As a business owner, healthcare professional, or anyone working in an industry requiring appointment scheduling, do we really need to tell you how busy you are?
Of course not. As we speak, you likely have a to-do list longer than you know what to do with. It seems like there’s no end in sight. As you finish one task, two more fall into your lap. Whether it’s additional admin work, customer relationship management, or even simple tidying up around the office, there’s never a shortage of things for you to do.
And what about appointment scheduling? With everything else you’ve got on your plate, appointment scheduling is likely the last thing on your mind.
Here’s the thing, though: Appointment scheduling for businesses across all industries doesn’t have to be so dreadful. The traditional appointment scheduling methods used by businesses from DMV’s to hair salons are drastically outdated and need a complete overhaul.
So, with that being said, how can we streamline appointment scheduling and ensure that both customers and staff have a more efficient and positive experience?
It all starts with the implementation of scheduling software.
Don’t worry. We hear you loud and clear. You likely have all kinds of questions.
“What the heck is scheduling software?”
“How much is this going to cost?”
“Which provider do I go with? I don’t even know what features to look for!”
Don’t worry. Our guide is here to help you understand not only what scheduling software is all about, but also some guidelines for you to choose the right scheduling software for your business.
A Brief History on Appointment Scheduling
In order to better understand the advantages that scheduling software holds over traditional appointment scheduling methods, we should touch briefly on the history of appointment scheduling as a whole.
Appointment scheduling methods will always progress at the same rate as technology does. In other words, as we develop more advanced technology, the trends for appointment scheduling will change as well.
For a long time, appointment scheduling was largely done over the phone. You call the doctor’s office, a receptionist picks up the phone, helps you pick an available time slot, and then pencils you in for that time.
Once email became more mainstream, this was also used as an alternative method to schedule appointments. If you needed your hair done, you could email your stylist and go back and forth from there to figure out a time that works best for both of you.
These methods are largely considered to be “traditional” methods of appointment scheduling.
Problems With Traditional Appointment Scheduling Methods
So what is it that makes these traditional methods so awful?
Well, for starters, there’s the efficiency factor.
With traditional appointment scheduling, especially over the phone, you’ll need to delegate a staff member to record and schedule appointments. Without someone to answer the phone, how can clients or customers book their appointments? This creates an entire task and eats away at your available manpower.
Then there’s the fact that the information received from clients needs to be properly recorded. While you may not have run into any detrimental errors yet, humans make mistakes. It’s liable to happen sooner or later. After all, who goes their entire life without making one mistake? The problem here is that a simple appointment recording mistake can lead to a missed appointment or a double-booking scenario. Both are beyond detrimental to your bottom line, regardless of the industry you find yourself in.
Lastly, another major problem with traditional appointment scheduling is accessibility. With up to 10% of people working completely unpredictable work schedules, you can’t expect everyone to be able to adhere to your hours of operation to book appointments. Unless you have someone 24/7 to man the phones (which would be highly inefficient and create loads of unhappy staff members), there’s no way you can cater to everyone’s work schedules.
Thankfully, this leads us to our solution—scheduling software.
While there are many different issues plaguing traditional appointment scheduling as a whole, these are the three biggest problems associated with the outdated methods.
The Benefits of Scheduling Software
For starters, what is scheduling software exactly?
Well, there are likely many different apps and systems out there that can lay claim to being a “scheduling software” However, to make things easier, let’s stick to our simple definition:
Scheduling software allows customers or clients to book their own appointments, at any time, from anywhere.
So, when we look at the three main issues discussed with traditional appointment scheduling, how does scheduling software solve these problems?
- Staff Efficiency - Since scheduling software is largely automated after set up and customers can book appointments on their own, you can eliminate an entire task. No more delegating staff to manning the phones and recording appointments.
- Eliminates Human Error - Again, thanks to automation, scheduling software doesn’t allow for detrimental errors, such as double-bookings, to occur. On top of that, many different options allow SMS or email appointment reminders to be sent in order to ensure that missed appointments are kept at a minimum.
- 24/7 Booking - Customers and clients are able to book at any time, without having to adhere to strict hours of operation. They’re also able to book from anywhere using their mobile device, which is a bonus considering the amount of mobile phone usage going on today.
Not only does scheduling software solve many of the problems associated with traditional appointment scheduling, but it also offers many additional benefits that don’t necessarily come to mind straight away. Some of which we’ll be getting into very soon.
Hopefully, by now, you’re on board with just how beneficial scheduling software can be. Even if your traditional methods have worked up to this point, why settle? If you can make improvements for the sake of your staff and customers, you should take full advantage of it.
Traditional Appointment Scheduling
Inefficient and requiring staff to constantly manage customer appointments
Eliminates the need for staff to be present and scheduling appointments for customers
Manual appointment and information recording leaves room for human error
Automation doesn’t allow for detrimental errors, such as double-bookings, to occur
Customers and clients limited to hours of operation to book appointments
Since customers can book appointments on their own, they’re able to book 24/7 with no limitations
Choosing the Right Scheduling Software for Your Business
All of this information is great, but now you’re probably wondering how to choose the right provider for your business.
Valid point. The sheer amount of options on the table can leave you dumbfounded and up late at night wondering which one to choose.
Hopefully, with some of the criteria we’ve laid out here, you’ll be able to narrow down your choices and zero in on the perfect option to suit your needs.
No matter how you slice it, the cost is always going to be one of the driving factors behind the purchases you make. Scheduling software is no exception here, either.
What’s important to remember is that the free option isn’t always the best option.
While you will certainly find many providers that offer a free tier of service, you might be missing out on some features that can provide incredible value.
Conversely, the most expensive options aren’t always the best bang for your buck, either. When evaluating the cost of scheduling software, it’s all about value. Make sure the cost is proportionate to the features you’re getting.
There are two common methods that scheduling software companies use to price their service:
- By including a “pricing” page on their website, listing all tiers with features and costs
- By forcing customers to inquire and likely providing pricing based on your specific needs
So, while the old saying “you get what you pay for” is a guideline to follow, it isn’t a hard and fast rule when it comes to scheduling software.
Ease of Use
Look, for most businesses, you’ll be forcing clients and staff to use an entirely new system for scheduling. If you implement a clunky new software that forces both sides to jump through hoops to get it to work, do you really expect the transition to go smoothly?
Of all the different criteria used to evaluate scheduling software, ease of use should be near the top of your priority list. The software you ultimately decide on needs to be simple for clients to navigate, providing the least amount of steps possible before the appointment is booked. That way, your customers leave with a positive outlook on your business as a whole and are far more likely to book with you again.
For staff, using seamless and simple software means that they can focus more on providing the best service possible for customers, instead of wrestling with convoluted features and malfunctions.
Effective mobile optimization comes into play here as well. With many people opting to book appointments from their phones, this level of increased accessibility is a must in the years to come.
And now we land at the centerpiece of scheduling software: The calendar.
With scheduling software calendar management, there’s a simple rule to follow: Your calendar should come equipped with the functionality to perform exactly the way you need it to.
For example, if you’re running an automotive garage, it’s likely that you’ll be providing several different services, from simple brake jobs to full safety inspections. For this reason, you’ll need a calendar that allows customers to not only choose a specific time but also choose a specific service.
Because of this functionality, you’ll be able to better plan your day and which staff you need on hand for specific jobs.
While this example is specific to the automotive industry, you get the point. Your calendar should provide you with the correct functionality to suit whatever needs you have, based on your industry.
While not a take it or leave it feature, payment processing can definitely improve efficiency with scheduling software.
Normally, you’ll be accepting payments using a separate app, or even in person once the service is finished. With payment processing features, you can increase efficiency and even cut down on no-shows by collecting payments through your scheduling software.
Again, the inclusion of payment processing with scheduling software shouldn’t make or break your decision, but it’s certainly worth considering in the long run.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Features
Remember when we talked about additional benefits that might not come to mind straight away when we think about scheduling software? CRM features are exactly what we were talking about.
The ability to manage customer relationships using data gathered from your scheduling software should never be underestimated. Using this data, you can make small tweaks to different aspects of your business that can have far bigger results than imagined.
So, what data are we talking about here?
Well, many scheduling software options come equipped with analytics and automatic reporting, which can track different stats such as:
- Customer demographic information
- Staff performance
- Re-booking rates
- Retention rates
This data combines together to paint a clear picture of what’s going right with your business and what might need to change. All viewable within a dashboard on your scheduling software. Convenient, isn’t it?
Don’t sleep on analytics and reporting within your scheduling software. You won’t know just how beneficial it can be until you’re seeing it yourself.
Ever have a tough time getting certain features within software working correctly?
Most people have experienced this before. Even with seemingly fool-proof software, errors and malfunctions can happen. Easy to use software can sometimes present some more complicated features that may require additional explaining or help.
This is where effective tech support comes in.
While a 24/7 live chat is a nice addition for scheduling software, an in-depth help center containing detailed articles explaining different features or errors will surely suffice. You’re going to want a scheduling software provider that isn’t going to leave you hanging out to dry.
If you really want to get a feel for how effective (or ineffective) a scheduling software provider’s service is, you can certainly check out reviews of their software.
In short, effective tech support is important when it comes to scheduling software. You never know when you might run into issues, and it’s important that when you do, you’re back on your feet as quickly as possible.
Scheduling Software Summary
After digesting all of this information, we hope you can agree with us when we say that traditional appointment scheduling is outdated and needs to go.
Sure, many businesses in many industries haven’t experienced any issues with it so far. The thing is, just because something is working okay, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better method out there.
Scheduling software is exactly that. A better way.
With a clear list of solved issues and a plethora of additional benefits, ignoring scheduling software would be unwise, to say the least. The fact of the matter is, your competition is likely already moving onto scheduling software and joining the future, so why aren’t you?
Don’t wait any longer. Keep your clients (and staff) happy. Get yourself some scheduling software.
Looking For the Perfect Scheduling Software?
Even with all of these criteria laid out for you, choosing the right scheduling software can be a daunting and time-consuming process.
So why don’t we make it a little easier?
Check out Skiplino Appointments. Our offering provides you with all of the core features you’ll want in your scheduling software, including:
- Software you can easily set up in under 5 minutes
- Remote appointment booking (from a mobile application or on a desktop)
- Customized branding features
- SMS and email reminders
- In-depth analytics and reporting for additional business insights
The best part? One price, one set of features. No need to ponder over multiple service tiers and wondering which features you’ll need and which you’ll be paying for despite never using them.
If you’re looking for the scoop on Skiplino Appointments, or even if you’re simply seeking more information about scheduling software in general, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ve got the answers you’re looking for.