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Online Business Calendar Helps Service-Based Businesses Automate, Improve Scheduling Procedures
Today’s tech-savvy customers know what they want from their service providers. Obviously, good customer service, quality and value are important, as they always have been. These are the pillars that help small businesses grow and succeed. Another factor that is becoming increasingly important for owners and operators, regardless of the type of services they provide, is the ability for their customers to interact with the business and conduct online transactions, especially scheduling appointments and booking reservations. An online business calendar is the perfect tool to accomplish this.
Online Business Calendar: The Basics
Online business calendar is the term many small businesses use to refer to online appointment-scheduling software, a cloud-based technology that provides functionality for owners, operators and employees to fully automate, streamline and improve their booking processes. Typically, these applications are classified as software as a service (SaaS) programs, “pay-as-you-go” services that typically do not require contracts, expensive hardware, downloads or installations, or in-house or contracted IT support. All that is required to implement and use the software is an internet connection. You can access the online business calendar like any other web site.
Although functionality may vary between providers, standard features found in most online business calendar applications include:
• Online customer self-scheduling. Ask any small business owner who uses an online scheduling calendar what their favorite feature is and most will say its online client self-scheduling. This feature alone can completely automate the entire scheduling process, as it gives customers the ability to book their services at any time of the day and when it is most convenient for them. The system does the rest and books the person automatically without any extra effort from the owner or his staff.
• Automatic e-mail and text message reminders. Reminders continue to be an important tool for keeping open time slots full. In fact, studies show that any type of reminder can reduce the “no-show” rate by more than 50 percent. However, reminders require a considerable amount of staff time and resources, especially if done manually. Some online business calendar applications take the effort out of this important task by automatically sending e-mail and text reminders before scheduled appointments or reservations. Owners or operators simply select when they want to send a reminder one or three days before a customer’s appointment or reservation and the system does the rest.
• Record keeping and reporting. Another advantage of an online business calendar is data management and storage. In short, the software can centralize all customer and appointment/reservation information in one easy-to-access location. Before implementing online scheduling software into their operations, many owners and employees would record appointment and customer information in multi-paper appointment books, spreadsheets, folders and other documents. Not only is this method of scheduling time-consuming, it forces a person to sift back and forth between pages, files and documents to find the details of a specific client or appointment. It can also make it a hassle to compile all this information for a report. An online scheduling calendar makes it easy to quickly locate details about a person or their appointment. Many allow users to easily create and download standard reports.
• E-marketing solutions. Reaching customers through e-newsletters and messages keeps them in the loop on discounts, specials and other news. Keeping track of their e-mail contact information, however, can be difficult. Because an online business calendar centralizes all data in one place, it’s easy to access customer information, including e-mail addresses. Some online scheduler calendars allow users to send messages through the software instead of downloading them to an Excel or other file (although this option is usually available as well).
Other popular features available in some online business calendars include online customer payment options, repeat customer reminders (sent to individuals after a certain period of inactivity), gift certificates and package bundles of multiple service appointments.
How it helps service providers improve operations, save time and money
Besides making it easy for customers to book appointments and reservations, an online business calendar can save a business time and money and ultimately help it grow. Although one of the main reasons many small businesses implement online scheduling is to provide a convenient way for people to schedule online, they quickly discover that many of the features are also beneficial to the overall operation.
When implemented properly, an online business calendar can:
• Save time. In addition to being convenient for clients, online self-scheduling can dramatically reduce the number of appointment phone calls and e-mails an owner or employee must answer. This, in turn, frees them up for more important tasks. When a business schedules a large number of daily appointments and reservations, an online scheduler calendar can eliminate the need to bring in a new staff member to handle scheduling.
• Save money. As the old saying goes, “Time is money.” Time savings from an online business calendar quickly equates to monetary savings, when you factor in employee wages or owner time. Additionally, automated e-mail and text message reminders, as mentioned above, can help reduce “no-shows.” This means fewer time slots unfilled… and more revenue from services provided. And since the scheduling software provider usually oversees the maintenance of the software, the owner or operator does not budget for any IT support, as all updates, upgrades and technical issues are addressed by the provider.
• Keep business open 24 hours a day. An online scheduler calendar can keep a service provider open 24 hours a day, even if its business hours are only 9 to 5. Many people these days don’t have time to book a service appointment during the day, and instead operate most of them. their daily transactions in the evening or morning. And they want to book an appointment instead of leaving a message requesting it. A service that offers 24-7 booking will definitely see an increase in scheduled services.
• It makes business more competitive. People who are unable to make an appointment over the phone during normal business hours do not want to pick up the phone and prefer to conduct daily transactions online. In some instances, a person may not even consider a service provider if it does not offer online scheduling. Not providing an online option to book a service can put a business at a huge disadvantage, especially if competitors offer it.
Implementing new technology in a small business operation doesn’t have to be a daunting endeavor, especially if it’s a SaaS application like an online business calendar. Online scheduling software providers have made it easy to add this technology to any service-based business with minimal effort and cost. It’s an affordable and smart solution that both customers and business owners will appreciate.
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