Are you a therapist, or another professional who makes money from appointments? How do people book those appointments? For regulars, it’s often easy. At the end of the appointment get out the diary and book in the next one.
What about the new client? Or the client who just comes periodically. How do they get an appointment? Usually, this is by phone, text, Whatsapp, Facebook message, or another messaging system trying to get hold of you.
This can be a real problem for successful therapists. Successful therapists are busy delivering therapies. That means they aren’t busy checking and answering their phones. Some manage this in between appointments. This, however, takes away your focus on your current client and your focus away from the therapy. It can take quite a period of time to get that focus back again. Sometimes a booking takes a bit of back and forth finding a date and time This can be slow and with so many different messaging options can easily get lost. Did they text or WhatsApp, was it from my Facebook page? Where did the message go? It can be really easy to lose track in the myriad of options.
The final option then is to catch up at the end of the day. You’re then tired and ready to finish, yet, you have a pile of missed calls and messages that all need attending to, to ensure that future appointments are in place. For new clients, they could have found another therapist if you haven’t replied all day and already be booked in with them.
So what’s the answer? Some use a PA or phone answering service to take calls and make an appointment. This works well and gives people that human interaction, but, it’s an expensive approach.
A big problem many therapists face is no shows. How many times a week are you waiting for a client that doesn’t appear? You may well have late cancellation payment policies (or not), but do you stick with them? Do you get the payment or is it just an hour lost (and a possible chance to catch up on all of those messages from people trying to get appointments)?
So what is the alternative?
I suggest automation. Many will think this is too difficult, technical and prone to mistakes. But, when it’s set up well and explained to you well, automation frees up your time, makes you more money, and allows you to focus on your therapy instead of your diary.
What do I mean by automation?
Your customers booking online. There are a variety of ways this can be achieved. I believe the best way of doing this is a booking system based on your website. There are lots of 3rd party booking apps available. However, using these means your booking system has their branding, their rules and fits around them, not you. A system on your website has your branding, your preferences and is set up for you, your therapy, your clients and your way of working.
Why Would I want visitors to be able to book using my website?
It’s always online. It’s unlikely a potential client wants to book Reiki at 2 am (although if it’s to help with insomnia this could be the case). But they may want to book at 11 am on a Tuesday and they can’t get hold of you, as your busy with your client. Clients can book at a time convenient to them. They are able to see quickly and easily when they can next get to see you and get that booked. Another job completed on their to-do list. They’re not waiting for a response from you.
Bookings don’t get lost
With a single point of contact for booking, there is no more losing track of a Whatsapp message or forgetting to reply to an email. The system looks after itself and all booking is done through there. All messages about booking can be responded to with a simple reply. Please visit my website.
This is key. Payments are made for appointments in advance. Cancellation policies are built into the system. Those that cancel within the allowed time frame are given their money back. Those that don’t show, still pay. Your missed hour may still not have you busy with a client, but you are still being paid as if you are. Chance to relax with a coffee or catch up on the accounts. If you get into the habit of getting everyone to book through the website this can save the average therapists hundreds of pounds a month in lost revenue.
This saves you time and aggravation. All bookings are directed to the website. That saves endlessly chasing messages and can mean being able to fit in another therapy session to the end of the day. Or just working an hour less for the same pay.
Your clients will get reminders sent automatically to them about their appointment, That means they’re more likely to turn up and you’re more likely to be able to help them.
Lost diary. Your paper diary is a weak link. If that’s dropped in a puddle, left in a cafe or on the roof of your car you are in trouble. There is no backup. There is no way of knowing who is booked in when. Making bookings for the next few weeks will be almost impossible as you don’t know who is already booked in and when. An online calendar doesn’t get lost. If your phone breaks you can access it on your tablet. If your PC won’t boot you can check your phone. It’s stored safely and backed up so you appointments can’t be lost.
The online diary is a worry, especially for those that love their paper calendar. This approach does mean a move to an online calendar. These are not as scary as they seem. They look like a paper calendar, you can write things in and block things out in just the same way. It can be arranged to look like your paper diary. It’s very soon more useful and friendly. It’s not only secure from loss. But its much better from a GDPR point of view. A paper diary left on the bus full of clients phone numbers is a data loss that you should report to the information commissioners office. A phone left on a bus is encrypted and has a passcode. A thief could steal the phone, but not your client’s data.
How can I go on holiday?
The website will know your regular opening hours and will check for other appointments. Once you’ve booked in your holiday and visit to the dentist the website won’t allow therapies to be booked during this time
I like to have gaps between clients to allow to re-group and allow for over-runs. This can be built-in and time between clients of your choosing can be added. If you offer different therapies these can be given different length appointments and different time between them as you need.
What about my elderly clients or others who won’t use online payments?
You can always book clients into your diary manually. The system will ensure this isn’t double-booked. If you’re with them you could even book them in through the website yourself and so get that payment that ensures they pay even if they don’t turn up for the appointment.
So why aren’t my competitors using this yet?
Inertia. They are still catching up on messages at the end of the day, accidentally double booking and missing out on payment for those missed appointments. They perhaps aren’t as forward-thinking and efficient as you are. They, perhaps, are not as good at their therapy as between meetings they are taken out of ‘the zone’ by the buzz of messages. Clients trying to make new appointments.