How to Use Appointment Scheduling to Improve the Customer Experience

Most private and public organizations operate on a walk-in basis. 

Customers, clients, or citizens arrive on-site and either join a line, check-in at reception or grab a ticket. Then they settle in to wait for their turn – without any idea of how long they’ll be there.

There’s nothing wrong with accepting walk-ins – and the most effective organizations build enough slack into their queue management system to accommodate for a certain amount of them.

But today, there’s a better way of managing customer flow – appointment scheduling.

Here’s how it works:

Instead of turning up to your premises and hoping the line isn’t too long, a customer or citizen makes an appointment online or over the phone.

Smart scheduling software flags peak times to people so they can avoid busy periods. And that same data helps you plan your staff schedule, so you’re never understaffed during busy periods.

Customers and citizens will then receive automated reminders about their appointment through SMS messages and push notifications. These messages allow them to cancel or reschedule their appointment in just a few clicks, helping to reduce no-shows across your organization.

If an appointment is delayed, people will receive a notification letting them know so they can wait in the comfort of their own home or wherever is convenient for them instead of in a crowded reception.

Then your customers or citizens simply arrive on-site at their allotted time, get greeted by a calm and collected member of staff who doesn’t have to worry about managing a queue, and then directed straight to the service they need.

As you can tell, this is a completely different customer experience – one you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever visited an Apple store.

You can’t just walk into an Apple store and get a device repaired – you need to make a reservation at the Genius Bar. Then you turn up for your allotted time when you’re guaranteed to immediately have a member of staff’s full attention.

You can provide that same seamless experience to your customers and citizens by replacing walk-ins with online appointments.

The benefits of appointment scheduling

Here’s a closer look at the benefits of appointment scheduling:

Less stressed staff

Queue management software empowers your organization with all the data you need to plan staff schedules around peak service times. This helps prevent your employees from ever being overwhelmed by an unforeseen surge in demand.

It also allows your customers or citizens to avoid peak times, helping to ensure things run a lot smoother for both them and your frontline staff. 

And because customer communications and check-in are largely automated through a queue management system, that frees your staff up to fully focus on providing the best care and customer experience to everyone who walks through the door.

What’s more, serving contented customers and citizens is a lot easier for your staff than having to deal with people feeling aggravated after a long wait in line.

This all adds up to better-optimized operations and happier, less stressed-out staff.

Reduce wait times

No one likes waiting.

Roll appointment scheduling out across your organization and your customers or citizens will never have to queue on your premises again. Instead, they arrive at their allotted time and are seen straight away.

Safe queuing

Since the introduction of social distancing measures, lines have ballooned in length and become a serious problem for organizations that receive a lot of footfall. 

Before the Illinois Secretary of State implemented appointment booking software, socially distanced lines of up to 300 citizens were snaking through neighborhoods outside its offices in all kinds of weather. Today, around 20 citizens at a time are being served in a calmer, safer, and socially distanced environment without any drop-in service.

Queuing outside isn’t just uncomfortable for your visitors – especially in wicked weather. It’s also a nuisance for nearby businesses and a liability for your own.

Appointment scheduling removes the need for your visitors to queue altogether, solving the problem in a single stroke.

People come prepared

Online forms also help streamline the check-in process by requiring customers and citizens to fill out any forms and upload any documents they need before they arrive for their appointment.

This will reduce the time people spend on your premises, making your offices less crowded and reducing the perceived wait time for each customer. 

Plus, incomplete and incorrect information won’t be accepted by an online system. That means people won’t have to go through the frustrating experience of having to fill out their details twice if they make a mistake on the first form.

And once someone’s details are in your online system, they can instantly be accessed by your staff each time that person returns, significantly speeding up the check-in process.

Fewer no-shows

No-shows are one of the biggest contributors to long wait times. It’s also one of the easiest to fix with appointment scheduling software, which automatically reminds people about their upcoming appointment.

These are sent in the form of text messages or push notifications, which avoid the problem of people being hesitant to answer a call from a number they don't recognize.

And if a customer or citizen needs to cancel or reschedule an appointment, it will only take a few taps of their smartphone’s screen to do so. 

Providing your customers or citizens with this functionality will not only give them a more streamlined service but also help reduce no-show rates – no staff hours needed.

A smoother service

When someone schedules an appointment online, Q-Flow automatically assigns them to the member of staff best suited to help them based on their specific needs. 

This ensures each customer or citizen gets the service they need as quickly as possible, making your entire organization run more smoothly.

Improved visitor experience 

Handy appointment reminders, zero wait time, and excellent customer service from happy and helpful staff. Add these all together and you’ve got a drastically improved visitor experience that will leave your citizens or customers singing your praises.

How to increase appointments and reduce walk-ins

ACF’s virtual appointment system makes it easy for anyone looking to access your service to make and manage their appointments.

And if you already have Q-Flow in place and are using it as a ticketing system for physical lines, it’s quick, affordable, and easy to implement a full virtual queuing system across your organization. That's exactly what we did for the Illinois Secretary of State, which we helped get the most from the Q-Flow system they already had in place.

If your organization is in the same boat, here are four simple ways to nudge your customers or citizens towards making online appointments and away from showing up as a walk-in.

Enable appointment scheduling 

First, enable appointment scheduling to make it easy for people to make and manage appointments over the phone or online. 

Send appointment confirmations and reminders 

Every appointment no-show impacts your organization’s bottom line. To reduce no-shows, leverage appointment scheduling software to send automatic reminders in the lead-up to and on the day of the appointment.

Manage rescheduled appointments and cancellations 

Empowering people to book and reschedule their own appointments frees your frontline staff up from having to manage appointment admin, reducing their workloads. 

Make it easy to check-in

Enable virtual queuing to give people the option to queue for their appointment in the comfort of their own home or a nearby coffee shop. They’ll be updated on their place in line and any delays through SMS messages and push notifications and can head to their appointment at the exact time they’re needed. 

Summing up

People’s expectations from organizations have drastically changed over the last few years.

The Coronavirus pandemic forced organizations to adapt to serving their customers virtually, and that came with a number of aspects people don’t want to leave behind. 

Appointment scheduling offers organizations a way to seamlessly incorporate the kind of flexible, customer-centric, and virtual-first service that people came to expect during the pandemic.

And if your organization is already using Q-Flow, we can help you quickly and easily implement a virtual queuing system across your organization without breaking the bank.

To learn more about ACF’s virtual queuing solutions, get in touch with our team for more information.