If you still believe you can impose on your customers the dates and times of appointments that suit you, get ready to be disappointed! In 2021, it’s the customer who chooses. And you can easily give them this satisfaction – without completely disrupting your operations, quite the contrary!
Scheduling visits, installations, deliveries, or assessments on customer premises has long been governed by the company’s in-house logic. The underlying principle was that being “the requester”, the customer had to conform to it, and he was confronted with a fait accompli by telling him that the auditing of his concession, his annual boiler maintenance or delivery of his new sofa would take place on such and such a day, in the morning, with no further details. The onus was on the customer to be available, even if that meant cancelling all the morning’s appointments or, for an individual, taking half the day off, or even the whole day…
If you manage appointment schedules then you know full well that this era is over: in B2B and B2C alike, not only is it becoming complicated, not to say impossible, to impose a date on your customers, but you also need to offer increasingly narrow timeslots, or even an exact time of arrival – that is if you do not want your technicians or delivery people to find nobody in.
As a planner, it is understandable that this exasperates you: you spend your time calling customers to reschedule the appointments and, what is more, you antagonize the field teams whose routes are constantly being disrupted by all these “misses” – not to mention the cost to your company these wasted journeys represent…
Is this the situation you are in? It is time to change method!
Do as the doctors do!
It is no coincidence that online appointment booking platforms are catching on with self-employed doctors and dentists. If you know any doctors, all of them will tell you that they opted for this solution for at least one of the following reasons:
- managing appointments ended up consuming most of their secretariat’s time – to the detriment of increasingly numerous administrative tasks;
- the growing tendency of patients to ‘forget’ their appointments, to ‘forget’ to notify that they cannot attend, to cancel at the last minute… and to demand a new appointment “as soon as possible” (that doesn’t mean the first available timeslot in the doctor’s diary but the one that suits me, the patient…);
- the difficulty of filling mid-morning and mid-afternoon timeslots, whereas the beginning and end of the day are under siege.
This is indistinguishable from what companies who visit their customers are experiencing, whether for deliveries of bulky objects, maintenance visits, performing property valuations, or energy diagnostics. And what have doctors who have migrated the management of their diary to an online appointment booking platform observed?
- a marked reduction in “no shows” and last-minute cancellations, thanks to the systematic reminder of the appointment by email or SMS 48hrs or 24 hrs beforehand, whether the appointment was made the day before or months earlier;
- a more balanced diary thanks to the highlighting of timeslots in least demand or that have just become available owing to a cancellation;
- a dramatic reduction in the time spent by the secretariat in scheduling, moving, rescheduling, and confirming appointments by phone and email.
On these 3 points, according to a survey carried out in June 2020, more than 70% of health professionals who use these platforms say they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied”. The survey does not say what patients think about them, but we can take it that this method of booking appointments, which has long been the only possible way in France of getting a Covid-19 vaccination and for tele-consultation appointments, has become widely accepted and will become the norm in all sectors. Why? Simply because it is practical and efficient and addresses a need of today’s customer: to have a choice and the minimum of constraints.
Delegating appointment booking to the customer, the better to commit him
By incorporating an appointment booking platform into your website, you give each of your customers the ability to choose from among the time slots available at a moment “t” the one that suits him best. The mere fact that it is he who chooses, based on his own constraints, is more psychologically committing for him than if the date and time had been imposed on him “from above”. The automatic mechanism for confirming and reminding him of the appointment by SMS/email and the fit with the customer’s personal diary consolidate this commitment and minimize the risk of it being forgotten.
Let us remember that to be adopted by customers, an online appointment booking platform needs to be extremely easy to access and simple to use. That means that it needs to be thought through from the user’s perspective, not according to the company’s internal logic, and be aligned with contemporary interface and navigation standards. Doctolib’s success is down to the quality of the design and user experience it affords.
Two more pieces of advice for your appointment booking platform:
- Don’t require your customers to download an application to access it. A mobile application is justified when interaction between the company and customers is frequent or recurring. This is not the case for delivery of a sofa and even less so for one-off services such as performance of the required diagnostics when selling real estate. A website designed according to responsive design rules does the job equally well. More than your customers, it is your mobile co-workers who need a mobile application incorporating appointment booking.
- Highlight the option “move/cancel my appointment” on your platform and, especially, in the confirmation and reminder messages sent to customers. The easier you make these actions, the greater the probability that the customer will take the trouble to notify you. Bear in mind that moving or cancelling an appointment that your customer is no longer able to honor will be cheaper for your company than a wasted journey by a technician, expert or delivery person.
Far more than an appointment booking tool
What customers do not see – and what is more, do not need to know – is that the timeslots offered to them are pre-optimized according to criteria and parameters reflecting the company’s priorities. This is the great advantage of the appointment booking platform embedded in the Nomadia optimization solutions. Thanks to the dynamic link between appointment management and the optimization engine you can, for example:
- Encourage your customers to choose distant dates so as to smooth your teams’ work over a longer period. This is what our customer Allodiagnostic does, who adjusts the price of its services depending on how distant the date and how tight the timeslot chosen by the customer is. There is a tendency to think that the customer automatically chooses the nearest date. That is frequently true, but if there is a significant reduction into the bargain – up to 35% in the case of Allodiagnostic – he will find it far less bothersome to select an appointment one or two weeks hence, rather than tomorrow, or to make himself available for the day rather than ticking the “between 0800 and 1300” timeslot.
- Putting a premium on short-term call-outs. There’s nothing shocking about making customers pay more for choosing a date in the near future. This is what breakdown companies do. Urgency has a cost for your company, it is normal that it has a price for the customer. Moreover, a customer who is really in a hurry will rarely jib at paying a premium for the service he urgently requires.
- Increase your route density by including the maximum delivery points up until the day before the route. C Chez Vous (who manages the home delivery of packages weighing more than 30 kg for C discount) proposes a first delivery date with the order. Every evening, the orders recorded during the day are taken into account by the Nomadia optimization engine to generate the routes before then offering each customer a more specific delivery slot, which, moreover, he can amend.
Nomadia solutions enable you very quickly to set up your own online appointment booking platform and configure it as you wish so that it really serves your business and maximizes your teams’ productive time, while making life easier for your customers.
Does that give you any ideas? Let’s talk!