What’s the most important resource for your business?
Despite what might first jump to mind, it’s not money. It’s time.
No matter what position you’re in or how capable you are, you always have a limited amount of time to get stuff done. You only have so much attention and energy throughout a workday. So how do you make the most of a limited resource and make sure you’re spending time on the right things?
Different people take different approaches. For anyone who’s time-pressed, the most helpful approach is getting rid of those small, repetitive tasks. So how can you do that?
In a more traditional mindset that could mean anything from delegating responsibilities to team members or wearing the same black turtleneck each morning like Steve Jobs.
Thanks to modern technology, however, you don’t have to forgo material comforts (and a diversified wardrobe) for a more efficient work calendar.
An automated scheduling calendar is a great place to start if you’re interested in finding more time in your workday.
Just streamlining the way your customers or clients book appointments can end up improving administrative business processes. This in turn improves overall productivity and even revenue.
A Brief History of the Scheduling Calendar
Prior to the industrial revolution, work time looked a lot less uniform than you’d expect.
Farm labor was far slower-paced than modern work, relying on a rough seasonal timeline where some times of the year were busier than others. The rise of factories during the 19th century led to workdays structured less around seasons and more around days.
Modern time management was born from this new idea of the individual workday, where employees are assigned discrete tasks to complete throughout a designated work period.
That’s how our current notion of appointments and meetings came to be. Suddenly, each hour of time was an hour that could be productive. The standard unit of time measurement went from seasons to days, then to hours. And that’s how we got our contemporary ideas about time management.
Types of Scheduling Calendars
The modern workday is more structured, demanding a more punctual relationship between people and businesses. Since there’s a designated time frame for work, you need to be considerate of your clients’ time and your time when picking a time to meet.
Different ways of scheduling appointments have evolved alongside the modern workday. Four notable methods of booking appointments include:
- In-Person Queueing. Showing up to a physical location to book a spot by lining up.
- Phone Call Appointments. Calling ahead to schedule a meeting at a given time.
- Ticket Queueing. Showing up, retrieving a numbered ticket from a machine dispenser or lobby agent, and being served in the order designated on the ticket.
- Online Scheduling Calendar. Customers book their own appointments through an online portal. They are responsible for maintaining and updating their appointment details.
Each business might gravitate toward a specific type of calendar booking depending on resources such as space, available personnel, and technology. For customers, online queueing and scheduling is the most simple method of booking an appointment. Read on to find out why.
Why Customers Should Be Allowed to Book Their Own Appointments
Scheduling technology has come a long way since the early days of booking appointments. No longer must people wait in long queues for the doctor’s office: phones and computers have shortened the arc of communication, allowing people to show up when they have an appointment.
Online appointment calendars have streamlined communication even further. Booking software offers features such as:
- Flexible Calendar. Customizing your availability for customers to view on your website helps them find a time that works for them without needing to waste time communicating over the phone or through email.
- Automated Reminders/Alerts. Great appointment software lets you collect customer contact information through forms and remind them about upcoming appointments via email or text.
- Cross-Platform Compatibility. Whether it’s devices (phone, laptop, tablets) or browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer), you want to make sure potential customers accessing your booking page can always find what they’re looking for.
- Payment Integration. Getting your customers to pay upfront streamlines the on-site process. It’s also a great way to upsell, encouraging them to purchase other related services to enhance their own experience.
- 24/7 Booking. Unlike your employees, schedulers don’t need sleep. 40% of online appointment bookings occur after regular business hours. Implementing an online appointment system can help you capitalize on those after-hours bookings.
Allowing customers to book and maintain their own appointments puts the responsibility of scheduling on them, removing pressure from your customer-facing employees to spend hours each day booking a calendar full of appointments.
Just compare the features of an online appointment calendar with manual scheduling.
Accessible only to employees, customers need to document their appointment separately
Need to manually call or email a reminder
Demands that customers are present through phone call/email, giving you more of their time/effort
Only on-site payment options available (credit/debit card, cash, check)
Online Scheduling Calendar
Visible to both customers and employees with built-in follow-up
Automated alerts are sent out via email or text with custom messages
Can be done through any device at a customer’s convenience
Online payment processing available, takes seconds (credit/debit card, check, PayPal, other online processors)
Allowing customers to book their own appointments is a simple way to improve their overall customer service experience with your business, encouraging them to come back in the future.
70% of customers have said that technology helps them find better options to do business with. Streamlining how customers experience your booking process will help you stand out in a crowded field of competitors.
Tips and Strategies for Improving Scheduling
Need general tips to improve how scheduling works at your business? Here are four pointers to guide you in designing a better queueing and booking experience.
- Communicate. Don’t leave customers hanging. Let them know how to prepare and keep the channels of communication open.
- Reduce waiting time. Nobody likes to wait. When it’s possible, keep the on-site wait time to a minimum.
- Be accessible. Enabling people to wait online opens your business to more potential customers who might not have considered you otherwise.
- Stay friendly. 84% of organizations actively improving customer service efforts report an increase in revenue. Be warm in follow-up messages to appear welcoming.
The best scheduling calendar is one that’s proactive without being intrusive. Your customers are busy: they want to work with a business that doesn’t cut into their day-to-day life.
A virtual appointment calendar streamlines better communication, cuts out on-site waiting time, keeps you accessible through all platforms and devices, and allows you to standardize or customize notification messages to customers as needed. If traditional scheduling isn’t working for you, there’s no better time to start researching for digital scheduling tools.
5 Problems with Traditional Scheduling Calendars
Traditional scheduling calendars may be the most commonplace, but they are by no means the best option for busy customers trying to book an appointment. Here are five problems with traditional appointment calendars.
- Slow and Inefficient
- Poor Internal Communication
- Lack of Flexibility
- No Consistency
- Poor Follow-Up
Problem 1: Slow and Inefficient
Think about it from the customer’s point of view. You want to book an appointment with a business, whether it’s a salon, the doctor’s office, a financial institution, or anything else.
Which is a faster process?
- Finding a quiet time and place, dialling into the business, talking to a person while constantly double-checking your calendar, manually noting down a reminder to yourself about your upcoming appointment, finally showing up and having to wait?
- Picking up your phone and booking an appointment through a scheduling app within seconds?
Option 2 is obviously more appealing. 75% of millennials have admitted to avoiding phone calls altogether. Millennials tend to associate phone calls with time waste. To appeal to your more impatient clientele, you should consider the quicker option for scheduling. As a business, your chances of losing a customer shoot up when you force your clients to dial in instead of giving them quicker options.
Of course, faster scheduling means less time spent on planning appointments and more time for marketing and sales that actually translate into better business. Remaining slower than your customers can end up killing a company, no matter what industry you’re in. It’s time to pick up the pace and consider an online appointment scheduler.
Problem 2: Poor Internal Communication
Manual scheduling isn’t just a bother. It leads to poor communication among employees on a team, which can result in:
- Loss of return customers
- Decreased revenue
- Waste of employee/manager’s time
- More turnover
The truth of the matter is that humans are fallible. Everyone will make mistakes, and scheduling sits at the intersection of boring and crucial--messing up can lead to big losses yet employees are more likely to make an error since scheduling is probably not anyone’s favorite task.
Your team might not have time to give and receive feedback about scheduled appointments between tasks like taking inventory, customer service, restocking, or whatever else they need to attend to. How can you resolve this?
Invest in an online scheduling calendar. Most great schedulers offer internal communication options, providing messaging or notes sections so team members can discuss service personalization, swapping shifts, and more. For example, a scheduler like Skiplino can streamline communication by delivering smart recommendations based on your agent performance, speeding up the process by which customers book appointments and making it easier than ever for companies like yours to review bookings at a glance.
Better communication means better results for everyone involved: more thoughtful, personalized service that keeps customers coming back for more.
Problem 3: Lack of Flexibility
Perhaps the worst thing about traditional booking is how rigid it can be.
On the customer side, rescheduling is a huge pain.
Customers must call or email again, connect with an agent who has access to the appointment calendar, and search for availabilities that may or may not exist. Customers who run into these problems may just end up giving up without showing up to the appointment, wasting valuable business time.
It’s not much better for your staff either. In service-centered industries, switching upshifts can be challenging without advance notice.
If an employee wakes up ill, they don’t have an efficient option to notify everyone that they’re missing work and need someone else to take over a shift. Online calendars built into work computers also won’t do much good for employees who are stranded in public transit.
Flexible online appointment schedulers put everyone on the same page. Calendars in the cloud update in real-time whenever anyone makes changes on their schedule. Managers no longer have to scratch their heads over customers’ no-showing due to a complex cancellation process or not having time to rebook another employee to serve specific customers.
Problem 4: No Consistency
Consistency is the most important component of professionalism. When purchasing from you, your customers want to experience a standard level of service.
Problem is, there’s no way to enforce quality service when it comes to scheduling an appointment. No matter how perfect your employee guidelines are, they can’t correct for:
- Human errors
- Lack of branding
- Service delays
- Inefficient communications
Your business could have ten or a thousand employees. Maintaining a standard across communications is challenging as long as there are human players involved.
Integrating an automated solution can resolve issues of consistency. With an online tool, your business can:
- Eliminate human errors
- Consistent branding
- Coordinate standard messaging
Something as simple as including a logo or a standard sign-off can be enough to give customers an air of consistency, encouraging them to return for more in the future.
Problem 5: Poor Follow-Up
Growing a business is tough. You need customers who enjoyed their experience with you to spread the word about you, whether it’s by telling a friend or leaving an online review. How do you maintain a top-of-mind impression?
Traditional scheduling makes it challenging to follow up with customers.
The customer service point of contact usually ends after the appointment. To get in contact with your most recent customers, your employees have to call or email them for feedback.
Going through a customer list manually and sending out emails can be exhausting and time-consuming for your staff. At the same time, however, 80% of online reviews are left due to follow-up emails sent out after purchase.
What’s more, if customers had a thoroughly average experience booking an appointment with you they’re far less likely to leave a positive review. Spending too much time on the phone with any company will lead to a reduced impression of your company, perhaps even losing your future business.
Thankfully, online scheduling solutions can help you with follow-up after appointment booking. An intelligent online appointment calendar will be able to automate follow-up emails after each appointment, sending them out when your business is still top of mind for customers.
Solutions Provided by Online Schedule Builder
Just because the traditional way of scheduling has been around for longer doesn’t mean it’s the best way to operate. Old-fashioned appointment booking is due for a makeover, and intelligent cloud-based tools are exactly the right impetus to take your business to the next level.
Need a recap of how your online scheduling calendar can grow your business? Check out the chart below:
Online Appointment Calendar
Quick, streamlined, automated, no human mistakes
Difficult to reschedule or swap shifts
One-click rescheduling, swap shifts remotely
Human agents have trouble maintaining brand consistency
Include logo, standard messaging
Demands manual follow-up, takes up employee time
Automated follow-up through text/email with standard branded messaging
Online booking tools aren’t just a part of streamlining your scheduling. They have the potential to help your business grow through excellent customer service.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I consider paying for an online scheduling calendar?
Thinking about an online scheduling tool as an item of expenditure isn’t useful. It’s better to think of it as an investment for your company.
The best online calendar will save you and your employees time and energy, boosting your customer service. If that’s not worth an investment, what is?
In terms of scheduler pricing: decide how much you’re willing to spend on ramping up your customer service and improving scheduling.
How do I pick the best online booking tool for my company?
There’s no single answer when it comes to finding the perfect scheduler for your business. What’s more important is how well a specific scheduler works in the context of your business needs.
For example, a salon probably needs a scheduling solution that takes into account different technicians and service options, whereas a medical provider would want to consider a solution where you can communicate with lab technicians through the platform.
What should I look for in a scheduler?
Although there’s no best scheduler, there are several qualities shared by the most effective scheduling tools:
- Intuitive user interface
- Compatibility with other software
Next Steps - Try A Scheduling Calendar for Free
Looking for a great scheduling calendar? Skiplino is a great option for almost any business looking to up their appointment game: it’s versatile, cross-platform friendly, and super intuitive to use. Start a 7-day free trial here today.