Using Appointment Scheduling to Grow Sales with a Small Workforce
The Great Resignation is delivering a lasting impact on how U.S. businesses operate. In September 2021, a record 4.4 million Americans—or 3 percent of the national workforce—quit their jobs.1 Even if this trend reverses itself, employees might forever approach their jobs and careers differently.
The quit numbers are especially scary for organizations that employ a smaller workforce and face tighter margins. A lack of employees and expertise can decrease operational efficiency and negatively impact the customer experience. Furthermore, the problem can build upon itself—employees run ragged at an understaffed business become more likely to quit out of frustration, thus making things even worse for your operations.
Appointment scheduling with a virtual queue can fill the gaps in your staffing and effectively support a small workforce when you’re not at full strength. Perhaps most importantly, it can also grow sales.
Workforce Challenges for SMBs
Recruiting, turnover, and productivity challenges aren’t necessarily new for small and midsized businesses (SMBs). In the post-pandemic economy, when organizations continue to rebound from the chaos of 2020, workforce problems feel more pronounced—and more urgent. These problems include:
The pandemic seemingly has changed the American worker’s mindset. Employees discovered that they liked working remotely and that their jobs weren’t providing enough satisfaction to make up for what they were missing outside of work. As a result, people are quitting—even if they aren’t entirely unhappy with their jobs, and even if they don’t have another job lined up.
Of course, with more jobs open, the opportunities are even more enticing. If an employee thinks something better is out there, they’ll likely find it, potentially leaving your business shorthanded.
Many SMBs have fallen into an inescapable cycle: Someone leaves, the company expends resources to hire a replacement, and then another person leaves. Businesses are stuck playing catch-up, perhaps feeling that employee departures are permanently outpacing hires.
People who lost their jobs during the pandemic lockdowns might not have had an incentive to hurry back to the workplace because of expanded unemployment benefits. Those benefits have mostly expired, but, surprisingly, workers haven’t been in a rush to return. This has made the competition for talent even more fierce, and businesses are encountering more difficulty hiring the employees they need.
Some businesses have increased wages—and added benefits—in order to gain an edge over competitors looking to hire from the same pool of employees. At some point, however, SMBs might simply not have the budget to pay as much as the workers on the market are commanding. Furthermore, passing those costs onto customers, who may still feel a little shellshocked by the pandemic’s effect on the economy, may not be an option.
Customer behavior was far from perfect before 2020, and the pandemic has made customers even less patient and more ornery. Employers aren’t tolerating being treated badly by the people they’re serving, and combined with possibly feeling overworked in an understaffed workplace, they’re getting fed up and quitting—no matter how well they’re treated by their employers.
Appointment Scheduling to the Rescue
In a perfect world, you would be fully staffed with employees who are excellent at their jobs, contribute to operational efficiency, and boost revenue. Unfortunately, the staffing world is nowhere near perfect, and organizations must learn to do more with less. For businesses that rely on appointments to not only manage customers but also properly schedule staff, automated appointment scheduling software provides a way to thrive—even with a small workforce.
The technology is straightforward: Your customers and clients can set their own appointments through the appointment scheduling system from their smartphones, computers, or other devices. They’ll receive a link confirming the appointment and can use that link to change their time or cancel, ask questions, or book another appointment. The virtual queuing system can also send reminders, notices of cancellations, or other messages to customers as needed.
The beauty of appointment scheduling through a virtual queue is how little employees are required to manage it. Because the system is automated, it sends reminders and notifications according to a schedule you set. Customers can make appointments without ever needing to communicate with an employee. And if a customer would rather call to schedule a time, employees can set the appointment and forget it, letting the system do the rest.
The Benefits of Appointment Scheduling with a Virtual Queue
Whether you’re at full strength or desperately understaffed—or anywhere in between—appointment scheduling with a virtual queuing system can help your business increase efficiency, improve employee morale, and grow sales. Here are some of the benefits the software can provide to organizations with a small workforce:
When most of the actual appointment scheduling shifts from staff to customers, fewer if any employees need to be assigned to taking calls, sending out reminders, and handling other schedule management tasks. These employees can be diverted to other responsibilities, which allows you to get more done when you’re shorthanded or to keep a full shift from scrambling when the phone starts ringing off the hook.
Workers can always take a minute to make an appointment for a customer who’s calling in—and the best solutions are easy to use so that manually adding an appointment is quick and painless.
In the increasingly self-service world, assigning another task to the customer might seem impersonal. However, automated appointment scheduling improves the customer experience by giving people more control over their time. Consider these reasons why:
- People are busy during the weekday and may not find time to call your business to make an appointment. With scheduling software, they can reserve an appointment whenever they want—in the evening, overnight, on the weekend, or anytime they’re free.
- Customers can use the system to cancel their appointments or reschedule without having to worry about being on hold or feel like they must apologize if the change is last-minute.
- Many people prefer the control they gain with technology, and some aren’t so comfortable interacting with humans. Appointment scheduling gives these customers a reason to keep interacting with your business and become repeat customers. They may also see you as a modern organization and be impressed with your commitment to innovation.
In addition to these customer benefits, happier customers are generally nicer to and more cooperative with your staff. This helps with employee morale and provides them a small but not unnoticed reason to stay on your team.
Appointment scheduling accumulates all sorts of data—when people make appointments, which times they seek most, how often they cancel or reschedule, which services they’re scheduling, and so on. These numbers can be analyzed to pinpoint what kind of staffing is required at any given time. With a small workforce, you don’t have much margin for error, which makes this actionable data invaluable to keeping your bottom line strong.
Many businesses that take appointments also rely on walk-in customers to increase profitability. Quality appointment scheduling software allows walk-ins to join a virtual queue—either with the help of an employee or through a digital means such as a QR code in the lobby—and wait their turn for service.
The system can then provide customers estimated wait times, delivered directly to their phones, so they don’t necessarily need to wait on site. This makes managing walk-in crowds much easier for employees while giving customers more control over their waits. And if there aren’t any appointments available immediately, people can use the system to book something for another day.
Appointment scheduling and virtual queue management create efficiency, which lets you achieve more with less staff. Ultimately, that lets you book more appointments and helps keep schedules full, which leads to more sales and revenue.
You also might be able to better retain employees—and not devote budget to hiring and training new ones—and impress customers enough to turn them into not only repeat customers but advocates for your brand. This also contributes to top- and bottom-line revenue, which are both so important when you’re operating with a small workforce.
Customers who know that dealing with your business is easy are more willing to rely on you well beyond their basic needs. Read our guide Why Virtually Queued Customers Buy More to learn how something as simple as appointment scheduling transforms customer behavior.