Imagine this scenario: You’re in the market for a new suit. You want to buy the best-fitting suit, so you want to meet with an in-store stylist for a fitting consultation. After all, a suit is an investment piece in your wardrobe, and you want to ensure that it’s the right fit and style that’ll last a lifetime.
You research suits online, and find one at your favorite retailer that you think might best fit you. You go to make an appointment online, and you realize that the retailer doesn’t have that option available.
How do you schedule your appointment? You have to pick up the phone, and call the store. When speaking with the stylist, you scramble to view your calendar on your phone – since you’re on the go – to find the best day and time to book an appointment. After some back and forth on availability, you confirm your appointment for Saturday, June 29, at 10 a.m. And then, finally, you put the appointment in your calendar as a reminder.
Imagine how easy it would have been if you booked the appointment online – where you could’ve seen the stylist’s availability, and picked the best time for you.
The good news is that some retailers and banks have appointment booking capabilities, which create powerful experiences for both consumers and brands. By using this software, customers can seamlessly connect with brands at times that are most convenient to them, and retailers can increase their customer engagement, loyalty, and conversion.
What is online appointment scheduling software?
Appointment booking software easily allows customers to schedule and update appointments via web-based systems. The technology is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week, and can integrate with various customer relationship management tools. It also offers the ability to capture scheduling statistics, accept online payments, and send automated notifications like SMS and email reminders.
Customers can book appointments with the right people (in-store and in-branch staff) at the right time, saving staff a tremendous amount of time trying to arrange appointment logistics via phone and shuffle through various calendars. The collective data that retailers can glean from booking software allows them to gather deeper customer insights, and provide exceptional customer experiences. As a result, businesses can strengthen their customer relationships, which creates more revenue and loyalty.
Why use appointment scheduling?
The primary advantage of using appointment scheduling software is the accuracy and convenience for customers, which allow them to schedule appointments in real-time with a click of a mouse.
Customers can easily update scheduling information, view in-store staff availability through calendars, and purchase services via secured payment options. Perhaps the greatest consumer benefit is how much time online scheduling saves them. Consumers can quickly sign online to book an appointment and don’t have to call stores or branches to speak with staff to make their appointments. The entire online scheduling experience – from selecting the most convenient time to receiving appointment confirmations and calendar reminders – can be done wherever consumers are – at home, in the office, or on the go.
There are also tremendous benefits for businesses. Brands can use online appointment scheduling software to drive foot traffic back into their stores and branches by creating personalized experiences that customers won’t receive online; for example, in-store fittings for suits where consumers can receive personalized and expert recommendations from staff. And imagine the upsell opportunity for tailoring once the appointment with a stylist is set!
Retailers and banks can even give consumers the option of scheduling their appointments via social media to increase engagement, offering another channel to converse with customers. After all, brands’ most loyal customers are most likely follow or like them on social media.
Businesses can also use the technology to give their staff an at-a-glance view of all customer interactions, highlighting key behavior patterns that can result in them offering deeper recommendations to their customers. With consumers’ information such as their purchase histories or personal interests, in-store staff can deliver highly tailored experiences that make customers feel appreciated because of the time and attention given to them.
The most important benefit for retailers is that online appointment scheduling drives conversion, which can yield increased basket sizes of 3X-10X. According to a First Insight Report, 71% of shoppers spend $50 or more when shopping in-store, signaling that consumers purchase significantly more per visit in-store than online. And, according to JRNI’s 2018 Consumer Behavior Research, 64% of respondents said they typically spend or invest more in products or services after in-person appointments.
Who uses online booking software?
There are some examples of major brands in retail and banking that use online scheduling software. Let’s take a look at some examples, and the results they’ve achieved:
John Lewis & Partners
John Lewis & Partners is a chain of high-end department stores with 49 shops operating throughout the U.K. While steeped from years of selling products and services in traditional manners, the retailer moved toward delivering engaging experiences to their customers by offering 22 in-store and at-home services that start with in-person consultation appointments.
Over the past three years, John Lewis & Partners tripled its appointment volume by delivering exceptional customer service, which builds stronger customer relationships and has been a strategic business initiative.
Debenhams is a European department store that unifies its digital and in-store channels by offering personal shopper services at more than 200 locations. The retailer experienced a 30% increase in customer scheduling appointments and reduced employee downtime. This leads to an increase in-store revenue and reduction in employee turnover; a win-win for brands.
Oriental Bank is one of Puerto Rico’s largest banks that experienced long branch wait times for customers. The bank had little to no visibility into their customer volume, which made it difficult to resource staff appropriately. It also needed more accurate customer data to provide continuous improvements to service.
Oriental Bank reduced its wait times by more than 50% for customers who booked appointments online. It also registered more than 13,000 scheduled appointments in its first month using scheduling software. Accessing more insightful customer data, the bank can now continuously improve its customer service strategies to provide exceptional experiences.
Bank of America, Apple, and the U.S. Government’s Global Entry program are also effectively using appointment scheduling software:
Bank of America
A financial leader in the U.S., Bank of America has an easy-to-use online booking system that allows consumers to speak with financial specialists at their convenience. Customers can manage and reschedule their appointments, and they can provide details in advance about discussion items so that specialists are prepared to have engaging and helpful conversations with them.
One of the kings of customer service and one of the world’s most iconic brands, Apple provides a booking portal that puts the power of convenience directly into consumers’ hands. Customers can make in-store appointments at Apple’s Genius Bar directly from the site, allowing them to view a calendar of available appointments and selecting a store that’s most convenient for them. Customers can simply pick the date and time for their in-store appointments, and they can receive appointment reminders via email and text. View Apple’s online appointment scheduling portal here.
U.S. Government’s Global Entry Program
The U.S. Government’s Global Entry program, which permits expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers entering the U.S., enables people to schedule in-person appointments for applications. Customers can view a calendar to select the date, time, and location for their in-person appointments, and they can even schedule multiple appointments for multiple people; a great feature for families applying for Global Entry. Visit the online appointment scheduling website for the U.S. Government’s Global Entry Program here.
What should I look for in a scheduling solution?
It might be difficult to select the best type of online booking software, but it’s crucial for brands to have complete visibility into valuable customer data to increase conversions. No matter the company size, there’s a solution for all brands.
However, to achieve the best possible results, large companies need a true enterprise-scale platform that can grow with their businesses and provide the deep intelligence that’s needed to succeed in today’s competitive market.
What are trends in appointment scheduling?
Online appointment scheduling has certainly transformed over the past few years, boasting slick and easy-to-use interfaces as more retailers and banks roll out the technology to their customers. What’s next for appointment scheduling software, and how will it advance from the services of today to make an even greater impact for consumers, tomorrow? Artificial intelligence, deeper personalization, and on-the-go scheduling are three of the major trends we’re keeping an eye on toward the future:
While we’re far off from true artificial intelligence (where actual robots with human empathy will undoubtedly help us to do more work in less time, especially in corporate workplaces), we’re in the midst of machine learning and robotic process automation (RPA); two critical components that lead toward artificial intelligence. Machine learning and RPA are helping to understand our online behaviors by undertaking easy and repeatable tasks. These systems are helping software applications to become more accurate in predicting outcomes without being explicitly programmed, according to TechTarget.
As machine learning and RPA advance, speed will become an even more critical factor. For customers, speed means that they’ll be able to schedule their appointments even faster because their online appointment scheduling software already knows their behaviors and interests. As a result, customers can receive even more individualized serviced. For retailers and banks, this can result in significant cost savings and greater dividends.
Advancements in machine learning and RPA also create more opportunities for deeper personalization. The smarter our computers and online systems become, the more data we’ll have to make more informed decisions about our customers and their online behaviors.
For example, knowing more about customers’ buying profiles, which include preferred locations for in-store and in-branch appointments, best availability to schedule appointments based on previous appointments, and opportunities for cross-sell and upsell, can help increase the overall in-store and in-branch experience. This will inevitably save consumers time and help them schedule their online appointments even faster. And retailers will be able to establish stronger relationships with their customers.
According to GSMA, there are nearly 9 billion mobile connections worldwide, illustrating a ripe opportunity for brands to reach consumers on their most personal device – their mobile phones.
As today’s digital consumers are constantly on the go, retailers and banks must offer scheduling opportunities via mobile devices. It’s a convenient and easy way for customers to schedule appointments. Brands need to reach consumers wherever they are, and most customers aren’t with their computers all the time. Customers will always have their phones with them so consumers should have the opportunity to schedule, cancel, or update appointments while on the go. They can also easily access their calendars to view upcoming appointments or receive reminders via email and text. Not to mention, mobile provides a great personalized experience that can lead customers back into stores by building loyalty through exclusive promotions and offerings sent directly to them.
Interested in learning more about appointment scheduling software and how it can help you as retailers or banks? Check out our Appointments application for everything you need to know.
June 24, 2019
12 minute read