Until recently, most businesses and organizations accepted and managed their appointments and reservations in the traditional manner: The customer, patient, client or student phones in or e-mails his or her appointment request, a representative checks availability and confirms the appointment date and time, and then he or she enters it into a paper appointment book or an electronic calendar, such as ones offered by Google and Microsoft Outlook. Depending on staff and operational resources, the business or organization may also follow up with a reminder phone call, e-mail or postcard.
These outdated processes can be inefficient, time-consuming and ineffective in managing service appointments and reservations. This is why a growing number of businesses and organizations have incorporated online appointment-
THE ROLE OF THE INTERNET
The increase in Internet use among the population has changed the way most individuals conduct business and interact in both their personal and professional lives, as advancements in technology have made it easier to automate and improve time-consuming and tedious tasks, such as scheduling appointments. An ever-increasing number of potential customers and clientele search for services online and may be more apt to select a specific service-provider based on the online features it offers. A 2009 Citibank survey revealed that 57 percent of small business responders (20 to 99 employees) made greater use of their Web sites in 2009 than they did the previous year. It also showed that small businesses are also using the Web for e-marketing (28 percent). As for future activities, 72 percent of small-business responders in a more recent Citibank survey indicated that they are likely to use a Web site for marketing or expanding their business in the next 12 months.
REASONS FOR UTILIZING ONLINE SCHEDULING SOFTWARE
One of the most common reasons given by small businesses for utilizing online scheduling software is convenience for both them and their clientele. A survey conducted by Appointment-
When utilized properly, an online scheduling software application can reduce the number of phone calls and e-mails from both current and prospective customers and clientele looking to schedule and cancel their appointments and reservations. It also reduces the time needed to manually input and manage appointments in a paper book or electronic calendar. This, in turn, can free up a substantial amount of free time that can now be devoted to more important tasks. Businesses and organizations simply direct their customers and clientele to their Web site or supply them with a URL link to access the Appointment-
Online scheduling software is also a convenience for customers and clientele. As more and more individuals conduct their daily activities online, the ability to offer them the option of scheduling appointments and book reservations at their own convenience-
Money Savings. Automating and streamlining appointment-
"No-shows", the bane of many businesses and organizations, can have a negative impact on operating revenue, as they waste time slots that could be given to other customers. Automated e-mail and text message reminders, a popular feature found in some online scheduling software, can help reduce the number of no-shows by as much as 50 percent. The system automatically sends these on a specified day prior to a scheduled appointment, such as one day or two days before each appointment.
Reporting. Most businesses and organizations rely on accurate reporting and record-keeping for a variety of operational purposes. Inputting, maintaining and disseminating data can be a cumbersome and tedious process, especially if the information is found in numerous files, folders and spreadsheets. Online scheduling software maintains this valuable information in one centralized location, making it easy to access and review. It also gives users the ability to quickly export standard reports.
Businesses and organizations nationwide rely on Web-based appointment scheduling software to improve their operations. It's easy to use, convenient for business operator and clientele, a money-saver, offers robust reporting and record-keeping, and accessible from any Internet connection. Most operators who begin using the software see immediate positive results in both operations and customer feedback.
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