Most businesses have some way to take, manage, and reference their appointments digitally these days, whether it’s through a home website or a third-party online scheduling app. However, most businesses haven’t taken the time to optimize their reservation system to be as time and cost-efficient as possible.
When optimizing your online scheduling, these are the main goals you’re trying to accomplish:
First, you’ll want as many appointments as possible (obviously). The more appointments you get, the more profit you stand to make, so your setup should be conducive to securing as many appointments as possible.
Make customers happier
You should also spend time making sure your customers are
Best Strategies for Improvement
So how can you achieve these goals? You can start by implementing these seven digital appointment strategies:
#1. Use a third-party scheduling app
First, consider using a third-party online scheduling app (if you aren’t using one already). Over 61 percent of small businesses find it’s easier to manage schedules with some kind of scheduling software, so you’ll likely improve your internal processes plus make it easier for your customers to use. It’s possible to develop your own scheduling app, but that’s going to take significant time and significant money—and the finished product probably won’t be as good as those developed by people dedicated to the art. Using a third-party app will also minimize your potential downtime, and practically eliminate the need for ongoing maintenance, since that will already be taken care of.
#2. Optimize your appointment page for search
You’ll also want to optimize your specific reservation or appointment page to rank higher in search engines. Your entire domain should be optimized for search engines, which you can do by attracting more inbound links pointing to your domain, optimizing your site for mobile, and including high-quality content throughout your internal pages (among dozens of other tactics). You can optimize your appointment page specifically by ensuring your title tag and meta description speak strongly to the appointment scheduling process, building links pointing specifically to that page, and optimizing for local search results by attracting better reviews and including location-specific text throughout the page. Doing so will make your scheduling page more visible in search engines, which in turn will attract more visitors and more appointments.
#3. Collect all information in the same format
If you’re using a third-party online appointment app, chances are all your customers’ information will be collected in the same format automatically. However, it still pays to ensure that your customers’ information is collected in the exact same format. Little changes, such as splitting “last name” and “first name” from an ambiguous “name” field, can prevent the need to “clean up” your customer information and can eliminate ambiguities when reviewing upcoming appointments.
#4. Streamline your team’s delegation process
You should also have a solid hierarchy in place to determine who’s responsible for taking appointments, and following the next steps in the process. For example, you may designate that your office manager is responsible for fielding all new appointments, and they may delegate specific appointments to individual members of your team. If you have a free-for-all setup, it’s too easy for some customers to be lost through the cracks, and all it takes is one negative brand experience to tarnish your company’s reputation. Make sure your process is formally documented—and enforced, should your staff members fail to follow it.
#5. Integrate any appointment and management systems you use
Your online scheduling app likely isn’t the only platform you use to manage your customers and online information. If you can, try to integrate as many of these systems as possible. The fewer systems you’re using, in general, the better. Fewer systems mean fewer back-and-forth logins and logouts, more consistent information across different platforms, and of course, more time saved for your team.
#6. Allow customers to make appointments in multiple ways
Your customers won’t all have access to the same types of technology, or availability in the same number of hours, so it’s a good idea to offer appointment scheduling in multiple ways. Offering 24-7 opportunities to schedule is a good start, getting up to 34 percent more appointments (based on a study of medical patients). If you offer online appointment scheduling, you’ll automatically have a 24-7 strategy in place. Consider also offering traditional phone call appointments, or another scheduling medium of your choice.
#7. Give users (automated) follow-ups and reminders
Again, you may have this available through your existing third-party scheduling app, but make sure to offer your customers some series of follow-ups or reminders to let them know their appointment is coming up. This helps you maximize your appointment attendees, and also makes your customers more satisfied (easing the burden of remembering on their own, and potentially reducing the threat of paying for a missed appointment). However, it’s better if you can automate these follow-ups via email or text messaging; relying on manual contact is less efficient and less reliable.
Your online scheduling system isn’t going to be perfect, but it can be much better than it currently is. By tweaking small portions of your overall setup, one bit at a time, you’ll eventually create a system that makes your customers happier, runs more efficiently and less expensively, and saves you and your staff time on management. It may cost you a bit of time and money up front, but it’s well worth the investment for the long-term savings and brand reputation value you’ll earn.