Many small businesses, including hair salons, family doctors, and pet grooming services, rely on appointments to keep their businesses running. The more appointments you can get, and the more reliably you can get them, the better. In today’s world, appointment scheduling happens 24/7. In fact, 40 percent of online scheduling happens after hours, typically through an online portal.
Unfortunately, many business owners and marketers make critical mistakes that leave them with fewer bookings, poorly organized information that affects their management, and errors that drive customers away.
So how can you learn to recognize and fix these mistakes?
The Biggest Appointment Mistakes
The first step is to raise your awareness about the common errors made by small business owners. Then learn to take action to prevent or mitigate them.
These are some of the most common:
1. Using the wrong tools. You have several options when it comes to online appointment booking. Some CMS platforms offer limited built-in functionality, but if you want more consistency, precision and customizability, you’ll need to research other options. Simplybook.me, for example, is an online scheduler that offers custom features, a booking website, and other perks to help ensure your web presence is successful in generating new appointments –and it’s free to sign up.
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2. Going after the wrong audience. You could also go wrong by targeting the wrong audience. If your primary demographic is middle-aged parents of young children, you won’t book many appointments if the language and design of your landing page targets teenagers or senior citizens. Work to understand your target audience through market research, and create marketing collateral that appeals to them specifically.
3. Giving too little information to consumers. People want to know exactly what they’re getting into before they book an appointment. Your existing customers probably don’t mind a lack of information, but new customers are demanding. Consider explaining, in detail, what services you’re going to provide, and what new customers can expect from their first experience — including any prep work they should do before showing up.
4. Failing to elicit a sense of urgency. Instilling a sense of urgency is one of the best ways to increase conversions. Naturally, people have a tendency to delay decision-making — especially if it has to do with a financial expenditure. Giving them an incentive to act quickly, such as a limited-time offer, can be the spark that encourages them to move forward.
5. Having no clear procedure for your staff. Once a customer makes an appointment, it’s on you to make sure the appointment is properly documented, viewed and handled by your staff members. If you don’t have a clear system in place, details can get lost or overlooked — and your customers will end up unhappy. If you want to retain your customers — and not just attract a constant stream of new ones — you need to take care of them.
6. Sending no automated reminders. People are hit-or-miss when it comes to remembering when their appointments are, and the “miss” factor of the equation is bad both for your customers and for your business. If you want to have a higher attendance rate, make sure you have automated reminders to alert your customers when their appointment is upcoming — and when it’s imminent. Without those reminders, all your appointments will be a bigger gamble, and you’ll get fewer cancellations with reasonable lead time.
7. Not getting feedback from your customers. Customer feedback is vital to the health of your business, and the same is true for the success of your appointment scheduling system. If you aren’t regularly collecting feedback about the appointment setting experience, from signing up online to walking in the door, you could be missing valuable information that could help you improve the process. Ask for specific recommendations on how the system could be improved. You might be surprised to learn of some easy tweaks to make the experience better for everyone.
Tweaking to Perfection
Earning, organizing and following through on appointments is a complex process with many variables, so don’t be surprised if your initial efforts don’t result in a perfect system. There’s always time to make tweaks gradually, so you learn which of your efforts are paying off and which ones need to be abandoned. Keep updating your process as you learn more about your customers and your system of choice, and the volume and consistency of your online appointments will only grow.
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