Time management is essential in any business.
For appointment-based businesses, however, failure to manage time well is the equivalent of leaving money on the table.
Fortunately, there are simple steps that all appointment-based businesses can take to optimize their time, fill their schedules, and boost their revenue.
Here are ten tips for doing just that.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
One of the simplest ways to fill gaps in your business schedule is via social media.
As a marketing tool, social media is a quick way to engage customers and communicate with an audience.
When you have last-minute openings, post them on social media using rich text or a bold graphic outlining the details.
Make inviting people to your social media page or group a part of your standard operating procedures.
Have your front desk staff ask new clients to follow you on Facebook to get updates on last-minute appointment openings, and show them how to turn on notifications so that they’ll never miss a post.
Send a birthday card!
Sending birthday cards by email to your clients is an original way to make sure your customer feel special.
Of course, choosing the right card, personalizing it, is paramount to leave a good impression and not appear as spam.
Create a Cancellation List
Cancellation lists are a simple way to fill open time blocks while keeping clients happy.
This list can be multi-faceted: have one for clients who have canceled and one for clients looking to get in sooner.
Cross-reference the list and call clients who are waiting for a booking to get them in sooner.
What if you don’t have a client waitlist?
Call clients who have upcoming appointments and offer them a cancellation spot in their preferred time frame.
Audit and Upgrade Your Systems
For appointment-based businesses, having the right systems in place is essential. T
ake a look at the systems you currently have in place, not just for scheduling, but for the entire business.
Outline any pain points you have with the payroll system, any marketing tools you use, and your scheduling software.
Write a list of the problems, as well as ideal features, and research a system that fits your needs.
Many established businesses make the mistake of staying with the status quo.
Technology has evolved exponentially in recent years.
There are a lot of cloud-based, affordable systems that incorporate automation that will boost customer retention even after your business is closed for the day.
Find Your Magic Number
For many appointment-based businesses, such as a salon or fitness center, there’s a magic number.
This is the number of visits it takes before customer loyalty starts to take hold, and your focus shifts from acquisition to retention.
For example, if you know that it takes an average of six visits for your customers to fall in love with your gym, look at promotions that can help them get to that number.
Maybe it’s a discounted first visit with another discount for booking a second visit before they leave.
Promos on package deals for new customers can also help get them over that threshold.
Book Again Before They Leave
As nice as it is to give your customers the benefit of the doubt, once they step out that door, the rest of the world comes rushing in.
Whether you’re a dentist or an esthetician, booking another appointment should be a part of the check-out process.
They may not intentionally choose not to book another appointment– the thought just gets lost on the larger daily to-do list of their life.
Train your front desk to book a follow up before taking payment from your client.
While it may be optional to book another appointment, try to use language that encourages clients to follow through.
Rather than “can I book a follow-up appointment for you?” try something like “Dr. Smith recommends a follow-up service in eight weeks, which would put you in the first week of December.
What time of day works best for you?”
Have a No-Show Policy
No-show rates are a huge issue for appointment-based businesses.
Not only are you paying someone to be present for the appointment that’s missed, but you’re also missing out on the revenue that another customer could have provided if you filled the open gap.
There are a few ways to cut back on no-shows.
First and foremost, is having a no-show policy.
Put a policy in place that penalizes no-show appointments and make it crystal clear to customers.
Consider giving them a grace period.
You may have a customer who legitimately forgot once after years of loyalty to your business; charging them might do more harm than good.
Another way to reduce no shows is to ensure that you have a robust appointment reminder service in place.
Remind your clients a few weeks before their appointment, the week of their appointment, and 24 hours before.
Know Your Slow Periods
All businesses have slow times and steady times; it varies depending on the season, time of day, and the business itself.
Identifying these times can help you create the foundation for marketing efforts that will bring clients in during these hours.
If you experience a lull during the 9-5 time range when the majority of your clients are at work, look for quick offerings that they could take advantage of on their break.
For example, a naturopath may not be able to fit an appointment into the 15-minute time slot that a client has throughout the day, but they could offer a quick vitamin shot.
In this scenario, the value wouldn’t be a discount, but rather convenience.
Create a Reward System
Rewarding clients for their loyalty is a time-honored tradition in appointment-based businesses.
Perks are an effective way to boost client retention and keep them coming back for more.
There are a few ways you can reward clients, depending on the nature of your business:
- Offer a free appointment or add-on for their birthday or anniversary.
- Create a referral program in which a current client gets an incentive for bringing a new client to your business.
- Provide a gift certificate after a client spends a certain amount of money.
- Provide a small gift on their customer anniversary.
Be creative when considering what you can offer your customers.
Sometimes even a simple, hand-written birthday card is enough to improve customer loyalty and remind them to book another appointment.
Target Lapsed Customers
It’s a well-known fact that retaining customers is more profitable than acquiring new customers.
So what happens when a customer stops showing up?
Taking time to approach lapsed customers can fill your schedule and improve your overall retention rate.
There are many ways to execute this strategy. You can:
- Have someone work through a sales list and make personal calls from the front desk.
- Send an email with an incentive for returning.
- Create an automated flow that detects when a customer has lapsed and sends “we miss you” emails.
Having the right appointment booking system in place will help simplify this task by providing client insights and visit data.
Remove Booking Friction
Make it as easy as possible for clients to book an appointment with you by removing friction.
If the majority of your clients are from the Baby Boomer generation, your main focus should be on phone bookings.
If your clients are mostly Millennials, online booking is the way to go. If you have a diverse clientele, have a variety of contact options.
While client data is important, try to collect as much as possible during their visit rather than when they book the appointment. If the customer should come in early to fill in paperwork, let them know as soon as they book.
Modern appointment-based businesses need to have powerful systems and hard workers in place.
Systems should make it as simple as possible to fill appointments, both from the business and customer perspective.
Employees should be encouraged to help fill openings and make the schedule as efficient and cost-effective as possible.