|Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.|
Online Customer Scheduling Improves Small Business Efficiency
Whether it’s in-person customer meetings or conference calls with clients, online scheduling tools can help your small business book appointments easily while reducing the back-and-forth of schedule-related emails or phone calls.
Online scheduling tools integrate with your Outlook or Google calendar to show time slots when you’re available for an appointment, meeting or call. Self-service options allow the customer to book an available slot, and that appointment is added to your calendar automatically.
Some services allow you the option of confirming an appointment manually, and some provide automatic customer reminders via email or text message.
By allowing clients to book their own appointments or meetings, you save time while improving your customer service. Many customers prefer to schedule appointments outside traditional working hours, and offering them online booking allows them to control their calendars more effectively than having to wait for your company to reopen for bookings.
Similarly, a growing number of customers view having to call to make an appointment a hassle they’d rather avoid, so offering them a direct booking option increases your availability while reducing the risk of double-booked or missed meetings.
Online booking services are becoming increasingly important for companies that need to book customer appointments, such as medical professionals, hair and beauty salons, field service providers, and fitness trainers and studios. Booking services are also being used more commonly by other service providers who schedule appointments frequently.
Some services offer plug-ins so you can integrate online booking directly into your company website. Another popular option is the ability to include a link to your booking platform into marketing email campaigns so customers can respond to your messages by scheduling an appointment.
Setting Up Your Day
While the idea of letting customers schedule their own appointments may seem like it could lead to calendar chaos, online appointment services have been set up to give business owners more control over their appointments and, in turn, how they spend their days.
For instance, the services allow you to customize the hours you make available for appointments, the default length of time customers can book, time between meetings, or other parameters you wish to set up.
Some scheduling services allow you to combine the calendars of multiple team members to create a pool of slots customers can take advantage of.
In addition to scheduled meetings, you can also block time for administrative tasks, business development or other activities that would preclude your availability for customer appointments.
If you work with customers in multiple time zones, most services are smart enough to adjust meeting times to accommodate everyone’s local time and to integrate appointments into participants’ calendars properly.
Some services integrate with online payment platforms such as Square, PayPal and others so customers can pre-pay for services.
Another powerful feature some services offer is the ability to create administrative reports highlighting booking activity within a given week or month. This can provide insights into your most and least popular booking slots, which in turn can help you schedule team members more efficiently or offer promotional discounts to attract customers to otherwise slack periods.
Most services are available through monthly or annual subscriptions, with prices varying by features and numbers of calendars. Popular choices include Timely, Agile CRM, BookedIn, Calendy and others.
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