“One hundred percent of success in appointments-driven service businesses is customers showing up, “ as Woody Allen said (or should have). Protect yourself from no-shows and last minute cancellations—and make it easy on clients to do the right thing—with these four tips for successful appointment management.
1. Get yourself some online appointment software
Sure you have a calendar on your computer, but online appointment booking software adds some important advantages. First, customers can create their own appointments online, saving you staff time, and they can book 24/7. Second, you can connect your scheduling to a customer relationship management system, basically a database that captures details about each client—such as customer preferences, service history or birthdays—that open the way to marketing opportunities. You can incent customers to use online booking with a loyalty program: Book more, get a discount.
2. Promote booking on your website and social media
This may sound obvious but a lot of small business websites don’t display a prominent phone number with the message to “book now” or some other compelling “call to action”. It should be on every page, and ditto for the button that leads to your online booking. Facebook now offers a call to action button that links to your appointment software. It’s free and a good opportunity to capture the many potential customers who check out a business first on Facebook.
3. Send reminder texts and email messages. Or have a human call.
Of course, if you want to sound like a high-pressure, robo-calling telemarketer, remind your valued customers about an appointment with phone calls featuring a recorded message. Even if you put staff time into live-human confirmation calls, so many people live their lives digitally, you need to be on those channels too. Again, appointment booking software will automatically send text and email reminders. A text message might say “reply YES” to confirm and an email message could have an “add to my calendar” button. A good time for reminder messages: 36 to 48 hours in advance to give you a chance to rebook from your waiting list. Send a thank you email message, too, and use the opportunity to ask for a customer review or a response to a satisfaction survey.
4. Mine appointment data for clues
Your appointment book is a trove of useful information for marketing and personnel management. Study and learn what you can about busy and slow times, more or less profitable employees, effectiveness of coupons or promotions and more.
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