Whether it’s trying to book a haircut at a local salon or a meeting with a colleague in a different time zone, manual appointment scheduling is a time-consuming task.
It’s also a process that’s prone to human error. Local businesses can experience a direct loss of revenue from incidents such as double-bookings, which could lead to a negative online review and impact search engine optimization (SEO) performance.
In this blog, we explore six benefits of automated booking software as a solution that can help small and medium businesses (SMBs) reduce the risk of scheduling errors while improving their customer experience, employee productivity, and cash flow.
1. Generate bookings and leads 24/7
Did you know 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday is the most popular time to book an appointment?
Unfortunately for most local businesses, staff typically work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and for busy places like medical clinics and garages, responding to a backlog of appointment requests submitted over the weekend can take time and frustrate customers.
And that creates the risk of losing business. A survey by GetApp found 94 percent of customers are more likely to choose a new service provider if that provider offered an online booking option.
Automated scheduling software provides the benefit of allowing customers to:
- Book at a time convenient for them
- Select a particular person they want to receive the service from, such as their preferred fitness instructor or stylist, and view their real-time availability
- Reschedule without needing to call
These features can help prevent the communication channels of a local business from being bombarded with back and forth messages or phone calls about booking an appointment.
Plus, it can help prevent the loss of prospects who were keen to book outside work hours but lost interest because that business didn’t have online scheduling functionality.
This is supported by research from salon software as a service company Phorest, which shows nearly 50 percent of all bookings in the spa and beauty salon industry happen online when businesses are closed.
2. Impress new clients
Informing new customers and prospects about what to expect ahead of their first appointment can create a good impression and help boost productivity from an SMB’s perspective.
Local businesses can send the standard “thanks for booking email” as a confirmation of an appointment for basic services.
But where a business requires additional information about a customer or prospect beforehand, smart scheduling software can be used to:
- Add questions to meeting requests
- Collect key attendee details
- Process payments
Depending on the software, customers can also add additional guests to attend the appointment, and businesses can potentially view pre-existing information about the client.
This helps SMBs save the headache and staffing time required for menial tasks like confirmation calls and chasing up invoices.
3. Deal with fewer phone calls
Given the popularity of platforms like Airbnb, Uber, and OpenTable, customers - especially from younger generations - are increasingly expecting frictionless and digitized booking experiences for services they wish to access.
Consider the following data points from various surveys:
- 59 percent of the general population are frustrated with waiting times and the inconvenient office hours related to scheduling appointments by phone (GetApp, 2021)
- 75 percent of Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) avoid phone calls because they are “too time-consuming” (BankMyCell, 2020)
- 81 percent of Millennials feel anxious before making a call (BankMyCell, 2020)
These statistics are a clear indication for agencies to have a conversation with SMBs about evolving their tech stack and aligning their customer journey to evolving preferences.
Further, less time spent on the phone dealing with appointment queries is better for businesses as owners and employees can spend time undertaking more valuable tasks.
4. Save costs and reduce “no-show” risk
Software consulting giant Accenture’s research found that the United States healthcare system would have saved $3.2 billion in 2019 alone if more people booked appointments online.
That’s because it takes under a minute to schedule medical appointments online, compared to 8.1 minutes on the phone, with staff transferring calls 63 percent of the time, resulting in more booking-related paperwork and less time on patient care.
“Just as consumers use online tools to book restaurant reservations or request a cab, patients want the same experience in self-booking a doctor’s appointment,” Accenture’s report noted.
Furthermore, appointment reminder functionality typically built into scheduling software more than halves the risk of a no-show, according to a separate analysis of customer behavior by 10to8.com.
The survey found nearly 30 percent of customers who don’t receive appointment reminders fail to show up to an appointment versus 13 percent for those that do. 10to8.com also estimates no-shows cost a typical SMB $26,000 a year in lost revenue.
SMBs can use online booking platforms to send multiple automated reminders at desired times and frequencies. For example, a customer can receive an alert about their appointment 24 hours and 1 hour before it is scheduled to occur.
5. Boost cash flow
Which business owner in the world wouldn’t prefer to receive money upfront for an appointment that’s days, weeks, or months away?
According to research conducted by U.S. Bancorp and cited on the SCORE/Counselors to America’s Small Business, the reason small businesses fail overwhelmingly includes cash flow issues.
Agencies should check to see if the appointment software they are re-selling includes integrated payments functionality.
This provides the benefit of allowing a business to book meetings and collect payments from invitees concurrently; thus improving cash flow and productivity while eliminating manual processes around appointments and collections.
The customer experience also improves as the client doesn’t need to waste time waiting to pay at the premises after the appointment has concluded.
6. Increased employee productivity
In a Udemy 2018 report, 60 percent of employees said that poorly scheduled and unorganized meetings distract them from working efficiently and productively.
That's why meetings and how they are scheduled should not be taken for granted, especially for rapidly-growing SMBs with hybrid work environments and employees who reside across different states and countries.
Automated meeting scheduling can eliminate behaviors such as:
- Employees asking each other “when are you free?” to initiate a meeting
- The need to check calendars throughout the day
- Attaching video conferencing links to meeting events manually
- Manually working out time zone differences to hold meetings with colleagues across different jurisdictions
A suitable scheduling tool should handle most meeting-related logistics, including adding video conferencing links, finding a time to meet, and meeting preparation tasks.
Automatic meeting scheduling software can be a powerful productivity tool that can help SMBs enhance their customer experience while reducing time and money wasted on manual processes.
By reselling booking applications, agencies can expand beyond merely providing traditional marketing services and build into a local business’s tech stack, and thus be seen as more valuable from a company owner’s perspective.
Additionally, agencies can play a leadership role and help a business understand how new technologies can intersect with existing marketing strategies.
For example, an agency can work with an SMB to embed booking widgets across a client’s digital properties such as their websites, suggest additional integrations to boost productivity, and produce thought leadership content and newsletters to drive more appointments.
Putting it all into action: Vendasta’s acquisition of CalendarHero
In October 2021, Vendasta announced the strategic acquisition of artificial intelligence-powered meeting and appointment scheduler CalendarHero.
Existing customers can now activate CalendarHero from the Vendasta Marketplace for their use and can begin selling the software to their SMB clients.
We invite readers to explore and learn about CalendarHero and its features on Vendasta Marketplace and sign-up for a free trial. You can also read our press release about this “Made in Canada” deal.