Running a business is never going to be easy but there are ways to make it less hard, starting by fixing all of your scheduling problems.
Between managing client appointments and making sure that your books are up-to-date, you’ve got a lot going on. But don’t let a busy schedule prevent you from making sure that your appointment-based business is running as efficiently as possible.
Service-based businesses are unique in the sense that the bottom line is almost entirely dependent on the customer’s experience, and that experience is the sum of countless small interactions.
With so many touchpoints, it’s easy to dismiss small inefficiencies as unimportant. However, not tackling these points of weakness can negatively impact the overall health of your business and your cash flow.
Here are 5 ways appointment-based businesses commonly lose money, often unaware of how much these areas affect their bottom line.
1. No-Show Appointments
Your customer books time with you. You sharpen your tools, review your client notes and do everything you can to prep yourself to provide an awesome appointment for your customer. Your customer’s appointment time comes and goes, leaving you sitting around waiting, wasting valuable time.
Sound familiar? This is one of the big failures of traditional appointment scheduling.
Perhaps the greatest contributor to small business owner frustration and lost revenue is the classic “No-Show Appointment.” With some studies indicating that upward of 42% of customers skip their appointments, what may appear to be a handful of flakey customers can actually be a much bigger appointment scheduling issue.
Luckily, there are several simple, proven methods for decreasing no-show appointments for your small business:
- Appointment reminders have proven to reduce no-show appointments by upwards of 80%. Using an online booking, online scheduling software or business management platform like Acuity Scheduling will save you valuable time by automating this process.
- Enforcing a strict no-show and/or last-minute cancellation policy can also be an effective deterrent to decreasing absent customers. If your customers know that they’re liable for payment of a service if they don’t change or cancel the appointment within an acceptable amount of time, they’re more likely to show up.
- Consider opening earlier and/or staying later on certain days and scheduling appointments when you have traditionally blocked time for other things to help accommodate “non-standard” schedules.
2. Not Filling Gaps in Your Service Schedule
Time is money – and that is especially true in the instance of appointment-based businesses. Any appointment-based business owner should have mastered what their service schedule looks like at any given time. Using online appointment scheduling software like Acuity Scheduling allows you to easily visualize your schedule and quickly see gaps in your service schedule.
Stumped on the best way to fill in service schedule gaps? Here are a few quick tips:
- Put the word out on social media letting your customer base know that you’re available for “last-minute” appointments on dates and times where you have a schedule gap.
- Send out an email blast offering a special discount to those that book the times that you have available.
- Reach out to the loyal customers who you haven’t seen in a while to see if they’d be interested in scheduling an appointment with you.
- Offer online payment processing to make it easier to pay and secure a commitment from your customers and cut down on “no-shows”.
- Try something new! Entice new and existing customers to book time with you during your service gaps by offering a new service that is only available during certain times.
3. Not Tracking Your Expenses Year-Round
Consistent with having a mastery of your service schedule, monitoring, tracking and truly understanding your expenses is critical to small business success. While keeping a folder full of paper receipts or a spreadsheet titled “2022 Expenses” is a step in the right direction, they’re also antiquated processes that scream “inefficient.”
FreshBooks makes it really easy (and dare we say fun) for service-based businesses to seamlessly track their expenses. Integrations with most financial institutions and the ability to snap photos of paper receipts make expense tracking a fast and easy process.
Once you’re up and running with FreshBooks, take some time every month not only to evaluate your expenses but also to build them into your budgeting. Here are a few quick tips when it comes to expense evaluation:
- Ask yourself: Is this really an expense that I need? Is this expense contributing to my bottom line? Small businesses often fall into the trap of paying for products and/or services that they don’t need.
- Categorize your expenses so that you have a deeper insight into your business’ overhead.
- Set a goal for how much of your total revenue gets allocated to expenses. Establishing some basic rules around budgeting will prevent you from overspending.
- Use Accounting Reports like the Profit and Loss Report or General Ledger in FreshBooks to understand your expenses and your business better.
4. Ignoring the Value of Add-Ons in Online Booking
Add-on products or services are exactly how they sound – they’re smaller benefits usually charged at slightly discounted prices when the customer books an appointment. A classic example is offering discounts for recurring projects and services when the customer books the first project or service at cost.
While add-ons certainly should never be considered core to your business success, they’re definitely effective revenue drivers that increase the overall customer lifetime value. When considering the correct strategy for your appointment-based business, be sure to keep in mind the following:
- If you’re offering a product as an add-on, do the math on how to price the product so that you’re making money vs. losing money
- If you’re offering a service as an add-on, be sure that it’s complementary to your main service offering. We recommend coupling add-ons with your most popular services.
- Visibility is absolutely critical. Your customers won’t book an add-on if they don’t know it’s available. Be sure to include add-on services and products to your website and online scheduler.
5. Not Making It Easy for Your Customers to Book Time with You
We’ve gone into detail about why an online scheduling platform is a must for any appointment-based business, but it’s worth reiterating here. Good client management starts with making things really simple for your customers, which includes the booking software or appointment scheduling app your business uses.
The more cumbersome it is for an existing or potential customer to book appointments online with you, the fewer appointments you’ll have. So, in the spirit of putting the customer first and making technology work for you, be mindful of the following tips when it comes to reducing friction and inefficiencies in the online appointment scheduling process:
- Perhaps the easiest way to avoid scheduling gaps and ensuring customer retention is to try to book clients for follow-up appointments at the conclusion of any service. At the time of payment, a quick: “Should I go ahead and book you in for a follow-up appointment now?” is cheap, easy, and effective. If you’ve ever been to the dentist you know exactly what we mean here. While you’re paying or handing over insurance information at reception, you’re also being asked to book your next cleaning in 6 to 9 months.
- Make sure that your business is truly open 24/7 by using an online appointment scheduling software or appointment scheduling app that allows customers to book time with you anytime and anyplace.
- Don’t forget about your customers that prefer the old-school way of getting in touch with you. As much as small business owners should lean into technology to make their lives easier, this should never come at the expense of making your customers happy. In addition to an online appointment scheduling software, you should also let customers schedule appointments over the phone, through email, and via text message. These are also great channels to answer questions and to support people who are simply a little averse to online appointment scheduling software.
The Bottom Line
Long-term success for appointment-based businesses is all about minimizing inefficiencies and introducing processes that allow you to predictively take control. With a little careful planning and some smart technology supporting your business (online scheduling software), you can easily visualize and tackle points of friction.
This post was updated in August 2021.