Table of Contents
- The Argument in favor of Appointments
- The Shortcomings of Appointments and How to Resolve Them
- Creating an Effective Appointment Setting System
- The Benefits of Online Appointment Scheduling Software
- Is Online Scheduling Right For Your Business?
- Finding the Best Online Scheduling Software
- Promoting Online Appointments
- Increasing Pre-Bookings
- Common Appointment Making Mistakes To Avoid
- Tips For Optimizing Appointment Scheduling
When you’re an appointment-based business, and you’re books are full, that’s a sign that your business is thriving and is working effectively. At the same time, scheduling challenges are always a potential threat. Whether it’s because your scheduling process is too time-consuming or you’re still pen and paper to book appointments, these obstacles can turn away customers and hurt your bottom line.
To ensure that these scheduling challenges don’t negatively affect your business, we’ve put together this handy guide on how to set an appointment. In it, you’ll discover the benefits of appointment setting, solutions to common scheduling issues, and tips and tricks that will book your schedule solid through 2020 and beyond.
The Argument in Favor of Appointments
The main reason your business should book appointments is that scheduled appointments keep everything running efficiently and effectively. Consider about how chaotic your doctor’s office, salon, or accounting office would be if there weren’t scheduled appointments.
There is the potential to have many walk-ins, and that could leave you understaffed. If this occurred, you wouldn’t be able to attend to other areas of your business, and there would be the likelihood for long waits. Companies have reported that they’ve lost 75 percent of customers because of long wait lines.
On top of keeping your business running like a well-oiled machine, appointments are also necessary because they come with the following invaluable benefits for both you and your customers:
It verifies availability.
Your business probably has ebbs and flows. For example, a healthcare provider will have an increase in patients during the fall and winter, while a salon will be booked before holiday’s and during prom season.
By offering appointments, your customers can rest assured that someone will be available and prepared to assist them when they need your services.
It improves the customer experience.
Because people don’t like to wait, having an appointment reduces the amount of time that your customer has to wait. What’s more, they’re able to select a date and time that works best for them. Both of these conditions improve the customer experience, which in turn leads to repeat customers.
It gives you time to prepare.
When an appointment is booked, you know who the client is and which services they’ll be requiring. Having this information gives you a chance to prepare for their visit. For example, if you’re an accountant, you can have a client’s file on-hand and review it. When the client arrives, you can jump right into helping them with their financial issue. If you’re a mechanic, you order the specific parts for a vehicle so that you can work on the car during the scheduled appointment.
It prevents swarms of salespeople.
This isn’t true of every business, but think about when you’ve walked into a car dealership, you’ve probably been swarmed by salespeople. It can be a bit overwhelming. Having an appointment prevents you from being approached by several different people since you have an appointment with a specific individual.
It helps plan out your day.
Let’s say that you’re at work and get a last-minute meeting request from a high-profile client. Missing the appointment could be bad for business. But, now your entire schedule is changed. Even worse, you weren’t prepared for the meeting. If the client was able to book an appointment with you, you would have planned your day differently and been prepared. If you have several employees, you can prevent being under or overstaffed based on the number of appointments you have in the books.
Appointments are easy to book.
The final benefit is that it’s easy to book an appointment. Whether if it’s by picking up the phone, emailing, or booking a time slot online, customers simply reserve an available time. They arrive, spend the appropriate amount of time at your business, and go on with the rest of their day. You go on to your next appointments. In short, everything runs smoothly and everyone is happy.
The Shortcomings of Appointments and How to Resolve Them
While booking an appointment is straightforward and beneficial, there are some shortcomings that businesses should be aware of, especially when business is starting to move even faster in 2020.
For starters, you have to plan for late arrivals. Your client or customer may have had every intention to arrive on time, but then they get a flat tire. Even if it’s just by 10-minutes, that one late arrival will affect you and every other appointment you have booked for the rest of the day.
The solution: Ethically, and legally, you can’t turn away clients that arrive late — this is especially true in the healthcare industry. When an appointment has been made, stress the importance of having the customer, client, or patient notify you if they’re running late. They may be able to reschedule.
If the client can reschedule, you move on and take your next appointment. If the client is a couple of minutes late, and you still meet with them, offer those waiting for an incentive, like a discount on their final payment, as a way to thank them for being patient and being inconvenienced.
If your client hasn’t contacted you, reach out to the appointee to see when they’ll be arriving. You may be able to switch appointments around if they’re running 30 or more minutes late.
If you have a client who is frequently late, issue them a warning. If it happens again, you do have the right to dismiss them.
Appointments That Run Long
Another problem is that some sessions last longer than others. Again, this may not have been the original plan. Perhaps a patient came in for one diagnosis, but you discovered another issue that needed to be addressed. That short visit may now last 30-minutes or more, which eats into the time allotted for your next patient.
The solution: Be prepared. Review your schedule before the day starts so that you have all of the appropriate information, materials, or equipment for each client so that you’re not wasting time gathering these items when the appointment starts.
If the appointment is a sales meeting, for example, make sure that an agenda has planned and shared with participants. In either case, make sure that you don’t go off-topic and eliminate distractions, like turning off phones and closing the door.
Also, have a flexible schedule. A first-time patient, for instance, will require more time than a regular patient coming in for a check-up. This way you can block out the proper amount of time for each appointment. What’s more, if the appointment ends sooner than planned, it’s not as big of a deal if another appointment runs a bit longer.
A third major concern is no-shows. These are the people who made an appointment but failed to notify you that they weren’t going to make it. Not only is your entire scheduled impacted, but that’s also a loss of cash flow into your business.
The solution: Make sure that when an appointment is booked, the other party receives a reminder. The client should receive an appointment card at the time the appointment is made; then they will need a follow-up email, phone call, or text message. You’ll also want to implement a no-show policy. This could be requiring pre-payments or charging the customer or patient regardless of whether or not they showed up.
Again, if they constantly not arriving for appointments, you can discharge them.
This may not apply to every industry, but there are clients who need to see you because it’s urgent. This could be a life-threatening abscess or serious infection in a patient’s mouth that requires immediate attention. Obviously, this would take precedence over a patient who is there for a check-up and cleaning, however, it’s still an inconvenience for them.
The solution: Unless you’re a healthcare provider, most appointments that are considered “urgent” aren’t life or death. If this is the case, then build-in some open slots throughout the day so that you can handle these last-minute appointments. Even if you can’t see the customer at that exact minute, you can still see them on the same day.
Another option would be having another employee who is available to attend to the client if you’re busy. For instance, if you’re a doctor and you’re booked solid, you could have a patient so a colleague or nurse practitioner. Of course, for serious health emergencies, you may want to inform your patient to visit the emergency room ASAP.
You also have to take into account walk-ins. Maybe someone was running errands and decided to get a haircut, have their tire changed, get a flu shot, or grab something to eat.
The solution: Walk-ins can be an inconvenience, but turning them away means you aren’t bringing that additional money into your business. Walk-ins can also be beneficial when you have availability or last-minute cancellation.
Some businesses have a policy where they don’t accept walk-ins if they’re already booked solid or on busier days. For example, if you’re a barber-shop and Fridays are your busiest, then you may only want to accept customers who have made an appointment. If you do allow walk-ins, allows customers to self-register while they wait and be upfront about waiting times.
Additionally, you may also want to factor in walk-ins into your schedule by leaving some blocks of time blank. This way if someone does walk into your business, you can see them without having to adjust your schedule.
Not Using Online Appointment Scheduling
Using paper calendars can be time-consuming since you’re constantly flipping through the calendar to look for availability. They can also be messy and are difficult to keep organized. It’s also easier to make mistakes, like double-booking clients.
What’s more, without an online appointment scheduling solution, you’re constantly playing phone tag trying to book an appointment.
The solution: Start using an online appointment scheduling platform. This way people can see your availability and book an appointment with you whenever and wherever they like. It also will send-out appointment reminders. As a result, you eliminate those back-and-forth communications, prevent scheduling conflicts, and reduce the number of late arrivals or no-shows.
Creating an Effective Appointment Setting System
In order to ensure that your appointments are organized and run smoothly, you need to create an effective appointment setting system. Here are a couple of pointers to assist you in creating an effective scheduling system.
Paper or Digital?
You use either an appointment book or a software program. You could even use both if you like. While both are capable of booking and managing appointments, scheduling programs allow you to look-up information faster and can be accessed from any computer or mobile device. Additionally, scheduling programs are less messy and allow your customers to book available time slots on their own. As previously discussed, this prevents a game of phone tag, as well as conflicts from arising.
Set a Metric you can Achieve
How many appointments are you really able to book in one day?
That’s not something that we can answer for you. After all, each business has their own specialty and unique customer needs. The best way to determine this is by having at least a ballpark figure on how long each appointment takes and how many hours you will work per day.
Let’s say that you’re available from 9 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday. During the day you take an hour for lunch and to handle administrative duties. That leaves you with six and a half hours. If each appointment takes an hour, then you can’t book more than 6 appointments per day.
Group Like Appointments on the Same Day
If you’re a vet, then on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays you have normal office hours for check-ups and shots. However, on Tuesday and Thursdays, you schedule surgeries. This streamlines everything from billing to preparations. It’s also another way to determine how many appointments you can book. Since surgeries take longer then check-ups, you know that you won’t be able to book as many appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Block Out When You’re Not Available
This includes when business is closed like on weekends, holidays, and vacations and when you’re not seeing clients. For example, you only see clients from nine am to noon and then one pm to four-thirty pm because you take an hour for lunch and plan on leaving at five pm.
This way when a client requests an appointment, those slots are automatically unavailable.
If you want to reduce late-arrivals and no-shows, then you need to constantly remind customers about the appointment. Here’s how you can do so without it being too time-consuming.
- If the appointment was made in-person, like following a routine check-up, make sure to give the customer a reminder card.
- Regardless if the appointment was made last week or six-months ago call, text, or email the customer the day before the appointment to remind them.
- On top of reminding customers about the appointment, also remind them of any preparations they need to make prior to the appointment. Do they need to fast? What documents do they need to bring with them? Will they require a ride after a procedure? About how long will the appointment take? Where can they park? This speeds everything up for everyone involved, keeps appointments moving along, and improves the customer experience.
- Have clients fill-out paperwork in advance. If there is any paperwork or waiver forms to full out, have the client complete them in advance.
- Make rescheduling a breeze. If the client has to reschedule, send your calendar or link to booking page so that they can locate and book a new appointment without calling or emailing you.
The Benefits of Online Appointment Scheduling Software
There have been several mentions of online appointment booking. However, because it can reduce scheduling difficulties and create a better experience for your customers, it deserves a more in-depth look.
What Exactly is an Online Scheduling System?
Also known as online scheduling software, online booking applications, and online scheduler, an online scheduling system is simply a web-based application that lets people easily and conveniently book appointments and reservations online via a computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet.
Most of these systems work by allowing you to place a “Book Now” button on your site. However, you can also share a unique URL or calendar that can be shared on a specific page, through email footers, or placed on locations like your social channels.
When an individual finds a date and time that works for them, the system will automatically confirm the booking and make a note of it within the system — without any staff having to get involved. Additionally, that date and time are now blocked, and it can not be booked by anyone else.
In addition to online scheduling, online scheduling systems come with features like sending out automated emails and text message reminders if can also store records so that you can easily access information regarding specific appointments or create repeat reminders, such as automatically sending patients a reminder to make an appointment for a check-up every 6-months.
The Benefits of Online Scheduling For Your Business
Now that you have a better understanding of what online scheduling system is, what are the benefits for your business?
- Time savings. Because you and your team are no longer playing phone tag or responding to emails, either to book, reschedule, or remind people about their appointments, online scheduling can free up a ton of time. With this additional time, you can focus on more pressing matters, such as marketing your business or attending to administrative tasks. You may even be able to book more appointments!
- Monetary savings. Online scheduling systems can also save your business a lot of money. You can direct staff to work on more important tasks that generate more revenue or completely reduce the number of people working for you altogether. Also, because the system sends out automated reminders, you can reduce the number of no-shows significantly.
- No more conflicts. Because a time slot cannot be booked after an appointment has been made, online scheduling systems prevent conflicts like double-bookings.
- Taps into the customer/patient database. An online appointment booking system can also be a central customer/patient database. This means you can track who your top customers are, as well as what your top services are. This can help you focus on marketing to those customers and services to drive repeat business. These systems, as noted above, also send out auto-reminders for recurring clients.
- Manages schedules. An online booking tool can also help you more easily manage breaks and days off for you and your employees because you know when you have appointments and when you don’t.
The Benefits of Online Scheduling for Your Customers
Online scheduling doesn’t just benefit you and your staff, it also benefits your customers.
- 24-hour convenience. Customers can view and book appointments whenever and wherever they like — even if it’s during off-hours or on weekends. And, because they can view available slots, they can pick the date and time that works for them instead of going back-and-forth with someone in your office.
- No more phone calls. People don’t enjoy talking on the phone. In fact, one study has found that 61 percent of Americans avoid phone calls. With online scheduling, they never no longer have to call your office to make an appointment.
- Easy to make changes. What if someone has to cancel or reschedule? Again, they don’t have to call you and go through the process all over again. They can make a new appointment in just a few clicks. This also benefits you because of the calendar updates which occur instantly. This means you can make the appropriate changes to your schedule without waiting until the last minute.
Is Online Scheduling Right For Your Business?
Before you completely implement an online scheduling system, there are some questions that you should answer to make sure it’s right for your business.
- Is online scheduling required? While online scheduling is beneficial for both your business and clients, are all appointments required to be booked online or is it optional? Despite the convenience, some people do prefer to book an appointment over the phone or in-person, like when they’re checking out. It’s probably in your best interest to make it optional.
- What are your customers/patients demographic? If most of your clients are younger, then offering online scheduling isn’t an issue. But, what it a majority of your clients are older? They may not have the technology or knowledge to book an appointment online and prefer to call your business instead.
- Are you being compliant? If you’re involved in the health or wellness sector, then you must adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This means that you need to make sure that the online scheduling system is secure and complies with HIPAA standards. This includes encryption (SSL), strong privacy policies, system-user identifiers, nightly backups, and timed logouts.
Finding the Best Online Scheduling Software
While there’s no denying that online scheduling software can benefit you, your business, and your audience, not all software is created equal. As such, you’ll want to keep the following in mind when looking for online scheduling software.
These can vary from scheduling program to program. However, there are some core features that you can’t live without. These include the ability for people to book an appointment with you online 24/7, email and text reminder, and being allowed to use and sync multiple calendars.
However, your scheduling software should also come with essential features like:
- Scheduling expectations so that you can make adjustments to specific dates, like when you’re on vacation or for holidays, instead of reworking your entire schedule.
- Customizable registration forms. While most appointments just require a name and contact information. Some businesses require more information so that you can prepare for the appointment. Your software should permit you to add fields that are needed on registration forms.
- Cancellations, unfortunately, are a part of the game. While customers can cancel and reschedule appointments online, your software should disallow cancellations within a specific timeframe, such as an hour prior to the appointment.
- Ability to grant different access types. You may not want your employees to see each other’s schedules or access customer’s personal information. Your software should allow you to create distinct roles in your organization.
Streamlined user interface.
Make sure that the scheduling solution you’re using is easy for your audience to use. This means that when they go to book an appointment, they’re only viewing a calendar and selecting an available time slot and service that works for them. They then book an appointment after providing their name and email address. That’s it.
On your end, the system should provide a centralized calendar view of all upcoming appointments, as well as the ability to easily cancel or re-assign bookings.
The cost of the online scheduling program you chose is determined by your budget and needs. For example, a solopreneur may be able to use a free option that has the basic features to keep them organized. However, cheap is often not better when it comes to online scheduling software.
A larger medical facility, however, will require a solution that provides more robust features like managing multiple locations. It’s doubtful that they’ll find free software. So, they’ll have to compare prices, such as monthly fees.
Ability to sync with your existing calendar.
If you’re currently using online calendars Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar, then find software that syncs with these calendars with just the click of a button or two. This you’ll prevent conflicts from happening since all of your events and appointments can be accessed in one calendar.
Integration with other systems.
Besides syncing with online calendars, find a solution that integrates with the other business systems you frequently use. For example, in order to reduce no-shows and cancellations, you can integrate a payments system like PayPal or Square with your scheduling software. This way customers will have to pay either a down-payment or the full cost of your services upfront.
Ability to handle multiple locations, departments, categories.
If you have a business that has multiple locations, departments, and categories, then you’ll need scheduling software that allows your customers to select the right location, department, or category when booking online.
Your software should automatically send out email or text confirmations when an appointment has been booked. It should also send out automated reminders at your discretion, such as 24-hours before the appointment. It should also include a link in case the appointment has to be canceled or rescheduled.
Your software should also be capable of generating reports for you. This way you can determine your busiest hours and plan accordingly. For instance, if your business is booming on Tuesdays, then you’ll schedule more employees so that you’re not understaffed.
As mentioned in the previous section, security is essential when it comes to online scheduling software. Check out reviews to make sure the software is from a reputable company and that they’re transparent about security. Besides being HIPAA compliment, make sure they are incorporating the latest security measures.
Finally, you’ll want to use an online scheduling program that provides 24/7, live support. This way if you’re experiencing a problem with the software, you can immediately resolve it.
Promoting Online Appointments
Unless individuals have booked an appointment online with you in the past, your customers or clients may not know that they can book an appointment directly from the smartphone, tablet, or computer.
If this is the situation, then here are some of the best ways to spread the word that you accept online appointments.
Your website and blog posts.
Because most online scheduling software allows you to place an embedded code wherever you like on your site, this is the easiest, fastest, and most effective way to promote the fact that you accept online bookings. Just simply place “Book Now” buttons throughout your site — particularly your homepage or contact page.
To help make these buttons stand-out, customize its size, font, radius, color, and strong CTA that will encourage people to take action.
Since you have a website, you probably have a blog post as well. If so, promote the services that you offer, why they should book an appointment with you, and how they can do so. If you have employees, then create blog posts that highlight them and include a “Book Now” button so that people can book an appointment with that specific employee.
Email and text.
Email remains one of the most popular ways to communicate with your audience. As such, it makes sense that you notify your existing subscribers that they can book an appointment with you online — just remember to include the link!
You can also place your unique, embedded link in your email signature.
And, just like email, you can send SMS notifications to current subscribers with a “Book Now” link. Text messages have a whopping 98 percent open rate, with 56 percent of consumers wanting to text with businesses.
Both of these channels are effective since your audience can book an appointment directly from the email or text conversation.
You can also take your embedded code and place it directly on your social channels. You can also add this code to your Facebook cover or share your availability and promotions. Again, don’t forget to include a link where your audience can book an appointment.
If you’re in a directory like Yelp, then you can use the call-to-action button feature to add a “Book Now” button to your page. However, this is only possible if you’re a part of the Yelp advertising program.
Update your voicemail greeting so that when someone calls during off-hours, the short and concise voicemail lets them know that they can book an appointment right now online. Don’t forget to include basic information like your name, location, and hours of operation.
When you’re face-to-face with a customer or client, let them know that they can book their next appointment online right now or when they have a chance later in the day.
Quick Response Codes, QR codes for short, can help mobile users quickly book an appointment with you. Just place the barcode on marketing materials like business cards or flyers and when scanned by their phone, the user will be taken to your booking page.
Pre-bookings not only improves customer retention, but it also helps you know exactly how busy you and your employee’s schedules will be in the coming weeks or months. What’s more, pre-bookings can also boost visit frequency and revenue. And, to be honest, it makes your books look full, which is always good when you need a little ego-boost.
With that in mind, here are a couple of ways that you can increase pre-bookings.
List recommended return dates.
This varies from business to business and the service type. But, let’s say you run a salon. Then it’s recommended that customers schedule haircuts every five to six weeks. If you’re a mechanic, then you can suggest to customers that they need an oil change every 3 to 6 months. Knowing this information, you can look at your calendar and make a suggested return date.
Create a sense of urgency.
Are the holidays coming up, do you have a seasonal business, or is a customer going on vacation? If so, let them know that they should book an appointment sooner than later to ensure a spot. After all, most businesses are packed tight at certain times of the year and availability may be scarce.
Have a script prepared.
This doesn’t mean having a literal script that you always refer to when scheduling appointments. This simply means being consistent when encouraging clients to pre-book. This includes addressing them by name and choices on what you would like to see them again.
An example could be something like, “Jim, I’d like to see you in 6-months, which would be in mid-June. Would you prefer to meet in the morning or afternoon?”
You can make pre-booking worth your customers while by offering them discounts or loyalty points whenever they pre-book. Over time, you’ll make-up those discounts because you’ll be increasing your customer’s frequency.
Besides your customers, offer incentive your staff. For example, you can tie pre-bookings with commission plans.
Stress the convenience.
Most of us don’t enjoy spending time waiting. We don’t care to hang around a business lobby after we’re done getting a checkup, haircut, consultation, etc. Let your customers know that they can avoid the waiting room, and even the checkout process if you accept payments online — just by pre-booking their next appointment.
Give them a reminder.
Finally, don’t rule out giving them a reminder card letting them know when and how they can schedule their next appointment. Don’t be afraid also to call, email, or text your client or customer to book an appointment — don’t contact them daily — but an occasional friendly reminder is usually appreciated.
If they have booked an appointment, make sure that you give them a reminder card and call/text them at least 1 or 2 days in advance.
Common Appointment Making Mistakes To Avoid
Even if you’re using an online appointment scheduling program, it’s still easy to make mistakes. As a result, your business can become disorganized and book fewer appointments. Even worse, your customers may become frustrated that they’ll find another business to work with. This is particularly if you’re overbooked or understaffed.
To prevent these mistakes from occurring, here are some of the most common appointment mistakes that can occur. Knowing these issues will prevent your business from making errors.
Not using online appointment software.
As discussed multiple times already, online appointment software can prevent conflicts from occurring. Most importantly, these tools allow you to manage appointments efficiently and let your customers book an appointment with you as easily and quickly as possible.
Furthermore, tools like Appointment.com can be customized to suit the needs of you and your customers, handle multiple locations and services, and accept payments. It also sends out automatic reminders, generates wait lists, syncs with your calendar, and uses SSL encryption.
Targeting the wrong audience.
If you’ve done your due diligence, then you’ve already conducted market research and understand who your target audience is. Use that information when creating landing pages and promotional materials. You want to use the design, language, CTAs, and incentives that appeal to your target audience.
Not giving your customers the right information.
When you don’t give the correct information to your new customers who aren’t as familiar with your business you can inadvertently cause a backlog. In this case, you want to detail the services you provide, pricing, hours of operation, what to expect when they arrive, and any preparations they must make in advance.
Failing to instill a sense of urgency.
We often drag our feet when making decisions. To speed this process up for your customers, offer time-sensitive incentives or let them know that availability is limited.
Not having a system in place.
If you don’t want any details to get overlooked, make sure that you have a system where appointments are documented, viewed, and handled by the right people.
Not sending automated reminders.
Essentially all online scheduling software sends out an automated email or text reminder. There’s no excuse for the mistake of not sending reminders to your customers. Just make sure that these reminders are set to go out at ideal times. For example, it wouldn’t be effective to remind a customer that they have an appointment in five minutes. Usually, you want to remind them one or two days in advance. This way there’s some time to adjust your schedule if they have to cancel or reschedule.
Failing to gather feedback.
Finally, actively gather feedback from your customers — whether if it’s online or in-person. Focus primarily on their suggestion on how you can improve the booking process so that it’s more convenient and effective for them, which in turn will convert them into happy and longtime customers.
Tips For Optimizing Appointment Scheduling
Even if you’re using online scheduling software, have implemented a process, and are avoiding common mistakes, there’s always room to improve so that you can run a better appointment schedule.
Start on time.
If you expect your customers and patients to be on time, then you need to set an example. For example, if you have an appointment at nine am, then you must be present and prepared. If not, and end up meeting with the customers at 9:20, that means all of your appointments for the rest of the day are pushed back.
Prioritize your appointments.
Not all appointments are equal. For example, an oil change, check-up, or haircut is going to take less time than replacing a motor, performing surgery, or dying someone’s hair. Learn how to prioritize your appointments so that you can set aside the appropriate time for each slot.
Ideally, you should schedule different services on different days. This way you have the right equipment prepared. For example, if you’re a dentist, perhaps you schedule cleanings three days a week and surgeries on the other two days.
Also, another way to prioritize appointments is to become more efficient with your services. For example, when someone books a haircut, give them three options; long, medium, or short. This can help you determine the appointment length.
Make messages personal.
When you send too many irrelevant and impersonal messages, your customers will start to ignore your emails and texts. Keep your communication casual and personal by addressing the recipient by name and specific details regarding their appointment.
Ask for confirmations.
Just because you’re sending out reminders doesn’t mean that everyone who booked an appointment with you viewed the reminder. Next thing you know, they cancel or don’t show up for the appointment.
To reduce these last minute no-shows and cancellations, ask your customers or patients to confirm the appointment by responding to your email or text messages.
Keep your client’s information up-to-date.
What if a customer has changed their email address or phone number? All of those reminders aren’t being received. So, it makes sure to keep your client’s information updated by asking if they still have the same contact information on file.
Additionally, depending on your business, you may also want to keep other information up-to-date, such as payment/insurance information.
Create a waiting list.
If you’re completely booked and someone asks if there’s availability, see if they want to be placed on a waiting list. It may be last minute, but you can then send out a mass notification to this list if there’s a cancellation or no-show.
Plan for seasonality.
Understand your patient base, what their needs are, and how the seasons will affect your business. As mentioned earlier, if you have a pediatric practice, you can expect to be busier during the start of the school year. This can help you plan accordingly.
Share your calendar in multiple locations.
Don’t keep your calendar to yourself. Remember, most appointment software allows you to share your calendar on your website, social channels, and emails. This gives your audience more opportunities to access your calendar and book an appointment.
Don’t make booking an appointment a complicated or confusing process. Have a clear call-to-action, limit the number of fields on your forms, and don’t ask for too much personal information.
Integrate your point of sale.
This saves you time, keeps your organized, and creates a convenient experience with you and your customers since they can book and pay for appointments in one location. And, because payments have made in advance, this can reduce cancellations and no-shows.
Increase initial meetings.
If you’re in sales, here’s a couple of ways that you can set more appointments:
- Reach out to your prospects during “off-hours” since they’re not as busy.
- Focus on the right goal at the right time. Your immediate goal is to move onto the next step of the sales process. However, your ultimate goal is to close a sale. In other words, don’t start off by trying to sell them your product or service. You need to build a relationship first.
- Use multiple channels, such as email and social media, when engaging with prospective clients.
- Practice your elevator pitch so you can quickly convince them to book a meeting.
- If you do book a meeting with them, confirm the appointment and create an agenda.
- Ask your existing network if they can refer potential clients in your direction.
Be upfront about prices and cancellation policies.
When someone books an appointment with you, make sure that you’re transparent about prices and your cancellation policy. If you can’t promise an exact amount for the services, you provide, give a ballpark figure and note that prices could change.
If you charge people for canceling or missing an appointment, be clear in-advance how much they’ll be charged and when you need to be notified to avoid this fee.
Make sure that your calendars are synced-up.
While most appointment scheduling tools will automatically sync with your personal calendar, make sure that this has been enabled so that you can view your personal and professional commitments quickly in one calendar.
Be consistent about your hours.
Unless you’re on vacation or have to adjust your hours of operation because of a holiday or emergency, you need to keep consistent hours. Consistent hours are a principal component of success; helping not only to create a routine for you, but it also gives your customers a better idea of when they can book an appointment with you during 2020 and beyond.
Updated January 2020