How to Book Appointments and Waitlists Together
A big challenge for any business is managing appointments and waitlists together, but what’s the difference in how the two work from an operational standpoint?
Mon Aug 29 2022 • 6 min read
If you manage a busy business, you know how important it is to keep wait times low. But what do you do when demand is high and you can't accommodate everyone? Understanding how to successfully operate with both an appointment scheduling and virtual waitlist model may be the answer.
In today's fast-paced world, customers are far less patient than they used to be, and they'll take their business elsewhere if they perceive that wait times are too long.
In fact, a recent Waitwhile survey revealed that 70% of consumers would only wait up to 15 minutes in a physical line for a service. However, nearly 71% would be prepared to wait in a virtual line for an additional 15 minutes or longer. Additionally:
- 69% of consumers are more likely to leave a physical line before it’s their turn
- 45% of consumers would be more likely to join a line if it was virtual
- 70% of consumers would prefer a virtual line to a physical one
This means that businesses need to be quicker and more efficient than ever before. Delays, no matter how small, can cause customers to become impatient and angry. And a frustrating waiting experience at the start will only lead to more problems down the line in a customer’s visit. By being prepared and proactive, you can keep customers satisfied, avoid poor experiences, and make your staff’s jobs easier.
By offering both appointments and virtual queues, you can give your guests the flexibility and convenience they’re seeking while making your business run more efficiently.
What’s the difference between appointments and a waitlist?
An appointment is a specific time that a business or organization has scheduled with a guest for a service. Appointments are often made in advance, so both the guest and business can plan accordingly.
Conversely, a waitlist is used when a business operates using a walk-in model. Guests will join a waitlist upon arrival and then be served in the order in which they arrived. If a business is busy, guests will have to wait until it is their turn.
There are a number of digital solutions on the market that will help you manage your appointments and/or waitlists. The best will be easy to use, seamless to integrate into your customer flow, and automate tedious tasks so you can focus on what’s important – your customer.
In the following sections, we’ll walk you through the key features you should look out for in each and show you how to manage both appointments and virtual queues in a single solution.
Appointment scheduling and management solutions
Appointment scheduling and management is the proactive and effective process of organizing, controlling, and tracking appointments. From a guest’s point of view, offering appointments gives them flexibility to plan in advance and delivers a convenient customer experience. For your business, offering appointments helps you better manage resources as you’ll know who’s coming in when and what services are most in demand.
Appointment scheduling can be done by telephone, in person, or online via an appointment scheduling system like Waitwhile. The best appointment scheduling solutions will have the following features:
- Gives your guests the ability to reschedule or cancel on their own
- Automatic management of calendars, including multiple calendars for individual staff members
- Allows you to capture essential customer data
- Lets you communicate with clients about bookings via text or email.
- Automates notifications and reminders to reduce no-show rates
Waitlist management solutions
Waitlist management is the process of handling waitlists when you are at capacity. It includes creating and managing lists of people who are waiting for a service and providing people with updates on their wait time status. You can either use a digital queue management platform or a manual system to keep track of people who are waiting.
A manual system can be simple and easy to use and it often involves printed waitlists. While this may be okay for a small business with the occasional wait, a manual system can be challenging for staff during peak hours. It also doesn’t offer options for automated queue management or data collection and analysis. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to deliver accurate wait times to guests.
There are many advantages to using a digital solution. Importantly, it’s what your customers want. As we mentioned above, 70% of consumers prefer virtual lines to physical ones.
A queue management platform like Waitwhile will allow your guests to wait in a virtual line. With machine learning technology, they’ll receive an accurate wait time estimate and automatically get regular updates on their status in line via text or email. That way, if you have a long wait, your guests are free to do whatever they wish rather than wait in a physical line. This freedom delivers an excellent customer experience and actually makes the wait feel shorter.
Keep reading: 9 Ways to Improve Customer Experience
Some other advantages of virtual queues are:
- Automation: customers are automatically notified when it’s their turn
- Communication: you can text or email with your guests, and they have an easy way to contact you directly
- Crowd management: virtual queues eliminate the need for physical lines and crowded waiting rooms
- Customer service: without having to manage a physical line or run a manual waitlist, your staff can devote more time to serving your customers
- Data: queue management platforms automatically store customer data and track business operations, so you can identify ways to improve efficiency
Challenges of operating with both appointments and waitlists
Accepting both appointments and walk-ins is a great way to maximize your volume and drive revenue. But managing waitlists while allowing for guests to book appointments in advance can be challening.
Often, businesses will use separate specialized solutions to manage these two types of bookings. For example, you may be booking appointments using an app such as Google Calendar or Calendly, while resorting to a paper-and-pen waitlist.
This process can be scattered and time-consuming, resulting in miscommunication and poor experiences for customers and staff alike.
A single platform to book appointments and waitlists together
By booking appointments and waitlists together, your business can avoid crippling inefficiencies in scheduling. Here are some tips on how to book appointments and waitlists in a way that doesn’t cause customer or team friction:
- Use a single system to manage both appointments and waitlists. This way, you’ll ensure all bookings are coordinated and avoid any duplication of effort. Remember, traditional paper-and-pen solutions can’t give you an overview of your entire queue. You need online appointment and waitlist management tools to do that.
- Use an online booking tool that allows customers to self-schedule appointments. Clients sometimes cancel or reschedule appointments last-minute, while walk-ins or waitlist signups can be no-shows (especially after a long wait). With a digital solution, however, it becomes much easier to automatically fill those time slots that unexpectedly become vacant. It’s a great way to reduce the amount of time your staff spends on scheduling.
- Use a system that allows you to unify your appointments and walk-ins. Having a centralized calendar for both your appointments and waitlists can help you save time while reducing frustration for both you and your customers. A solution that can manage both will put your operations on autopilot: it’ll automatically manage your calendar for appointment bookings (including sending reminders to customers to reduce no-shows) while accurately estimating wait times for walk-ins based on your service capacity at any given time.
Since tech solutions like Waitwhile centralize all client communication and data, they can also be an excellent way to get useful customer insights. Waitwhile, in particular, allows you to provide even better services since you can use it to:
- Analyze how long your clients have waited in the past
- Establish the services or staff members your guests prefer
- Establish what’s causing snags and delays in your business
- Notify clients when you’re introducing new products or services
- Keep in touch with your clients after their visit
It pays to manage your customer journey from the start
Onboarding a straightforward solution for booking appointments and managing waitlists together will be invaluable for crafting a flawless customer journey from the start. In today’s competitive climate, if you don’t wow your guests with a standout experience, they’ll simply go somewhere else. And today’s consumer wants convenience, flexibility, and expediency.