As we’re entering a new phase in the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and service providers are preparing to reopen once restrictions are relaxed. When it’s time to reopen, there’s a good chance that customer footfall will increase, as their demands have been put on hold for some time. Meanwhile, there’s still an urgent need to maintain social distancing and high safety standards as the risk of virus spread remains high. This is a challenge that requires advance planning and big adjustments. How can service providers and businesses adapt to this new normal?
One of the solutions is to use an appointment scheduling solution to manage customer journeys and keep control of the arrival flow. What is this, and how does it work? We’ve compiled the most frequent questions about appointment booking systems, and some specific questions related to the current situation.
What is an appointment scheduling solution?
An appointment scheduling solution, also known as appointment booking system or appointment management software, is a solution that makes it easy for service providers to manage appointments. The tools within an appointment management solution can include:
- Internet booking
- Mobile app booking
- User interface for call center workers
When an appointment system is integrated with a customer journey management system (also known as queue management system), it becomes a powerful system that enables organizations to move customers seamlessly from an online to in-person visit.
How does an appointment scheduling solution work?
There are several ways, but the most common appointment booking systems work like this:
- Customer books an appointment (online via web booking, or by calling a call center). Here, the customer can choose the service they require and preferred branch or staff, if those are available. Customer receives a booking confirmation.
- Closer to the appointment date, the customer receives a reminder with a check-in link
- Customer checks in by themselves using the link in the reminder message (staff-assisted check-in is also available)
- After check-in, the customer receives a mobile ticket where they can monitor their place in the appointment sequence. They don’t have to be in the building until it’s time for their appointment
- The customer is called when it’s their turn, and receives the service.
What are the benefits of an appointment scheduling solution?
Appointment scheduling solutions have a lot of advantages, both service providers and their customers.
Benefits of an online appointment booking system for customers
- Reduced waiting time
- More flexibility and peace of mind
- Better customer experience
Benefits of an appointment scheduling system for businesses and service providers
- Control over arrival flow and customer footfall on premises
- Matching service requests to staff competency
- Improved operational and staff efficiency
- Less pressure on staff
To read more about the benefits of appointment booking scheduling, you can read this article: Appointment scheduling tips to improve customer flow management.
How can an appointment management system aid social distancing?
Appointment booking is the simplest way to make sure your customers don’t need to spend time waiting on premises until it’s their turn to be served.
Customers can schedule their arrival close to their appointment time, which can considerably reduce their waiting time and therefore help to prevent crowding in your waiting room or store. This way, you as a service provider can keep control of the customer flow and optimize your resources, while also reducing or even eliminating unexpected crowds.
How can appointment management software help with business and service reopening?
In the current situation, safety is the top priority for all service providers who wish to reopen once the restrictions are eased. The risk of COVID-19 is likely to persist for a long time, so investing in solutions that can help with managing arrival and customer flows can help businesses & organizations to deliver their services while maintaining a high safety standard.
For businesses and organizations that expect a significant influx of customers once they reopen, this can be mitigated by having a well-integrated solution that can manage both customer flow and staff allocation. This solution needs to be able to accommodate both of these to let the operation runs efficiently.
What are the things to consider when investing in an appointment scheduling solution?
Some features are required to fully realize the benefits of an appointment system. Here are some things to consider when investing in an online appointment scheduling system:
- Does it include an online calendar and appointment module?
- Does it provide the option for virtual or self check-in?
- Is it fully integrated into the customer journey management system?
- Does it offer an automatic confirmation and reminders to the customer? These are useful to prevent no-shows
- Does it have business intelligence capabilities to combine appointments and walk-in customers? Having these will be beneficial for planning staff allocation.
What is the best way to optimize an appointment management system?
Appointment management software perform best when it’s fully integrated with a queue management system that can handle arrivals and the complete customer journey. Here are other tips to optimize an appointment scheduling solutions:
- Segment customers on their bookings into different queues depending on the service they require to increase efficiency
- Control the number of visitors by managing the appointment slots you have available, or creating a different set of calling rules to decrease the number of people waiting.
- Plan staff allocation to get a balanced and controlled waiting period
- Keep customers updated with booking confirmations, reminders, expected waiting times, or any changes.
- Analyze the data of the waiting and service times, the number of waiting customers, and customers’ satisfaction to improve the service performance.
Which industries can benefit from appointment booking solutions in an environment with COVID-19?
Appointment booking solutions can be used in any kind of industry, for various types of business and service. Some examples:
Patient scheduling software for healthcare
As healthcare workers are experiencing an increase in their workload, a patient scheduling system can be a way to relieve some of the stress. With patient appointments scheduled in advance, healthcare facilities can plan resource allocation in advance, increasing efficiency and reducing staff’s stress levels. Moreover, they can regulate the patient flow better with appointment booking solutions.
Appointment booking system for government offices
Public departments like tax, driving license, immigration, pension and benefits have always been busy. But now, when the services have been put on hold or delayed due to COVID-19, it’s likely that there will be a surge of demands when these offices reopen.
Appointment solutions can help manage the visitor flow and organize appointments. As a service provider, you can decide on the number of appointment slots to be opened at any given time based on your staff availability, giving you the full control of the number of people on-premise. For more information, you can read this article on how to maintain social distancing when reopening government offices.
Appointment scheduling system for retail
Many businesses are looking into reopening as soon as restrictions are relaxed. In most places, there are still regulations on the maximum number of people allowed in an indoor location at any one time, and this is a challenge for retail stores.
It is not impossible to keep the business running while staying compliant with appointment solutions, however. Here are a few ways to optimize appointment solutions:
- Implement social distancing in stores by regulating the available slots – This way, people don’t have to wait in a physical line to enter the store, but they can schedule their visit with appointment booking.
- Do curbside pickup (also known as click-and-collect service) – Customers can order the goods online, and pick them up at a time that’s convenient for them.
To read more about how you can implement retail social distancing, read our article on safe queuing and crowd control in stores.
Client booking system for banks and other finance institutions
For banks or any other finance service providers, you can avoid unscheduled visits and minimize the crowd in the waiting room by implementing appointment-only policy.
Online booking system for small businesses
Aside from the industries mentioned above, appointment solutions can also be used for various types of businesses of different sizes. As there’s a need to limit the number of people in an indoor location, appointment booking systems for restaurants, salons, and spas could help businesses to run smoothly in the current environment.
If you’d like to know more about appointment scheduling solution and how it can help with social distancing and reopening your business, you can download this guide.