If your business relies on customer and client appointments, you need to make sure they are easily accessible. Using an online appointment scheduler is a great way to do that: your customers will be able to see exactly which appointments are available and book them instantly.
Unfortunately, appointments are often overlooked in the e-commerce process with companies tending to focus on marketing and outreach. That's a shame because an inaccessible (or confusing) appointment system can wreck an otherwise great advertising campaign.
For that reason, an appointment scheduler is among the most important free business tools you should have at your company’s disposal. In this article, we'll break down the key benefits that an appointment scheduler can give you.
1. Ease of Use
The biggest benefit of an appointment scheduler is that the 'traditional' way of making appointments is excruciatingly slow. Normally, a customer or client has to call your business and discuss a slot for an appointment. This often means that companies have to hire extra staff, which increases costs.
Making appointments in the 'old' way also increases the opportunity for miscommunications and errors to enter into the process. Taking down phone numbers and email addresses by hand is cumbersome, and if you make a mistake, your client will be unreachable if you need to change or discuss the appointment.
2. “Always On” Service
Moving your appointment scheduler online also means that you are more available for your clients. In today's connected and busy world, clients often don't have time to make appointments during office hours: research shows that 35% of clients prefer scheduling appointments during non-business hours, and 40% of online bookings actually happen after hours. These are significant numbers.
An appointment scheduler can give your clients 24/7 access to your appointments system at a much lower cost than hiring a few extra staff to reply to queries outside of office hours.
3. Increased Attendance
Clients missing appointments is certainly annoying, but the consequences go far beyond this. Even if 5% of your clients don't make their appointments, you are losing out on 5% of your revenue. Potentially more than 5%, in fact, because high-value clients are generally the busiest, and therefore the most likely to forget an appointment with your team.
An appointment scheduler can dramatically reduce no-shows by automatically sending out appointment reminders, and by integrating with your clients' online calendars. This is something that healthcare companies realized many years ago, and have had huge success with: In a study on the effectiveness of SMS appointment reminders, the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine found that no-shows decreased by a huge 39% when facilities sent out text reminders.
4. Better Security
An often overlooked advantage of appointment schedulers is that they can make your appointment system more secure than traditional approaches. Before the advent of online appointment systems, administrators generally kept track of appointments in a centralized database which wasn’t well protected and left data at serious risk. A hacker who gained access to a company’s network could easily get a huge list of client names, numbers, and addresses.
Since appointment scheduling systems use cloud storage, they are inherently more secure than self-managed systems. An additional security measure is to use a virtual private network (VPN) any time you go online. Most work with Windows by default, but you might need to dig into comparison reviews to find out which is the best for your operating system. The bottom line is that a VPN encrypts your data and masks your IP address, thus making it harder for the bad guys to find you.
5. Better Google Ranking
Google has seen ‘near me’ searches increase exponentially in recent years, to the point that these searches now represent a significant proportion of all search traffic. Having a strong local presence is now a necessity for businesses of all sizes.
There are a few approaches you can take to increase your local presence, but a quality appointment scheduler is arguably the best. The best appointment schedulers make use of a service offered by Google, Reserve with Google (RwG). This system offers clients the ability to see companies near them, and then directly book appointments from Google search.
6. Integrated Marketing
One of the biggest challenges faced by online businesses is converting visitors and engagement into appointments. Without a strong and easy CTA (call-to-action) in all of your marketing materials, you will miss out on a lot of business. A strong CTA can increase conversions on software sales by 32%. Neglecting to test your CTA is also another cardinal sin.
An appointment booking system lets clients see your availability and services directly from your outreach materials. By including a link to your booking system in an email, for instance, you provide customers with an easy, no-commitment way to check out your services.
Links to your automated appointment booking system can also be included in many other places: on your website, of course, but also in your Twitter feed and social media profiles. Doing this will insure that your marketing efforts are well-integrated, and that you don’t let any customer engagement go to waste!
7. Improved Insight
The increasing popularity of online tools represents a huge opportunity for businesses to improve their level of knowledge about themselves. In comparison to more ‘traditional’ approaches, online appointment booking systems can be used to quickly generate reports about the way that your business operates.
Specifically, these systems can easily show you when your peak business hours are, and whether you need to start offering extra appointment availability to keep up with demand. Conversely, they can show you if you have times of the day or week with very few booked appointments, so you can scale back at those times.
Ultimately, an appointment scheduler will greatly increase the efficiency of your marketing insight: both by providing extra insight, and then by allowing you to plan your business more effectively.
8. Saving Time, Money, & Paper
If you’ve worked with a paper-based scheduling system, you will know that systems like that can quickly become enormously complex. Every appointment needs to be entered by hand into a master diary, and then each employee needs to make their own copy.
‘Traditional’ systems like that are simply a huge waste of time, money, and paper. Given that, it’s no wonder that a survey from management consulting company The Alternative Board has pointed out that 60% of small business owners would spend less time dealing with paper systems, and that 39% of these business owners said that dealing with paperwork is the biggest waste of their time.
An online appointment booking system gets around all these problems and lets you focus on what matters most: engaging with your clients.
9. Multi-Channel Appointments
Online appointment schedulers also have another huge advantage: they allow your customers to interact with your business across the entire range of devices. Today, it’s quite common that a client will see your storefront when they are driving by, check out your business on their laptop, and then try and book an appointment on their phone.
If you are not offering the ability to book appointments across all these channels, you are missing out on opportunities for revenue.
Integrating your appointment system with smartphones is, arguably, the most important channel today. This is where most people keep track of their appointments, after all, and so it also where appointment reminders are most effective.
10. Reducing Mistakes
Automatic appointment booking systems also cut out many of the errors that humans can introduce into appointment booking systems. Making a mistake with a customers’ contact details can have significant consequences: not only in terms of missed appointments, but making mistakes like this also makes your company look unprofessional.
An online appointment booking system doesn’t make mistakes like that. It will also allow you to produce a database that contains all of the contact details of your highest value clients, and so can be used as the starting point for outreach campaigns.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, successful businesses are those that make (and keep) their clients happy. Online appointment systems allow you to achieve a higher rate of successful bookings, which results in happier customers, which in turn results in higher profits for you.
For that reason, online appointment systems are simply a necessity for any company that takes online marketing seriously. So while you are reading your next online marketing guide to killing it in 2019, make sure you are aware of the role of appointment booking systems in your broader marketing ecosystem.
You can, of course, go even further. Some companies have had great success with using AI assistants as an addition to their appointment booking systems. These assistants will not only allow your customers to see which services and appointments are right for them, but can also answer basic questions and even perform customer service tasks.
Whatever your approach, keep in mind that online appointment scheduling is the new normal, and that if you don't have it, your clients are going to think you've fallen behind the competition.