But we’re here to talk about the business advantages of self-service technology. In this second post in our series on the topic, we examine the core business benefits of offering self-service appointment scheduling.
Self-service technology has become so commonplace that consumers no longer think of it as novel. It’s become a given.
You probably think this way yourself without realizing it.
When you need cash, pull up to an ATM, and see an “out of service” sign, what’s your first reaction? If your answer is “inconvenienced,” “frustrated,” or “disappointed,” it’s safe to say this particular self-service option is one you’ve come to expect and rely on.
Consumers have become conditioned to take care of simple banking transactions, fuel their cars, and rent movies themselves. And when they aren’t able to, they can become irritated.
But self-service isn’t just about customer convenience. Your company and its employees also stand to benefit from it. From increased productivity to time savings to boosts in profitability, there are numerous reasons to jump on the self-service bandwagon.
Life in the self-service lane
Remember our auto repair shop example from our last post? The shop attempting to do everything manually was giving its customers little reason to stick around, and no reason to ever return.
Meanwhile, their competition down the street offers a dramatically different experience.
When the shop opens at 7 am, everyone knows the day’s schedule. Customers have made their own appointments and provided their own contact info. Checking in takes zero time, since customer and vehicle information are retrieved with a few keystrokes.
The staff is saving time too. The receptionist tasked with checking in customers is rarely interrupted by phone calls to change or cancel appointments, or by service techs who are looking for details about their next appointment. She’s able to focus on the customers, providing them with attentive service while they’re in the shop. And the service techs are able to pull up their schedules on their phones, or at the laptop in the service bay.
What’s in it for you?
Let’s take a closer look at the business benefits of implementing online self-scheduling:
Fewer resources to manage
Good help is hard to find. So why would you waste your HR department’s time looking for staff whose main focus will be answering calls and keying in data? Online self-service scheduling means that most of the appointment scheduling process is completed by your customers — the ones who already know their availability (and how to spell their names). They do the work of finding an available appointment time, selecting a provider, and keying in their own contact information. So you don’t need to hire or manage staff for these tasks.
Along the same lines of resource allocation is the benefit of automation — that wonderful invention for handling repetitive tasks so people don’t have to.
A perfect example: A few months ago, I called my pharmacy to have a prescription refilled. The tech asked if I wanted to have it automatically refilled each month. She explained I would receive a text and email when it was ready, so I would know when it was time to pick up my refill.
As someone who only notices that a prescription needs to be refilled when I’m taking the last pill in the bottle, I was thrilled to be offered this option.
Just like at my now-favorite pharmacy, automation can do wonders for your customer service process. From automatic text and email reminders to monthly report generation, there are opportunities to have the software work for you, so you can focus on other things.
24-hour availability — without the overhead
The lovely thing about technology is that it’s eternally available. It doesn’t have office hours. It doesn’t go on coffee breaks. It doesn’t even need to have the lights turned on. And it’s never in a bad mood.
Your customers want to be able to schedule appointments at their convenience, not yours. With self-service scheduling, they are free to book their appointments on weekends, in the wee hours of the morning, after work on the commuter train, or at any other moment when they suddenly remember they need to see you. Effortless for you, and convenient for them.
No more phone tag
If you rely on customers to call you for appointments, what happens when they don’t get through? If they don’t hang up and call another business, their only option is to leave you a voicemail message, and wait for you to call back.
Of course, if they’re in a meeting or in the middle of bath-time with a toddler when you return their call, you’ll be leaving a message of your own.
This frustrating back-and-forth is easily eliminated with self-service scheduling. Your customers simply choose available appointment times that fit their schedule. End of story.
As long as you have an Internet connection, you’re golden. Your customers can access and utilize your online calendar from their smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
So multi-taskers of the world, rejoice! For your customers waiting in line at the grocery store, or heading home on the train, or those who just want to take care of their appointment-setting while it’s fresh in their minds, your company enables them to be productive on the go.
Builds brand equity and goodwill
Remember my personal example about the forward-thinking pharmacy? Your business could be the hero in someone else’s story!
Customers love a company that values their time, makes tedious tasks easier, and creates a smoother buying experience for them. Offering online self-scheduling tells your prospect that you value their time. It’s a show of respect that takes place before that prospect has even walked in your door. And it’s the kind of gesture that lays a foundation for a long relationship.
And while self-service scheduling isn’t exactly rocket science, there’s still that “Wow, that’s so cool!” factor when a new technology is unveiled. I know I was impressed that some sort of automation magic was going to keep me from missing my prescription refills.
Customers love it
Think about the first time you discovered some cool little service, feature, or amenity, and how it changed your buying habits. Since I discovered the movie theater that has the self-serve butter pumps in the lobby, I don’t want to see any movie that’s not playing there (I gotta have that fake butter!).
My point is, once your customers become accustomed to this ultra-convenient way to make appointments, they won’t be able to imagine life without it. And they’ll start to seek out other businesses that offer it.
Oftentimes, to make a customer happy, you have to compromise. But technology has brought us an economy in which we finally have a true win-win solution; a service option that makes perfect sense from a business standpoint, that also makes the customer happy.
In Part 3 of our series, we’ll talk about what your customers want, why they want it, and how you can be the company that gives it to them.
Missed Part 1? Read it now.
Continue on to Part 3, “The Psychology of Self-service: What the Customer Wants.”