Do you remember the first time you went to a McDonald’s after they implemented the now-infamous take-a-number machines?
Chaos. Chaos everywhere. Machines that are supposed to reduce wait times and convenience customers seemed to somehow find a way to do the exact opposite.
And it’s not just McDonald’s making this crucial mistake. Loads of businesses out there have attempted to implement take-a-number machines with hopes that it will somehow improve customer satisfaction and keep wait times at a minimum.
For some, take-a-number machines may have even accomplished this.
However, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t tell you that there’s something you can implement instead in order to see much better results.
That something is an online appointment scheduler.
However, before we dive into the comparisons between an online appointment scheduler and a take-a-number machine, we should first dive into the history of these machines and why they’re so prominent today, despite their deficiencies.
What is a Take-A-Number Machine?
While the take-a-number machine certainly rose to prominence by being implemented by McDonald’s locations all around the world, they’re also used by several other industries, including:
- Health clinics
- Banks and financial institutions
- Government facilities
These tend to be the most common industries where you’ll find take-a-number machines. Places where wait times tend to be high as it is.
Starting to see the problem?
However, for those who have been fortunate enough to avoid these impersonal machines, the process is normally as follows:
- A customer or client uses the machine which prints them a ticket with a number on it
- After proceeding to a designated waiting area, a large screen will begin to display the numbers of tickets which have been printed by the machine itself
- When the number of the customer’s ticket is displayed on the screen, the customer proceeds to the counter to receive their service
On paper, this process sounds like it would improve efficiency and reduce wait times.
However, we know that take-a-number machines make the queuing and appointment scheduling process even more dreadful than before.
So, if take-a-number machines are so awful, what about the alternative?
What Is Appointment Scheduling Software?
Appointment scheduling software kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it?
The software you can use in order to schedule appointments.
However, there’s more to it than that. Appointment scheduling software can do so much more than simply help you schedule appointments for your business. The benefits of which we’ll be covering very soon.
A few different examples of popular appointment scheduling software include:
- Skiplino Appointment
- Acuity Scheduling
The main component of appointment scheduling software that makes its implementation so attractive is automation. While most traditional scheduling methods require a staff member to be present and restrictive hours to be followed, appointment scheduling software ignores this entirely through automation.
It’s true that take-a-number machines avoid the staff member delegation as well, but there are some other reasons why these machines are less than stellar compared to appointment scheduling software.
Why Use an Online Appointment Scheduler?
So what are the main benefits to online appointment schedulers? Why should businesses ranging from beauty salons to the health industry invest in this software?
Thankfully, we’re here to lay out some of the key benefits for you.
First and foremost, traditional appointment scheduling leaves you vulnerable to restrictive hours of operation. This can be a disaster for those who tend to work odd or unpredictable hours since there’s a good chance they’ll be too busy to book an appointment.
This problem is eliminated entirely with an online appointment scheduler. Since the software is usable at all hours of the day, if a client or customer chooses to book their appointment after hours, they can do so without any trouble.
Providing this level of convenience will surely have your clients thanking you at every chance they get.
Of course, everyone has had trouble with technology and software in their lives. However, when it comes to online appointment schedulers, you’ll end up with far fewer mistakes than with traditional appointment scheduling methods.
This is because you eliminate the potential for human error almost entirely.
An online appointment scheduler can help prevent some serious mistakes, including:
- Incorrect client information
- Incorrect dates and times
At the end of the day, these types of mistakes affect your bottom line.
Reducing Missed Appointments
23% of patients are likely to miss a scheduled appointment if they aren’t reminded of it. Crazy, isn’t it?
While your business might not be in the health industry, this statistic just goes to show that appointment reminders should be standard across the board. If you’re running an outdated scheduling method, chances are you’re going to be making a lot of phone calls.
With an online appointment scheduler, this feature usually comes standard. Reminders can be sent out via SMS or email to ensure that your clients don’t miss their appointments or cancel last minute.
There are certain features that often come standard with an online appointment scheduler that simply cannot be replicated by traditional scheduling methods. Not a pen-and-paper appointment book. Not even a take-a-number machine.
Aside from simply scheduling appointments, online appointment schedulers often come with a plethora of additional features, including:
- Automated customer reporting
- Customer analytics (appointment history, demographics, etc.)
- Feedback surveys
- Additional software integration
Some of these features likely aren’t even close to the first thing you think of when you think about online appointment schedulers. And that’s perfectly understandable. However, it’s important that you take them into consideration when thinking about making the switch.
We’ve briefly mentioned already that most traditional scheduling methods require a staff member to be present at all times. This means that instead of tackling what is likely more pressing issues, you’re delegating a staff member to man the help desk or the phone to schedule appointments.
While it’s true that a take-a-number machine would also reduce the human input needed for this, they can actually hinder staff efficiency in other ways as well.
Since take-a-number machines can be taxing on customers and frustrate them, where do you think they’re likely to take out this frustration?
Obviously, we don’t condone this type of behavior from anyone, but it’s simply the reality of the situation. If you can do everything in your power to reduce the stress of clients, and by extension, the stress of your staff, wouldn’t you do it?
Take-A-Number Machines vs. Online Appointment Schedulers
With all that being said, how do these two options compare to each other? How does an online appointment scheduler remedy many of the problems we associate with take-a-number systems?
It’s your lucky day. We’re here with all of the answers.
To be blunt, take-a-number machines are awful when it comes to accessibility.
Think about it. In order to schedule themselves, your clients have to walk into the building, wait in line at the machine, grab a ticket, and then wait in a crowded waiting room. It’s not hard to see why this is highly inconvenient. There’s only one way for them to check-in and one place for them to wait.
Not to mention the fact that they have to physically be there in the waiting room.
What about online appointment schedulers? How do they improve accessibility?
Well, for starters, your clients can book their appointment from any device they want at any time.
Using a work laptop and need to book that license renewal? No problem. Simply log on to the booking website and get it done. Out for a walk? Just open the scheduling app on mobile and book yourself in. This level of freedom is only possible using an online appointment scheduler.
Next, and more importantly, your clients don’t need to be physically present in a crowded waiting room. Once the appointment is booked, they’re free to wait wherever they please until the appointment time.
When you don’t force your clients to be in a waiting room, you show them that you value their time. And since people are busier than ever these days, the importance of valuing your customer’s time cannot be understated.
The sooner you understand just how inaccessible take-a-number machines are, the sooner you can implement an online appointment scheduler and win clients over with the power of convenience.
We’re not sure we can think of anything less personal than a machine handing you a ticket for you to proceed to a waiting room and stare at a screen.
Where’s the client connection? Where’s the small talk between staff and client?
Take-a-number machines almost completely eliminate any chance of a personalized visit for your clients. With one of these machines, you don’t even get the opportunity to learn the customer’s name. And as far as we’re concerned, personalization-101 states that the usage of customer names is the first step towards providing a more customer-centric, personalized experience.
This is where online appointment schedulers come in and change the game.
With an online appointment scheduler, you’re free to ask for as much or as little information as you want. Before the client even shows up for their appointment, you’ll know their name and be able to provide a far more personal experience for them. And since up to 71% of consumers express frustration with impersonalized experiences, you’d be foolish to ignore the power of personalization.
On top of all that, many online appointment schedulers grant you the ability to follow up with clients. Whether you’re sending a simple follow up email or a full-blown customer satisfaction survey, your customers will feel cared about and valued. Something that an outdated take-a-number machine simply cannot provide.
It’s simple. If you want to provide the personalized experiences that your clients desire, it’s time to move on from take-a-number machines and get yourself an online appointment scheduler.
Being well-organized is a sign of a successful business. After all, how can you successfully tackle all the tasks of the day if your day isn’t organized properly? You’ll quickly find yourself jumping from one task to another with no rhythm or flow.
While take-a-number machines may seem to promote better organization and efficiency, the truth is that they can leave staff even more stressed out than before.
Look at it this way. With a take-a-number machine, your clients simply grab a number and wait. How are your staff supposed to know how many numbers are out there? Who’s been served and who hasn’t?
Forget staff for a minute. What about your clients themselves? They grab the number and are told to wait. But for how long? There’s no real feedback on how long they’re meant to sit there and wait, and chances are they’ve got a million things they'd rather be doing at that moment.
By moving from a take-a-number machine to an online appointment scheduler, you accomplish two vital things:
- Your staff can get a better handle on the upcoming appointments and plan their days accordingly
- Your clients now have an exact time based on the time they booked for their appointment
With these two aspects covered, you can expect a far more organized workplace, where both staff and clients are satisfied.
Also, with an online appointment scheduler, you can take it one step further by categorizing your clients by type of visit or service needed. This provides you with an extra level of organization and ensures that you can provide clients with the best possible service.
When your staff doesn’t need to focus on organizing a system that’s working against them, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the level of productivity and focus you’ll get out of them.
When we think of appointment scheduling, collecting valuable business information usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
It makes sense too, considering that outdated methods such as take-a-number machines provide nothing in the way of important business information that you can use to your advantage. They’re simply a glorified ticket booth that clients need to go to before they get the service they want.
Thankfully, with an online appointment scheduler, you gain the ability to gather all kinds of insight into your business. Automated reports and customer analytics are common features in the best online appointment schedulers.
For example, Skiplino Appointments gives you access to an admin dashboard that gives you all the insight you’d ever want into your business, including:
- Staff performance
- Multiple branch performance
- Customer demographics and appointment reports
Once you experience the power of having this information at your fingertips, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make the switch to an online appointment scheduler sooner.
How many times have you seen crumpled up take-a-number machine tickets all over the floor?
While this concern may pale in comparison to the others we’ve mentioned, having to constantly purchase and fill take-a-number machines with ticket paper is worth mentioning.
There are multiple problems worth mentioning here:
- The environmental effect
- Having to constantly purchase and monitor the paper situation
- Running out of paper during the busiest times
The kicker? Online appointment schedulers eliminate these problems entirely.
Since you’re running a digital system, physical resources aren’t necessary. As long as your scheduler is functioning properly, you’ll never have an angry horde of customers yelling about your take-a-number machine malfunctioning.
We might be nitpicking here, but once you’ve experienced one of these machines breaking down during the most inopportune times, we’re certain you’ll see where we’re coming from.
Online Appointment Scheduler Success Story
It always helps to read about others having success with software you’re looking to implement, so why not do that now?
Government services, such as DMV’s, are starting to realize the importance of moving away from outdated scheduling and queuing methods.
The South Carolina DMV decided to make the switch, and it worked gangbusters for them. After switching from their outdated queuing system, they managed to cut their appointment time from over an hour to under 10 minutes. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
"Each transaction at the DMV differs. For example, it takes several hours to take the test for a commercial driver's license, while it takes only minutes to turn in unneeded license plates", said DMV spokeswoman Beth Park: "Since the new system has been put in place over the past six months, the average wait time has been cut from over an hour to "around 10 minutes."
This just goes to show that implementing an online appointment scheduler to replace your outdated scheduling system can give you an even bigger ROI than you thought possible.
It all starts with taking action.
Take-A-Number Machine Summary
So, after taking all this information into consideration, we hope that you’re on board with our sentiment:
Take-a-number machines are no good.
They’re impersonal, inaccessible, and provide little to no useful business information. They’re a machine designed to help improve customer flow, and that’s it.
The sad part is, they’re not even effective at doing that.
When you look at the list of benefits from implementing an online appointment scheduler, it’s hard to understand why you’d want to stick with the old take-a-number machine. Your customers hate it, your staff hates it, and by now we hope you’re not fond of it either.
Online Appointment Scheduler
Highly impersonal, can’t even get the client’s name
Allows the creation of forms to gather any sort of personal information desired
Provides little to no accessibility and is highly inconvenient for clients
Clients can book appointments at any time, from any place
Designed solely for improved customer flow (which it hardly accomplishes)
Provides tons of additional functionality, such as appointment reminders and customer analytics
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to join the future and get yourself an online appointment scheduler.
Still Not Convinced?
Look, we get it. People get stuck in their old ways. Especially when they seem to have worked for so long.
If that’s the case for you, why not reach out to us? Whether you need some more information on Skiplino Appointments, or simply need some deeper explanation as to why take-a-number machines are so ineffective, we’re glad to answer the call.