What is the importance of appointments in business? Appointments are the bridge between curiosity and interaction. These bridges allow a mutually beneficial exchange—the customer has their needs met, and the business strengthens a revenue-driving relationship.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to overlook the appointment scheduling experience and the part it plays in the customer journey. You want to make it as easy as possible for your prospects and customers to connect with you, especially when their interest is peaking. No matter what industry you’re in, from finance to retail, appointments are your avenue to these kinds of meaningful conversations.
An online appointment system will certainly assist with this, but that shouldn’t be all it can do. The best online booking system will simultaneously boost your business reputation while serving customer needs, from that first touchpoint through post-appointment services.
But before you choose an appointment system for your business, it can be helpful to get back to the basics. What do people want in an appointment scheduler, and what best practices should your business implement to meet those needs? Let’s take a look.
Why Is Making an Appointment Important in Business?
Business appointments are one of the most high-value moments available to meet your customers’ needs. When you create a seamless experience for these moments, you show customers that you care by providing a “we’ve been expecting you” service guarantee. You show them that their needs and frustrations matter to you. And on the business side, you gain priceless insights that will serve to further your business growth.
Although a straightforward concept, appointment scheduling is rife with opportunities for error. Think of the frustrations you may have felt either accidentally missing an appointment or not being able to talk with a representative or staff that can help you. What causes these missed encounters and wasted time? Studies show the most common reasons are quite simple, such as:
How do you overcome this? To get started, consider the next section of best practices that can put you on the course to optimized scheduling.
How Do You Set an Appointment Effectively?
To keep missed appointments to a minimum and ensure everyone’s time is being used wisely, follow these six scheduling tips:
1. Allow Self-Scheduling
We live in a world of online portals and apps, and it’s becoming more commonplace to schedule our own appointments through these channels. Customers can see the appointments available, compare with their own calendar, and choose a time and location that suits their schedule. This takes some pressure off administrative roles in your business who would otherwise be responsible for manually scheduling those appointments. For example, if you’re curious to learn more about Engageware’s appointment scheduling platform, you can use our self-scheduler to set up a time to talk.
2. Provide Real-Time Availability
Offering real-time availability to folks who want to connect with you is a must, especially with self-scheduling. This can get tricky for larger organizations, as staff schedules and availability are constantly updating and changing. If you use an online scheduling app for multiple users that can be integrated with other platforms, you can easily keep track of all scheduling items. Then, when customers and prospects are browsing your business’s availability, you can rest assured they are seeing the most up-to-date calendars across the organization.
3. Have Different Appointment Types
Not every customer and prospect will require the same level of attention and service, and you should consider these varying demands when scheduling appointments. For example, a bank may offer in-person appointments for transactions, safety deposit box access, loan or mortgage applications, etc. While a loan officer would be needed for a loan or mortgage application, a simple transaction appointment could be handled by a teller. With Engageware’s scheduling platform, you can set up multiple appointment types based on complexity and configure routing rules to ensure each appointment goes to the best resource. In addition, Engageware’s Queue Management application can handle last-minute walk-ins, with staff being able to transfer appointments to the next available team member.
4. Offer In-Person and Virtual Options
It’s hard to imagine anything good came out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but one thing it did do was show us the importance of online appointment and meeting options. While in-person or in-branch interaction will always be invaluable, sometimes all you need is a virtual appointment. This saves significant time, especially for customers, as they no longer need to travel to an on-site location to complete transactions or get answers to their questions.
5. Send Automated Reminders
Ever heard, “I’m so sorry, I completely spaced it,” or “Something came up,” from a customer or prospect after a missed appointment? While it’s not your responsibility to ensure folks remember, you can reduce no-shows with reminders before the appointment. Include all relevant appointment information and instructions in each text, email, or call reminder. How many reminders you send is up to you—some choose to only do one reminder 24 hours before the appointment, while others like to do a few spaced out in the weeks and days leading up to the appointment. With Engageware’s appointment scheduling system, you can automate and customize reminder time intervals, frequency, messaging, and more.
6. Standardize Your Process
You should have a standardized process for your scheduling workflow that everyone must follow. What information should you collect for each appointment? What do customers need to know before the appointment? Is there anything customers should bring to appointments? Consider these questions, and create a set of rules for setting every appointment.
While these best practices can improve your appointment scheduling, issues may still arise simply due to human error. Fortunately, there are many types of appointment systems out there that offer additional support for an even more streamlined process. However, if you’re scheduling dozens or hundreds of appointments on a regular basis, a free online booking system isn’t going to cut it. You need an appointment system that exceeds expectations, one with scalability and security beyond simply nailing down a date and time to meet.
What Is the Purpose of an Appointment System?
An appointment system should make it easy for any organization to make appointments. Many businesses are making the switch to online booking systems, as they offer numerous solutions unattainable with more traditional scheduling methods.
To demonstrate, consider these eye-opening statistics about appointment scheduling from Zippia, whose experts use machine learning to collect millions of data points on industry and career trends:
- 40% of appointments are booked in non-business hours
- 67% of people prefer to book online, while only 22% prefer to book over the phone, and only 11% prefer in-person booking
- More than half of Millennials and Gen Xers say they would switch to a business purely for online appointment booking capabilities
- 82% of people like to use their mobile devices to book appointments
- Automated reminders from online booking systems can reduce the rate of no-shows 29% or more
As you can see, giving your prospects and clients the option of making an online appointment will likely lead to increased bookings and customer satisfaction. However, with the advanced capabilities of today’s software and technology, you can expect more than just an increase in appointments from an online appointment system.
The Advantages of an Online Appointment System
As you shop around and consider the scope of your online appointment system, you’ll find plenty of appointment scheduling providers promising solutions. As you consider their various offerings, here are some specific benefits you should look for:
- Omnichannel Scheduling – “Omnichannel” is used to describe a multichannel approach, meaning a business offers customers multiple channels for interaction, such as phone, social media, in-person, website messaging, etc. When you apply the phrase to “scheduling,” it means giving your customers an opportunity to book an appointment across any channel, 24/7. At bare minimum, you should look for a system that offers website, social media, mobile, email, and call center scheduling. Engageware’s scheduling platform even offers integration with Google, allowing customers to make an appointment as they research your business.
- Automated Reminders – Sending appointment reminders is a key scheduling best practice—but how do you remember to remind? Instead of adding one more thing to your employees’ to do lists, look for a system with automated reminders. This keeps appointments top of mind for customers with zero extra work from your business. If you can find automated reminders with a rescheduling option, even better. When people see the reminder and realize they have a conflict, they can quickly reschedule right then, saving everyone’s time and energy.
- Configurable Rules – Most online appointment systems will offer automation to streamline the entire process, but not all offer extensive customization and control over that automation. The system you use should be able to adapt to your organizational strategies and goals. Don’t force your company to work around a rigid system, and instead look for one with easily configurable rules, timeframes, booking limits, employee priorities, appointment limits, and more.
- Appointment Routing – Just as each customer will have unique needs, each employee will have unique skill sets. Appointment routing allows you to align those needs and skills, matching each customer with the best-qualified team member. Your appointment system routing should also consider the location and availability of the customer and team member, ensuring the right people are meeting at an ideal place and time.
- Integration Capabilities – Online appointment systems can integrate in more ways than one. Many businesses want a scheduling system that can integrate with their customer relationship management (CRM) software to see how appointments are affecting their sales funnel and see all of their customer interactions. Another form of integration is with popular calendaring systems, like Microsoft Exchange or Outlook. Appointment systems that can sync with personal calendars simplify appointment tracking for team members and customers.
- Reporting and Analytics – Metrics are the foundation of business improvement and success, and appointment scheduling is no exception. The insights gained from analyzing your appointment data will allow you to optimize staffing, plan resources effectively, increase marketing ROI, and improve customer satisfaction. Additionally, you’ll also want a system that offers reporting options with various configurations and data filters, which aids in organization-wide decision making. For example, knowing which channel a customer came from before booking an appointment allows you to direct your marketing budget to the most effective channels. Your scheduling software should show you this and more, like top appointment types, most common meeting locations, total appointments scheduled, and average meetings per employee to power or enable your “Next Best Action.”
What Is the Best Online Appointment System?
With over one billion appointments scheduled, Engageware is a popular choice for online booking systems. Our platform is trusted by 500+ organizations, including industry giants like Comcast, Best Buy, Regions Bank, and Metro Credit Union.
We understand that appointment scheduling is so much more than setting a date and time to meet. Our number one goal is to help you engage with customers in the most effective way possible when they have needs or questions. Engageware clients frequently report:
- Happier Customers and Employees
- Higher Growth and Profitability
- Increased Business Efficiency
If you’d like to book more appointments, reduce no-shows, get more high-value clients, and boost the efficiency of your operations, then Engageware is the solution you’ve been looking for. Schedule a time to talk with us through our self-scheduler today!