If you’ve ever uttered the statement “oh, appointment booking software isn’t going to work for my business because we let providers handle their own bookings” then this article is for you. You wouldn’t be alone either. In fact, it’s one of the things we hear most often from businesses interested in MarketBox.
An in-house, centralized appointment booking system essentially means three things:
That’s because every part of the booking process, from the appointment scheduling and staff allocation to payroll and payment processing, comes under one, largely-automated umbrella. And when everything is synced, things just seem to run smoother. So why do so many service businesses shun an in-house booking system?
For many business owners, the idea of letting providers handle bookings seems like a good idea on paper as it moves the responsibility onto someone else, freeing up time for other admin tasks. But in reality, it could be doubling your workload, affecting customer satisfaction, and even costing you sales.
If you employ staff on an hourly rate, payroll is already more of a headache than it would be with salaried staff. But for many businesses this payroll model works best, so why complicate things further by letting providers handle their own bookings?
No one wants to work for free, so if you’re expecting providers to put in the time to find and lock down customers, they’re going to need paying. But since this falls outside of their traditional responsibilities, at what point do they start and stop the time clock? What about once they’ve booked the job; how are they tracking how long it took? Before you know it, you’re drowning in timesheets that all need inputting into some kind of spreadsheet or database to be compatible with your payroll software. All of which means more work.
The average business spends between 6 to 20 hours a month on payroll, which means thirty six business days and more than $6000 are lost every year processing something that should take minutes. The only way to speed things up is to simplify, eliminate, and automate where possible.
When providers are left to handle their own bookings, managing calendars and scheduling availability gets a whole lot more complicated. If there’s no central booking process, you end up relying on timely updates from multiple sources to maintain up-to-date records. Even a short a delay in updating the system could result in double-bookings or turning down potential bookings in error — either way you’ve lost out on a sale and end up with disappointed customers.
The only way to ensure accuracy is to opt for a booking system that updates in real-time. In other words, you need to use an online booking calendar and keep things in-house!
An unhappy customer is unlikely to return to the business, and worse, could spread negative reviews. For service businesses, in particular, the power of the customer referral is not something to take for granted. If you don’t have a formal booking system in place and leave it up to individual providers to handle, you can’t control the customer experience or the level of service they’ll receive.
With an online booking process, the results are instantaneous and available at a time that suits the customer. There’s no need to wait for a provider to get back to them with availability, they can book 24/7, and you know that they had a smooth booking process because you’ve designed the booking flow. In other words, you’ve removed all the variables and virtually eliminated the risk that something could go wrong.
There’s a reason that online booking is the #1 preferred way to book, and that’s because the results are instant. You go online, find the service you want to book, scan availability, and book it. If you leave the booking process up to providers, customers have to submit an enquiry, wait to be matched to a provider offering that service, wait for them to reach out, and then organize a time that suits both parties.
A process that could take less than 5 minutes suddenly becomes hours, if not days, in the making. Since 45 hours is the average time between booking and fulfillment, you can’t afford to waste a second when it comes to securing customer bookings.
Many online booking systems, like MarketBox, let a customer pre-pay for the service at the time of booking or put down a deposit to secure it if necessary. MarketBox goes one step further, and lets providers process additional charges to the client’s account for upsold services, add-ons, or tips, so it’s possible to make your business cashless.
But if providers handle their own bookings, you’ll need to be set up to take payments another way — usually at an additional expense. This also means clients won’t get an accurate indication of how much a service is going to cost them and makes upselling more complicated. If you’re looking to keep costs low, simplify your business, net more sales, and keep customers satisfied, an in-house eCommerce appointment booking system is the way to go.
Dangers 1 to 5 happen as a matter of course when you don’t have a centralized booking system in place. This last point is more of a worst-case scenario, but not as unusual as you’d think.
If you’re in the habit of receiving customer inquiries, matching them to a provider, and letting them handle the rest, you could be at risk of losing sales without even knowing it. In this situation, there’s really nothing stopping your provider from cutting out the middle man (i.e. you), agreeing to perform the job themselves, and netting all the profits. And the worse part is you’d be none the wiser.
By opting for an in-house, centralized appointment booking system you can keep track of the leads coming in, rate of conversions, and look at your past, present, and pending bookings at the click of a button. This kind of data can be invaluable when it comes to analysing your sales funnel so it’s important to have access to it.
As it happens, yes, there is! With MarketBox, you get the best of both worlds. Our automated eCommerce online booking flow keeps everything centralized, but providers still have control over their schedule with the ability to time-block availability, set travel zones for mobile appointments, and accept or decline jobs. They can even market themselves via unique links that go straight to their individual booking page if desired.
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