To say that the use of online scheduling is growing would be an understatement. You can now find forward-thinking businesses in most every industry offering self-service booking to their customers. It’s not ubiquitous yet; most scheduling is still done with pen and paper. But, it’s definitely growing in popularity.
For many businesses and institutions, online booking is still a “nice to have.” Some of their competitors might already offer it, and some of their customers may be asking for it. But leaders at these organizations may not yet feel that implementing appointment scheduling software is going to make or break the business.
THE DAYS ARE NUMBERED
2016 was the first year in which we saw consumer demand for self-service take a big step forward. In informal surveys we’ve conducted, there’s a clear trend toward people expecting to be able to book online.
There’s also a nascent undertone of frustration among consumers when a company doesn’t offer online booking. For most people, it’s not yet at the point where they’ll take their business elsewhere if they can’t make an appointment themselves. However, there are those who are already communicating this expectation with their wallets.
There’s no doubt that consumers are busier now than ever before. Both at work and during personal time, the pace of life isn’t slowing down. As a result, people are actively looking for ways to save time and simplify their lives. This includes eliminating tasks with which they associate a lot of pain.
Tops on the list is picking up the phone to schedule an appointment. With the advent of text messaging, email, and social media, making a phone call to book an appointment seems antiquated. Busy people want to control the booking process on their time, whether it’s 2pm or 2am.
THE TIDE IS TURNING
While in 2016 consumers considered online appointment scheduling a useful feature that added a lot of convenience to the booking process, they didn’t expect all services businesses to offer this amenity.
The tide is turning.
2017 will mark the first year in which a larger number of consumers will demand online scheduling. This means that buyers will be specifically seeking out businesses that offer this capability.
It also means that customer loyalty among a company’s existing client base will be impacted by whether or not it offers self-service booking. The result? Businesses that don’t offer online scheduling will experience higher customer churn, and many will struggle to stay competitive.
IT'S NOT YET QUICKBOOKS
There are certain business software tools that every service business must have. In today’s world these include an accounting system, such as QuickBooks for small businesses or NetSuite for larger businesses. This group also includes Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software such as Salesforce or Infusionsoft. Marketing software systems, like HubSpot or Constant Contact, are also on the list.
What this esteemed toolbox of software does not yet include is online appointment scheduling software. However, it’s only a matter of time. In 2017, online booking may not quite make the cut of must-have business systems, but it will be swiftly moving toward joining the team.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to know where the demand for customer self-service booking is headed. Sure, you can get away with using that old appointment book for a while longer. But, the expectation level, among both younger and older consumers, is changing.
Technology is not going away, and it’s not slowing down. It wasn’t too long ago that no one had a smart phone. Now over 2 billion people use them. Technological advances are seeping into every industry. You can’t stop or slow down the process, even if you wanted. So, what’s a department head or business owner to do?
JOIN THE REVOLUTION
What’s happening right now is a revolution in online scheduling. It’s transforming the way businesses engage with customers, and opening up opportunities for interaction that never existed before. What’s more, it’s using the latest technologies to allow organizations and those they serve to connect in a way and on a scale never before experienced.
If you haven’t yet made the decision to implement online scheduling for your business, department, or institution, 2017 is the year to take the leap. Consumers are beginning to expect it, and they are conveying this sentiment with their pocketbooks.
No, online booking is not yet like QuickBooks. But 2017 will be the year that it takes a very large step toward being a “must have” for service businesses.