There are two ways to go about answering any question: be as efficient as possible, or delve into the details. When you delve into the details, you’ll find more questions come up; reality is necessarily complex. Let’s look at both answers to the question posed in the title. How does online appointment software affect business sales? Positively. That’s the easy answer. The complex answer is where all the good stuff is, though, so read on.
Online Appointments and Client Acquisition
Imagine you own a tattoo parlour. You want to book more clients, and you have a substantial following on social media. You decide to put the two together, and you look into appointment software for tattoo artists. You’ll need to find software that can integrate with your social media page, as well as with any email or ad campaigns you engage in.
Online appointments help client acquisition in a number of ways. The above scenario illustrates one of these boons: you can get clients to book with you through any number of platforms they interact with you on. That means you can leverage traffic from your most frequented pages.
Booking online also means you can catch clients during hours you wouldn’t normally be able to book them. Someone could be browsing your Instagram at 3 AM and decide they want to make an appointment; without automated software that would be impossible, and you could well lose out on your sale (unless you’re a hardcore night owl, in which case, apply the same logic for 8 AM).
These softwares also provide clients an avenue to book that doesn’t require them to interact over the phone. Phone interactions can make a lot of clients nervous, and the ability to book without having to describe their needs to another human being (at least, not right away) can alleviate anxiety and help net you new clients.
Better Marketing Through Data
When you book an appointment through a phone call, you don’t want to be asking your clients questions like “How did you hear about us?”. You just want to get the important details, book the client, and get on with your day.
Through the clever use of redirects and landing pages, “How did you hear about us” can be asked automatically, without the client ever knowing they’re providing the information. Using different links for different social media pages allows you to track information about where traffic to your booking page is coming from, as well as how many people from each point actually book with you. This streamlines an important data collection process – automation breeds automation. Good data means you can improve your marketing, and better marketing means more sales.
Weed Out Inefficiencies
Inefficiency is the enemy of progress. There are a number of inefficiencies that online booking software can address; three of the most important are scheduling conflicts, no-shows, and poor resource allocation.
Scheduling conflicts usually occur when you’re using a wide variety of methods to book clients. Find online booking software that coordinates with the calendars used by you and your staff. Time slots that are already in use will be greyed out, so clients literally can’t book with you if you’ve already got something scheduled. Be sure that you and your staff all use the same scheduling/calendar software, and that it links with the online booking software, and these conflicts will be a thing of the past.
No-shows happen – nothing is going to prevent all no-shows. Online booking software does an excellent job at eliminating most no-shows, however – provided you choose the right software. Find a booking program that sends automated reminders to clients before their appointments. Optimally, these reminders should be customizable so you can decide how frequently they’re sent, as well as what they say. A lot of no-shows occur because clients simply forgot about the appointment; reminders largely remove that possibility. You should also look for software that allows you to take payments online; people are more inclined to show up when they’ve already paid you.
Resource allocation is improved when you transition to online booking because staff members who were handling booking are now free to do other work. That’s especially useful if you’re a small business, because you’ve undoubtedly hired people for specific skills (or you’re doing everything yourself). The more time you and your staff have to focus on your strengths, the more efficient your whole operation becomes.
The Bottom Line
Client acquisition, efficiencies, data driven marketing – all of these things lead to more sales. Realistically, however, sales aren’t the only thing that matters. Every successful entrepreneur knows you need to take a more holistic picture of business activity to measure success. When your booking software is costing you more than the number of sales it’s netting you, that’s bad ROI.
There are a few things to keep in mind to maximize your ROI when purchasing booking software. First, make sure the booking page itself is well designed. You should have as few fields as possible to fill out when clients book. This is especially important when accommodating clients on mobile – no one wants to type a bunch of information on their smartphone.
You should also keep in mind that you may have clients who are incapable or wary about booking online. Should these clients make up a good portion of your client base, you’ll need to have other booking options to accommodate. In other words, just because you provide online booking doesn’t mean you should get rid of over-the-phone booking.
Finally, don’t be afraid to try before you buy. Most online booking companies will allow you to use a free trial of their software before committing to it. Many of these companies also offer tiered plans that allow you to upgrade should you need to include more calendars in your plan. You can start with the lowest tier plan and scale up as your business grows. Don’t be afraid to try multiple booking softwares to test out which one suits your needs best before you commit to a paid plan.
Christie Simon is a writer based in Canada. She writes articles with a focus on marketing and entrepreneurship for a variety of businesses. Some of her favourite pieces can be found on the Funeral Home Marketing website.