Answering calls and emails is the bane of many business owners workday. Either the owner is tied to the phone, or they need to hire an employee for this task. Taking appointments is of course essential to the success of any business but the time required reduces the amount that is available for growing the business and improving the quality of services. Using a booking reservation system enables business owners to regain this time and use it more productively.
The amount of time which is lost to answering phone calls and creating appointments is usually substantial. According to a study by Sage, the average small business spends 120 working days on administrative tasks. And as shown below the true cost of taking appointments is often underestimated because it doesn’t account for the impact of distraction. Most people can relate to having a work day which is “busy” but where very little actually feels like it is accomplished. This is a common experience for people who spend a large portion of their day taking phone calls and answering emails.
Luckily there are solutions to this major productivity killer. Read on to find out why using an online reservation software can help you to significantly improve your productivity, without sacrificing the service that you provide for your customers.
1. Eliminate the need for front desk person
To understand why a booking reservation system is so valuable in terms of productivity, consider the alternative of not having one. If there is no automated system in place to take bookings, then this needs to be done manually. The responsibility will inevitably fall to the owner of the business or a front desk person.
The time to take a phone call or answer an email is significant. There is of course the original interaction with that customer. In the case of an email that is reading their initial inquiry, thinking about a response, and then writing your reply. With a call it is understanding the clients’ needs and then talking them through their scheduling options. This process frequently requires more than one interaction. Once a booking has been confirmed you will need to enter it into whatever scheduling system you are using.
With an online booking reservation system all of this is performed by the client themselves. They are able to make their own booking without any interaction required by the owner or an employee. If they need to amend that reservation, they can also do this without needing to get a contact.
From the customer’s perspective, this is actually an even more convenient solution. They can make the booking at any time of the day that they want and using any device. In contrast, even if you have a dedicated employee to take calls or answer emails, appointments can only be made during working hours.
2. No disruption to workflow
Most people vastly underestimate the amount of time that it takes to return to a task after being interrupted. In a study by researchers at the University of Irvine, it was found on average that it took 23 minutes and 15 seconds on average to return to a task after being interrupted. When we consider this statistic, it is staggering the true cost of answering an email or phone call to book an appointment.
For example, if you taking just six emails or calls a day, you are losing almost two and half hours in productive time just returning to your original task. This doesn’t even account for the amount of time that is involved with taking the reservation or call.
Perhaps even more damaging to the long term success of your business is that this constant distraction reduces the opportunity for what is often called “deep work”. Deep work is where we are able to become fully engaged with a meaningful task over a long period of time.
This kind of deep work is what can produce real game-changing shifts for your business. If you or your key employees are being distracted by taking calls, then it is impossible for this deep work ever to take place. If you are the owner of a business and you are a person who takes the calls then the long term cost will be substantial. If you feel that you are always working “in” the business and never “on” the business, then distraction may be one of the chief culprits.
3. Reduce stress and enhance productivity
Another key finding from the University of Irvine study was that disruptions throughout the workday also lead to increased stress. According to the study:
“interruptions has its cost: people in the interrupted conditions experienced a higher workload, more stress, higher frustration, more time pressure, and effort.”
This finding will be common sense to anyone who has been tasked with answering the phone to take bookings. If you are trying to get other important work done, the constant interruptions can create a sense of overwhelm. Employees who are charged with taking bookings often experience frustration at not having time for other core tasks, which can, in turn, result in higher turnover.
Stress is well recognized as a major productivity killer. In a study of 22,347 employees in 12 countries, it was found that more than half of employees who were said to experience high levels of stress were disengaged from their job. In the case of employees who experienced low levels of stress, only one in ten said they there were disengaged.
The link between stress and low levels of productivity and frequent absenteeism is well established. An online reservation eliminates the stress of constantly having to take phone calls or answer emails. In turn, this can create a healthier work environment, where employees are able to work more productively on their other tasks.
4. Streamline taking payments
Taking the booking is only part of the process when a customer makes an appointment. That customer will also need to make payment for the booking. That could be to put down the initial deposit or to pay for the service in full. Having an employee take those payments manually can be time-consuming. If payment hasn’t been made then the customer needs to be chased.
With a WordPress reservation system payments can be integrated into your process. This includes setting an initial deposit to hold the appointment. By automating taking deposits as part of the booking process you can also reduce “no-shows”.
Enabling clients to make payments during the booking process eliminates the need to take payment details and enter them your system. In addition payments can be made an any time of the day. And because you can provide customers without access to their appointment details, clients can be confident that their booking has been made and paid for.
5. Eliminate the need for manual notifications
Customers want to be informed about the status of their appointment. Whether it’s a personal training session or an airport transfer, clients want to be confident that their appointment is booked in and will be provided on time. Reminder notifications are also one of the best ways of reducing no shows and ensuring that they have all of the relevant information they need in order to attend an appointment.
While booking notifications are an important element part of any business that takes appointments, delivering those messages manually takes time. With an online reservations system like Bookly those notifications can be completely automated.
Using templates, notifications can be set to be delivered on the desired schedule via email or SMS. Using automated notifications means that you don’t have to worry that key information hasn’t been sent to the client. Notifications can be triggered by particular events or time frames during the booking process. This might include having a notification immediately sent following a new appointment booking being made or on the day before the service is set to be delivered.
The overall result is happier and better informed customers, who are less likely to get in contact to find out information about their booking.
6. Obtain the relevant onboarding information
When you are providing any service there is certain onboarding information that the customer provides, which can make delivering that service more efficient. Unfortunately, many businesses obtain this information in a very ad hoc manner. If you are taking the onboarding details over the phone, then there is the possibility of human error leading to incorrect information being entered. If documents needed to be provided, then this may require the client to send these through manually and a member of staff upload them.
With an online booking system you can provide customers with the option to complete their own onboarding details. This could include filling out a questionnaire or uploading relevant documents. Having all of the information in one single place will streamline your processes, giving your contractors or employees the relevant information that they need in order to deliver the service. Because you decide what fields you want to use for requesting the information, you can make sure the required information is consistently formatted.
7. Automate your employees schedule
The other half of any booking is the employer or contractor who will deliver that service. For most companies organizing scheduling involves a lot of work. In fact, depending on the number of staff you are using this may be a full-time role for one or more employees.
A booking system like Bookly can help you automate this process so that you no longer need to allocate an employee to a particular booking. By entering when a specific contractor or employee is available into a calendar, the customer will only be able to book them when there is someone available to take the booking.
The employee can then be automatically notified when a booking is made and the appointment added to their schedule. Using a shared calendar, the employee can track when they are booked to deliver a service. This is very useful when you have a business which employs a large number of independent contractors, such as with a moving or limousine service. These contractors are easily able to track their own appointments, without needing to contact the head office.
By automating scheduling, both the employee delivering the service and those charged with organizing them, have more time available.
8. Have clients manage their own appointments
Liaising with clients who have made an appointment invariably takes up a lot of time. Many of the questions that need to be answered relate to details about their appointment. These questions may be relatively straightforward to answer, but relaying that information is time-consuming.
Email notifications sent following the booking with these details can help but clients invariably lose track of this information. If they want to cancel an appointment they will need to call or email and have a member of staff process their request.
With online reservation software clients are empowered to find the information that they require about their appointments and make changes. With a WordPress reservation plugin like Bookly, you can provide clients with personalized login details for your website. Using their individual login details they will be able to view the details of their appointment. This can include the type of service, which employee or contractor will deliver the appointment, how much it costs and when their appointment is scheduled. You can also choose to allow clients to cancel their appointment. Cancellations can be handled approved manually or automatically.
Appointments are the lifeblood of any service business, but the cost to productivity from taking reservations can be substantial. An online booking reservation system empowers your customers to take control of their own bookings. This gives your clients the ability to make bookings and access all of their booking information at any time of the day. Giving you and your employees more time to deliver a superior service for your clients.