If your staff are having difficulty getting in touch with customers to arrange or confirm upcoming appointments, it’s probably because they’re too preoccupied trying to get everything on their ‘to do’ list completed – just like you and your team.
Most businesses these days accept that a website is a valuable tool for making their customers’ lives easier and saving them time. Our recent survey confirmed this, with nearly 90% of respondents saying that they had both a website and a social media presence to reach out and interact with clients.
Interestingly, however, only 25% of this group had websites which enabled fully-fledged online bookings (not just an online form) even though this tool offers customers tremendous convenience and time savings. Online bookings provide a fast and convenient option for your busy clients, while also increasing your practice’s efficiency, revenue and customer experience.
If you think this sounds like a win-win you’d be right. In customer service, the more options, convenience and control you offer your clients, the better. Online booking supports this; it takes the control for scheduling appointments out of your hands and puts them in your clients’.
For example, our Rapport® client communications suite – which integrates with our various practice management solutions – offers two-way online scheduling between pet owners and your practice via online booking.
Give customers the power of choice
Based on the parameters you set, customers can schedule appointments in real-time, at a time and place of their choosing, and receive automated appointment reminders ahead of time. This means they can schedule appointments from their smartphones at a time that’s convenient; for example, during a lunch break, while waiting to pick up the kids after sports practice, or on the bus after work.
Rather than going back and forth with reception staff to find a date and time that works for both parties, clients can see the dates and times available online immediately and select one that works best with their schedule. And if something comes up, and they need to cancel or reschedule, this is easily achieved through the online system too.
Importantly, having an online booking system doesn’t replace traditional methods. If clients prefer to call up and make an appointment over the phone, there’s nothing stopping them from doing this. An online booking system provides your clients with more options, so they can choose to make appointments in the way that best suits them. The power of choice is a great boost to customer loyalty.
Appointment no-shows and cancellations can negatively impact your practice revenue and cause inefficiencies in office staffing and overall operational performance. Online booking – coupled with automated reminders – increases reminder compliance and reduces no-shows. Our research has found that as many as 9 percent of appointments are no-shows, resulting in $94,500 in lost annual revenue for the average practice.
Whether a no-show was the result of an unexpected event or just plain forgetfulness, an online booking facility is likely to help improve these statistics. Allowing clients to book appointments online and receive automated reminders closer to the time will improve your no-show figures.
Furthermore, research shows that with online booking, 26% of appointments are scheduled for the same, or the following, day. This vastly reduces the possibility of an unexpected diary entry clashing with a veterinary appointment, or pure forgetfulness over a long period of time.
Online booking the ultimate call to action
If a new customer visits your website that’s a positive sign of interest. The next step is to get them to make an appointment and walk through the doors of your practice – which is where online booking comes into its own.
Including an online booking facility on your website prompts your customers to turn their interest into action there and then. Our research suggests this works: When we surveyed practices that had online booking systems, we found that 17% of the appointments booked were for new clients. For existing clients, an online booking system can also act as a subtle reminder to book in for an annual check-up or routine appointment.
Practices with an online booking facility provide clients with the ultimate ‘call to action’ – the ability to book an appointment at a time and place of their choosing.
And, assuming you’ve put the effort into building a great website, you want people to use it. Just as online booking is great for getting new customers through your doors, it’s also another way of getting existing clients to browse your website while they’re visiting it. This means that they’re more likely to come across other important content you may have posted, such as promotions or blog posts.
Online booking systems free up staff and boost revenue
Aside from all the benefits for your customers, an online booking system also has positive benefits for your practice. It frees up time for your staff and eases the huge workload of having to field calls from clients who potentially could – or would rather – book online.
In fact, 50% appointments made via an online booking system are done after hours, demonstrating the value of a 24/7 online scheduling service. Online appointment bookings eliminate a lot of unnecessary administration, lifting the workload on your staff and freeing them up to perform more valuable activities.
Given these benefits, it’s unsurprising that practices that implement online booking systems report a 17% initial increase in revenue. These statistics demonstrate clear customer demand and illustrate some of the more obvious ways a practice can benefit.
While many practices still rely on traditional methods for scheduling appointments, many of today’s clients are well used to organising their lives online and most prefer the convenience that this offers.