You should be proud of your paper appointment book. When you started your business, it was a symbol of your entrepreneurial spirit. As you’ve grown, it’s become packed full of appointments. But a messy appointment calendar causes frustration for your customers and staff. The book has to stay in one spot, and only one person can make changes at a time. Customers have to speak to a receptionist to schedule a time. Errors are inevitable: that note rushed off on a post-it is often lost, and there’s always at least one staffer with terrible handwriting. You can solve many of these issues with a few quick fixes, even if you want to keep your paper calendar and not go digital.
1. Put Your Calendar Online
An online calendar is accessible everywhere. Anyone in your business can see who’s expected to come in for an appointment. That makes scheduling easier, as your staff can block time off and get a heads up when there’s a last-minute cancellation. Best of all, there’s no squinting at a paper appointment book with narrow lines, wondering if the next person is due to come in at 2:15 or 2:30. With online scheduling, there’s little fear of double-booking appointments.
2. Accept Online Bookings
Customers love to take initiative and schedule an appointment for themselves. There is no waiting on hold for a receptionist, and you can rest assured that the information they enter is up-to-date and accurate. With available time slots clearly visible to customers, online booking is efficient for both your clients and your fellow workers.
3. Confirm Appointments with Customers
Changes always happen last minute. But instead of chasing down that hastily-scribbled note, you can always check the online calendar to see the most up-to-date schedule. With an online system you can easily confirm appointments over email or text message. Give clients a call the day before their scheduled time to confirm if you don’t yet have an automatic system in place.
4. Create a Front Desk Checklist
Regardless of who’s taking appointments, you should always get the same key points of information. Make it easier by drawing up a checklist of questions. Always ask for the customer’s name, professional’s name, date, time, service and any special requests. Tack it up in a permanent spot by the phone. You can set up a custom set of questions on your online booking system to make sure all the important areas are covered.
5. Check the Handwriting
You don’t have to embarrass anyone for their poor handwriting. But you can ask any new hires to take a test drive of the pen-and-paper booking system to make sure their writing is legible and they are putting the information in the correct spots. If their cursive is lacking, suggest they use block letters to ensure clarity.
6. Designate a Calendar Person
The adage “too many cooks in the kitchen” applies to the appointment book that sits behind the reception desk. Every slot on the calendar represents revenue for your business and income for the professionals that work out of your shop. Designate one person to enter information and make changes. Of course, this isn’t always feasible, but limiting access to the book helps prevent errors, misunderstandings and conflicts. Efficiency makes for happy clients and happy staff.
Think an online system is too complicated? It is easier than you think. Consider making the transition from pen and paper to a computer-based system. It will quickly prove to be more efficient for staff and customers. You’ll even save some money on aspirin because you’ll have fewer management headaches.
Looking for an easier way to manage your appointments? Learn how by requesting a free consultation with a dedicated Business Advisor.