As of January 2021, 59.5% of the world’s population uses the internet. When you stop to think about just how much of our life takes place online, it’s quite extraordinary. You can have practically anything shipped right to your door, stream thousands of movies and TV shows, and learn, work, bank, and socialize, all from behind a computer, tablet, or mobile.
But there is one aspect of life that’s yet to fully join the internet revolution — appointment booking. And it seems that service businesses are among the least likely to have adopted the practice.
For 77% of service businesses, phone booking remains the most common (or only) appointment scheduling option. This is in spite of the fact that a recent survey of North American consumers found that nearly 70% of participants preferred to book their appointments online. For businesses not currently offering online booking options, the news, unfortunately, gets worse. The same survey found that a whopping 94% of participants would consider moving to a rival service provider if they offered online booking. That means not only are you missing out on more than half of all potential sales, but you could also be at risk of losing the ones you already have.
The benefits of online booking are numerous and sure to impact both your business and its customers positively.
By offering online booking options via your website or social media profiles, customers are no longer confined by your business’s operating hours. Your new digital scheduling process allows you to capture sales 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s hard to say how many HVAC installation bookings you’d receive at 2 am, but with online options, if that’s when it suits your client to book, they can.
By automating your appointment scheduling process, you’re also helping to reduce the strain on your staff. There’s no need for someone to constantly monitor the phone, draw up schedules, update availability, or ensure the right information is logged for each client, freeing up valuable time for other duties.
We’ve already established that customers prefer service businesses that enable them to book appointments online. With that in mind, it makes sense that offering customers what they want would have a positive knock-on effect on revenue. Some studies suggest that the simple act of introducing online appointment scheduling results in a revenue boost of between 34-125%, and it’s hard to argue with those kinds of results.
39% of 25-34-year-olds prefer to book online. If you’re looking to widen your customer base or diversify demographic ranges, digital appointment scheduling is an easy way to do it.
Self-led online booking options give clients more control over the booking process. With the right software, clients are able to see a full list of your services (including descriptions where necessary), compare prices between staff members, choose locations, and book single, package, or recurring appointments for maximum convenience. They also have the flexibility to book at a time that suits them without worrying about your operating hours.
Capturing customer data over the phone can be a bit of a minefield. All it takes is a bad connection or some background noise, and suddenly you’re getting your Bs confused with Ds and writing 3:15, not 3:50 down for the appointment time.
Miscommunication leads to missed appointments, and with incorrect client data, you’re missing out on marketing opportunities too. Online forms capture data accurately, allowing you to provide a superior service and target customers with relevant promotions.
Many business owners worry that paying for booking software will cost their business money, but the opposite is true. The software makes your business more efficient by allowing you to maximize your schedule, reduces no shows resulting in less lost revenue, and cuts staffing costs, helping to save you money across the board.
Most online booking providers offer payment integration as part of the service. MarketBox integrates with Stripe to process card payments, but other options include PayPal, Square, etc. These integrations make taking payments easier, allowing you to request deposits at the time of booking, clients to pay up front, or you to charge cancellation fees in accordance with your Terms of Service agreements.
The majority of online appointment scheduling software includes automated appointment reminders as standard. If yours doesn’t may I suggest you find a new one. That’s because automated appointment reminders have been shown to reduce no-shows by up to 41%.
An automated digital booking process makes it easier to manage your calendar by automatically adding new appointments as they occur. With a flexible booking software like MarketBox, you can set up custom availability for each service provider and each day. For businesses offering mobile appointments, you can even set travel zones so clients know who’s in their area and when.
One of the biggest benefits of online booking is the reduction in the admin. Calendars, schedules, and appointment availability are all automatically updated in real-time, and if a client cancels, their slot opens back up for booking again. Information from your submission forms is logged in a database allowing you to access key information at any time, and many software options also allow you to store corresponding files like medical information, safety waivers, and contracts alongside client info too.
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With online booking, you can upsell additional services or products during or after the booking process based on the contents of customers’ “carts.” Upselling is a common business strategy because it is 14 times easier to sell to existing customers already invested in the transaction than to convince someone new to buy in. While our article plug above is a tongue-in-cheek example of upselling, here are some better ones.
So if the demand is there, the benefits are clear, and it’s a factor that customers feel strongly about, why don’t more service businesses offer online appointment scheduling options?
Well, it’s hard to know, but the fact that 1 in 4 small businesses don’t have a website could be part of the problem. With online booking software like MarketBox, not having a website is no longer a limitation. Simply use your stand-alone booking calendar as your web presence, or link it to your business’s social media profiles, and you’re good to go.
Request a 1-on-1 demo today to discover how MarketBox can help you grow.
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