How has appointment booking changed over the past 11 years? 10 years ago, many people were still relying on pen and paper. Since then, appointment booking has evolved technologically. Something as simple as booking an appointment has now become a complicated service offering multiple different types of appointment, and many different channels offering this appointment.
The true value nowadays comes from getting the right specialist in front of the right customer, at a mutually convenient time and location.
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Episode 01 Summary
How has appointment booking changed over the past 11 years?
10 years ago, many people were still relying on pen and paper. Since then, appointment booking has evolved technologically. Something as simple as booking an appointment has now become a complicated service offering multiple different types of appointment, and many different channels offering this appointment.
The true value nowadays comes from getting the right specialist in front of the right customer, at a mutually convenient time and location.
What is the driving force behind an appointment?
People are increasingly wanting to control their time as it is becoming such a scarce resource for many. So, if individuals are going to interact with a business, they want to choose a channel and time that suits them.
Has customer centricity taken over in importance in comparison to the underlying systems?
It's important to keep moving systems towards true omnichannel, and an important prerequisite of this is ensuring your large organisation is extremely organised. Thus, allowing the “right customer, right service, with the right agent” approach to work effectively.
By matching the same customer with the same agent each time, you are taking customer centricity seriously, so they work hand in hand in reality.
How should a large organisation be implementing omnichannel appointment booking?
Appointment booking isn’t just about a good system. Firstly, it needs to be adopted by your users. How smooth this transition goes depends greatly upon what the old system is VS the new system, and what business challenges you are trying to solve, but the customers ultimately determine how well these changes are received.
Our advice is to not sit in a board room and design a system between 5 of you expecting it to be done perfectly. You have to have clear communications with all stakeholders to ensure they are all satisfied. A product champion who knows what the customers want is imperative.
Secondly, understand that large organisations need to be ready to quickly adopt new channels as they materialise, for example: amazon Alexa. Only a truly versatile scheduling platform can do this.
Facebook recently announced they will be investing heavily in including appointment scheduling functionality on their site, what are your thoughts on this?
The main question when considering these types of platforms for scheduling is the approach these organisations take to privacy and security. There have been multiple data breaches with these companies. Therefore with sensitive data, such as medical history or personal financial information… are you likely to trust a social media platform? At the end of the day, their primary income channel is advertisements, which rely on analysing data.
What makes a bad appointment booking experience?
First and most importantly the speed of the process. Customers don’t want to have to log in. They don’t want to fill out too many fields or answer questions, and they want it imported hassle free to their preferred calendar. Thus, not optimising pre-populated fields can really lead to an irritating experience.
Secondly, not communicating requirements of the appointment can also lead to a bad experience, for example if you were required to bring a passport but were not told.
What can organisations do when a no show occurs?
Ensuring regular communications is important, and through these communications - carefully tracking what channels people prefer, as you can send a link to a page with a pre-populated field. This significantly improves the ease of rescheduling or cancellation. This is the main cause of a missed appointment; most no shows are because the appointment did not fit the ever-changing schedule of the customer.
Also, if a large customer doesn’t show up, it might be necessary to ring, email and text.
What value can more preparation for an appointment give to the customer?
The younger generation definitely likes the idea of a rep knowing that you have arrived and they are waving at you through the window, however, the older generation will find this creepy. It’s a huge invasion of privacy.
"How did he know I was outside?!"
Therefore, all customers are completely different, give each one exactly what they want. To do this, analyse the data you have on them, responsibly.
What role will appointments play in retail events?
Too many organisations aren’t fully utilising their most expensive resources: employees and physical sites. They can do this by following the current high street trend of providing a valuable service (most high street retailers now are hairdressers, nail salons or coffee shops).
Host a promotional or educational event. Provide a service. Provide expertise and create a memorable experience.
Intro: Welcome to customer experience conversations where we explore exciting topics, news and stories surrounding the customer experience industry. In this episode, Greg, Simon, Lee, and Andy explore the fundamentals surrounding appointment booking and the imputations of not considering your customer's experience from an omni-channel perspective.
Greg: So welcome to our listeners for this week’s episode of CX conversations/Customer experience conversations. This is Greg Copley speaking here from ACF. Joining me this week in the podcast studio is Andy, Simon and Lee. We will jump into some introductions in a minute. Actually, let’s do that now. Let’s jump straight in. Do a quick round the table of who you are and what you do at ACF. Then we will jump into our topic of conversation today which is going to be all about appointment booking, we are going to explore lots of different areas of this and hopefully it will bring some value to our listeners. Andy let’s start with you.
Andy: I’m Andy Hart. Hello everyone. I’m managing director for ACF UK. I’ve been with ACF for 5 - 6 years. I started originally as project manager back in the day and progressed to managing director. I’m responsible for the UK office, which includes UK and EMEA as well. So that's me.
Greg: Cool. Simon.
Simon: I'm Simon Ronald in business development. Been here for nearly 11 years. Always just selling Q-flow. So appointment management is interesting to us.
Lee: I’m Lee Rawlings, Business development here in the UK. 10 years experienced in customer experience, primarily from the incentives and motivation point of view. I've been with ACF for six months.
Greg: Fantastic. Cool. And with a radio voice as well?
Greg: And a radio background almost being a DJ yourself.
Greg: That's cool. Fantastic. So I think the topic of today's conversation really is we're really going to focus in on appointment booking itself, primarily talking the different styles of appointment booking that we're seeing out there right now and a lot of the sort of industry trends that we're seeing. So looking into retail, what trends are we seeing there? Again, looking at banking and local government, etc, and just hope to explore appointment booking to some level of detail that ultimately help some of our listeners. Cause as you guys all know, we have a variety of customers across all different major sectors. So we're lucky to have a perspective that's maybe quite unique in that sense of, of understanding what our appointment booking means to these organizations in different sectors. So today's just a conversation, hence CX conversation. So let's maybe just kick things off with Simon, you've 11 years experience, let's start with the obvious. What does appointment booking mean to you? And maybe how has appointment booking changed over the last 11 years?
Simon: I think that's a good place to start because it’s interesting that companies always come to us with the idea of wanting a whole customer experience platform but it always hinges around appointment booking. Cause isn't that kind of the center of everything? It's kind of immaterial what channel your customer is looking to book their appointment on. The value is making sure that you've got the right person to serve the right customer at the right time and that customer gets the service that they want. So originally the appointment solution was always for a face to face environment, but it's kind of irrespective now. With all the new channels that are coming out, the new technology that's around. So I think that's probably how that's changing now. As in you can kind of almost book an appointment for any channel, any platform, any type of service anywhere. I think that's the key.
Andy: Yeah, I think even shorter time than your elongated 11 years has been. We can even see the changes. I've seen it in the last five years just with clients that we started working with five years ago. So some of the big retail clients, for example, five years ago, didn't have any form of appointment booking for certain services. Solely being pen and paper and now what we're seeing is it's gone, just in the last five years, from entertaining the idea of an appointment booking system to it now being a mission critical system for them, where if it goes down, it's immediately costing that company revenue. So I think it's grown in its importance massively over the last five years from what we saw in that respect. It's evolved in terms of technology as well. It's no longer just a case of, ‘I want appointment booking and I want it available online or in store.’ It's a, ‘what are the different types of appointment booking?’ like you said. So it's not just a simple book an appointments to come in, it's a ‘what are the different ways of offering that appointment?’
For example, if we get into kind of how it's evolving now in a certain industry, what we've seen in particular, I think in banking as an example, we've got a number of clients that they're offering different ways to serve those appointments. It's gone from coming in to see an advisor to, one particular building society that we're working with, now offer video appointments. So it's giving that kind of flexibility to the customer. The customer no longer needs to be in a branch, they can choose to have that meeting wherever they want and it got kind of works both ways really. It's not just about doing the best for your customer, it's about doing the best for your business as well so that at that point if you're able to then serve that customer from anywhere, you are making the best use of your resources as a business as well as keeping the customer happy. So it's not a case of us, as a company, need to extend ourselves or outreach ourselves to make our customers happy. Actually, if you look at it differently, you’re making the best use of your resources as well as keeping the customer happy at the same time. So it's kind of a change in mentality from that perspective. That's what we've seen from the banking building society world.
Lee: It’s interesting from the technology side of it as well as you say. Even if these new platforms come out, as you mentioned with video calling, it's kind of unsure whether that's actually going to be a long-term and sustainable way of serving customers with video. We don't really know. We know that certain demographic of customers are happy to use it and willing to use it, but I think the underlying solution that you're using there is always going to come back to appointment scheduling. Because as Andy said, you want to schedule your resources to be available when your customer is available and when your customer wants to know when they're going to be available and connect the two together. So I think the technology always and will always change that underlying appointment solution needs to kind of support that.
Andy: The video appointments, the video calls, video calling has been around for a long time, but how many people actually really kind of use that on a daily basis? Is that one step in your sensitivity level too far? Using your voice on a phone call is one thing that but with someone seeing on the other end, it’s slightly different so it’s a little bit of a step too far at this stage maybe. What I find quite interesting is perhaps the use of artificial intelligence mean AI is a hot topic at the moment. How is that going to affect things like appointment book in the future? I mean the basic level, it's rescheduling your dentist's appointment six months in advance, but where do you go from there? I guess who knows really?
Greg: That is a conversation in its own right and I think a really good point because whilst we've got all those areas of really advance or FinTech and stuff like that, that we can explore around appointment booking, like video and AI and virtual reality, etc and stuff that we can talk about. Before we do that, let's maybe just jump back to the very beginnings of just understanding what is the driving force behind an appointment? Because to me, whenever I speak to customers, I always like to start from the beginning to say that the reason why your customer likes appointment booking is because they're in control of that customer interaction and that fits into this world I think very nicely because people would like to control their time and people’s time is less available than ever before because we're busier than ever before and therefore naturally it works for us and our busy lives to be able to say, if I'm going to interact with you as a business, I'd like to do so on a channel that suits me and at a time that suits me. So what's everyone's thoughts on that? Do you think that's changed or you think that's beginning to become more prevalent or less prevalent, do you think as a mindset?
Lee: I think there's a word that sits right at the very core of this that's relevant both to the customer and the business and that's commitment. And that's what we all look for every single day is commitment. So from a business side of things, I mean if you think about it from a sales point of view, commitment’s what you look for as a sales person, commitment’s to the meeting, commitment’s to the demo, commitment’s to the contract and on the customer end of things, commitment’s the appointment, commitment’s getting the right information, commitment to fulfilling that service. That's the one thing that is central. The one word that is central what would be appointment booking for me, commitment.
Greg: That's interesting. I think that's a good way to summarise the reason behind an appointment, why it's so attractive to our customers because that's ultimately what matters here. But going back to the other end of what Andy talked about is the underlying processes that are needed to meet the expectations to serve an appointment. Could you all, or perhaps Simon and Lee, I know you both have a lot of experience in this,
talk about how when speaking to customers you often see it may be a heavier focus on the front-end side of things like the experience with the customers and maybe less emphasis on the underlying processes. Have you come across that before and sort of seeing how to maybe address that?
Simon: This is what you hear. A lot of events now is that kind of change from the focus for any organization, especially when you go to financial kind of events you're listening to now that change from kind of what can we do for the customer as to the other way around. It's customer centric. I think it's the small things as well that the appointment solution needs to do just to keep up with everything that you're saying like customer retention, how do you get the customer to come back? Well it's those small things of matching the customer to the same agent every time when they come back in so that they can establish a rapport. I think that kind of collaboration is what now organizations are looking for plus that move to a true Omni-channel solution. Whereas at the moment a lot of them emulate the fact they've got an Omni-channel but it's not true. I think the idea, if you can walk into one bank branch and start an application, then walk off and complete it on your phone, none of them do that yet.
Greg: It's not quite there yet.
Simon: It’s not quite there yet. And they all say we've got an omni-channel seamless, friction-less approach. But when you actually boil down to it from a customer's perspective, what do I do? And commonly I start something on my phone, on the train, on the way home, I lose signal. I want to pick it up when I get home on my laptop. But that doesn't exist. You can't save halfway through any kind of service. You can't simply click about and half way through an application form to say, ‘can a call centre phone me but not now, in half an hour when I'm free?’ I think they're the different things now is the underlying appointment solution is still there, but it's the clever or smart things that organisations need to listen to their customers what they want really.
Lee: So that's an interesting one you just picked up there about the mobile phone signal. I'm going to just sort of divert a little bit there and with the imminent roll-out of 5G and much more powerful and that services that we're going to be receiving in the future through 5G, that may not happen. You're not going to lose your signal perhaps with application for instance.
Simon: That does open up because that is a part of what we do. Is sort of connectivity availability at the moment, particularly in London for me on the underground I can't do anything between stations. You have to wait and pause and then pick it up afterwards. When that problem is gone, I think as you say, video call in instant access through all of other channels, maybe new channels will be created a lot quicker from the back of it.
Andy: I think it's all about accessibility like organisations also have to keep up with what is ultimately available to consumers through all sorts of channels, so you take it in its simplest form. If you want to find out how to do anything, if you want to install a new layer home switch, change a plug at home and whatever, you can go onto Google, you can type it in and in five seconds you're watching someone on YouTube that's done it and doing it and you watch the video and learn how to do it. I did it the other day too. That's the accessibility for customers and the organization to have to keep up with it from an appointment bookings perspective, your customer expects to be able to have an easy like, ‘I want to go and book an appointment and I want to be able to do it on my mobile. I want to be able to dive on and within a few clicks I want to enter a minimal amount of details and get offered the services that I want and commit to it like you were saying, but he doesn't need as a parallel track and he doesn't need an organisation to be organised underneath really in terms of their re resources so that they're going to have the right people available at the right time with the right skills to serve those appointments. I think that's why to some degree we see some, I guess like slower adoption than you might expect for what sounded, what seems like a simple offering because there is a lot of business process behind it that has to be in place. So you have to know where your resources are and put them in the right place to see the right people and have the right skills to serve it, to make the most out of both your resources and deliver the best experience to the customer. It's not maybe as simple as it seems sometimes.
Greg: On that topic, would you mind sharing a bit of your experience because I know that obviously since working in the last five years, you've worked heavily on the delivery of a lot of projects with clients who fully have what we would consider considered to be quite an advanced Omni-channel booking solution. Could you maybe give your thoughts on how should an organization, especially if it's a large organization, how should it approach doing an Omni-channel appointment booking offering? Not the answer to the ultimate question but from a perspective of delivery, how do you see in an intelligent way that's worked for us and that's worked for these organizations that we've done it with?
Andy: I think a lot of it's not just appointment booking per se; it's just technology changes in general. It's all about adoption and its adoption of your users. So it depends on what system you're going from and what system you're going to and obviously what business challenges you're trying to solve. But most of the time the biggest challenge that we've seen is the adoption of the users within that business and how well they embraced the change. Because ultimately how well they embrace the changes is how successful it's going to be. So it's kind of a no brainer as to what customers are going to expect in terms of an experience. But then you have to make sure that your users are on board. I think in terms of delivery and how we've done it with a number of our clients overseas. We always prefer that. Try not to sit in a boardroom and design a system and expect that you've designed it perfectly between five people sat around a table. Your vision and your ideas are going to be different to what potentially the customers and your employees are going to be as well. So it's kind of a case of making sure you have those champions within your business that know what the customer wants combined with how the business works and what's going to be best for the business and how ultimately it's used within a store and move in a branch.
Lee: I guess it could be a big impact there between something that's been run manually in the past. When I use the word paper-based system, I don't mean. It probably is that there's a manual system against another technical solution.
Greg: There could be a standalone solution. Cause you often see that when we approach organizations, you see departments using their own little bit of technology they bought offline that cheap and cheerful.
Greg: I think that's really a good point. I wanted to get your perspective because I know that you've worked with several of our clients that have done that multiyear journey to truly get to an Omni-channel sort of ecosystem if you'd like and I think every organization like say Simon they say they're there, but are they truly there? That's probably up for debate.
Simon: As Andy mentioned as well just the idea of the roadmap because I was just thinking then, we all know what benefits an appointment solution can bring to an organization. There's the efficiencies in resource, there's the improve customer experience but what we've come to in a point in time isn't it, that the appointment management solution now requires some workforce management behind it, some kind of BPM to take it past just booking an appointment, one agent with one customer. Now you've got all sorts of complexities around the processes that you need to make sure that works. Then looking at the new technologies, the only new technologies that are coming around are really about customer interaction, all of them. Social media, you're talking about video conferencing, the Google stuff that's coming out on their new phone with Google lens, being able to show where you are, give you the ability to book an appointment.
They are just extensions on top of the appointment entered. So I think, from what Andy said, it’s the organization that needs to be in a position whereby when these new technologies come out that the consumers use, be ready to adopt it quickly at a low cost because I think as time goes on we're going to see a lot more channels materialize, some come and go a lot quicker than they ever have. So I think at the moment the focus is really on having a platform with that ability to be able to adopt something very quickly. And if it doesn't work, drop it and pick up on a new one at the, we implement something such as some kind of new customer technology takes integrations is difficult internally. Organizations have to change current processes and the way they work. You really should be looking at having the ability to adopt all of these new things and appointment scheduling as you can hear still is at the bottom of all that is still about putting the right customer in front of the right agent.
Greg: Well if you break down appointment booking, it happens on two channels. It's the channel in which the customer books through and that's what we've just talked about there; all the different channels that your customer’s coming through to you as an organisation, like you say, having a true Omni-channel booking ecosystem is one that you can pick up on one channel or continue that booking process perhaps on another. But then you also have what we've talked about earlier and it's good to break it down for the audience from our perspective is that you don't have the serving channel. So you're booking the appointment on one channel and it might not equate to the channel obviously that you're going to be served on in terms of that appointment. I think you can almost explore the technologies in those two worlds on their own but sticking around the booking channels that we're seeing, cause I think that's super exciting now in general, from a serving perspective you tend to see video, phone, face to face or maybe like an online video style call that tends to be quite limited in terms of technologies that organizations use. But from a booking space, that's where you see new technologies popping up all the time.
Just the other day, I'm not sure some of you guys caught it, but Facebook did their annual meeting and they did their presentation and Mark Zuckerberg went up on stage and in one of his sections he talked a lot about appointment booking and how Facebook is really heavily investing in appointment booking as a capability from their platform. Be good to get your thoughts on just that in general because I think that's pretty huge news. That's pretty big for us as an organization and awareness of obviously what we do and we see so much value in it. So it's good to see organizations such as Facebook, maybe sharing that passion and actually taking action on it. But does anyone have any thoughts about how big that actually is in terms of news for organization out there considering appointment booking?
Lee: There'll be a certain amount of nervousness when it comes to appointment booking through social media platforms and obviously not picking out any particular social media platform particularly on here today, but there have been various problems with platforms and privacy and the sharing of data that shouldn't be shared. So when it comes to sensitive appointments of a medical nature for example, is that going to in the customer's mind be a barrier to actually using a social media platform?
Greg: That’s a good point. So which industries do you think we're going to see more using? Because obviously industries are using social media in order to offer appointment booking. Do you think it's going to be retail leading the way?
Lee: I think it should be.
Simon: I think you're right there, Lee. I think it is definitely industry specific because at the moment social media is being used for all sorts of campaigns for retail environments. It's not a secret that obviously companies like Starbucks will use Facebook to advertise to people and provide incentives for it. I think there are certain environments where there is that data problem, whether it's something that Facebook will solve in the future or other companies is kind of almost inherent now in us that they are, and that is their business to analyze our data. Even though mostly for good reasons to look at your traffic, your demographic, your habits, to kind of start to predict and preempt what you want because ultimately that is what we want. You want a solution to be able to predict what you want in a nice way so that something appears and you can just click on a single button to do that service. I think some of the technologies out there will work like that. I think they're becoming more real world as well, looking at the Google updates that have Google lens and the Google smart texts. Now they're becoming a little bit more real world useful rather than just trying out a new technology.
Lee: So the interesting one with that is you schedule an appointment to go and test drive a new vehicle, but then get advertising that pops up within your particular social media platform, pushing a rival brand to go and test drive one of their cars and make an appointment with them as well. That's a bit of an interesting glimpse into the future of appointment booking through social media, as I see it. I'm probably not, as I sit here now the most comfortable visions maybe that will be the way, although there are some scenarios where I think that, as you said some, that would probably work quite well, but there's always a boundary to it.
Greg: So, let's flip this on its head. What makes a bad appointment booking experience? Have you guys ever had that? Have you gone to book an appointment with an organization? We're not going to start naming names, but have you guys ever had a bad experience or thoughts on what makes a bad experience, even in the appointment booking space? So, a company is doing appointment booking, but are they doing it well because that's what I think our focus is.
Simon: For me it's how quickly can they do it? I don't want to have to log in. I don't particularly want to have to for some services. There are some that I do need to leave the details, but mostly you just want to do it quickly and have it kind of posted your calendar really quickly. Anything with too many questions I probably would give up to be honest.
lee: I think one in a banking environment would be if you've had to make a complaint about something and then have to revisit the details of that complaint with several people throughout the various levels of escalation within that particular bank. Now that could actually be, and I could see an argument why that actually happens, is about re-qualifying certain details, but for the customer end of things, that's probably the frustrating part of the experience when you're passed through several levels of escalation. So that's one negative appointment booking experience for me.
Greg: Well, yeah, that's a good point. I think in certain industries you do have a need to in our experience, there's not just one way to do that. You don't have to collect that data upfront. You can collect that piecemeal in the buildup to the appointments if they book an appointment one week out, using sort of a web based form system that we use in all our products and stuff, that you're able to collect that information gradually in the buildup to an event if you feel that's going to help. So you don't have to necessarily collect upfront. It's just an idea.
Simon: That’s why the Google smart text is on there, if you look at their demonstration from a few days ago, you’d see, if you text to a friend that I'm going to get my hair cut next Tuesday. You can click a button that will take you to the website of your preferred hairdressers down the road and it will take your name because it already knows it; first name, surname, take your address, prepopulate it on the field on the fly and it will already pre-select next Tuesday is the day and the only option you've got then is just click on the time next Tuesday. So all done and all prepopulated just from having access to that message that you sent. But that does go back to that privacy issue.
Greg: And the AI.
Simon: It is an AI effectively and you are going to have to say yes and say, yeah, we are willing to let you read my text messages.
Andy: I think you're right there because this, again comes back to what we talked about earlier, which is the accessibility to a consumer and being able to book an appointment. You obviously don't want to have a customer to go through 10 million questions before they can finally book themselves an appointment with you. You want to get that customer in for the appointment first and then try and qualify them after they've got it in their calendar that you've got it in your calendar. Then after that point you try and add more value to that appointment to save the customer time, save your resource time by asking telling them, make sure you bring your driving license with you or what's your passport number, for example.
Greg: You can upload it before if you want to.
Andy: Exactly uploaded before, do all that sort of stuff and capture it. But that goes hand in hand with you obviously don't want to make it so easy for someone to book an appointment where you end up with loads of appointments in your system that aren't quality and you're wasting resources and time for people that don't show up. But that's where obviously we were at a number of customers where we try and reduce that effect. So nowadays, obviously customers have so much access to technology, mobile phones, WhatsApp, text messages that the ease of not only booking an appointment, it's the ease of managing that appointment after as well, which is sometimes overlooked because that adds a lot more value than what you might think to reduce both the customer's dissatisfaction but also to not waste time for clients. So we work with a number of clients where they to get the most out of their employees day. So they'll try and make their calendar efficient. So they obviously want in a perfect world, all their resources to be blocked booked a whole day appointment, nine, half, nine, half nine to 10, bam, bam, bam. They in an ideal world want all of that. But the moment that someone doesn't turn up, that's half an hour let's say, where you've got someone sat there with nothing planned in, nothing to do and revenue is lost. To me that's what it comes down to, the reason that businesses want the appointment booking is you just suggest a revenue generation. It's the ease of being able to manage your appointment as well as booking your appointment.
Lee: That's really interesting there Andy actually thinking about this in a travel context and my mind was just thinking about some of the central booking sites for hotels and holidays and flights and that sort of thing and I don't know if anyone's got any feedback from the travel industry in particular about the impact on people booking hotel rooms and then of course cancelling. I would imagine that's having quite an impact actually. How that is controlled in the future, again, we're coming back to that word of a commitment. So that people don't lose out and appointment booking doesn't become a negative thing from a business point.
Greg: And this actually links back to a topic that I'm quite passionate about, which is reducing no-shows and what do organisations do around appointment booking when a customer doesn't show up when they said? There are lots of ways to handle that and in the future maybe AI will be predicting, cause something that we're working on and within our R and D department the predictability of whether a customer is going to show and what actions to therefore take ahead of head of that. But do you guys have any thoughts on no shows and what role that plays? Because like you say, Andy, every appointment equals money to an organisation and its money to meet the needs of that appointment or the wages of the staff, but it's also obviously potential revenue. And if a customer doesn't show, what do you recommend to organisations to consider when it comes to managing their no-shows?
Andy: There's obviously the ways to try and reduce them, which is just through not just regular communication as you build up to the appointment that is you remind them it's coming. It's the ease of them being able to cancel it, so you should know, let's say a customer's booked their appointment, you should know that they booked the appointment on their mobile phone, so therefore it's pretty logical that the easiest way for them, if they want to cancel it, is going to be trough their mobile phone. There are lots of ways to do that; there's two way texting, there's giving them some notification for your app to stop them from doing it, whatever it might be to make it easy for them to change it or cancel it. I think that's some of the typical worst experience I would say is if you need to reschedule because it's quite common that something crops up and you need to reschedule, it's often quite hard to reschedule an appointment. So you obviously have a lot of solutions to help you change that, that we've built in the past is to make it easier to reschedule, not just cancel because then at least you’re retaining it, because most of the time, if you've gone to the effort of booking an appointment in the first place, it's unlikely you're just going to want to just cancel out of the blue. It probably just means that the time doesn't fit or something cropped up. That's kind of the precursor to preventing no show in the first place.
Then after that it's like, can you recover it as an organisation? So obviously at that point someone has tried to book an appointment and you've got all their details so it's the follow-up really and how do you follow up? Do you at that point use some BPM style solution to notify someone in your call centre? For example, say someone was meant to turn up for an appointment and they didn't. So let's add it to a task list for someone to give them a call back and say, “Hey, why didn't you turn up to your appointment? Did you change your mind? Have you done something else? What can we do?” Again make that experience easy. So I think that comes back to how the customer got in touch with you in the first place. If they've done everything for a mobile phone and they booked it online, chances are they probably don't want to speak to anyone. So maybe it's not the best way to put something in a task queue just for a call centre person to call them back because I sure as hell don't usually answer phone calls from numbers that are some 800 number. I'm probably going to get sold PPI again so not interested too much. Thanks. More than likely that if you booked your appointment online, actually I'd prefer if you just sent me an email to say, “Do you want to just reschedule? Here's some suggested appointment times.” And make it a one click because they obviously don't want to go through the whole process again because why would they? They've already done it once. Don't make me give you all my details again to rebook it, just offer me a time and your systems should be intelligent enough to know. That's where it’s kind of AI but not really like AI.
Greg: It’s still AI nonetheless.
Andy: Yeah. But if they booked the first appointment at six o'clock in the evening on a Wednesday, chances are they work nine to five. So there's a deliberate reason they got to it. So when you offer them a bunch of appointments the next time, don't go and offer them two o'clock in the afternoon on a Tuesday because they're at work. There are kind of smart solutions you can do around getting them back here.
Lee: I think it's quite reasonable looking at the cancel appointment side of things and what can companies do. I think it's quite reasonable that there should be charges attached to missed appointments in certain scenarios where a resource has been used.
Andy: That's exactly what the hotel industry does. Book yourself a hotel and if you try to cancel it within 24 hours before, you're not allowed to; exacerbation policy of the hotel is such.
Lee: As long as it's fair or proportionate. And I think one of the key bits to learn from that is the customer comms side of things and making sure the customer interaction there, Andy, the customer is well aware of the implications of what will happen if they cancel a particular booking within a particular window of time. Unfortunately, I think we all know there are organisations out there that will use that as a bit of an offside trap and not do the customer comms and hope there's going to be extra revenue that comes with that. I think those days are numbered to be quite honest with you because flexibility is what customers are looking for these days. Flexibility, clear communications of what the implications are if they don't show up for their appointment and then it will just flow nicely.
Simon: Yeah. I think reducing your abandoned rate, you can actually take a set approach to it because some customers as you say, like booking.com charge you so you're more likely to turn up for that. But if you're talking about another environment, you kind of got some customers abandoned without coming back so you do put flags against their customer record. We did have one customer where they allowed customers to book and if they failed to turn up for two in a row, then the third time they tried to book, they couldn't, they were just redirected to a call centre. It's just, for me, the first step that all companies should do really is, as Andy said, the first step and the option to allow customers to cancel or change a date is make it simple. Like Andy said, if a customer booked an appointment on their phone and you've sent them an SMS in there, include a link that is reschedule and it just takes you to the page with the date and the time. We know what the appointments for. Just make it simple and they will, any more complicated and they just won't show up. It's that fine line between getting as much information out of why they abandoned as to just letting them reschedule.
Greg: Links back to what we were talking about earlier about the customer being in control and that being at the heart of an appointment. Your customer wants to be in control. They've actively come to you and said, I want to meet with your organisation, I your employees and receive your service, but I want to do it at a time that meets my calendar, needs effectively and if you make it difficult to move that around to meet your needs, then you're just going to lose that customer and their potential business. And one that's just to know and that’s one that Andy talked about earlier about customer retention, if people don't show for appointments, in the background there's nothing to say that using technology, you can understand more about the customer that you’re potentially losing there. So you can actually start to categorise the customers to say, actually this is a longstanding customer and they're up for their annual renewal on their say, phone contract or whatever it may be and they're a business customer with lots of contracts and they didn't show up. That should ring very loud warning bells in your organisation because if they're up for their renewal and they're a large customer and they didn't show up for their appointment that should be something that needs immediate action.
So it's not just taking action that's the same for every customer. You can even scale out one level and say, actually for certain customers we're going to take extra steps or we're going to take extra measures. Just something to maybe add to that because I've seen that conversation because as you taught touched on earlier, Simon, almost every organisation now has levels to its customers.
Simon: I think that's been, I'm going to say just data analytics, but it's quite powerful. But just data analytics means exactly as you just said, Greg, if you've got a group of customers that you've analysed are highly likely to move on, then you just run the data analytics and target and campaign those people. I think, there's that comment that it's easier to keep the customers you've got than it is to go out and find new customers. Then with everything we're saying is just based upon that data analysis, what type of customer are more likely to abandon or leave us? Then start doing some campaigns around them. Start offering them the services that we know they want, so it’s not an up-selling campaign, we know what they want because their contract is about to expire. We know that, that's why we act on it.
Greg: Just on that topic of up sell, one thing I was going to talk on earlier is just a simple almost obvious benefit of appointment booking to organisations, maybe not to overlook, but is the ability that if you are expecting a customer you can prepare naturally a lot more. Have you guys worked on any projects where that has been taken quite seriously and preparation time for appointments is very much a part of how an organisation works? Have you guys got any customer examples on that?
Andy: Yeah, I think that's kind of what we look to do with banks at the moment but there’s kind of a fine line there as you say, kind of pre-stage in the event. The idea to make the flow better for a customer then we need as much data from that customer as possible. We can integrate with other systems and pull in every single piece of data about me. We can make that flow a lot simpler for me. But then there's the privacy from my perspective, do I want that? Do I want everything pre-populated? Do I want that organisation to know all of my fine details to make that transition smooth? So I think that's a fine line between being able to automate everything to what do I want to do from a personal perspective, my personal privacy, because me as a customer, I'm happy for everyone to have all of my data and test new technologies and test new platforms and make this wonderful Google lens pickup that I'm walking past the bank that I booked an appointment for last week and I abandoned and John is in there waiting to serve me. In fact, he's waving at you from the window. I like that idea. But you give that to someone like my mum, she would hate the idea. It would be awful. How does he know that I'm outside? Privacy is a real dangerous. It's really not just the idea of the privacy and the sensitivity of the data across your platform is every single customer we going back to that. And it's not just what your customers want. They're all completely different. Give them what they want.
Greg: To be fair that that's a really nice transition across to one of the final topics I definitely wanted to cover today was around how do you guys see the future of customer experience when it comes to personalisation? Because personalisation in my eyes and the conversation I've been having with customers is a really a hot topic. Making every element of an experience personalised, not just by having their name on their text message or anything like that, that's been around for a long time. What's your thoughts on how experience for the everyday customer, how that will become more personalised say five years out from now? Has anyone got any thoughts on that?
Simon: I think GDPR had a massive effect on all of this. The likelihood of your data being held with several organisations now all in one particular sector is dramatically decreased. I know speaking from a personal point of view, there will be two or three
travel operators or in one particular airline that I will travel with them. I'm happy for them to have my details and send marketing through to me and keep details on file and send me appropriate offers. I think loyalty is a factor in that as well. How do you keep those customers? Although they might not technically be customers yet, prospective customers. So, loyalty comes into the mix. Of course, naturally coming from an incentive background, I can see the space there for incentives to keep your customers loyal and therefore driving appointment bookings.
Greg: I guess the final topic I had on my list of things to maybe pick up was a real transition we're seeing and it's almost like a blurred area, especially in the retail world, we're seeing a lot of pop up events, pop up stores happening, what role do you see appointment booking playing in those environments?
Andy: I think appointment booking is an interesting one. So like you say, retail at the moment, we see obviously if you look at some of the big high street retailers recently, they've not being doing that well and organisations obviously want to make the most out of what is ultimately one of their most expensive resources, which is real estate and stock. Naturally it makes more sense to tailor and make more dynamic your resources and events; pop up events, make that a reality. So if you know that you have customers in one area that are expressing an interest in a particular service that you offer on your website, you kind of know where they are. They’re probably on their mobile phone, they've got geo location enabled because everyone does. You know where they are so why not just pop up an event the next day? And an event could be anything. It doesn't have to be, we're going to book ourselves in for a book signer in here. It could be as simple as actually we've seen a bunch of people have been looking at the latest iPhone and they're all based in somewhere in London. Then why not the next day offer a demo or a trial, a discount even the following day in your mobile phone store because you know that yesterday a whole bunch of people were on your website clicking in and taking a look. And that can just be a pop up event anyway. I think event booking as a service is a lot bigger than just what might kind of commonly being thought of as events.
Greg: It's a hot topic. I personally think it's a hot topic.
Andy: I think for us, we're starting to see now in retail is just the making best use of your most expensive resources. Certainly, some of the retailers we've been talking to, we've talked about how they're going to be reducing their real estate, for example.
Greg: That's very true. I saw the other day Elon Musk talked about how I think he's getting rid of almost all of his stores. He's going to be completely online sales for Tesla.
Simon: And there are some industries you can just see that happening to naturally. You think about your banking services that you require your local bank coming. What service does your local store provide you that you can't just get elsewhere online and that hasn't changed and that won't change. I think companies are going to have to look at more pop up style marketing for the high street because I think the high street will remain and particularly where I live, you're seeing it's much more service orientated now. Every other shop are hairdressers now. I don't know how fast everyone's hair grows, but it seems to be services and it seems to be nail bars and it seems to be massage places and it's moving away from actual physical store selling products now because you've got Amazon taking over one side of it and the idea of the high streets still be in some way, I mean coffee shops galore up and down, making fortunes. So, the idea of event based kind of pop up stores for major organisations because they've invested most of their money now in just brand awareness of effectively. When you see everywhere banks just have their names are airports such as HSBC just for that brand familiarisation. None of us really know what the different services they provide between say HSBC, Santander and RBS because for us it's just a remote service. It doesn't need to be a high street service. But at a pop-up event, it could create a community feel to a bank branch where they do certain event in them to get you there.
Greg: I think it links to the umbrella trend that's happening right now is that the role of physical stores is transitioning from what was originally sales and it still is sales to some degree to service for most organisations. But it's now taken one step further and it's about community and for most organisations now, and we all understand as consumers ourselves is that we do not like to just be cold sold to in that sense. So if we want to buy a mobile device, very few people nowadays just walk straight into a store and then make that decision there and then they do research online. I've got this academic article in front of me, like a research article by Accenture that I've quoted here and one of my recent presentations and it says ‘seven out of 10 customers who start in a retail store end up closing their deal on different channel.’ So 70% of the customer experience starts there but ends there and I think it's this idea of sales to service to communities, the role that stores are going through and every organisation is somewhere on that sort of spectrum from left to right or whatever it may be and it's such a gray area. I think that's why it comes back to the idea that underlying all of this is some sort of technology stack that supporting your organisation. And if you can partner up with the right organisation, right technology stack that can grow with you, it can go with you on that journey. Because I think that journey is imminent for every organisation. It's just a matter of where you are today and what is your next step. Rather than saying, let's try and jump five steps. I think you have to go in all those steps along the way. I think we're probably going to end up wrapping up there, unless there's anything else any of you want to add to that we didn’t to, we'll save it for another day, perhaps. Sound good? Thanks everyone for chatting there. Thank you so much to all our listeners, and we'll be back soon with another podcast. Thanks.