Running any business has its challenges. When you’re in a field service business, those challenges are compounded because you have to DO work at the same time you’re trying to get new customers. Without dedicated back-office and marketing teams, small businesses need to be creative and resourceful in how they attract and retain customers.
One of the most proven ways to increase business is by being there when a customer needs you. And even though you can’t be available 24/7, you can essentially be open for business if you provide your customers with the ability to schedule appointments with you online. This inexpensive functionality you can put on your website, Facebook page, and your other social media channels, makes it convenient for customers, reduces the timely scheduling work you normally do over the phone, and it offers a customer service benefit that differentiates you from your competitors.
Online booking is more than just offering customers a handy self-service calendar on your website, however. It is proven to be major advantage in helping businesses manage their time more effectively, increase service jobs, and build trust with customers.
Building relationships with customers is an important part of doing business, but scheduling a service appointment with them doesn’t require a phone call anymore. Think about your current system for booking appointments. No matter how effective it has been for you, it probably involves multiple steps, and it requires you or a co-worker to be on a phone call.
The standard way of booking an appointment with a customer has typically involved phone calls back-and-forth, a written record of customer name, contact information, date/time of appointment, and notes about the services needed. It’s time consuming and inefficient, and doesn’t provide an easy way for you to follow-up with the customer later.
By putting the phone down and allowing an app do your booking for you, you’ll give customers what they want and start to eliminate tedious and unproductive management headaches. Your business will also stand out from the competition.
Inc. Magazine says, “Research shows that 91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And they make that decision quickly: 68 percent form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews.” The fact is, online reviews and the network effect of customer approval are hugely important to you obtaining new customers.
If you’ve built a loyal following and have a presence on Yelp, Facebook, YellowPages.com or other local listings sites and social media tools, customers will find you.
But in today’s world, where people want everything immediately, the ability to commit to a scheduled time with you will win their business. Online booking gives them what a phone voicemail message cannot deliver - confirmation and peace of mind.
The typical American consumer’s digital usage (smart phone, tablet, desktop) peaks in the hours from 5pm - 9pm; those are hours that you’d probably prefer to avoid customer calls. If all you offer is phone-based scheduling, you’re going to always be playing catch-up through back-and-forth voicemails, all of which will happen when you’re supposed to be servicing other customers.
Online booking means that even if you’re sound asleep, or busy with other matters, you can be open for business 24/7.
If you can use positive online ratings to attract new business AND provide those customers with an easy way to schedule your time, you will be a go-to choice for customers every time. Be a proven, attractive option that enables fast and easy scheduling, and your business will be competitively indefensible.
On top of that, a trend among younger customers that impacts business is the growing reluctance to make phone calls. Many have become accustomed to managing their lives online and phone calls just don’t fit into their daily list of action items. Mobile intelligence firm, Informate, conducted a study that explains that American consumers prefer online communication over voice calls. PatientPop, an agency that specializes in market intelligence for healthcare providers, found that almost 50% of customers prefer online scheduling over booking through a phone call. Why force customers to make a phone call when they don’t want to? Online booking fits the way they operate every day and provides them with convenience they expect.
Every phone call you take to schedule an appointment is a distraction from billable work. And every call you can’t take because you’re busy is a potentially lost opportunity. Using the phone to schedule calls is a constant battle for your attention, and as your business grows, it becomes harder to keep up in that battle.
OK, maybe 10 minutes isn’t that bad. But what about a chatty customer? Or a bad connection? That could double the amount of time on the phone. And no customer wants to feel like they’re being rushed - it’s a huge turn-off and negative word of mouth can spread even before you’ve even had a chance to make someone your customer. If business is good and you’re getting multiple calls each day, it can easily become an hour or more of time away from productive work.
But also consider the other things you have to do to confirm an appointment. Maybe you have to check work schedules to ensure that an employee can make it to the job site. What if you discover there was a conflict you forgot about while you were making the appointment? Tack on an additional 3-5 minutes to figure those and deal with the back-and-forth of just your internal details. Then consider the potential for an endless game of voicemail tag when you have to call the customer back.
An online booking application automatically fills your calendar with appointments that meet your requirements and parameters, all without you having to waste a minute of time in the normal back-and-forth of scheduling details.
Reduce wasted time: With appointments being booked online, you’ll have more time to service your customers. An online booking system collects all necessary information for jobs, which helps you stay focused on billable and productive activities.
Attract customers that are committed: Customers that have to wait for a call back may decide to take their business elsewhere. Customers that book online make a commitment to you and the job they’ve scheduled.
More effective employee scheduling: Ditch the master calendar on the wall, and switch to online booking which automates schedules and informs employees when and where they’re supposed to be.
Lower marketing costs: Give people the option to schedule an appointment through your website, Facebook page, or other social media channels, making you are a customer-first business.
Build trust with customers: When you book online, you can trigger automated alerts and calendar reminders to customers so they know you are committed to their business.
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