books Are Unsafe During A Pandemic
With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting businesses all over the world, pen-and-paper processes became a huge risk for contamination and the spread of infection.
Before the pandemic, going paperless was advantageous to businesses - but still optional. Today, it’s becoming a requirement for businesses to digitize their processes to keep people safe.
Any business that fails to adapt and incorporate contactless process risks being forced to shut-down by local government, but also puts the health and wellbeing of their community at risk.
Using a pen-and-paper appointment book during a pandemic is unsafe for the following 5 reasons:
- Customers visiting your premises may be infected
- Staff using the same surface (the appointment book) risk infecting each other
- Paper appointment books can’t be sanitized
- Social distancing is difficult to enforce during busy periods
- Urgent updates can’t be communicated to customers quickly
Before COVID-19 business owners might have been slow to adapt to paperless processes because they were uncomfortable with change or didn’t feel the need to move with the times.
Today, however, allowing (and encouraging) customers to book online is critical to keep operating safely during a pandemic.
By minimizing person-to-person and person-to-object contact, online appointment booking helps reduce the spread of infection. With queue management software and an appointment scheduling system, businesses can protect their income while keeping their staff and community safe.
9. Businesses Using Appointment Books Appear Disorganized
As customers grow more used to online interactions with businesses, seeing a pen-and-paper appointment book is growing increasingly rare.
When a customer approaches your customer service representative or receptionist, they expect to receive a swift yet personalized service - otherwise, your business will look disorganized and the customer won’t feel valued.
If your business still uses an appointment book, you experience the following scenarios that set a poor example for your business:
- Receptionists taking too long to flick-through the appointment book and find a suitable time
- Agents mispronouncing a customer’s name due to illegible handwriting
- Staff searching for the appointment book or being unable to find it while the customer is waiting
- Agents preparing for the wrong appointment due to a mistake in the appointment book
All of these scenarios are embarrassing and make your business look unprofessional. Customers will assume that your staff are disorganized and lose trust in your brand.
With an appointment scheduling software in place, the above scenarios are eliminated and every customer receives a consistent experience with your staff.
Agents have immediate access to the appointment book, can easily find an available time, and minimize the risk of incorrect information and other clerical errors with a digital format.
10. Appointment Planners Can’t Integrate With Other Processes
Pen-and-paper appointment books can’t be integrated into other business processes. This leads to many problems for businesses, such as lacking productivity, inefficiency, and disorganized workflow.
Businesses should aim to integrate all their programs and processes. Using an integrated appointment scheduling software supports businesses in 3 key areas:
- Document management
- Time management
- Performance management
Firstly, customer appointments, forms, and contact details are stored together in one software. A pen-and-paper appointment book is separate from patient forms and the patient directory. But, with a software solution, these three essential elements are fully integrated so that they can be accessed through one program. Customers can easily follow procedures remotely, but staff can also be more productive by accessing all customer information through one integrated software.
Secondly, staff and customers can better manage their time through automated reminders. Appointment scheduling software integrates into staff calendars and the customer directory, so notifications can be sent automatically and allow both parties enough time to prepare for the appointment. Customers make it to their appointment on time, and staff are well-prepared to deliver an excellent service.
Thirdly, managers can monitor customer activity and staff performance across multiple locations with one software. Without a software solution, managers would have to obtain the appointment books from every location and study them to take note of important data. With an intelligent software solution, performance metrics can be recorded and presented in real-time and from any location.
Conclusion: Will Your Business Be Left Behind?
In the last few years, software innovations have created more ways to improve productivity, accuracy, organization, and performance monitoring.
While some businesses move with the times and quickly adapt to modern practices, many businesses get left behind. This could be because they don’t need to be competitive, or because business owners are uncomfortable with the notion of change.
But with the recent global pandemic, offering online appointment booking is essential to minimize the spread of infection and keep your business moving.
For a fully-integrated, cloud-based software system that helps you offer the ultimate customer experience, talk to the team at Skiplino.