Building a Profitable Practice with Online Scheduling

Clinton Power, an online marketing coach and social media consultant in Sydney, makes a compelling case for online appointment scheduling in his article, “How an Online Appointment Scheduler Helps You Build a Profitable Private Practice.” Clinton uses Full Slate in his counseling practice and regularly recommends Full Slate to health care professionals he advises.

Here’s a great excerpt from the article with myths and facts about online scheduling:

Myth: You will lose control of your diary as clients book appointments whenever it suits them.

Fact: I have total control over my online diary. I only offer the best times that suit me, I don’t let clients book less than 24 hours in advance. I don’t let clients book more than 2 weeks in advance. I can block out all days and weeks when I don’t want to work or will be on holidays in the future.

Myth: Clients don’t want to book online.

Fact: 90%+ of my new clients now book online through Full Slate for the first appointment.

Myth: You won’t have control over which clients you see.

Fact: All appointments go into moderation and I only confirm an appointment online after speaking with the client and screening them for suitability.

Myth: Online appointment schedulers are expensive and you shouldn’t need to pay when you can book clients for free.

Fact: Full Slate paid for itself for 2 years in advance after I came back from 6 weeks holiday and 7 new clients were waiting in moderation for me to confirm. (Best post-holiday present EVER).

Myth: It’s time consuming to have to add times to an online appointment scheduler as well as your main diary

Truth: I have the client’s next appointment booked in and confirmation email sent before they get to my front gate after leaving my office.

Myth: Online appointment schedulers don’t reduce no shows.

Fact: I’ve had not one no-show for an appointment in the last 2 years thanks to the automated email and SMS reminders that are sent 24 hours before the appointment.

Myth: Online appointment schedulers are not secure or confidential.

Fact: Full Slate actually uses the highest level of encryption commonly available on the Internet today.

Myth: An online scheduler doesn’t really add value to your business.

Fact: Research suggests that businesses that take online bookings can increase their growth by 30%. I found that my business increased by 46% in the first 12 months of using an online appointment scheduler.

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Online Scheduling in a Hair Salon

Jake Gravbrot, owner of Mars Hair/Art/Life salon in Seattle, has always had an eye for cutting-edge hair – and technology. He was the very first stylist to sign up for online appointment scheduling with Full Slate three years ago.  He was renting a booth at the time, and has since opened the doors of his own salon.

Before Full Slate: Pulling His Hair Out

We asked Jake if he could remember what it was like before he started using online scheduling.  His answer: “A lot more stressful.”  He was already using Google Calendar and text messaging, but “that required a lot of work.  I was trying to book appointments on top of doing hair, and often found myself returning phone calls in the evening. Despite my best efforts, I know I missed opportunities.  I definitely had more last-minute cancellations and no-shows.”

Once he started using Full Slate, “My workload decreased dramatically,” reports Jake.  He can’t imagine how hair salons get by without online scheduling nowadays.

More Connected With Clients

Over half his appointments are booked through Jake’s online scheduler now. He says clients appreciate having appointment availability at their finger tips 24/7, automated reminders, and the “cool factor” of the latest technology.  “They love using Full Slate.  THEY. LOVE. IT.”

Not only is online scheduling a huge timesaver for Jake and his clients, he believes clients respect appointment times more because they pick the time themselves instead of going through a receptionist.  “Clients have little to no excuse anymore if they can’t make it in, unless it’s a family emergency or a sick day.”  He says, “No-shows have been truly cut back.”

At any given time, Jake and his team can tap into a breadth of information about their clients, including appointment history, email correspondence, and special service notes.  It helps them feel more in tune and build stronger relationships with their client base.

“Having access to my clients’ information at the touch of a button is insanely helpful,” says Jake.

“At a moment’s notice, we can be in touch to inform a client if we’re running late or have a spot open up.”

Social Media + Online Scheduling = More Appointments

Jake also uses social media to connect with clients and always tries to work in a link to his scheduling page. I blog constantly,” he says.  He added an “Appointments” tab to his Facebook page too, and has even used Twitter to fill last minute openings (see screenshot).  “When I post a link to make an appointment, it’s going to get viewed hundreds of times.”

He’s coupled online scheduling with blogging, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp to build his business and grow his client base, and encourages others to do the same. “Clients are going online already to find out about your business, read reviews, and see who works at your salon,” Jake points out. “Why not allow them to book appointments during this process?”

Owning It

Without question, Jake is a huge proponent of technology.  There’s even a tab devoted to it on his website.  His philosophy: “Be ahead of the curve instead of behind it.  It’s just like with hair – if you own the style, you’ll attract positive attention.  The same goes for technology.”

We asked Jake if he had any advice for other salon owners and hair stylists.  Here it is:

“Full Slate cuts overhead costs drastically and helps us all work more efficiently. In this industry, time is money.  Why not give yourself and your salon the opportunity to turn the best profits you can?”

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Online Scheduling in a Therapy & Marriage Counseling Practice

Colleen Crafton of Murfreesboro Counseling Services

Colleen Crafton, a licensed therapist, has embraced technology to keep her counseling practice growing and running smoothly.  She predicts that more and more mental health professionals will overcome their fears this year and start using online tools.

More Convenient & Discrete

Colleen started using Full Slate’s appointment scheduling software when she opened her private practice almost two years ago.  She put a button to schedule an appointment at the top of her website.  Many of her clients work during the day and appreciate this discrete alternative to calling for an appointment.

According to Colleen, the response from clients has been very positive.  “About 80 percent make appointments online on their own,” she says. “A good many find my website and use the online scheduler without me even telling them.”

Booked Solid

Her schedule fills up fast, so Colleen blocks out some time to ensure there is room for people who call in need of an urgent appointment. That way she can still fit in clients having a crisis and last-minute referrals from insurance companies.

She encourages current clients to setup a treatment schedule in advance. “At the end of a session, I whip out my iPad, bring up Full Slate, and say, ‘Let’s schedule your next session right now.’ I’ve got clients who are already booked three months out,” Colleen says.  “They think, ‘Good heavens, I need to plan ahead or there won’t be any slots left.’”

And she doesn’t have many missed appointments anymore.  Colleen added a paragraph at the bottom of the email reminder that’s sent automatically before each appointment.  It reinforces her cancellation policy and puts the client on notice that there is a $60 fee for failing to appear. As a result, she’s “decreased no-shows to almost nothing.”  On the rare occasion when someone doesn’t show, a flag in the client’s appointment history gives her a heads-ups.

Color-Coded Calendar

Full Slate’s appointment scheduling software has helped Colleen streamline billing, too.  She color-codes appointments based on intake and billing status.  “My favorite color is purple – then I know everything is done; the paperwork’s complete, I’ve been paid.”

Just by glancing at her calendar, Colleen can tell if it’s a patient’s first visit and the necessary forms are complete.  She can see right on her schedule when a client has made a co-pay through PayPal, and uses the notes field on appointments to keep track of insurance claims and payments.  When she emails a client about a co-pay or the balance due, it’s logged in Full Slate’s message history.

Safe & Sound

Although the software has become integral to her practice management, Colleen acknowledges “it’s a new thing for people to see therapists using technology.  We have not, as a group, used any kind of online tools.”  She thinks fears about hacking and concerns over confidentiality are to blame.

Despite widespread misconceptions, the reality is mental health professionals can use online tools to facilitate health care operations and be HIPAA compliant.  There are helpful FAQs posted on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s website clarifying the patient Privacy Rule as it relates to appointment scheduling and reminders.  Full Slate has also published a statement to allay concerns about online HIPAA compliance and online scheduling.

Perhaps 2012 will be the year therapists reconcile with technology. Colleen thinks so: “Having online tools like Full Slate easily accessible, more of us will grab hold.”

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Online Scheduling in a Massage Practice

We often hear from customers about the impact of online scheduling on their business – comments like “Online scheduling has changed my life!” and “This is the best thing I could have done for my business!”  And who doesn’t love a compliment?  So we asked Lisa Bedoya, a massage therapist who owns her own business in Boston, to tell us more.

Before Lisa began using Full Slate’s appointment scheduling software, she used Google calendar to manage her business. Clients called and emailed to schedule appointments, and Lisa returned their messages during breaks or at the end of the day, often resulting in a game of phone tag. Then she found Full Slate.

Growing your business

Lisa added Full Slate’s online scheduler to her website and Facebook page and updated her voicemail greeting to ask clients to book online instead of leaving voicemail.

She immediately saw an increase in new clients.  People are looking for certain information to decide whether they want to make an appointment, and one key piece of information is when she’s available. Since online scheduling lets visitors to her website see when she has openings, Lisa is getting more bookings.

“Before I offered online scheduling, my clients would never have told me that they would prefer booking online, or that it would cause them to book more frequently either, but that’s what I found,” reported Lisa. One client actually said it was because of the convenience of online scheduling that she switched to Lisa as her regular massage therapist.  Clients make appointments farther in advance, too, helping to ensure a busy schedule well into the future.

And online scheduling is helping her fill times that aren’t as busy. Lisa noticed once she was wide open on Saturday, so she offered a one-time reduced rate.  She fired off an email to her clients with a link to book online, and before she finished lunch, that Saturday was fully booked.

Saving you time

Lisa used to have to go back and forth with clients in order to schedule each and every appointment. After two months with Full Slate, over 70% of her appointments were made online, saving Lisa a lot of time. Before online scheduling, she spent up to an hour a day checking and responding to email and phone calls; now it’s down to less than an hour a week.

Lisa commented, “I didn’t realize how much time and energy I was spending on scheduling. Now I can focus on my core business, not scheduling.”

Lisa uses the various settings in her Full Slate account to control when clients can schedule appointments with her, resulting in a more organized and optimized calendar. And, she doesn’t have to spend time after sessions arranging the next appointment.  She invites clients to schedule online instead, an option that all but one or two prefer.  As a result, she’s able to schedule appointments closer together.

Client reaction

“My clients LOVE it!” Lisa has recently added many things to her business, including credit card payment and gift certificates, but it’s online scheduling that clients go out of their way to rave about. And the increase in bookings speaks for itself.

With more appointments, saved time, and happy clients, Lisa said “Full Slate has taken my business to a whole new level.”  Her advice: “If you are just starting out – or even already established – and you think that online appointment scheduling is too costly or an unnecessary ‘bell and whistle,’ think again!”