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Top Five Ways Small Businesses Can Make Scheduling Easier

Small businesses, especially those that offer services, have always looked for ways to improve the manner in which they schedule and manage appointments and reservations. Although necessary for most businesses to operate efficiently, scheduling and managing appointments can be a tedious and time-consuming task, especially if the business owner, operator or staff members rely on paper appointment books, electronic calendars and customers phoning in their appointments and reservations.
Technological advancements, along with proven procedures, can make the scheduling process easier for small businesses and their employees. Here are the top five ways how:
1. Offer customer self-scheduling. The number one way to make scheduling easier for operators and staff is to offer online self-scheduling to customers. By allowing individuals to book and manage their own appointments and reservations at their own convenience and at any hour of the day, businesses can dramatically reduce the number of phone calls and e-mails. They may even schedule more appointments, as customers will have the ability to schedule during non-business hours. Customers will also appreciate this benefit, as more and more now turn to the Internet to conduct their daily activities. Web-based appointment-scheduling software systems such as Appointment-Plus offer this functionality.
2. Send reminders prior to scheduled appointments. Everyone appreciates reminders, especially customers with upcoming appointments or reservations. In addition to being a courtesy, they can also reduce the number of “no-shows” who fail to appear at their scheduled date and time. Surveys have shown that reminders can reduce the number of “no-shows” by 50 percent. Customers failing to make their appointments can be both frustrating and costly, as it makes that time slot unavailable to other customers. Although any form of reminder is beneficial, small businesses can easily automate this important task by utilizing scheduling software. Many appointment scheduling software programs allow users to specify when to send a reminder e-mail or text message. The software does the rest and automatically sends it on that specified day.
3. Centralize appointment and customer information. Scheduling appointments usually involves more than just writing down a name and time. Depending on the type of service a small business offers, it may also require reviewing customer notes, specifying the service he or she is booking, determining the staff member assigned or chose for that specific service, and looking at prior appointments and payment history. That’s a lot of information to jot down in an appointment book. And there may not be ample room to type in and completely view this in an electronic calendar. Even maintaining spreadsheets is inefficient, especially if juggling between two or three of them to locate the information. A solution is online scheduling software, which collects and maintains this vital information. It allows users to easily view and analyze the data, as well as create appointment and customer reports.
4. Provide easy access to operators and staff members. There may be instances when small business operators and their employees need access from outside the office or at home. For businesses that operate multiple locations or from different on-site spots, staff members in each of those areas may need to view and manage their appointments. In these instances, a paper appointment book or program restricted to one computer does not suffice. An online application accessible from any Internet connection does, and it’s the reason many small businesses incorporate online appointment scheduling software into their operations. They give owners and staff the flexibility to access and manage their appointments securely through their laptop, PDA and other mobile devices, as well as from their home computer.
5. Turn in your appointment book and pen for a keyboard and mouse. One would think that every business utilizes a computer and software programs to help them run their business more effectively. However, not all do. And many that use software programs for office tasks continue to book and manage their service appointments and reservations in a paper appointment book. Entering appointment information into a software application-such as Web-based appointment scheduling software-not only makes it easier to read and manage, it also stores it in a more secure location.
Scheduling appointments typically is not the favorite task of small business owners and staff. But it is a necessary one. Luckily, easy-to-implement items and techniques such as the ones mentioned above can put a small business on the road to easy appointment-scheduling. From online customer scheduling and staff accessibility to beneficial reminder messages, a little creativity can go a long way in helping improve appointment procedures.

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