Scheduling may seem like it’s an easy task at first. After all, it’s “just” filling a time slot with a client and a massage therapist, right? But you probably already know that it’s far more complicated than that. Some important things you have to keep in mind with regard to scheduling include staff utilization, the number of recurring clients per therapist, and room availability. And all those scheduling challenges don’t even include the daily demands of managing staff, which can be more time consuming than any other task.
Even if you’re using a robust massage therapy software system for appointment booking, it’s still possible to make a mistake or two along the way. The key is doing what you can to prevent any calendar flubs from occurring.
Check out some of the most common scheduling mishaps, and the best ways to avoid them:
1. Not staffing up for peak times
Being understaffed is a nightmare. Turning customers away is one of the worst feelings for a business owner or manager. But if you’re under prepared for busy times, you may have to do just that. Look for patterns in previous years’ bookings to find out where the spikes are, as well as when to expect your slower periods.(See this post for tips on spurring additional business during your slow periods.)
It also helps to think about your client base. If you’re selling a lot of gift certificates before the holidays, you can probably expect an influx of appointments and new clients in January, or before the certificates expire. Or, if your business is located near a popular tourist destination, consider the seasons when visitors are more likely to drop in. Even people who don’t normally treat themselves to massages will splurge when they’re on vacation, and you’ll want to make sure you have enough employees to handle the load.
You may also find that you need to hire seasonal contractors in order to keep up with higher demand periods.
2. Closing the lines of communication with your staff
Being transparent about your plan for your business will help encourage a healthy relationship between you and your staff. If staff are aware of upcoming marketing programs or normal seasonality, they’ll feel more confident about what impacts they can expect to their calendars. If these and other factors do end up having an impact on their schedule, they won’t feel blindsided. If you do encounter situations in which you have to make last-minute scheduling adjustments, make sure you use staff email and text alerts so they can see those calendar changes instantly.
Having open lines of communication also means paying close attention to your staff. When you notice that an employee has a change in body language or attitude, you need to step in and encourage communication. After all, massage therapist burnout is real. But, there are warning signs well in advance of an employee being completely burned out and possibly leaving. It’s your job as a leader and business owner to be on the lookout for these signs. And, in the case of burnout, having a conversation about the importance of recovery time and taking breaks can be the difference between retaining a healthy, productive employee and losing them.
Think of your booking calendar as a Goldilocks story — you want enough hours to keep your workers happy, but not so many that they’re exhausted and stretched thin. Those hours have to be just right. Listen to their needs in order to create a schedule that keeps your employees (and their tired hands) happy.
3. Keeping your schedule in the dark
Communicating with your staff is certainly important, but you should also provide your staff with easy access to your booking calendar, so no one ever gets confused or left out of the loop. Set up each of your massage therapists with their own login information to your massage software so they can quickly scan their calendar to get an idea of what their week will look like.
If you choose, you can also give your staff access to other employee calendars, so that they can easily trade appointments when their schedules become too hectic or when they need to call in for a sick day. And don’t forget to include setup and clean-up time in between appointments, as well as any travel time for your employees who visit clients on-site.
4. Not having a solid backup plan
There’s no doubt about it: At some point, something will go wrong. Even though you’ve done your best to work out the kinks as you’ve grown your massage practice, you simply can’t foresee every issue you may run into. So, try to create some strong backup plans in case you run into problems.
Find out in advance which of your employees have the most flexible schedules and can work evenings or holidays under special circumstances. Be sure to make a note of those employees in your online scheduler. Include their cell and home phone numbers for easy access in case you or another therapist need to get in touch with them. Also, keep additional independent contractor profiles, email addresses, and phone numbers in your booking software system so that you can bring them in as needed.
Using massage therapy scheduling software is certainly a step toward having happy employees and even happier customers. But it’s important to remember all the little ways you can make your appointment calendar even more effective. So don’t make those mistakes that could land you in hot water!
What kinds of scheduling mistakes have you made in the past, and how do you prevent them from happening in the future? How does massage practice scheduling software help you solve your staff scheduling problems? Share your stories with us in the comments below!