It is estimated that 66 percent of health systems will allow patients to schedule their own appointments digitally by 2019, and 64% of patients will make use of the online scheduling. These appointments are worth about $3.2 billion. But healthcare isn’t the only industry that’s taking advantage of online schedulers.
Gone are the days of pen and paper schedules, massive record books, and even complicated Excel spreadsheets. Online scheduling software is versatile and provides many opportunities for businesses to streamline their operations. By examining these solutions, it is easy to see why it’s becoming a top choice for many businesses in such a short amount of time.
But before you begin shopping around for an online scheduling system, you need to evaluate your organization’s needs and capabilities. The first sign that a business should consider online scheduling software is growth.
Signs an Online Scheduler Is Needed
At its core, an online booking application lets business managers quickly create schedules that can easily be viewed online. By putting your scheduling online and making it interactive, customers don’t have to pick up the phone or send an email to make an appointment — and people increasingly prefer to book appointments digitally. In fact, according to Fit Small Business, 35% of people want to schedule appointments during non-business hours, and 25 percent of Millennials only book online.
But good online schedulers do more than just book appointments. Here are a few ways online schedulers can help your business:
- They eliminate unnecessary phone calls. For retail businesses, online scheduling allows customers to see which staff are available at specific times, what services are offered, how long each takes, and more. Even if a business has only five employees, each has different skills, offers different services, and works at different times. The various services require distinct pieces of equipment or availability considerations.This can all be difficult to manage and relay to customers during a phone call. Instead, it can all be populated in the online schedule, which is then available to customers when they book their appointments.
- They can integrate into basic payroll features. Imagine if another five or 10 employees were added to that company mentioned in item No. 1. Trying to figure out which employee needs to be where at what time and which equipment needs to be used could quickly turn into a logistical nightmare — especially when it comes to navigating how many hours an employee has worked. But online scheduling solutions can keep it all together.Scheduling applications can be integrated with time clocks and other payroll systems, making it easier to keep track of who is performing which tasks and how much they should be paid. Google Calendar not only allows for automated appointment scheduling and the ability to check the availability of certain staff members in a layered calendar view, but it also offers native integration with many of the other Google services you’re likely already using.
- They allow companies to be mobile. Other advanced solutions allow shifts to be coordinated at more than one location, which is particularly useful for a business with multiple facilities. Some even allow employees to check in at a particular location via their mobile devices, which is beneficial if you’re trying to track the activities of a mobile cleaning crew, for example.Consider the logistics of dock scheduling. Working in a warehouse unloading trucks is difficult. Whenever you think a truck is coming in, you need to know how many staff members you’ll need on hand, where they need to be, how long the job will take, and more — all to get one truck out of your bay so that the one right behind it can take its place.
But so many problems can arise — trucks can be overbooked, you could be understaffed, trucks may be late, and you’re paying people to wait around. Online scheduling software could help avoid all of this. Drivers can adjust their appointment times and send an alert that they will be late while on the road. You wouldn’t have to worry about double booking at all, because the system wouldn’t have allowed it in the first place.
- They can send notifications. Bookings allows for appointment management and includes automatic confirmations and reminders, pushing updates to the calendars of all staff members, and more. Businesses can even adjust exactly how much time is required to cancel an appointment. With other online schedulers, like AppointmentPlus, when customers book appointments and services online, an alert is sent to staff. Many can also be integrated with email marketing systems, including Constant Contact and MailChimp.
If you’re having a difficult time keeping track of your business’s ongoing needs and what capabilities must be available to meet those needs, online scheduling is for you. It allows you to set a schedule, choose the best tools, deal with the unexpected, and encourage time-management skills.
Just as there are many options when it comes to online scheduling software, packages can range from $125 to more than $1,000, with licensing fees depending on the number of staff and the company’s needs. But it’s a worthwhile investment.
Walmart, for example, was able to trim costs by using an online scheduler to schedule the exact number of employees needed at any given time. This also earned them high marks from employees, who said the system made their schedules more consistent. Other major retailers, such as Forever 21 and Barnes & Noble, also use online scheduling systems.
The days of keeping track of everything on a paper desk calendar or even a spreadsheet are over. Online scheduling solutions streamline processes, provide better services to customers, and create working efficiencies — and all of this saves money for you and your business.
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Written by: Kendall Matthews, vice president of global marketing and communication for AppointmentPlus.