10 min read
Mar 13, 2018

[RESEARCH] Online booking options can get you more clients

This report outlines the importance of appointment scheduling and the necessity of providing online scheduling options for your customers and clients, especially in the medical field.

Suzie BlaszkiewiczContent Analyst

If you had to book an appointment over the phone and were forced to wait on hold before you were able to do it, would you hang up and go somewhere else? According to recent GetApp research, your customers would.

The days of calling to book an appointment by phone are numbered. The only way to adapt is to adopt an online booking option, or risk losing the 70 percent of customers who prefer to book online.

In a survey of nearly 200 North American consumers who have booked an appointment in the past 12 months, respondents pointed to the frustrations of booking by phone when scheduling appointments.

Why is this a problem? Because 50 percent of respondents are still booking their doctor, dentist, and beauty appointments by phone.

Survey results on booking habits.

One of the solutions to alleviate these frustrations is online booking.

In this report, I’ll go through the importance of appointment scheduling and the necessity of providing online scheduling options for your customers and clients, especially in the medical field.

Key Findings:

  • 56.4 percent of respondents are frustrated with waiting on hold and the inconvenient office hours related to scheduling appointments by phone.

  • 31 percent of respondents would be more likely to choose a new service provider if that provider offered online booking options.

  • 60 percent of respondents said that getting a text reminder would make them less likely to miss an appointment compared to phone call or email reminders.

  • Respondents would prefer to schedule doctor's appointments online more than any other type of appointment.

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Biggest pain points are related to booking by phone

Given the ubiquity of online booking options for services like hotels, airlines, and taxis (Uber, anyone?), consumers are becoming more accustomed to the conveniences of booking at their own leisure. As our research shows, consumers want this option to extend to other services too.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents said that they’d choose to book online if a variety of booking options were available, compared to only 20 percent who would choose to book by phone.

Survey data on preferred booking methods

Yet, 50 percent of respondents are still booking by phone. Naturally, this is where their biggest pain points arise. As average mobile phone screen time exceeded four hours a day in 2017, it’s no surprise that consumers are frustrated with traditional booking methods that lack the autonomy and immediacy of online booking options.

When asked about the biggest pain points related to scheduling appointments, 56.4 percent of respondents pointed directly to the inconveniences of booking by phone.

Survey results on scheduling pain points.

Pain point #1: Wasting time

  • Being put on hold is a huge time waster for 36 percent of respondents looking to schedule appointments efficiently, while 19 percent are frustrated with having to wait until a service provider opens its doors to schedule appointments.

  • These put consumers at the will of their service provider's operating hours and limits autonomy in the booking process.

Pain point #2: Less choice

  • Being able to choose a convenient time slot is a big pain point for 26 percent of respondents.

  • Calling a service provider to schedule an appointment leaves customers with a limited number of days or few time slots to choose from.

  • Although this pain point isn't exclusive to scheduling appointments by phone, online booking options generally provide a variety of time slots where consumers can pick and choose which day and time suits them best.

Providing online booking options for beauty, maintenance, and especially medical appointment scheduling–an industry that’s traditionally slower in adopting technological trends–would alleviate some of the frustration associated with scheduling appointments.

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Doctor's need real-time online scheduling options

The medical field has been slower than other industries to adopt online appointment scheduling, but it’s the industry where people want that option most.

According to our research, survey respondents would most like to schedule medical appointments online, followed closely by maintenance appointments and beauty appointments.

pie chart showing which appointments respondents prefer to book online.

But it’s not only about having an online booking option. What patients really need are real-time booking options. According to Gartner (research available to clients), many online booking systems for medical scheduling are more like online appointment requests which must then be validated manually in the backend and confirmed before being scheduled in.

The real competitive advantage is having a system that schedules appointments automatically, without any human intervention. As Gartner notes, adopting self-scheduling options in the medical field now is a market differentiator which will put you ahead of the game until 2021. Gartner predicts that within just three years, 70 percent of healthcare providers will offer self-scheduling options to patients, no longer making it a standout offering.

Our research coincides with the idea that appointment scheduling is a competitive advantage for businesses. When asked to consider the importance of having online scheduling options when choosing a new service provider, 31 percent of respondents said they’d be much more likely to choose a provider that offered online booking over one that didn’t.

Bar chart showing survey results
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Text trumps phone and email for appointment reminders

Aside from the process of actually scheduling an appointment, online booking offers additional benefits that streamline the scheduling process for customers while eliminating manual work for service providers. Reminders, cancellations, and rescheduling appointments can also take place in the online sphere, especially with online schedule software.

Rescheduling appointments online

According to our study, over 50 percent of respondents would prefer to reschedule or cancel their appointments online.

Pie chart showing booking preferences

This is in line with research from Accenture on medical appointment scheduling, with 77 percent of patients agreeing that the ability to book, change, or cancel appointments online is important. And getting people to cancel or reschedule is much better than having a no-show.

Consider this stat: missed medical appointments can cost a single practice up to $32,500 a month, if the no-show rate is 13 percent (low for the industry) and each visit costs $125. This is where the importance of appointment reminders can’t be downplayed.

SMS appointment reminders

Automatic appointment reminders offer big benefits for both company and customer as a key feature of many online scheduling solutions.

According to our study, 60 percent of respondents would be less likely to miss an appointment if they got an SMS reminder up to 2 days before.

Bar chart on appointment reminder preferences

Luckily, SMS is one of the most efficient and effective ways to send reminders.

Research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows:

  • Successful contact rates for contacting patients by phone range from as low as 30 to up to 60 percent.

  • SMS reminders have a staggering successful contact rate of between 97 and 99 percent.

This, coupled with a customer’s preference for text reminders, makes a strong case for adopting online appointment scheduling with multi-functional software.

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The low-down on appointment scheduling software

What I’ve been not-so-subtly alluding to throughout this report are the benefits of adopting appointment scheduling software to offer online booking options, streamline scheduling processes, and eliminate some of the manual tasks associated with scheduling service appointments.

Create a product scorecard to objectively evaluate online scheduling systems and narrow down the features and pricing requirements according to your business needs.

Typical appointment scheduling software includes:

  • Automated scheduling: Let clients book their own appointments online and see real-time availability.

  • Automated reminders: Set up automated reminder by SMS or email to update clients about upcoming appointments or changes to the schedule.

  • Online payment portal: Integrate a payment portal into your website via PayPal, credit card, or other payment options.

  • Calendar integration: Sync appointments with calendars in Gmail, Outlook, or iCal.

  • Compliance: For medical practices, many solutions are HIPAA compliant to protect patient or customer data.

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Ready to adopt appointment and scheduling software?

The merits of online appointment scheduling go beyond convenience for customers or patients. It is beneficial for organizations too, eliminating the manual work associated with reminders, cancellations, and rescheduling appointments.

Check out our catalogue of appointment and scheduling software to find some of the most popular solutions for small business.

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