The pandemic saw a rapid change in the way we work and obtain services. Before the world ground to a halt, around 17% of employees worked from home; that number grew to around 44% during the height of the pandemic. Now it’s estimated that more than 4.7 million people in the US work remotely at least half the time.
To go alongside this workforce shift, many service-based businesses switched to (or added) in-home and mobile appointments to their offerings. Unsurprisingly, the healthcare industry was one of the biggest adopters, with 84% of physicians offering virtual appointments by April 2021 alone.
But will the trend for mobile appointments continue across all industries continue? Could the future of service businesses be one without a fixed address? Let’s evaluate the pros and cons of mobile appointments to find out.
Without the cost of a fixed premise or the utilities, insurance, etc. that goes with it, services businesses that offer in-home and mobile appointments exclusively benefit from lower overheads.
If you're considering starting a service business, the low start-up costs and lower ongoing costs that mobile appointments offer could be the deciding factor between going mobile or operating from a fixed address.
Service businesses who opt to go 100% mobile or have in-home appointments as part of their offering may find themselves at a competitive advantage. Offering mobile appointments is an easy way to differentiate yourself from competitors and take advantage of the in-home market (i.e., customers looking for the convenience and flexibility of in-home appointments).
Having a professional come to your home to perform [insert chosen service] is much more convenient than finding time to travel to [insert chosen service’s location]. Mobile appointments are more convenient for customers, but they’re also easy to personalize, both of which can lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction.
Offering services in a client’s home allows you to see their living environment. For businesses in the health or fitness industries, this enables you to identify areas that might hinder progress and suggest optimizations to help clients achieve better results from your services.
It’s also another way to access information that will help you personalize appointments and can help improve customer satisfaction.
When you operate from a fixed location, your team has to be there during office hours, even if nothing’s scheduled in case you get a drop-in. When you offer mobile appointments, you can introduce more flexibility into your team’s schedules for a better work-life balance and improved employee satisfaction. You or your team has more control over when you work, and with scheduling software like MarketBox, you can even control where you work too.
For solopreneurs or individuals seeking extra income, mobile appointments are easy to schedule around other commitments like your day job or family life. You simply input your availability into your chosen online booking software and keep it updated as plans change.
When you offer mobile appointments, you’re only limited by how far your service providers are willing to travel. It’s easier to scale your business because if you identify demand in new areas, all you need to do is hire someone there; there’s no need to find new business premises or analyze the budget to see if expansion is even in the cards.
You can also capture business from people who might not be willing to — or can’t — travel to your fixed business location for a greater market share.
As we alluded to above, customers love in-home appointments because they’re more convenient than traveling to a fixed business location. This is especially true now more of us are working from home and no longer “in town” and able to tack on appointments to the end of a workday or schedule them during lunch breaks.
Typically, mobile appointments also go hand-in-hand with more convenient appointment times, so customers can book services according to their schedules, not your (often limited) office hours.
Familiar learning environments have been shown to improve skill retention, so for education-based service businesses like swim schools, tutors, music teachers, etc., mobile appointments may lead to better results for your customers.
The comfort factor shouldn’t be discounted for other industries, either. Customers may prefer to exercise, receive medical treatment, or have massages in the comfort of their own homes — particularly if any of these services make them feel vulnerable or anxious.
For traditionally grouped-based services like fitness classes or swim lessons, in-home appointments enable customers to receive more personalized versions. Often mobile appointments happen on a one-to-one basis or in a small group that the customer has put together.
With mobile appointments, lesson plans can be personalized, and customers receive the undivided attention of the service provider. As a result, customers may value the experience more highly and be willing to pay more for the privilege.
For customers who don’t have easy access to transportation or have disabilities or mobility issues that make traveling to appointments challenging, mobile appointments offer increased accessibility.
For businesses that specialize in treating illness or injuries, like home healthcare professionals or physiotherapists, mobile appointments make it easier for your patients to receive the treatment they need.
Even though you may charge a premium for in-home services, mobile appointments are still a cost-effective solution for customers. They don’t have any transportation costs or have to worry about parking at the appointment and can get on with other tasks or hobbies immediately before and after appointments since there’s no travel time involved.
For businesses that deal with confidential information, like therapists or doctors, customers might prefer discussing sensitive details in the privacy of their own homes. They don’t have to worry about being overheard or bumping into someone they know going into or out of the appointment.
If you offer services in a client’s location, you don’t have control over factors like lighting, temperature, or cleanliness in the same way you would in a traditional office/clinic setting. You also don’t know what space a customer has to set up your equipment or perform the appointment.
The customer’s living environment may also impact their perception of the service. For example, if the customer has noisy neighbors or kids running around, they may find their at-home massage less relaxing. Even though it is not your fault, you may have customers who are less satisfied with the results of their service than they would have been in a traditional setting.
When you operate out of a fixed location, how your customers get to you doesn’t matter. But, when you’re traveling to the appointment, there’s much more to consider.
Scheduling service providers in multiple locations can get very complicated if you try to do it by hand. For example, some employees will travel further than others, provider availability is constantly changing, and to minimize travel time, you must find a way to avoid traveling back and forth across the city five times a day.
Luckily, there’s an easy solution that makes scheduling mobile appointments easier.
MarketBox is the only appointment management software designed for businesses offering in-home and mobile services. The all-in-one platform makes it easy to schedule appointments, coordinate service providers, and process payments online. So if you decide mobile appointments are the right move for your business, MarketBox can handle the admin, allowing you to focus on your clients.
If you offer mobile appointments, you must transport all the equipment and supplies you need to perform the service to your customer’s location. This increases the risk of equipment getting damaged as it’s loaded in and out of vehicles; for particularly sensitive equipment, things like speed bumps and potholes might also pose a problem.
Depending on how equipment intensive your services are, mobile appointments may limit what you can offer.
Traveling to and from mobile appointments increases the wear and tear on vehicles. Your employees may not be happy to use their own vehicles, so you might need to provide company vehicles (or at least compensate them for using their own). This is an added ongoing expense that you’ll need to factor in if you decide to go mobile.
If you’re considering offering mobile appointments, it’s important to consider the insurance implications. You may be held liable for injuries or damage at a client’s home so you need to add comprehensive liablity insurance to your list of operational costs.
For businesses like swim schools, going mobile puts you at the mercy of the weather. If you operate out of a indoor pool, the thunderstorm or blizzard raging outside doesn’t matter. But when you working out of someone’s backyard you may be forced to cancel lessons if the forecast calls for rain.
You also need to make sure you live in an area where enough people have their own pools before going fully mobile, and consider what you’ll do outside of the summer season.
One of the disadvantages of mobile appointments for customers is they may have to pay a premium for in-home services. Of course this won’t be true every time, but in many cases customers end up paying for the convenience of having the service provider come to them.
Depending on the quality of your service, customers may not want to pay this fee, so if you do charge extra for in-home appointments you may limit your customer base.
Not everybody will be comfortable having a stranger come into their house. When you travel to a business’s location, there is an element of professionalism that makes it trustworthy. But a stranger standing on your doorstep asking to be let in can make some people uncomfortable.
To counteract this, look for online booking software, like MarketBox, that lets providers create a profile and attach a picture. This way, customers can not only choose a provider who best suits their needs, but knows who to expect when their appointment rolls around.
For beauty and wellness appointments, mobile appointments mean the customer forgos the experience of “going to the spa”. They are responsible for ensuring their home is clean, quiet, and distraction free so they can get the same relaxing experience they would in a traditional setting.
If they live with others, they also risk being disturbed or overheard with in-home appointments. For personal appointments, like therapy sessions, customers might find it hard to open up like they would if they visited a business location.
Demand for mobile appointments has grown since the pandemic, and doesn’t show signs of stopping. Many customers want the convenience and flexibility that having service providers come to them offers and are actively seeking mobile appointments over traditional service businesses. For businesses, the flexibility and lower operating costs are certainly appealing. As is the ability to easily scale the business and the competitive advantage you get from going mobile.
To keep up with changing customer preferences, businesses should consider introducing an in-home option to their service lineup. And with MarketBox, setting up and scheduling mobile appointments couldn’t be easier. Start a free 10 day trial to try it for yourself.
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