Top Features of Appointment Scheduling Software
Appointment scheduling software has evolved significantly over the past decade. More customers book appointments online than ever before, with research showing that 47% of the 350,190 online bookings made in the spring of 2018 were completed by online customers (the remainder were made by staff). As more clients and staff make use of mobile devices, ever-present internet connectivity, and cloud-based scheduling software, the use of online booking continues to increase.
What does this mean for businesses and their clients? Simply put, appointment scheduling software gives clients the freedom to make appointments when they choose and cancel them in a timely manner. For businesses, appointment scheduling software provides instant access to appointment information to assist in scheduling staff and service providers. The speed and ease of online bookings saves staff time and improves customer service. In addition, by integrating online appointment scheduling software with features such as payment discount offers and customer relationship management tools, businesses will benefit from additional increases in efficiency and offer more personalized customer experiences.
Here are some of the top features of appointment scheduling software.
Easy Online Bookings
Customer retention is important for any business, and it’s especially critical for small businesses. Whether it’s a salon, landscaping service, a spa, a dental office, or something else, small business owners work hard to attract customers and retain the ones they have. Offering customers the convenience of booking appointments online helps small business owners nurture client relationships. Automated appointment scheduling software tracks client appointments and sends reminders to the client. Reminders can include the possibility of rescheduling rather than missing or canceling appointments, following up on previous appointments through the use of personalized comments and scheduling the next appointment. On the business side, these same tools help small businesses book clients and can remind providers when it’s time to schedule follow-ups.
Real-Time Automated Scheduling
Real-time automation is where cloud-based appointment scheduling software flexes its muscle. When an appointment request is made, the system can automatically confirm or deny it, depending on availability. This feature is especially helpful for mobile workers. Utility technicians, landscapers, and even mobile pet groomers find it helpful to book future appointments on-site and face-to-face with customers. Real-time automation enables field workers to make appointments and schedule follow-ups without worrying about over-booking slots.
Customer service agents in the office share the same cloud-based appointment software with field agents. Any scheduling made in the field is automatically uploaded to the software where office staff can see it. These systems can also handle a waiting list, should a cancellation be made and a slot becomes vacant. Similarly, clients schedule their own appointments in real-time through their internet browsers. Appointment software parses all these sources in real-time, eliminating double bookings.
Flexibility is another benefit of real-time scheduling. Confirmation emails or texts are sent once an appointment is confirmed. This reminds the client of the appointment and provides a link to the online schedule. They can make changes and cancellations if necessary. When any changes are made, instant notifications are sent. These notifications can alert other users in the system of openings and vacancies. For field agents, being informed instantly of any changes or cancellations translates into time savings and fuel conservation.
Calendars: Personalized and Shared
Appointment scheduling software is also a time-saving tool in traditional offices. For businesses that don’t have employees in the field and don’t require consumer-facing software, it’s vital to have an appointment scheduling software program with robust calendar features and sharing capabilities.
With such a system, employees can view their personal calendars and immediately see meetings, appointments, or conferences they have lined up. With a quick glance, other team members can view the availability of colleagues for meetings or discussions. This reduces the need for emails, online polls and other inefficient means of scheduling meetings or group work. It is now commonly accepted that many younger workers prefer texting over talking. Providing transparent calendars allows younger employees and clients to manage schedules without navigating the hurdle of back-and-forth communication.
For businesses with close relationships with clients and third-party contracts, transparent calendars empower clients to view the individual calendars of staff members with whom they’re scheduling an appointment. This allows them more freedom to schedule appointments and increases the perception of availability, which can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Up to Date Contact Information
Authorized users of an appointment scheduling software system, especially customer service agents, can easily locate a customer’s contact information using a quick search. This feature streamlines first-time appointments by connecting clients with the individual or service they need. Permissions can be set so that clients and team members are able to view only the calendars and contact information that they need.
Collaborative work is increasingly common in business, and teams have numerous software-based venues and platforms that can be used to share information and accomplish group tasks. With the team scheduling features built into most appointment scheduling software solutions, employees can view each other’s schedules to better manage their time and to schedule team conference calls, collaborative work sessions, and meetings. This promotes more cohesive group collaboration.
In retail environments and service industries, managers and supervisors also benefit from team scheduling because they are able to track an employee’s work schedule and determine which employees are available to be scheduled to a particular team.
Team Zone Management
For businesses with either employees or clients in different geographic locations and time zones, appointment scheduling solutions, that, with the capability of handling multiple time zones, can be beneficial. Regardless of location and time zone, teams can distribute tasks and be communicative with one another. Still, it is necessary to schedule an overlapping collaborative time to clarify points and adhere to project timelines. Some scheduling systems let users view their peers’ time zones so that they can better organize their workflows and increase efficiency.
Multi-Channel Payment Options
In some cases, customers make payments in advance for appointments, or fees are charged when clients cancel appointments. If either of these applies to your business operations, then you can consider online appointment scheduling systems that include payment options across multiple platforms. Clients and vendors can pay using PayPal, credit, or online banking.
Different appointment scheduling solutions offer various levels of automatic report generation or they may offer integration with other software solutions, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) system or other enterprise software. Automated reports can be set up to generate necessary data and metrics, which in turn can save businesses time and money.
Data such as customer retention rates, re-bookings, customer demographic information, appointment details, cancellations and no-shows, and more can all be tracked as needed and reported to support analysis and planning. Information is accessed via the software’s dashboard. Business owners can easily find the data they need when they need it. If you are a small business owner, automated reports can be sent to your accountant or your marketing agency in a timely and cost-saving manner.
In conclusion, appointment scheduling software might seem at first glance to be an unnecessary expense. However, increased efficiency and time saving can boost profits and reduce costs. Most vendors of appointment scheduling software include service and support in their sales contracts, in addition to training, security updates, and other maintenance features. In terms of your bottom line, in some scenarios, appointment scheduling efficiency has led to reduced prices for the consumer, which can make a business more competitive and desirable to customers.
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