October 06, 2018

The Benefits of Online Appointment Booking

You’ll alleviate frustration, improve team performance, boost client satisfaction, and enjoy better business outcomes.
By Bruce L. Truman
Cats COmputerAs he goes through his mail late one evening, your client Mr. Smith sees your practice’s post­card reminder for booster vaccines for his dog. The office is closed, so he visits your website, chooses “click here to request an appointment,” and provides the required information.

The next day, Mr. Smith misses a call from your office. When he calls back, the clinic phone line is busy, so he leaves a message. At the end of his workday, almost 24 hours after receiving the reminder from your practice, he has experienced multiple missed calls and voice-mail messages—and he still has not scheduled an appointment for his dog.

Mr. Smith is not the only one who is frustrated. Your receptionist spends much of her day on the phone, returning calls from clients who left messages and requested appointments online, as well as calling others with appointment reminders—not to mention answering calls about a host of questions and pet health concerns. With each new call, your reception­ist’s frustration grows. And that frustration comes at a cost: lost revenue, poor client reten­tion, and employee turnover.

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More than three-quarters of patients today want the ability to book, change, or cancel their own doctor and dentist appointments online.1 The global management consulting and professional services firm Accenture predicts that by the end of 2019, 66% of US health systems will offer online scheduling.1

Your clients will soon expect online appointment scheduling for their pets, as well. For years, the veterinary industry has enjoyed hearing that clients “wish their own doctor” called to check on them or offered evening appoint­ments, or whatever else the veterinary industry does that the human medical profession does not. Today, the veterinary industry risks hearing something different: “I can schedule my own doctor appoint­ments anytime, day or night. Why do I have to waste time calling and being put on hold just to schedule one for my pet?” And wasting time is what we are all doing, given that it takes about 8 minutes, on average, to schedule an appointment over the phone.1
 

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY

Online appointment bookingReal-time online appointment scheduling is a solu­tion to the frustrations that both your clients and team members face. Consider how many more tasks could be completed if your receptionist spent less time on the phone. Consider the revenue lost when clients postpone making an appointment because of inconvenience. Instead of thinking of online scheduling as just another technology gimmick, view it as a new opportunity to engage your clients and team and improve business success.

Before moving forward, it is important to address any reserva­tions you have about using this technology. For many hospitals, a chief concern is double-booking appointments. Many service providers will update your calendar automatically through your practice information manage­ment software when an appoint­ment is scheduled online. Also, if 2 clients are attempting to schedule a visit at the same time, the first person to complete the process will get the appointment and the other will be notified that the slot is no longer available.
 

FIND A PRODUCT THAT FITS YOUR NEEDS

How does one go about choosing a real-time online appointment scheduling program for their practice? Consider a program that:
  • Offers real-time booking and not just a request for a callback to schedule. As many as 40% of bookings take place when businesses are closed.
  • Automatically updates your practice information management system after each booking to avoid double bookings or other snafus that often occur when manual updates must be managed by front office staff.
  • Sends both email and text reminders to clients about their scheduled appointments to reduce no-shows.
  • Provides links that can be placed on your website and social media platforms to make it easier for clients to schedule quickly.
  • Is customizable to your practice’s needs.
  • Has the ability to prevent odd gaps in scheduled appointments via customized features.
 

YOUR RETURN ON INVESTMENT

Think of the savings in receptionist hours (up to 75% time savings has been reported1) when phone calls are reduced. You’ll also experience operating cost savings as clients fill your appointment book at their leisure when the business closed. Implementing scheduling software will have a multitude of positive repercussions, including improved team performance, client satisfaction, and business performance.

And what about Mr. Smith? He found a practice that provides real-time scheduling, so he was able to schedule his pet’s appointment without playing phone tag.

 
Mr. Truman is the founder and owner of BLT Technology & Innovation Group, a companion animal business consulting company that focuses on marketing and sales strategies for new products and services. He is the past president of VetPartners (vetpartners.org), a member of the CATalyst Council board of directors, and a member of the AVMA Veterinary Procedural Terminology Council.

 

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