It’s great to see your appointment book filled up, but knowing how it got that way can help you strategize about how to spend time and money on resources going forward. Let’s explore the six main types of booking channels and how you can optimize each one to ensure that your customers have a great experience.
The easiest way to encourage repeat bookings is to schedule appointments in person. Your staff will play a critical role in this process. Technicians should be trained to advise clients on a recommended timeline for a follow-up appointment, and front-desk staff should make sure to ask about pre-bookings during the checkout process. Even with a system in place to remind clients to book again, customers often are unable to commit to their next appointment on the spot, and say they’ll book later when their schedule is clear. Knowing how and when they’re likely to book later on will help you provide the right kind of follow-up, whether it’s giving a business card with your phone number, recommending that they download your mobile app, or sending them to your website to bookmark.
Some clients still like to book appointments the old-fashioned way, by telephone. There are a lot of advantages to this method: It gives you the opportunity to connect more personally to your client, to explain options to them, and potentially to upgrade or book add-ons to their requested service. On the other hand, this method is the most time-consuming for your front desk staff. A booking call from a new client can easily take 5 minutes—which means that in-person customers may have to wait for assistance. Having a telephone system that can log incoming call times can help you spot patterns and make sure you have enough desk staff scheduled to provide coverage during periods of heavy call volume (typically in the morning and then again between mid-afternoon and early evening).
Your regulars, who tend to have the same type of appointment on their visits, may be more inclined to book on your website at their convenience. Website bookings benefit customers by providing a way for them to make an appointment any time they have access to a computer; they also benefit your business by helping you fill out your calendar, even on days when your spa or salon is closed.
While having your own website is great, consumers are now turning to a variety of other sources to discover and connect with local businesses. Listings sites such as Yelp, Foursquare, and MapQuest are now one of the go-to resources for online consumers on the hunt for nearby spas and salons. These consumers don’t just want to learn about your location, hours, phone number, and services—they also want to be able to take the next step and book an appointment. By providing the ability to book directly on these listing sites, or jump straight to your booking page from your listings, you’ll make it easier for prospective clients to take the next step toward becoming a regular.
Social is becoming more than just a tool for connecting with friends and family. Major networks such as Facebook are evolving into search and discovery engines for local businesses. Having a robust company profile on the top social platforms will help prospects connect with your business wherever they might be looking. And providing a way to book directly from your profile pages is a huge value-add for customers that can have a great impact on your business. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for social networkers to discover you, learn about your services, and make an appointment—and easy for your business to stay top-of-mind with current clients—all within the platform itself.
With Americans spending more than 34 hours a month on their mobile devices*, mobile bookings are just as important as online bookings. Creating a mobile-optimized website with booking capabilities or a dedicated mobile app for your business will provide the ultimate convenience for your clients. An app can also serve as a reminder to book an appointment as a customer scrolls through their phone to open other apps during the course of the day.
The Bottom Line
Gathering and analyzing your clients’ booking trends will give you a deeper understanding of how appointments are coming in and which booking channels are most popular with your clients. This data will also show you where you need to improve your offerings. For example, if you don’t currently offer online or mobile bookings, you’re likely missing out on business from those channels that you’re not getting by phone or in person. If you offer bookings on your website, but not on your social accounts or listings pages, you might be losing potential appointments by creating a more complicated multi-step process. If you have a great online presence but no mobile offering, you may be driving younger clients to choose another spa or salon over yours.
Take an audit of your current booking methods and ask your customers how they would like to be able to book appointments with you. This will help you optimize your current channels and decide which ones you should add to your mix.
*Source: Nielsen, “How Smartphones Are Changing Consumers’ Daily Routines Around the Globe, February 2014.
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