The guide to Appointment Scheduling

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Making it easy for visitors to schedule appointments is an essential measure for improving the visitor experience.  The purpose of this page is to give you a central understanding of what appointment scheduling is, why it's important and how to choose an appointment system. 

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Why appointment scheduling?

What is appointment scheduling?

Appointment scheduling is a fairly self-explanatory term:

“It's an intended arrangement to meet someone at a specific time.”

On this page, we'll refer to appointment scheduling arrangements between a service provider and a visitor. 

Why is appointment scheduling important for service providers?

With today's technology, visitor's behavior and expectations have increased significantly. Thus, you as a service provider need to consider and continually improve your visitor's expectations.

The customer experience begins at the moment of engagement and continues through every online, mobile, and physical interaction. As a modern service provider, you want to aim for a seamless customer experience across all customer touchpoints to stay relevant and competitive. 

Long waiting times lead to poor experiences among visitors and an unhealthy work environment for the staff. Thus, a standard measure prioritized when a service provider wants to remove friction in the customer journey is; how can we reduce the waiting time for our visitors?

By making it easier to schedule appointments, your visitors can better plan their day and do not have to wait upon arrival. That's a good start. 

“Appointment scheduling removes friction by reducing waiting time”

How to improve the work environment as a service provider?

Many service providers have over a hundred visitors every day. If all these visits are solely walk-ins, a disordered environment is undeniable. The massive workloads which can occur during peak hours contribute to increased stress among employees.

By enabling visitors to schedule appointments, you can improve the work environment. 

As John Wordingham expresses it in the article, Appointment scheduling: Beyond booking functionality;

Whether you are working in a company, a clinic or the public sector, appointment scheduling creates opportunities for improved staff planning. You get a better overview of how many visitors arrive daily, enabling you to reduce their waiting time and to increase their customer experience.

How to manage appointments?

So, enabling intended arrangements to meet someone at a specific time can improve customer experience and working environment. But what is there to consider when enabling scheduled appointments? Let's look closer at what it takes to manage appointment scheduling successfully. 

How to manage appointments

The first thing that comes to mind when enabling scheduled appointments is often: "we need to launch a booking functionality." But that is only one part of appointment scheduling. Whether your visitors should schedule appointments through a call center, online, or an app, you need to manage that appointment.  

In the article, Appointment scheduling: Beyond booking functionalityJohn Wordingham explains three essential areas you need to consider when managing appointments:

  • When an appointment is scheduled, you need to send a confirmation by email or SMS, including information on how to cancel or reschedule the appointment. 
  • Some days before the appointment date, you need to send a reminder to the visitor with complete contact information. 
  • If the visitor cancels or reschedules, you need to send a find a new time and send confirmation by email or SMS. 

Managing confirmations and reminders, dealing with delays, cancellations, and reschedules, can be performed manually if it is a matter of a few bookings. But when it comes to various appointments daily, the administration quickly becomes unmanageable to handle. In the next chapter, you can learn more about appointment systems and the powerful software that service providers use to move visitors seamlessly from online to an in-person visit.

What is an appointment system?

What is an appointment system?

An appointment system is a software that makes it efficient for service providers to manage appointments. 

In the article, Appointment scheduling solution: What you need to know,  Dixie Thamrin specifies what tools usually are included in the software:

  • Internet booking
  • Mobile app booking
  • The user interface for call center workers

How does an appointment scheduling solution work?

There are many different degrees of complex appointment scheduling solutions. Below, we first describe here is an example of how a basic appointment system work:

  • The visitor schedules an appointment via a website, app, or call center.
  • Upon arrival, the visitor takes a queue receipt and waits to be called. 
  • The visitor is then called to a reception to announce their arrival.
  • Finally, they wait to be served. 

A more advanced appointment scheduling solution can be customized to your needs. Here is an example of how a sophisticated appointment scheduling solution work can work:

  • The visitor schedules an appointment via your website, app, or call center. When booking, the visitor chooses the service required and the preferred branch or staff. The visitor immediately receives a booking confirmation.
  • A couple of days before the appointment date, the visitor receives a reminder with a check-in link—the visitor checks in using the link in the reminder message. 
  • When the visitor is checked-in, they receive a mobile ticket where they can monitor their place in the appointment sequence. As they can follow their status on the phone, they don't have to be in the building until it's time for their appointment.
  • The customer is called when it's their turn and receives the service.

Benefits of an appointment system

There are numerous benefits of an appointment system. Below we have listed some of the benefits from two perspectives; the visitors and the service providers.  

Benefits for visitors 

Reduced waiting time 

Appointments are an effective way to minimize queuing and reduce waiting time to a minimum.

More flexibility 

When visitors can schedule an appointment, they can better plan their day and don't need to wait upon arrival.

Safe queueing 

If visitors are offered a check-in link via SMS to get a mobile ticket, they don't need to wait inside the building, which in turn limits their infection risk.

Benefits for businesses and service providers 

Improved operational and staff efficiency 

By allowing visitors the opportunity to schedule an appointment, you will reduce the number of walk-ins and can get a better overview of the number of visits to your facility.

In the article, Patient flow management for seasonal flu and COVID-19 vaccinationsGraham Gidley explains that an appointment booking system enables you to keep the patient flow constant throughout the date, making slots available that match your capacity to provide service. This way, you can prevent a rush of crowds in the lobby and other waiting rooms. Many service providers who implement appointment systems, therefore, experience improved operational efficiency.

Matching service requests to competency 

As visitors can choose the service required and the preferred branch or staff when scheduling an appointment, you can better match the required competence. 

Less pressure on staff 

As you get a better overview of the number of visits and the requested service, your staff can prepare and allocate the resources which reduce their stress. 

Appointment Scheduling Solutions

Appointment scheduling solutions are an essential tool for improving the visitor's experience for most service providers. In this chapter, we will look more closely at four industries and how appointment scheduling solutions can be used to overcome common challenges for the industry.

Public sector appointment system

airport-waiting

Common challenges:

  • Many visitors daily
  • Long waiting times

Public departments like tax, driving license, immigration, and pension are often busy. As there are many visitors, there are often long waiting times, which reduces the visitor's experience.

Appointment scheduling solution:

With an appointment scheduling solution, you can reduce waiting time and improve the visitor's experience.

 

Hospital appointment system

healthcare hero2

Common challenges: 

  • Tight budget
  • Limited resources
  • Stressful work environment
  • Complex queueing systems 
  • The uneven flow of patients 

 

The lack of resources is a common challenge for managing the patient experience. Furthermore, in the healthcare industry, there is a priority discipline. Due to that, e.g., heart attacks must be prioritized over a broken hand, the patients don't walk to the end of the queue and wait until everyone ahead is served. 

 

Appointment scheduling solution:

Implementing an appointment system gives you the basis to plan the resources to the maximum. When patients with non-urgent matters book their appointment, you can better streamline your operation.   

In the article, Patient appointment systems in hospitals, John Wordingham outlines six reasons why hospital should consider investing in a patient appointment system:

  • Safer patient journeys
  • Reduced wait time
  • The patient can better plan their day
  • Happier working environment
  • Reduce outpatient cancellations
  • Reduce the time needed for administrative tasks

Retail appointment system

payment-retail

Common challenges: 

  • Higher customer expectations
  • Social distancing

 

Retail customers have high expectations and are getting more and more used to a frictionless experience. As a retail store, you need to adapt to the customers' expectations. Also, during the pandemic, many are facing the challenges of regulations on the maximum number of people allowed in the store. 

 

Appointment scheduling solution:

With an appointment scheduling solution, you make it possible for customers to order online and pick them up at a time that's convenient for them. By enabling appointment scheduling, your customers don't have to wait in a physical line, making social distancing more convenient. To read more about how you can implement retail, social distancing, read our article on safe queuing and crowd control in stores.

Bank appointment system  

business people with coffee medium 2544x739

 

Common challenges: 

  • Variety of visitors during the day
  • Staff planning

If you're working at a bank, you are probably familiar with the 'lunch crunch.' Banks often face the challenge of planning the staff between busy and less busy periods. 

 

Appointment scheduling solution:

With an appointment scheduling solution, you'll be able to spread out the service workload evenly throughout the day.  

 

In the article, How to improve the experience along the banking customer journey, Khachatur Muradyan explain how retail banks can engage with the customer along the customer journey. The first step is to make it possible for customers to quickly schedule a meeting with one of your experts as soon as the customer starts to think about their banking issue. Thus, appointment booking system is key for the retail banks who want to adapt to the modern customers, who according to Khachatur Muradyan are looking for seamless, personal and efficient experience.

 

Best appointment scheduling software

As mentioned in chapter 3, there are different degrees of complex appointment scheduling solutions. Thus, there is no best solution that fits all organizations. Instead, you need to find a system that fulfills your required functionality.  

Features of appointment scheduling system    

In the article Appointment scheduling solution: What you need to knowDixie Thamrin describe some important features you should consider when investing in an appointment scheduling solution:

Online calendar and appointment module 

An appointment scheduling software with an online calendar and appointment module provide your staff an easy overview of booked appointments. If it’s important that your staff or customers can quickly book, reschedule or cancel the appointment, then you should look for a solution which include an online calendar and appointment module.

 

Integration to customer journey management system

Scheduling appointments is an early interaction in the customer journey. If you want to improve the visitor’s entire journey from pre-arrival to post service, you should look for an appointment solution that can be integrated with a customer journey management system.

 

Automatic confirmation and reminders

Cancellations and no-shows can be stressful, timely and costly for service providers. By choosing an appointment scheduling software which automatically sends out confirmations and reminders you can prevent no-shows.

 

Possibility to personalize the user interface 
The user interface of the appointment solution can have a big impact on the impression of your business. If you want to provide an enjoyable customer experience, you should choose an appointment scheduling software that can be personalized and customized by you.

 

Business intelligence capabilities

To make it easier for staff to plan and allocate the resources needed it’s important to be able to combine appointments and walk-in customers. Thus, if you want to improve planning staff allocation you should choose an appointment that have business intelligence capabilities to combine appointments and walk-in customers.

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