How service-based businesses can more effectively manage appointments during and after the coronavirus crisis

Topic: Customer Service, Healthcare, Real Estate, Restaurants, Utilities

Service-based businesses ranging from hairdressers and beauty salons to veterinary practices and car repair garages need to find new ways to manage the way that they physically interact with their customers.

Because of coronavirus and subsequent social distancing measures, the days of having seating areas full of customers waiting to see the next available member of staff are gone – in the short to medium term at least.

This is where appropriate appointment management comes into play. By making sure that a steady flow of customers are arriving at pre-determined times, businesses can ensure they’re staying as productive as possible, while at the same time reducing the risk posed by having too many people in the same place at the same time.

What to consider when choosing an appointment management tool

  • How can we reduce the administrative strain on our staff and allow them to spend more time providing services to customers?
  • What happens if a customer needs to change or cancel their appointment?
  • How can the new service provide convenience and ease to all customers – not just most of them?
  • How do we reduce the risk of missed appointments, and reduce the risk of lost income?
  • Can we deliver best practice advice for when customers visit our premises? I.e. How to maintain social distancing where possible, how to make payments etc

Making the jump to mobile-focused appointment reminders

When we consider the benefits of providing appointment management tools to customers via their mobile devices, it’s easy to see why many had started to make the jump to digital even before the coronavirus crisis started. Some of the benefits include:

  • SMS has an open rate of 95%, meaning that appointment reminders sent via this channel are more likely to be read – and appointments are less likely to be missed
  • Allowing your customers to arrange, cancel and reschedule their appointments on their mobiles means staff can focus on providing services to customers on the front line, and spend less time on the phone
  • Mobile-focused channels which support chat interactions allow businesses to manage more than one customer interaction at a time – unlike phone calls
  • Mobile-focused appointment management is more convenient for customers. They can access appointments at any time or place, without having to wait on hold to speak to a member of staff
  • Appointment management messages are completely traceable, meaning businesses can see when customers have read their confirmations/reminders
  • Mobile-focused appointment reminders make it easy to link to additional information resources. E.g. best practices when visiting premises etc.

What are the mobile-focused options available for appointment management?

SMS is fantastic for simple text-based interactions with customers. The functionality can be added directly into your existing appointment management software if you have one, accessed via an online portal from any location with an internet connection, or even sent from your email account. Uses include:

  • Deliver appointment confirmations/reminders with added links to appointment change/cancellation platforms
  • 2-way chats with staff to discuss upcoming appointments or any other customer service query
  • Important business updates to customers and members of staff
  • Satisfaction surveys

Mobile Journeys
If a business needs to get their customers through any digital process like making and managing an appointment, then mobile journeys are an ideal solution. After being sent a link to a Mobile Journey through any digital channel (email, SMS etc.), the customer navigates through a series of mobile optimised web pages to arrange their appointment. Payment for the appointment can also be processed within the same journey, reducing the amount of social interaction required.

  • Appointment reminder (via SMS) with links to re-arrangement facility (via Mobile Journey)
  • Securely upload images for remote condition diagnosis. Particularly useful for veterinary practices
  • Securely send any document like digital receipts and service reports, E.g. MOT certificates
  • Collect customer data
  • Carry out customer surveys
  • Process payments prior to appointment, further reducing the risk of a missed appointment

WhatsApp, RCS and SMS Landing Pages
The next generation of mobile communications have arrived which allow businesses to send richer, interactive appointment management facilities to customers.

WhatsApp, RCS and SMS Landing Pages allow fully branded communications to be sent which can include things like rich cards, images and video and Google Maps referencing to help customers find your premises on the day of their appointment.

With RCS and SMS Landing Pages, customers can even add an event to their mobile device’s calendar at the click of a single button, which will remind them about their appointment in advance.

  • Personalised appointment confirmations and reminders
  • Engage in 2-way chats with staff to discuss appointments
  • Handle the appointment booking process autonomously via the use of an integrated bot.

How businesses can get started with mobile messaging for better appointment management

We’ve worked with a variety of different businesses to provide better ways of managing appointments.

To find out how our powerful communication channels can form part of your strategy, please get in contact today with us on 0345 356 5758 or [email protected] to find out more.

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