Survey after survey indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation, moving timelines up by months or even years. In speaking to companies about how they shifted customer engagement strategies in response to the pandemic, we hear a common story:
There was an immediate demand for consumers to increase digital engagement.
For in-person engagement, consumer preferences were to avoid waiting in crowded lines and therefore show up for agreed upon times, communicate and transact, and depart.
These changes in consumer behavior necessitated upgrading omnichannel customer engagement capabilities, often prioritizing speed of deployment over a thorough evaluation for long-term fit. Many companies implemented appointment scheduling systems that allowed stores, branches, or even individuals complete freedom to schedule appointments, but were lacking in enterprise functionality that optimizes customer experience, staff efficiency, and corporate accountability. As we now approach the third year of the pandemic, this mismatch between enterprise appointment scheduling needs and the systems implemented during the pandemic are resulting in ‘Long COVID’ symptoms for customer engagement strategies. This lack of enterprise functionality results in less appointments booked, increase in no shows, and extended sales cycles.
Many companies we speak to know the cure to their customer engagement Long COVID is to upgrade to an enterprise-grade appointment scheduling system to centrally manage access, branding, and analytics. If your organization cannot do any of the following, you should consider an upgrade:
Easy-to-understand reports and visualizations tell the story behind the numbers, providing you an ROI of engagement. This is only possible if reporting is possible at the individual, team, location, service, and/or organizational level.
Integration with systems like CRM, service desks, employee calendars and POS firmly place appointment scheduling in context of your customer experience strategy. Double-bookings do not occur because of calendar synchronization. After booking, reminders to both employees and customers happen automatically. Changes to appointments should automatically update customers through multi-channel communications. When an appointment is completed, the resulting data is automatically added to the customer’s records.
Vendors should offer pre-built templates and workflows so you can customize the kinds of appointments you want to offer without having to create new customer journeys from scratch.
Access should be controlled for user setup, appointment rebooking and cancellation, follow-up communications, analytics, and of course, the booking process. This access should also take into account each employee’s abilities to provide services, their schedule, and their physical location and virtual availability.
Enterprises operating across wide geographical areas often need to present their customer journey in multiple language options. This also applies for the presentation of the staff experience.
Regulated industries often have rules on what can be communicated and how records should be maintained for auditing purposes. Centrally managed systems provide communication oversight and automation into compliance systems, monitored mailboxes, and secure endpoints. Vendors should be able to integrate with these compliant communications solutions. Violations of communication regulation can result in fines in the billions. Vendors should have ISO 27001 and SOC 2 certifications too, which together demonstrate global compliance with information security and data management.
Systems designed for SMBs or self-service often do not have support staff to handle urgent inquiries or provide regular check-ins to ensure usage is optimized. Your vendor should offer support during your working hours, and ideally 24x7x365.
Simply put, how much volume can your system handle? Can you bring on additional locations and employees with ease? Can it handle a holiday rush? Can you enable single sign-on for everyone and sync hundreds or thousands of calendars? Can you handle a holiday rush? Can you rely on it to be there when the revenue opportunities are greatest?
Appointment scheduling should be a fully accessible experience, built and tested based on WCAG 2.1 guidelines.
None of this functionality is at the expense of staff flexibility in scheduling or general ease of use. Enterprise-grade appointment scheduling functionality can meet the needs of both centralized staff and geographically dispersed users.