Let Online Booking Increase Your Revenue and Customer Approval
Home service pros need to do business online… even though it sounds counterintuitive. After all, the bulk of your work involves face-to-face visits with a customer on their property. Isn’t handing out business cards and earning referrals the old fashioned way enough? As it turns out: no.
A whopping 97% of people use the internet to find local services. That includes you, whether you do plumbing, carpet cleaning, garage door repair, or any other home-related business. And when once people find you, they want to book quickly. Up to 70% of customers would book online if it was available.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your in-person business is to allow online booking. And then you need to tell everyone about it.
Along with getting a great online booking software, what can you do to promote the option to book online? Let’s talk about how online booking sells itself by improving the customer experience, and what you can do to win over the unconvinced.
How Online Booking Streamlines the Customer Experience
Not only does allowing for online booking free up your phones, but it can make the customer experience better. An appointment booking app offers some clear solutions to common customer pain points.
Let’s look at some of the ways online booking will alleviate typical obstacles for customers seeking an appointment.
The problem: The customer doesn’t have time to call you during business hours, or they always hit your voicemail.
How online booking helps: In one survey, more than 56% of consumers said they were frustrated by waiting on hold or inconvenient phone booking hours. With online booking, your customers can log on any time of day and request a service appointment.
One study found that
The problem: The customer feels rushed to make an appointment quickly over the phone.
How online booking helps: If they call you on the phone, customers may feel obliged to take the first appointment slot you offer. But what if they prefer to cross-check the offered availability against their Google Calendar?
When a customer uses an appointment scheduling app, there’s less pressure to book immediately. You’re not just offering more convenience, but also more freedom and a more relaxed booking experience.
The problem: The customer finds an old phone number for your business and is too frustrated to search for the correct number.
How online booking helps: Things happen. Long-time service techs leave, the boss gets a new cell phone number, or your brick and mortar location moves to a new area code. The last thing you want is for an eager customer to hit a disconnection notice or reach the wrong person when they call. And if an incorrect phone number remains in even one place on the web, you could miss more calls than you’ll ever know.
Your online booking platform will remain tried and true, even with employee turnover. It’s consistency and reliability could stave off a lot of customer confusion or frustration. Most people won’t spend time looking for the right phone number if the one they tried is wrong — they just move on to a new service provider.
Best Practices for Promoting Online Appointments
Your booking service is only as good as your promotion of it. The potential for gaining new leads is significant, but there are lots of ways to flub it up. For instance, if you just put a small booking link at the bottom of your home services website: you’re working against yourself.
Here are a few ways to promote your online booking option so you can free up your phone lines while still filling your schedule.
1. Promote Online Booking on Social Media
Social pages are some of the most effective spaces on the web to encourage online bookings. If you cultivate a strong Instagram and Facebook following, you may eventually get most of your booking referrals from those platforms.
BookedIn (a company with a booking app) pulled analytics data to see where their clients’ web traffic was coming from. Social was the leading source of traffic. The report found that between April and June of 2018, 37% of the clicks to their clients’ online booking links were from social pages. The next most common referral was businesses websites, with 31% of referrals.
2. Have Clear Booking Buttons on Your Website
When someone finds you via organic search (i.e. a Google search), you want to present them with the option to book online right away. Ideally, the booking button will be on the top half of the page.
Open your site on a PC and a mobile phone. Would you notice the button to book an appointment online immediately? If you wouldn’t, your customers won’t, either.
Take a hint from Housecall Pro. As you can see on our homepage below, our “Book Demo” button is meant to be simple to locate and tempting to click. We don’t make you work to get in contact with us!
It’s also wise to claim your Yelp profile and activate the booking feature there. 84% of consumers trust reviews as much as a friend, so if you have a great rating, people are apt to book right away.
3. Direct Phone Inquiries to Your Online Booking Platform
Some people will still give you a ring on the phone. Whenever a customer is on hold or hits your voicemail, make sure they’re being informed about your online booking system.
It won’t take much to sell the idea of going online to most customers — particularly the 56% we mentioned above who hate to be on hold. A quick, simple message gets the job done.
Sample script: “Thanks for calling Anderson Electrical. We’re either out of the office or helping someone else. If you want to book a visit from one of our techs, please visit our website. You can schedule a service call online in just a few minutes!”
4. Add a Booking CTA to Your Email Signature
What other touchpoints do you have with customers and the general public? Adding your website and a URL for your booking widget to your business cards is a great place to start. An email signature is like your digital business card, so don’t leave it in the cold.
A quick link to your online booking just below your name and phone number is a good way to promote your online booking to potential or existing customers. Long-time customers may not be visiting your website anymore, but you probably still email them invoices or receipt. Putting a link in your email is a nice, subtle promotion opportunity for online booking.
5. Offer an Incentive for First-Time Online Bookings
Still not getting the number of service requests that you’d like? Try dangling a carrot. A social media ad or Yelp special that offers a discount for first-time online bookings will get people’s attention.
Discounts literally give people a surge of happy brain chemicals. Science is on your side: if you offer a one-time discount for booking online, you may convert some folks who were on the fence about doing business with you.
Overcoming Common Concerns for Online Booking
The pros for turning to online booking are pretty easy to identify. You’ll be booking appointments around the clock and you’ll never have 30 unopened voicemails again. But what about the common concerns? Here are some things we hear about online booking software and apps.
“I don’t want everyone to have access to my calendar.”
We get it, you like to control your calendar access. The good news is that most booking systems only grant the information customers needs to choose a time slot — and nothing more. You can still make changes to appointments/contact customers if you want to reschedule. You still have all the control.
“I’m worried I’ll get double booked.”
The good news about an online booking system is that it can actually make you less likely to become overbooked for the same time slot. If all of your employees are busy during a certain time period, customers won’t be able to secure an appointment at that time. Your schedule will be updated in real time, so you don’t have to stress about being over committed.
“I like to have more control over my field techs’ routes and schedule.”
Keeping your field employees’ schedules designed for maximum efficiency makes sense. When they’re zig-zagging across a big city, you lose time and money. If you run a business like lawn care or house cleaning, you don’t have to give up all hopes for efficiency when customers book their own time slot.
You’ll capture customer contact information when they book their appointment. If they requested service on Thursday and your workers will already be in the neighborhood on Friday, you can contact them and ask if they’re able to make the adjustment.
You may also want to consider charging a “Trip Charge” to help recoup any increases to your transportation costs.
It’s Time to Switch to Online Booking Software
Online booking lets people book 24/7, exponentially increasing the possibilities for making new appointments. The best appointment scheduling software for small business is the Housecall Pro Online Booking service, which lets customers quickly choose from your services and select an available time slot. You can list your standard fees, too, so you’ll stop getting so many calls asking how much it costs to get a drain cleared or change an HVAC filter.