6 Feb 2023
First impressions matter.
Princeton psychologists found that people’s first snap judgement of others tends to stick, even after learning more information. These snap judgements can settle in before we’re conscious of them, creating a lasting impact on how we view things.
For a business, that very first impression can make or break your chances at doing business with a client. Crafting the perfect first customer touchpoint is key to engaging them for the long run.
Picking a good online booking system is a great place to start, but many companies still rely on outmoded booking solutions. We’ve all been there – wading through calendars, hasty notes that were taken on nearby scraps of paper, endless email exchanges.
How do you bring your online booking system into the 21st century and, more importantly, create a streamlined customer experience for any would-be client? What is the best online booking system?
Understanding how booking systems work is half the battle. Let’s consider what booking systems were and what they’ve become in the modern age.
Since the earliest days of supply and demand, people have been booking appointments with businesses.
From registries to apps, the art of the appointment system has evolved with our technology.
Here’s a quick overview.
What’s even less flexible than a classic phone booking? Forcing customers to visit your location to book an appointment on a first-come-first-served system.
Although many privately-owned companies have progressed past this stage in customer service, everyone’s still been through the rigamarole of waiting in line just to get a booking.
Among others, government agencies tend to use this system – and it’s always irritating.
People need to plan an appearance, show up, wait patiently for their turn, fill out their information, wait some more, and finally maybe get an appointment (if they’ve remembered all their documentation).
Experiencing this kind of frustration at a government agency is one thing. If your customers are constantly waiting at your locations, you’re far more likely to lose them as a client.
It doesn’t get much more classic than picking up the phone to call in an appointment. Dialling to book an appointment is still standard at your average doctor’s office and other more traditional practices.
The obvious downside of calling in for appointments is the time commitment. Each booking involves at least five steps:
Sound harrowing? If you only offer phone bookings, your customer has to go through this every time they deal with you. It may not be the worst method, but it’s also far from the best.
From a company’s perspective, traditional bookings are usually tracked manually. This is usually managed by admin staff in the form of spreadsheets or physical record books.
For administrative staff, this means a lot of things to keep track of. They need to record:
Jotting down all of this information takes up a lot of time and can lead to administrative mix-ups. It’s a worse experience for everyone when a customer’s booking is delayed due to clerical errors.
It’s probably no surprise that specific booking systems end up varying by industry or client need. Here are three examples of specific booking types that suit people in different fields better.
One-On-One Service Sessions. For clients who want to book you for a one-on-one session, certain apps let them pick between services and pay through an online portal. Industries: counselling, fitness, salons.
Group scheduling. Offering interactive tours or group lessons? You need the functionality to invite several people at once. Industries: arts, education, virtual tours.
Assigning time slots. Letting people pick when they want to come by saves you a lot of hassle. Industries: volunteering, nonprofits, home services.
Your industry determines what kind of scheduling system will work best for you. Keep this in mind when picking out a reservation system.
Your average online booking solution offers most of the industry-specific functionalities detailed above.
The best online booking system helps cut down the number of simple admin tasks your customer service reps need to handle at any given minute. Instead, they can focus on delivering the best customer service to people who need help resolving more complex issues.
An online booking system is designed specifically to eliminate the problems of more traditional booking systems, saving time and energy for everyone.
We’ve already detailed a few issues with each type of booking solution. You might be wondering: what’s really so bad about offline reservation solutions?
Offline booking is slow, often redundant, and not productive enough to actually get work done. We live in the 21st century; your booking solutions shouldn’t be stuck in the 1900s.
Having the right booking solution doesn’t just save you time and money. It’s a step towards a bigger and better business.
How can an online booking system improve your business?
Have you ever had fun booking appointments on the phone?
Probably not. When customers are reserving their spot, they want it to be quick and easy. What better way to speed up a booking than doing it through an online portal?
Your average online booking takes a minute, tops. Your customers will have a better experience with your company and be much more likely to return for more service.
Automated online booking works for your employees too. Spending too much on booking can cause burnout among your customer service employees. Save their energy and they’ll be able to devote better service to incidents that actually need it.
Ultimately, an online appointment system is better for both customers and employees.
Picture this: business is booming. You want your company to expand, and customer service needs to grow as well.
But you have a traditional appointment system, whether it involves call centers or spreadsheets or books. Spending more resources on hiring employees or manually tracking appointments just isn’t efficient.
With an online booking solution, scaling is a non-issue. No matter how quickly your company grows, your clients simply book an appointment and are served just as well as they always have.
No more scrambling to expand your customer service team. Instead, you can focus on cultivating what really matters: the service quality, your brand image, and offering people more services.
Consistent branding matters. In fact, brands who present themselves more consistently see a 33% increase in revenue compared to brands who don’t.
A quality online booking system will offer customization that helps you put your branding front and center. You’ll be able to include your logo, personalized messages, brand colors, and more with online booking.
COVID-19 has made online branding even more crucial. When customers can only receive limited in-person service, how you reach them through the internet matters a lot more.
In comparison, offline booking doesn’t present nearly as much opportunity for personalization. Micromanaging individual employees isn’t helpful for anyone’s performance, and just ends up wasting the team’s time in an effort to seem more cohesive.
|Traditional Booking||Online Booking|
|Automatic Personalized Reminders||✕||✓|
|Suggested Services (Upselling)||✓ (but can seem intrusive)||✓|
Welcoming potential customers with a consistent brand voice warms them up to your company, turning them into more likely candidates for return business.
For retail businesses in particular, being accessible via smartphone is essential to connect with younger audiences. The younger generation doesn’t want to wait around for scheduling phone calls when they have better customer service available at their fingertips.
More than half of all online shoppers have made a purchase through their mobile phone. This number is even higher among millennials and Gen Z.
Just having an online appointment system isn’t enough: you need to make it accessible to your whole online audience. People are going to find you through social media, websites, and so many more places.
That’s why your booking solution has to be available to them through every platform possible. Finding your audience on the platforms where they’re most comfortable is far more effective in converting them than forcing them to adapt to how you do things. It’s the bare minimum to be available through:
When booking appointments is as easy as booting up their phone, your customers won’t flake from the customer friction of suffering through phone calls, emails, wasting endless time on scheduling. Their loyalty depends on awesome service, and you’ll be able to deliver great service once you have the booking tools to do so.
More often than not, traditional booking methods feel like a constant grind. Your team works so hard noting down dates, times, details, that there’s very little downtime for reflection.
Trying to assess their performance through an end-of-season survey isn’t helping you track the details you actually want to.
Online booking doesn’t just free your team’s time, it also saves them the trouble of documenting their own performance. Most solid online booking systems have a built-in analytics backend where you can study your own performance. Categories tracked may include:
A good online booking solution should be able to compile data, producing a dynamic view on your team’s performance, your visitors, and how to improve in the future.
All said and done, online booking trumps traditional booking in almost every category.
|Traditional Booking||Online Booking|
|Forces clients to talk to a person, going back and forth to schedule a simple appointment. Prone to mistakes.||Fast booking with automated reminders. Rarely any errors.|
|Expensive to scale. Need to hire more employees, spend more company resources on keeping track of customer data.||Scalable. Usually as simple as upgrading a subscription, and/or adding more services, time slots, etc.|
|Difficult to manage individual employees for desired customer service quality.||Consistent branding delivers a more cohesive experience. Simple and professional.|
|Prospective clients need to conform to your available options for bookings. Need to “step out” to book your services.||Convenient access to booking on-the-go. Your brand meets customers where they are.|
|Scarce time/energy/resources to track performance analytics.||Auto-generated visualizations of team performance and visitor data make improvement easier than ever.|
There may be no single answer to what is the best online booking system. At the end of the day, however, there’s a strong case for converting traditional ways of scheduling to an online booking system.
Traditional scheduling might seem easier when you’re getting started. In the long run, online scheduling solutions are more beneficial to your business. They offer better customer service, more brand consistency, better scalability.
It takes the burden of scheduling away from your employees, freeing them to do more meaningful work. Better customer service also means more customer loyalty, creating a positive feedback loop for your business that will help you win back old clients and attract new ones.
Most importantly, it lets your clients schedule their time with you on their own terms. They’re in charge of their own experience, and they’ll feel better for it.
Different teams have different needs, so what you prioritize in a booking solution will depend on your overall goals.
That being said, flexibility is important to consider. You want a solution that integrates easily into pre-existing calendars, booking that is accessible through multiple platforms for your customers.
Pricing can vary quite a bit. You can get an online reservation system free, especially for an individual or small business. For larger teams, pricing can scale anywhere from $20/month to $1000/month for enterprises.
Consider what you need and what it’s worth. While a free online booking system might seem more financially friendly, a more high-end online booking solution with integration or marketing capabilities can go a long way toward elevating your business.
Most online booking systems are app or website-based, but offer integrations to various other platforms. Setting up usually only takes six steps:
And there you have it. Refining your booking services will be a work in progress, but those basic steps should be more than enough to get your appointment system up and running.
Excellent customer service is key to expanding any business. But even with the best employees in the world, there’s a limit to how much manual customer service they can do.
That’s where multifunctional tools come in. Online booking systems provide crucial support for business owners, especially when customer support staff comes up short-handed. With more polished branding, scalability, and overall convenience, the right online booking solution can hold the key to making a good company great.
Grow your business with Skiplino, the flexible, reliable online booking system for corporations, small businesses, and anyone in between. Start your 7-day free trial today.
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