5 Ways Online Scheduling Can Anchor Your Customer Relationships

With an overwhelming majority of customers now performing research online before they choose a product or service, it makes sense for service-based businesses to adopt online scheduling software so that clients can instantly book appointments online. But the benefits of these tools go beyond simply making it easier for clients to schedule time with your business.

Here are five ways that businesses can use online scheduling software to anchor their customer relationships, starting with the initial contact right through review generation and client retention.

1. Let Your Customers Book Where They Are

Whether they are on your corporate website, one of your social media pages, or reading your e-newsletter, an online booking portal makes its possible for new or existing customers to schedule an appointment instantly. Most calendar applications are mobile-friendly, allowing customers to book at home, work, or on the go from any web-enabled device. This dramatically increases conversion by eliminating the extra step of your customer having to call or email you to book an appointment, and it removes the back-and-forth of phone tag.

Don't give your prospective customers an excuse not to contact you. From a resources standpoint, an online booking portal also frees up your staff's time to focus on more important relationship-building initiatives.

2. Initiate the Customer Relationship Before the First Appointment

By automating email or text message notifications and reminders, an online scheduling application can initiate a personalized communication with your customer before they even enter your brick-and-mortar locations. Not only does this reduce costly appointment no-shows, but it is also an easy and convenient way for you to share important information about your policies or services with customers. For example, including a blurb about fees that apply for last-minute cancellations or instructions on how to prepare for the appointment are great ways to build awareness and connect.

Some businesses also use their scheduling software to collect important information about the customer in advance. For example, a nutritionist may build a short questionnaire into the booking process to gain insight into the customer’s eating habits before their initial consultation.

3. Build Positive Online Reviews Following Appointments

According to a 2016 survey by BrightLocal, 84 percent of consumers now trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation, making online reputation management crucial for any business. You can use online scheduling software to automate a thank-you email after an appointment, encouraging customers to submit a review on Google My Business, Yelp or Angie's List if they are satisfied, or to reach out directly to your business to resolve the issue if they are not.

You can even collect information about satisfaction levels by building a short questionnaire into your follow-up email. Survey results can help you refine your services, and they can also be integrated into future advertising campaigns.

4. Maintain Regular Contact Between Appointments

Many scheduling tools can integrate their customer database with e-newsletter applications like MailChimp, letting you reconnect with customers around insightful content and seasonal promotions. Professional-looking e-newsletters are easy to build by simply selecting your preferred template and uploading your logo, images, and content.

Using a scheduling tool to manage e-newsletter opt-ins is also key to ensuring the most receptive clients receive your communications while preventing unwanted emails to those who prefer not to be contacted. Having everything integrated into the same application consolidates your activities and avoids duplication of work, but more importantly, it lets you maintain one central, current distribution list.

5. Encourage Repeat Appointments with Reports and Search Features

The customer database is the heart of any scheduling application, allowing you to store, track, and search for important client data such as birthdays, notes, and appointment history. Search functions enable you to sift through this data and generate meaningful lists that help you manage your business. Similarly, reports and dashboards in scheduling software present insights at a glance.

Need to know who your black sheep are? Just pull up a list of clients with repeat no-shows on file. Want to know who your top revenue-generating clients are, or your most popular services? No problem. You can also create retention reports that identify customers who are due for a new appointment but may have been distracted with other errands.

Service-based businesses that generate revenue through appointments should prioritize calendar management with proper tools that help them connect with clients before their first appointment, at the time of booking, after the appointment, and throughout the customer life cycle. Online scheduling can be just what the doctor ordered.

Dominic Iafigliola is the founder and engineer behind CalendarSpots.com, a hosted online scheduling software for businesses of all sizes. Since the launch of CalendarSpots.com in 2009, Iafigliola has worked with entrepreneurs in the health and wellness, medical, education, nonprofit, and many other service-based fields to make their scheduling more efficient and effective.

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