If you’re like most business owners, you’ve experienced plenty of days when you come into the office early ready for a productive day. Yet, somehow at the end of the day, you find that you have gotten very little accomplished. Even with the best of intentions, your day is derailed by a variety of issues: unexpected emergencies, sick employees and last-minute meetings. While you can’t do anything about these unforeseen circumstances, you can take control of your schedule and manage it more efficiently and effectively.
Dealing with your schedule is all about time-management and knowing when to block out time for work, meetings and administrative tasks. After all, every one of your commitments needs to be appropriately handled if you want to have a profitable business. Luckily, there are plenty of online tools that can help you accomplish more.
When it comes to keeping to a schedule, nothing is more important than planning ahead for everything that you can. By looking at your obligations on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, you can block out time for all of your responsibilities, and that includes keeping timeslots open for client meetings. Instead of having to constantly check when you have free time, an online booking system can help keep things clear and on track. You’ll be able to set your availability for each day and clients can easily see when you can meet with them. They can choose a time that works for them and, with just a few clicks, schedule an appointment with you. You’ll be notified of upcoming meetings so you can adjust your workweek accordingly and they will be sent meeting reminders so nothing slips through the cracks.
Getting started with an online scheduling solution is the first step to being more prepared. This type of software enables you to customize your calendar, leading to more efficient time management. For example, you could decide that each day you will aim to complete projects in the morning while leaving several hours open in the afternoon for client meetings and business development activities. Or you could decide that you will offer appointments every Tuesday and Thursday and keep the other workdays for internal activities.
If you’re not a solopreneur, you’ll also have the opportunity to manage the schedules of your employees and create individual calendars for each one of them. Just like you, your team members also have plenty of work-related commitments so creating appointment calendars for them can help you manage your resources. If this is the case for you, you’ll want to ensure that the solution you choose can accommodate the schedules of multiple employees.
But this is just the tip of how an online booking system can help you manage your schedule more efficiently. Another factor to consider is how the software integrates with the other tools you currently use. Most likely you have some type of client relationship management system (CRM) to keep track of your customers’ contact details, their history with your company and more. An online calendar can integrate with your CRM and give you an even clearer picture of how much time you spend with each client. If you bill for meetings, this will also help you track those hours without much effort.
Some online booking systems include invoicing and billing solutions, but if you already have one in place, this may not be a feature that you need. However, service-based businesses like consulting, salons or medical offices are constantly collecting payments when services are rendered. Appointment scheduling software can help in this area too by enabling clients to pay online at the same time they book a meeting. You can also accept partial payments or deposits if you don’t want to collect the entire fee in advance.
Another major benefit of appointment setting software is its ability to automate certain tasks. Nothing stunts business growth more than wasted time. With so many things to do its easy for you to get caught up in work and forget about meetings. The same is true for your clients. By setting up automated meeting reminders, you can cut down on no-shows. If you send out reminder notifications a few days in advance, your less likely to run into this issue and, if something has changed in your client’s schedule, it also gives them an opportunity to cancel in advance. By simply logging back into your appointment system, they can reschedule their meeting you, freeing up that slot for others.
These are just a few of the benefits that help you run your business more efficiently. You should think about your company’s needs and create a list of the features you’d like to have in a solution. Then start searching for software that can help you achieve your goals. Take advantage of free trials so you can get a feel for how easy the software is to use internally as well as what the client experience is like.
After you’ve selected your system and installed it on your website, it’s time to add your company branding and connect it to your other platforms. Many software providers offer assistance with this if you don’t have a technical person on your team. Keep in mind that SaaS-based solutions are often the simplest way to go and require less maintenance, but if needed, you can choose to have a system installed on-premise.
Before announcing your new booking solution to your clients, make sure your staff is trained up on how to manage their schedules. That way, if one of your employees is unexpectedly out one day, he or she can go online and deal with rescheduling any appointments. Give your team access to training guides and help centers and ensure that they have all of their questions answered.
Plan out your schedule first. Identify the activities you need to get done and set specific timelines to complete them. Include the action items that need to be completed for each stage. Then set up your calendar availability for that week or month. Ask your employees to follow a similar process when setting their priorities.
Create a routine. Although it’s not always possible to have a rigid routine, keeping some things steady will help you be more productive. Set aside time for daily admin activities such as emails and follow up phone calls as well as a solid schedule for meetings. This will also help your clients anticipate when they can see you.
Stay focused and eliminate distractions. Whether interruptions happen during meetings or those times when you’re completing work, it can throw you for a loop. Whenever possible, try to limit interferences as it will take you twice as long to get back to work and accomplish things.
Schedule in Downtime. No one can work twenty-four hours a day and trying to do so will leave you exhausted and unproductive. Make sure you add in lunchtimes, coffee breaks, time to exercise and travel between appointments. Without these buffer times, even the most efficient scheduling solution will fail. And, by scheduling these activities in, you’ll be more likely to get to them and not let your work and personal life suffer.