6 Features of Appointment Scheduling Solutions That Will Streamline Your Business
Scheduling an appointment should be a revenue-driving action on the customer’s part. Someone calls you and books a time to come in, and you welcome them when they arrive for their appointment.
Unfortunately, the calling part is often inefficient, frustrating customers and bogging down your staff. When people can’t easily make an appointment, the process ironically becomes less personal and less customer-centric.
Customers demand something better. A 2019 Accenture study found that 68 percent of patients will choose a medical provider that offers a way to digitally book appointments. Healthcare isn’t the only industry that benefits from appointment scheduling solutions—auto mechanics, veterinarians, salon workers, plumbers, and appliance repairmen are among those who have turned to technology to streamline their businesses.
Here are some features that the best appointment software offers to help you run a smoother operation while allowing customers to better connect with you:
1. Efficient Scheduling
Calling to schedule an appointment requires someone to be on the other end of the line ready to make the magic happen. However, the business may be open only certain hours, and there’s no guarantee you won’t be waiting on hold until a receptionist or customer service rep becomes available. This is not only frustrating for customers—it’s also inconvenient and forces them to interrupt their busy days to adjust to your operation’s schedule.
Appointment scheduling solutions put the power into customers’ hands. They can access the scheduling system from a smartphone or computer at any time—on the train or bus during their commutes, at home when they’re relaxing, or even in the middle of the night if they can’t sleep and want to get a few things done. From the mobile app, people can easily see available slots (and for multiple locations if your business has more than one office or store) and book one, as well as cancel or reschedule an appointment.
Automated scheduling also helps the business by freeing up employees from most calls and other appointment booking interactions (e.g., emails and texts). Each call may take only a couple minutes, but if customer service is fielding 30 calls a day, that’s an hour a day, five hours a week, and 260 hours a year dealing with appointments. That’s a nice time savings for a large business, but for a small business, it’s a huge ROI—especially if your employees can be productive with other key tasks.
2. Confirmation Texts and Emails
No-shows can reduce the efficiency and profitability of your business. Some people decide to blow off an appointment and fail to notify you—and that’s undoubtedly a problem appointment management can’t easily solve—but some people simply forget to mark or check their calendars. Automated reminders generated by appointment scheduling solutions can help.
The workflow is simple: The scheduling system sends a confirmation text and/or email after an appointment is made, then sends automatic reminders at whatever cadence you choose leading up to the appointment. If the appointment is scheduled manually—in person or over the phone—reminders can still be sent. And if an appointment is rescheduled or canceled, the system can also send notifications to customers.
Besides keeping the appointment on the customer’s radar, confirmations and reminders also provide an opportunity to send additional and relevant messaging, such as promotional offers, interesting articles, and more. Furthermore, automated reminders save time for your employees, who no longer need to call customers and let them know their appointments are coming up.
3. Information Requests
Your customer or patient has booked an appointment, and your scheduling system will send out reminders so they don’t forget to show up or cancel. Considering you’re already communicating with the person, why stop there? The best scheduling solutions also let you send notifications asking for more information, either by replying to the message or by accessing a linked form, that better prepares you for the appointment.
Additional information can range from services that need to be done to special requests to filling out forms. For example, a healthcare provider could ask a new patient to fill out intake forms ahead of time. An auto shop might ask if there’s anything it should know about a customer’s car so it can order parts if needed. A hairstylist may ask a client what color their touch-up will be and have everything ready to go when the appointment starts. In these ways, you’re able to provide better service while creating more efficiency—and more ROI—for your business.
4. Easy Check-In
Scheduling solutions can continue to deliver efficiency and convenience when the time for the appointment finally arrives. Customers might be given one of three check-in options via the system:
- Checking in via an SMS link
- Checking in by scanning a QR code, which is digitally connected to the appointment the customer scheduled, at your business
- Receiving a text with instructions on where to go and whom to see after arriving at the business to check in with a live person
These advanced check-in functions often cut down on wait times when customers show up for their appointments. Lobbies and waiting areas don’t get as crowded—which is important as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people wait—and your staff is able to manage the flow of people more efficiently at your business.
5. Future Reminders
Ideally, you would like customers to schedule their next appointment right away. If that doesn’t happen, an automatic reminder can be sent soon after the previous appointment, encouraging the customer to schedule something.
You can also continue to send automated future reminders, as long as you don’t go overboard to the point where customers might feel you’re spamming them. However, if, for example, someone’s next dental checkup is approaching and they haven’t scheduled an appointment, the reminders can create a sense of urgency that the person shouldn’t forget to have their teeth cleaned.
Future reminders can also inform customers of certain services they might not have known they needed, such as a 60,000-mile maintenance on their car or the next round of their pet’s shots. Moreover, text messaging can be used to tell customers about new products, share important news about your business, extend promotional offers, and so on. Once a customer is in your scheduling system, the opportunities to connect with them are nearly unlimited.
All the features of appointment scheduling solutions we’ve highlighted benefit your customers and streamline your business. However, those benefits won’t be realized if the system you choose is rigid and difficult to use.
Top-flight solutions are fully customizable to your needs and preferences. You know your customers best, so you should be able to configure your system with little fuss to make it appealing for them to use. Your efficiency is their convenience—and their convenience creates even more efficiency for your business.
Experience all these features for yourself by seeing a demo of Qtrac’s innovative appointment system.