“You’re Late” – Acceptable Ways to Handle and Avoid Customer Tardiness

August 20th, 2014 by

“You’re Late” – Acceptable Ways to Handle and Avoid Customer Tardiness

Photo Credit: Jason Salmon (Dreamstime.com)

If you run an appointment-based business, such as a salon, spa, or medical office, you know that one late or no-show appointment throws your entire day off-kilter. A client late for a scheduled appointment likely doesn’t understand that your next client will now be late, and your client after that, and your client after that… you know the chain reaction well. You can’t demand that your clients show up to their appointments on time; that will shoot your customer satisfaction rating way down. And even though you likely extend an appointment reminder of some sort to your clients, you’re still going to have a few late birds. It’s one thing when your client is met with an unexpected delay; it’s quite another when you have a client who just doesn’t seem to care and is perpetually tardy to scheduled appointments. How do you handle those late birds acceptably? Here are a few tips.

Schedule Them Last

You know the client, the one who tosses the reminder card in the trash once they get home and who, no matter how many times your appointment reminder service calls them, still manages to show up late. It doesn’t matter if you utilize reminder software that sends this client an email reminding them of their appointment; you know they’re going to set you back. So although some might consider this a passive-aggressive way of handling it, why not schedule that client last in your day?

I realize it’s not appealing to think about having to wait however long this client is usually tardy to end your business day, but it’s even less appealing to think about all of your angry customers who had to wait because they followed this client in your appointment book. If you have a client who continually disregards your schedule, and you’ve talked politely with this client about it, book the client at the end of your day. That way, the only person affected by the customer’s tardiness is you.

Utilize Additional Reminder Methods

You probably already use that handy-dandy reminder card, writing your customer’s next appointment down and handing it to them before they leave their current visit. Many will tack that onto their refrigerator when they get home; others will put it in their appointment book; some lose it, one way or another. The business-card-sized appointment reminder is a fantastic tool, but you need to use some additional prodding to back it up for those infamous late birds.

One way to go is to hire an appointment reminder service, but that can be an expensive proposition, and, to be completely honest, it’s unnecessary. Sure, it offers the personal touch of a human calling your perpetually late client to remind them of their next appointment, but if you’re going to do that, the phone call should come directly from you, and this could be problematic if you’re busy.

Fortunately, there is appointment reminder software available to issue your customers, even the chronically late ones, an online reminder of their appointment via email or other preferred medium, such as a text message. In fact, an online booking experience is becoming the way to go for booking your clientele. Why? Because your clients can view your schedule online and book their own appointments whenever they need to see you.

Why Online Reminder Methods Work

Here’s the thing. We live in an automated society, and everyone wants instant gratification via their own control. Keep in mind that “own control” is the operative phrase here. You will have your handful of regular clientele who still believe in the old-fashioned way of booking their next appointment. While they’re finalizing their bill, you’ll flip to the next month in your appointment book and jot them down manually.

This tried-and-true method works well, but today, people are on the run. They don’t want to book their next appointment while they’re paying their bill. They have another place to be, and if they’re consistently late to their appointment with you, chances are they are late to their next appointment as well. They’ll “call you later” and book it then… or will they? This is where online appointment booking software has the advantage over just reminding your clients of their next scheduled visit.

By allowing your clients to book their appointments online, you give them the power to select the date and time of their next visit and book it themselves when they have time. What’s even better? Studies show that they’ll be more likely to remember their appointment because they booked it and less likely to rush through your doors late because they forgot about the appointment until the last minute.

In addition, your online booking software will remind your client of their next scheduled appointment via their chosen medium. They get to choose how they are reminded, and they will likely choose the method that works best for them; no more excuses for being late! By handling tardy clients this way, you’re giving them the tools to ensure that they make their own appointments and arrive for them on time.

Email Marketing 101: Keeping Your Best Customers

August 14th, 2014 by

Photo Credit: Gstudio Group

Email Marketing 101: Keeping Your Best Customers

There is such a stigma behind email marketing; so many small business owners fear the word “spam.” I understand why. Even I become frustrated if my inbox is inundated with unwanted emails, and I am sitting here writing a blog post on email marketing! Email marketing is such a critical part of your overall business marketing plan, however, that you really shouldn’t fear it. When used appropriately, direct email marketing keeps your customers interested in your business. Let’s take a quick Email Marketing 101 course and learn how to utilize email to keep your best customers as your customers.

Know Your Boundaries

The first rule of thumb when it comes to direct email marketing is to know your boundaries, which I find is easy to do if I ask myself, “Would this action make me mad?” When thinking about email marketing, think opt-in email marketing. You know what that is; it’s that nifty checkbox you select to subscribe to somebody’s emails. Opt-in email marketing gives your recipients the choice as to whether they want to receive messages about your email marketing blogs or other communications. If your customers opt in to receive your emails, chances are good that they aren’t going to get mad and think “spam” once your solicitation hits their inbox.

Keep in mind, however, that opt-in email marketing does not give you a license to email them 20 times a day… or even ten, for that matter! You still want to be respectful of your customer’s time and inbox. Do not overstep your boundaries by sending tons of emails. Rather, give your customers the option as to how often they wish to hear from you and what they want to receive. Do they want to receive your weekly newsletter, coupons, discounts, and special offers? Knowing who wants to hear from you and what about will quickly build an effective email-marketing mailing list that does not anger your customers or cause them to hit the “spam” button.

Know Your Audience

Another rule of thumb to consider is who will benefit most from your email. Just as you research demographics to find the best potential customers for your direct marketing campaigns, you also want to utilize a targeted e-mail marketing strategy for your email marketing campaign. Salon owners would be foolish to direct salon email marketing correspondence to an email address list filled with male senior citizens who still believe in the old-fashioned barber shop. Spa owners would be foolish to direct spa email marketing solicitations to an equally disinterested audience. Know your audience, which is easy to do if you are emailing your current customers, to ensure that you are employing a targeted e-mail marketing strategy.

This includes branding yourself in your email. Another term you will benefit from knowing is branded email marketing. What is branded email marketing? It’s putting your brand into your emails. This works well when you are emailing your current customer base because your clients already know you and your business. They are more likely to open your email once they see it’s from you. Incorporating your brand into your email solicitations also tailors the emails to your customers and ensures that they will open and read what you have to say.

Use the Tool

So what’s a good example of how to best utilize email marketing to keep your best customers? How about sending them email newsletters designed to inform and entice? Your customers solicit your business because they choose to; they are interested in you and what you are selling. Your customers also solicit your business because you meet a need within their financial means. Let’s take this knowledge and run with it.

Imagine you’re a salon owner (or don’t imagine, if you actually are one!) and you want to utilize email marketing to keep your clients booking appointments. You have an online scheduling system that stores your client information and allows them to book their appointments from the convenience of their own home. Included in their information is their email address, and they’ve opted in to receive your solicitations.

Write a bi-monthly or even a monthly newsletter letting your clients know what’s going on in your salon. Include engaging news events that your clients would be interested in, such as that one of your manicurists is expecting her first baby, or that your salon is having a Brazilian blowout party so everyone can have the ultimate good hair day. Write the newsletter and download it into your online scheduling software to send to your salon email marketing list already contained within the database.

Spa owners, or any business owner for that matter, can do the same thing. Customers on a spa email marketing mailing list are definitely going to want to know about the weekly specials. They want that massage, that mud treatment, that day of pampering, especially if they can receive it a discounted rate to justify the expense in today’s tighter economy. Write a newsletter about the specials in your spa, and send the newsletter to all of your customers who have opted in to receive your solicitations.

Get the Tool

If you’re thinking, “Niclas, I don’t have online appointment software that allows me to send newsletters. I don’t have this tool,” you know that I’m going to reply with, “Yes, you do. You just need to sign up for it!” One of the features of TimeCenter’s scheduling software is the ability to store your customers’ email addresses in a database and send a newsletter to them when you so desire. This makes utilizing email marketing to your customers an easy and convenient way to keep them thinking about your business.

Aside from giving your clients the ability to schedule their own appointments, TimeCenter also allows you to keep in touch with your clients, market to them, and even set up event registration to ensure that everyone who wants that Brazilian blowout gets it. Direct email marketing is not a bad thing. Rather, it is an extremely valuable tool that, when used correctly, will keep your business in the forefront of your customers’ minds. And if they’re thinking about you, they’re going to book with you and talk about you to their friends, who are your new potential customers!

Top 5 Reasons to Never, Ever Overbook

August 6th, 2014 by

Top 5 Reasons to Never, Ever Overbook

A properly booked business is a business ready to serve its customers.

If there is one mistake most small business owners make, it is overbooking clients. I understand why. When building and managing your business, the temptation to fall into the “more is better” trap actually makes sense: more clients, more profits. In the process of trying to bring in as much money as possible, however, many other things in your business suffer, and these are the things that ensure your venture’s long-term growth and stability. Why should you avoid the overbooking pitfall even when it does bring in more money? Here are the top five reasons to never, ever overbook.

1. It doesn’t actually bring in additional long-term profit.

If you’re a service-based business with the potential for walk-in clientele, such as a salon or spa, you need someone available at all times to handle your walk-ins. If you have overbooked your current clients and cannot accommodate walk-in clients, you’ve just lost a new (possibly permanent) client and the word-of-mouth marketing and business growth that comes with them. It is important to make room in your paper and online appointment booking system for the unexpected new client.

2. It causes unnecessary delays.

It’s bad enough that you are inadvertently turning away new clients by overbooking in your client appointment software; it’s even worse if you anger your existing clients by making them wait too long for their scheduled appointment. Overbooking creates customer overlap, and customer overlap means you’re behind schedule before your day even begins. If Jane Doe has a 10 a.m. appointment and you aren’t ready for her until 10:30… well, I’m certain you can imagine what her reaction is going to be.

3. It causes unnecessary stress.

Overbooking also causes unnecessary stress for you and your employees. Obviously, if you and/or your employees have too many people to see throughout the day, the pressure will be on to get everybody in and out quickly. This leads to subpar service and unhappy clients. Top that off with the clients who are already angry because of reason number two and you’re in for a long and stressful day filled with cranky staff and customers.

4. It is poor customer service.

If you are overbooked and unable to handle walk-ins; if you are overbooked and running consistently late; or if you are overbooked and are giving subpar, cranky service, your customer service and your business reputation just went down the drain, and you can bet your client appointment software is going to be looking pretty empty. Your customers come to you expecting you to be on time, effective, and pleasant. Overbooking keeps your customers’ expectations from being met.

5. It is not necessary.

The final reason why you should never, ever overbook your appointments is that it isn’t necessary in the first place. Calendaring your workload intelligently and using an online appointment booking system effectively prevents overbooking and the headaches that come with it. It is not necessary to overbook your business to maximize your profits if you are using a tool that helps you book and manage your clients efficiently. This enables you to handle more clients, which promotes long-term business growth. That’s the best kind of growth any small business owner can ask for.