How to Handle Walk-In Appointments with Virtual Queuing
To welcome walk-in customers or not to welcome walk-in customers—that is the question many appointment-based organizations face.
Walk-in appointments can throw a business’s daily plan for a loop, but they also can bring in extra revenue. Moreover, offering your customers flexibility improves your standing with them and boosts their loyalty.
The question then becomes: Can walk-in appointments coexist with a standard appointment strategy? Here’s a look at the benefits of each approach and how Qtrac’s Appointment Scheduling supports both.
Pros and Cons of Appointment Scheduling
Appointments and reservations give both organizations and patrons a degree of certainty—the business commits to a time to serve the customer, and the customer commits to showing up. This strategy comes with advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of Appointment Scheduling
- Mostly guaranteed business: By taking appointments, a business generally knows how many customers it will see on a certain day or time and can staff accordingly.
- Reduced no-shows: By sending reminders to customers of their upcoming appointments, organizations see a reduction in no-show appointments.
- Smoother operations: Employees are more efficient—and less stressed—when they aren’t managing a crowd of customers and trying to figure out whose turn is next. That relative calm can translate into a better customer experience.
- Predictability: With an appointment or reservation, you’re never wondering how long the line or how crowded the business will be. Waits still happen, of course, but for the most part, you schedule an appointment and know that you’ll likely be served immediately upon your arrival.
Cons of Appointment Scheduling
- Customer irritation: An appointment is like an agreement, so if you’re backed up and can’t immediately see a customer, they might feel betrayed that you didn’t hold up your end of the bargain. If this happens too many times, customers may think you don’t care about their experience.
- Personnel requirements: Unless you use a scheduling system that includes online appointments, a human will need to help book a customer’s appointment. This pulls employees away from other responsibilities or requires additional staffing.
- Customer hassle: Some consumers might not have the time or energy to schedule an appointment ahead of time and will patronize another business that is more flexible.
- Slow days: If you’re not booked up on a given day, that’s revenue lost—and without a walk-in capability, there’s no way for that revenue to be quickly replaced.
Pros and Cons of Walk-Ins
Some walk-in customers make a spontaneous decision to enter your business; others plan ahead with the knowledge that they might encounter a wait. Here are the pros and cons of serving walk-in traffic:
Pros of Walk-In Traffic
- Unexpected business: Walk-in customers bring in additional revenue you might not have been expecting before the day began. On slow days, you’re able to fill empty slots and stay busy, thus improving the bottom line.
- Convenience: Customers appreciate that, in a pinch, they can receive service and not be forced to wait or to not get what they need at all. Moreover, they might like that they don’t have to go through what they perceive as a hassle to take a few minutes to schedule an appointment; they can simply show up and wait their turn.
Cons of Walk-In Traffic
- Too much business: If you’re lucky, walk-in traffic can bring in a nice amount of additional business. However, too many walk-ins can lead to long waits, extra crowds—particularly for people who made an appointment and weren’t expecting a zoo—and a poorer customer experience. At that point, you might also be facing diminishing returns for having more customers.
- Unpredictability: Although you can make educated guesses on how many walk-in appointments will come in at a given time, accurately predicting customer volume still can be difficult. That makes managing the crowd and staffing the shift a challenge.
- Turning away walk-ins: Walking into a business for service and finding out you either won’t be served or will be forced to wait for hours is frustrating. Customers often will look for other alternatives—and may develop a loyalty to those alternatives and forget about you.
How Qtrac Helps with Appointment Scheduling
Qtrac’s appointment scheduling software maximizes all the advantages highlighted earlier in this article while minimizing the disadvantages. Among the benefits of our solution:
Our solution provides flexibility to your customers by allowing them to book an appointment whenever they wish. Thanks to this functionality, people aren’t forced to upend their busy schedules to call during your office hours—they can go online day or night, weekday or weekend, to pick a time for service.
Fewer Employee Resources Required
When customers are scheduling their own appointments, you don’t need to devote as much staff to answering phones and manually sorting out the calendar. Employees are freed up to handle other tasks—including improving service to customers already in your building.
Reminders and Notifications
Customers receive appointment reminders via email or text so they don’t miss their slots. They also can cancel or reschedule an appointment via the system, as well as interact with your staff.
How Qtrac Helps with Walk-In Appointments
Walk-ins enter your location without an appointment, but they want to be served. If you don’t accept walk-ins, you might tell them to access the scheduling system and see what’s available. If you do welcome walk-ins, you need to find a way to accept their business as soon as possible. Qtrac’s appointment scheduling system can help.
The process is simple: Walk-ins check in at a service counter or a kiosk, are given a turn in line, and are notified on their smartphones when it’s their turn to be served. Waits are orderly, and customers are free to leave a waiting area and come back when their turn arrives. Customers also can be given an estimated wait time, which allows them to decide if they want to keep their spot in the queue or come back another day.
Perhaps the true potential of using Qtrac for walk-in appointments lies in how our virtual queuing works in tandem with an appointment scheduling system. The two systems can be integrated so that you know how much availability you have for walk-ins and how many additional customers can be seen without reducing the experience for people who booked ahead of time.
Moreover, the data from each system can show when your peak periods for appointments and walk-ins are, how long customers wait on average, how often people re-book, and so on. With the features of both solutions combined, a world-class customer experience emerges.
The Qtrac Difference
Qtrac brings a unique perspective to the market: In addition to being software experts, we also have decades of physical queuing expertise as a leader in the industry. This expertise led us to develop an appointment solution based on best practices and technology and can handle loyal customers as well as new walk-ins. See a demo to learn more.