Online appointment scheduling

Feb. 10, 2012

Do you offer online scheduling for service appointments? Why not? It’s easy, inexpensive, and it gives your customers a convenient way to do business with you. Have you ever heard of the Golden Rule? I am not referring to the one that says, “He who has the gold ... rules.” I mean, “Treat others as you would want to be treated.”

For the most part, this rule will suffice in everyday business. However, it’s not always the best methodology when dealing with customers. People don’t always want to be treated the way you want to be treated. In general, it’s not a bad axiom. But, sometimes it’s better to employ the “Platinum Rule.” The Platinum Rule suggests that you “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”

Simply stated, not everyone is the same, and what might appeal to you might not appeal to every customer. So, it’s smart business to offer choices.

The choice is theirs

This is where online appointment scheduling fits into the picture. Some people like to call a shop and talk with a human and some simply do not. An online appointment scheduling system affords the customers who prefer to use the Internet the option to book an appointment with one of your shops for a day and time that is convenient for them — quickly and easily, and without having to pick up the phone. An online system allows them to see what time-slots are open, it lets them choose what service they are coming in for, and schedule the service for when they would like to come in.

What are the capabilities?

A really good online appointment system will provide your customers with a list of services. Based on what they select, it will schedule the necessary time the appointment will take. The system will alert you (the service provider) and the customer that the appointment has been confirmed, remind them in advance about the service, and thank them when the service is complete.

Simple appointments for oil changes and the like don’t need to take up valuable phone time with your staff. An online appointment scheduling system frees-up staff to service the customers standing at the counter. Customers who use your online appointment scheduler get the bonus of immediate service — they don’t need to wait for someone to pick up the phone, and they can do things on their time. Many dealers offer a promotional coupon for making the appointment online to encourage the practice.

The basics

Whenever possible, the online booking system you choose should provide an estimate for the cost of service. If you have to provide a range, go ahead. Customers booking online want to get an idea of what the cost will be before they commit to an appointment.

When the service requires a more comprehensive quote, or possibly an inspection before work can begin, let them know that through the system in advance. No one likes surprises when it comes to price, unless of course the surprise is a lower final cost.

Also, the customer should be able to dictate the method of communication regarding an appointment. The online appointment system you employ should provide the customer with choices. Do they prefer e-mail? Do they want text messages? Let the customer decide.

Remember the “Platinum Rule.” It should be effortless for them to make an appointment, and it should be just as effortless for you to manage the scheduling process. A good automated system can provide that for you.

An online appointment scheduling system will show you the time-slots that are reserved and the services that are being requested. A good system also will manage your bays and allow you to set up service appointments in the proper time increments.

In addition, some systems can interface to popular point-of-sale systems; this makes the scheduling system even more powerful. With an integrated model, not only are you allowing your customers to schedule their own appointments, the appointments are also being entered as work orders into your POS system. You can then manage the process, but don’t have to re-key anything — this eliminates errors and increases productivity.

This technology is simple to install, easy to implement, and available today.

As CEO and president of WECnology LLC (see website, Wayne Croswell is a “complimentary technology advisor” for independent tire dealers. Croswell can be reached at [email protected] or (603) 249-5530.