Whether you’re making appointments for your medical practice, booking seats for healthy living seminars, scheduling at your salon, or reserving rooms for your outdoor adventure weekends, your clients would like to be able to make those appointments online. Specifically, 72% of patients in a recent study said they want to be able to make online appointments, with 42% in another recent survey saying that they’d rather not have to make a phone call. The percentage is higher with younger consumers — adults 25-34 would just about always rather make online appointments.
Problems with online appointments
From the point of view of the website owner, there can be some concerns with online appointments. The owners of an outdoor sports adventure center told us that they really need to talk with people before making a reservation — there are so many variables that they need more information before they can make the best possible arrangements for their visitors. Certainly, medical professionals may feel the same way. If you’re willing to lose bookings — especially with new patients and clients — you might want to hold onto this position. If not, it’s just a matter of configuring your online appointment system correctly.
We also hear concerns about double booking. It’s possible that someone may book an appointment online at the precise moment that someone is scheduling an appointment by phone or in person. The thing is, it’s already possible that two team members might make reservations or appointments for different people at the same exact moment. If this doesn’t happen often right now, it probably won’t happen often when you add an online option. Using an online system could in fact decrease the number of double bookings if team members currently make appointments on pieces of paper and then go to the calendar to enter them.
Patients also tell us that they’ve tried to make online appointments and have never heard back. Certainly, if you set up online appointments at your website, you have to follow through. Some systems actually create an appointment or reservation, but many just send a request. If you don’t check your bookings and keep up with appointments, the system definitely won’t work. This is human error, though, and not a problem with online appointment software.
Advantages of online appointments
Set up an online appointment request or booking system, and you can expect to see an increase in the number of appointments you set. For healthcare professionals, this can be significant. Since just about 17% currently have online appointments, your choice to offer this service can give you an advantage over your competitors.
One of the big advantages from the point of view of your patients or clients is that they can book an appointment on their own schedule, rather than having to call when your office is open. Modern consumers have come to expect to be able to make their arrangements at their convenience.
Online booking systems also usually allow you to set up automatic reminders for your patients or clients. This reduces no-shows significantly. Since no-shows can have a real opportunity cost, this can be a real advantage.
You can have your team members call and remind people of their appointments. But paying people to do this — and to manage appointments in the first place — can be costly. Free up staff to do other mission-critical tasks and you may be surprised by how much it streamlines your practice.
Adding online appointments
If you have a WordPress website for your practice or business, you can easily add an online booking function. There are both free and premium (that is, plugins you must pay for) plugins for scheduling all kinds of appointments and reservations.
Some of the specific functions plugins may have:
- Booking appointments on a calendar at the website
- Syncing with your Google calendar
- Accepting payments through Paypal at the time of booking
- Allowing you to block out time slots for online appointments
- Integrating bookings with WooCommerce
- Keeping patient or client information in a secure database
- Integrating with reservation systems of various kinds, from accommodations to renting equipment
- Showing real-time availability
- Show weather predictions for future booking times
- Integrate with your accounting software
- Act as a simple CRM (customer relationship system)
Appointment booking plugins
Determine the things you need your booking system to do and browse through booking plugins to find the one that will work best for you. Some plugins are simple, while some require more time and skill to configure. You may also have to try a few plugins to find one that works well with your website.
Here are some free plugins to try out:
- EMSB Booking Plugin
- Book Appointment Online
- Doctor Appointment Booking
- Booking Calendar
- Easy Appointments
There are also plenty of premium plugins that will do the job. Do you hav favorites? Let us know in the comments!
Need help? Contact us today to discuss your needs.