If you’re a business that needs customers to make appointments, you’ve likely had a few issues over the years. Whether it’s misplaced appointments, long waiting times, or people failing to turn up, it’s more frustrating than it needs to be. Luckily, there are plenty of digital solutions to these problems—and if used properly, they can help make your customers much happier. This, in turn, means they’re more likely to do business with you going forward. Still on the fence? Read on as we take you through the basics—and the benefits—of appointment scheduling systems for your business.
What is an appointment scheduling system?
An appointment scheduling system allows your customers to quickly and easily make appointments with you. It usually takes the form of a piece of software, which is integrated into an existing website or application.
Many different businesses increasingly use these systems within service-based industries. They are also frequently popular with younger customers. Some of the best appointment scheduling services include Calendly, Vcita, and SimplyBook.me.
Dedicated scheduling systems take the stress out of making appointments, mainly by reducing the time it takes to do so. Rather than having to wait in long queues to speak to somebody, you can take the appointment-booking process into your own hands. You can also do this at a greater variety of times than conventional booking systems allow.
However, these systems don’t just streamline the appointment booking process. They can also offer other benefits to your customers. These can include notifications of when an appointment is due or even send a reward (like a coupon or gift card) for doing business with you specifically.
These kinds of benefits can also help improve customer retention. This is a crucial concern for any business, as acquiring new customers is often less desirable than keeping the ones you already have.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience refers to how your customers respond after interacting with your business, whether directly or indirectly.
Direct interactions happen when a customer seeks you out on purpose and does things like buying your product or speaking to your employees. Indirect interactions occur when customers come across you without meaning to. This could be by seeing an advertisement or review, for example.
As this should clarify, customer experience can be shaped by various factors. But however this happens, it’s crucial you strive to offer good experiences in as many situations as possible. This is because even one bad experience can alienate a chunk of your audience for good.
The power of appointment scheduling systems
If your customers need to make an appointment with you, having a dedicated, high-quality system for this is a great move. It can improve the customer experience in several ways, which I’ve highlighted below.
1. A great first impression
In the world of business, first impressions count for a lot. The internet means that finding an alternative to your business is very easy. That’s why you literally can’t afford to give people a silly reason to reject you—especially if you’re trying to attract customers as a small business.
Customers will likely do at least some research on you before making an appointment. Your website, social media accounts, and customer reviews can all help to give customers an impression of your business before they reach out to you. But a poor appointment system can sour even if the impression is positive.
An appointment system that’s intuitive and easy to find will get your business-customer relationship started on the right foot. Remember that you can also link your booking page in various places, like social media posts and (if you can find affiliates) other websites. All these will send an important message to customers, i.e., not just that you exist, but that there are no obstacles to doing business with you.
2. Ease of use
Naturally, your appointment system can’t just be easy to find; it has to be easy to use as well. Offering a system anyone can understand will reinforce people’s positive first impression of you. It’s also important that the appointment booking process doesn’t take too long to complete.
Don’t be afraid to have a trial run through an appointments system before you roll it out to your customers. If you’re struggling to navigate it (in whole or part), this can signify that some part of it needs amending.
If you can find an appointment scheduling system you’re happy with (with features your customers will appreciate), you’ll have a significant advantage over your competitors. Booking, rescheduling, or canceling an appointment can be a stressful experience for customers. This is especially true if they have to do it over the phone. Long hold times and poor connections exacerbate these problems. This dramatically reduces the chances of customers engaging with you.
An online appointment system eliminates these problems with phone-based appointments at a stroke, especially as access isn’t restricted to usual working hours. This level of accessibility is likely to improve your customers’ experience massively. It also helps explain why other technologies (like chatbot support) are so popular.
3. Reduced chance of missed appointments
The digital nature of appointment scheduling systems also helps people actually to attend their appointments. You can easily send automatic reminders or notifications of an appointment to people. Since missing an appointment is its own source of stress, your efforts to address this problem will undoubtedly be appreciated by your customers—and your employees.
Appointment scheduling systems often give you a few different options for sending reminders. You can choose to send them at specific times (e.g., a day, an hour, or a few minutes) before an appointment begins.
Alternatively, you can charge customers a small fee to make an appointment. This can, obviously, be an excellent motivator to keep an appointment as people hate to waste their own money.
However, this may also deter customers from making an appointment at all. Consider refunding the fee if customers show up or offering a discount if they make more appointments with you later on.
4. Better use of time
Online appointment scheduling streamlines things for customers, you, and your employees. This is because it eliminates the problems you may experience when recording an appointment for a customer.
Recording appointments without a dedicated tool can prove an administrative headache. If you’re using a conventional appointments book, this can be easy to misplace. If you’re using an offline system on a computer, this can fall prey to hardware malfunctions. These problems eat into the time of both you and your customers, affecting the latter’s experience along the way.
Allowing customers to handle appointments themselves (at least up to a point) frees up time for other essential tasks. Many of these directly benefit the customers themselves. These include things like planning meetings and conducting research. This means that—when the appointment comes—you’re more ready than ever to handle it, and your reputation improves too.
5. More information on customers
Other benefits to customers come from the information an appointment scheduling system provides. These systems can let you know—in advance—who’s made the appointment, when they’re seeing you, and what their requirements are.
All this helps your appointments to be more productive and lets you allocate resources more effectively. This is especially true if a customer (or customers) has unique requirements. You can even set intake questions to help appointments be more fruitful.
However, appointment scheduling systems can also quickly gather data on customer interactions. These include things like average wait times and the percentage of no-shows. Scrutinizing this kind of data can help you improve your business operations.
If you’re concerned about your appointment system, don’t be afraid to ask customers for feedback on their experience. Showing this level of care can help you make a positive impression, even if there’s still a problem to be solved. It can also help you identify cultural blind spots and other activities like diversity in software testing.
Appointment scheduling systems are a must-have for service-based businesses. They reflect continued trends toward both convenience and digitalization in our daily lives, eliminating the stresses of this specific task. They can also help you better understand your customers in the process and maintain or expand your customer numbers.
At Dialpad, we’re proud to offer many different services for these businesses. We work with healthcare, law, and real estate industries to help them communicate appropriately with their customers. If you’d like to learn more about us, check out the Dialpad website today.
Jessica Day – Senior Director, Marketing Strategy, Dialpad
Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. She is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts for company and client campaigns. Jessica has also written content for Kanbanize and Designlike. Here is her LinkedIn.