Should I Let Customers Self-Book?

By Cassandra @ Setmore

Writer, editor and scheduling product expert at Setmore Appointments.

In six different metropolises across the U.S., pink and LED-illuminated ATMs can be found, usually at the front of a long line of customers day and night. Rather than dispensing crisp dollar bills, however, these ATMs cut out the middleman and serve up freshly baked cupcakes.

Cupcake ATMs are the latest indicator of the rise of self-service economy.

Source: cntraveler.com 

 

However specialized and novelty these machines may seem (is not the primary function of currency to buy us cupcakes on demand?), they’ve been around for almost half a decade. They, along with the now ubiquitous self-checkout stands at grocery stores, are just another indicator of the rise of the self-service economy. Which brings us to the focal point of the discussion: should you enable online self-scheduling for your business?

The short answer is yes, online booking benefits your business. The long answer is a tad more nuanced, and we’ll sort out the details in the next few paragraphs.

 

Helping Customers Help Themselves

The biggest reason to enable online booking is to capture appointments that would otherwise be scheduled outside of your business hours. In the vein of information that totally makes sense if we take some time to think about it, the majority of appointments are made around the same time as when people are awake, starting at 8 a.m.

Appointment scheduling peaks at lunchtime, when people can break away from their busy workdays to set up their next haircut or music lesson, and gradually decrease in frequency through the evening. But there’s still a huge chunk of appointments made after 5 p.m., when most businesses close up shop for the day. Incidentally, the number of appointments booked corresponds nearly point for point to smartphone usage by time of day.

phone-use

So what does this mean? First a demonstration: place your hands on the screen, covering up the sections of the graph when your business is closed for the day. What you can’t see represents the amount of business you’re losing from not having 24/7 booking capabilities. If you rely solely on phone-based scheduling, you might also be forcing your customers to leave a message and partake in the back-and-forth game of phone tag, which is far from being considered a cherished national pastime.

 

Telephonophobia – It’s a Thing

Yet another reason to institute customer-driven scheduling is the growing phenomenon of telephonophobia, which is an apprehension of making phone calls. No joke, those among the Millennial generation (who are also increasingly the ones with the most spending power in the U.S.) are reluctant to use their phones as phones. Speaking objectively as a millennial, I can corroborate this trend—we text, post, tweet, like, share, browse, watch and play, but talking is taboo. Why?

Increasingly people are becoming afraid of talking over the phone.

 

When it comes to phone anxiety, people often cite feeling disapproval or judgment from the person on the other end of the line. There’s a pressure to express oneself perfectly, but as humans are wont to do, we fumble with our words. When you’re texting, you can blame the faux-pas on autocorrect, but that’s harder to do when the mistakes are vocal. Understanding this apprehension can be helpful because, numbers-wise, you’ll see more appointments if you offer an online booking option to cater to telephonophobic consumers, who are fast becoming the norm rather than the exception.

 

It’s Not “Either/Or” – You’ve Got Flexibility

There are some circumstances where relying entirely on online booking isn’t ideal, especially in medical professions where customer intake generally requires a lot of information on the front end. There’s also cases like auto repair, where the nature of the labor changes when the technician starts to learn more about the problem at hand. In these situations, online booking is still a useful “first contact” touchpoint to collect basic information such as their name, phone, and email. You can follow-up with a phone call to get more detailed information and adjust the service as needed.

 

Customers who reach your voicemail are more likely to hang up than leave a message.

 

Alternatively, you can opt not to share your online booking page publicly, and instead reserve it for your most trusted and loyal customers. It’s a little bit like enabling VIP access for people who are already familiar with your services, and you can even offer it as a reward. So in these scenarios, think of online booking as a tool that augments rather than replaces phone scheduling.

 

Missing Ingredient: A Little Dash of Setmore

This is usually the point where I praise the virtues of the Setmore booking page, which allows your customers to self-book online. By now that should be familiar territory, so instead I just want to show you one trick you can use to get the most out of your booking page, which is setting up a custom my.setmore URL.

 

You can customize your my.setmore booking page URL for easy sharing.

 

Your custom URL should be short, sweet, and easy to remember so that people can share it via word-of-mouth, or enter it into a web browser from memory if need be. Other great usage examples include putting the URL on your business cards, or in your email’s signature field.

 

The Question Isn’t “To Book or Not to Book”

It’s “what kind of self-booking works for me?” There’s different applications here: you can share your booking page openly, you can restrict access, or you can use it in tandem with phone consultations. But as far as your business is concerned, self-booking is a tool that generally increases the number of appointments you get.

And it makes sense why: customers that leave a voicemail haven’t agreed to anything yet—they’re still waiting for you to call them back. Customers who self-book, even for an initial consultation, are making an obligation to do business with you.

 

Thank you!

– The Setmore Team

 

Do you let customers book their own appointments online, or do you prefer to set appointments for your customers? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • I must say that introverts generally like to not speak on the phone, however I’ve learned that calls most times actually save me hours of email or text or fb chat time, because language is more complete on the phone instead of drawn out. (less generational, more connection type)
    Seeing that my audience comprises of independent peeps, who like to book their own apps with me, and the more passive peeps for whom I will make an appointment and inform them, setmore ticks both boxes. Thank you.

  • When customers can’t figure out how to cancel or reschedule their appointments by logging in, they simply book a new appointment and then I have double bookings and unless I notice the problem, the original appointment times are unavailable to other customers even though they won’t actually be used.

  • My customers love being able to book online using the “Book Appointment” button from my website or my email (I use it as part of my email signature), but they do have one major complaint: They want to be able to log in and cancel or reschedule appointments. It never occurs to them to go back to the confirmation email for those functions. It simply isn’t what they expect or want.

  • I am working at a travel agency. Very often I attend travelling exhibitions abroad.I have to send emails,make telephone calls in order to arrange appointments. Can I use Setmore in Facebook or in other Social media,so the clients can book their own appointments ? And if this is ok, f.ex if the exhibition is 2/4 &3/4 can I add for these dates the name of the exhibition ?Also the clients will be able to write their Company ,their telephone number & the email?

  • I love the ability for my patients to book their own appointment online, as do my patients. It is so easy to use and it saves me from my answering company having to answer and schedule everyone. It a patient has to cancel, they will contact the answering company and leave a message. It has not been a problem for me.

  • I love the fact that customers can schedule their own appointment. However it does cause problems for us because as a Driving School we are all over the place and we haven’t figured out a way to geographically limit who can schedule and when. Occasionally they show up more than the 30 minutes that we have allotted as a buffer between appointments and we have to tell them that we are running late… I’m guessing that as we expand our area and coverage, we’ll just have to get additional Setmore accounts and have the clients pick the office closest to them on a page before being able to book…

  • There needs to be an option to block a particular person from scheduling online – especially if this person is a repeat offender of making appointments then not showing up at all.

  • Love that my clients can book their own appointments. Frees up my time so I’m not needing to answer the phone. And can get down to the business of making money. My clients love it too as they cam book at 3 in the morning if they so choose!!

  • We allow our members to book their station time through Setmore, we have, however, made the section on our website for booking online password protected so only those with approval (and of course the password) 😉 can book themselves in.

  • I think this is agreat tool. I am constantly away from my desk and miss a few calls. However, I indicate in my messgae that customers may choose a package and book online.

  • Letting customers self book didn’t work out well for me. We’re in a small area and we’re the best option for kids birthday parties at present. What happened is mom’s would call to check for available dates/ times, I’d give them the best few, they’d check with their husbands and by the time they got back to me (even the next day), someone would book online and take their spot. This happened a lot! Now they have to call and book through me. It’s been much better.

  • I only wish that I could personally set it that certain clients COULD NOT book online. I prefer to have my clients book online as I’m in massage sessions most of the day and would miss their calls. However there is the occasional client that for whatever reason would be nice to limit their abilities to schedule without talking to me personally. I guess kind of the reverse of the VIP setting

  • I think that the self booking is good because when they book that means I have a new customer. Also in my business it make it easier for me. Also I put on my website my hours of business and also I put that once they book someone will call them with in 24 hrs of the booking date .

  • I was skeptical of allowing clients to self-book as I was worried that it would make us seem too impersonal. Reluctantly I tried it out on my website and on Facebook. Bookings are up by over 10% and I’m getting new clients who I might have never gotten if we had to play to phone tag game. Talking on the phone is annoying, both for me a do the clients. I also ask clients if they would rather receive a text appointment reminder, or if they want me to call them. Almost every one I’ve asked overwhelmingly prefers the automated text reminders. I only wish there was a way that the client could confirm appointments via text instead of it being just 1 way communication

  • I didn’t realize the benefit of “customer logins” however I love the fact that I can go to bed and when I wake up have new appointments scheduled effortlessly. It is also a feature that sets me apart from other similar wedding vendors. My “dream wishes” relate to other things other than self booking.

  • I started allowing customers to self-book their own appointment last May, 2015 and I have never regretted making that decision. I use to spend endless amounts of time on the phone with customers, scheduling their appointments manually. I was traveling to New York last May and didn’t want to spend time answering customer calls while I was away. Instead, I left my scheduling link in my voice message, telling customers to schedule their own appointments. From that point on, I almost never have to enter an appointment myself. Customers can reschedule and cancel if they like and they even get an appointment reminder the day before. This app is perfect for my business. I’m so happy to have discovered it last year.

    • Hi Paul,
      Which app have you been using for your business?

      Thanks,
      Anita

  • I prefer to control my schedule, as I am by appointment only. I get upset when someone has an appointment and reschedules without my knowing it. Often I have planned my day based on a set schedule, then when a change happens it is very inconvenient for me as it is an hour drive to my office, so I may end up sitting there with nothing to do for hours when I don’t have the ability with your service to confirm an appointment change. this is an important feature that other online schedulers provide that you are missing. If I want to totally control my schedule I have to block out everything that is not scheduled and then open it up when I agree to an appointment. This is inconvenient and I forget to do it, so it’s not fool proof. I would love to see appointment scheduled on line go into a “pending approval” category.

    • Set more has a feature that allows you to allow customers to pay when they schedule. It sounds like you believe your time is money (I believe this as well). So you could perhaps set that up or at least a consultation fee. I have a disclaimer that explains that explains that our appointments aren’t confirmed until they respond to our email confirmation. You could add a disclaimer that says that you charge for appointments that aren’t called in and confirmed. Also we always call to confirm our appointments before heading to them, and this is disclaimed to our customers as well. You could add whatever you want to your disclaimer, or make them pay when they set it up, which again is a feature setmore offers.

  • Let customers book on their own with me getting alerts. Would be even better to let customers cancel on their own as well.

    • Hey there – good idea. We do in fact allow customers to cancel their own appointments. To make that work, you have to enable “customer logins” on your account. This lets customers maintain a profile within your Setmore account, and when they’re logged in via your booking page, the system will display upcoming appointments which they can reschedule or cancel on their own. A huge time saver! Check out the support article for setup instructions and details: https://support.setmore.com/customers/customer-login-feature

      • At a tattoo shop there is no way we could allow customers to book themselves. That would be a complete disaster. So I suppose it just depends on the nature of your business.

        • Interestingly, I just emailed another tattoo shop user about using the self-booking feature only for initial consultations, and then scheduling out longer sessions in person, once you pin down the scope of the work. Ultimately I agree with you, every business should examine for themselves whether self-booking works for them.

          I also think, and I tried to make this point in the article, that you don’t have to use self-booking to schedule out all the work (esp. in the case of tattoo) in one go. You can simply use it as a tool to get new customers in the door. Thank you for commenting 🙂

      • Can non regular customers bypass creating a login? Or is everyone required to create a login, once this feature is active?

        • Good question. Once the feature is active, customers can choose to skip creating a login. During the booking process, there will be a link on the customer login page (“Skip login process >>”) that allows users to bypass inputting their username/password. See the screenshot below for an example:
          Customer Login Screen