It never fails. You get a puppy or a dog that needs extra attention, are running behind, overbooked....and the phone. Will. Not. Stop. Ringing. Wanting to throw the phone out the window is a common thing for us. No one will speak to anyone but me about booking appointments and sometimes I spend one to two hours per day on the phone. I know! It is so hard to get off the phone with clients who think you are a friend. That is how I built the business and now I am paying for it.
I cannot get to the computer every time the phone rings, especially if I am grooming, so I have a tendency to write down appointments on whatever I can find to write on. I have a white board at my table, but the back of the electric bill, a scrap of paper, my hand... it will happen that appointments get written down and then they sometimes disappear. Or I forget to write it down.
Sometimes the appointment never makes it into the computer.
Sometimes I screw up and book 4 doodles when we can only do 2 per day. We have a limit on big dogs and cockers. We have to limit them so that the bather can get them done. I never forget a Chihuahua or Yorkie, I always add too many bigger dogs or hairy dogs. ALWAYS.
When I screw up that way it causes havoc in the salon and the stress level goes through the roof. My bather gets frustrated because it adds way more work onto him.
What do you do??? I cannot tell people "I am sorry we cannot do your dog today even though you had an appointment". I also have a tremendous difficulty telling some people (mostly older long term clients with small dogs) NO we cannot fit you in today. If I answer the phone it will not happen. I will take them and I will figure it out.
Since we downsized (that blog post is pending) I do not have the time to spend on the telephone that I used to have. I also cannot take the stress of being pressured to take dogs we really have no time to groom. Something had to change and I was at a loss.
I played with leaving the answering machine on and people leaving messages but it did not work out well. If I did not answer they simply called back.
Then one day FaceBook offered me a chance to try online booking. I had always scoffed at how this could possibly work for groomers. I mean, combination of breeds and temperaments are critical to booking successful days. But, stress will make you do strange things....
What the heck! I decided to try it and see what happened. My clients jumped on it. In less than two hours of setting it up I had 10 appointments booked online! Think about that. 10 appointments online freed up a LOT of time for me to groom. If I spent 5 minutes with each client (and two of those clients I would have spent more than that with) that is almost an HOUR not to mention if they had tried to come on a day they could not SEE was unavailable, I would have said yes and then we would have been overbooked. Again.
I only have to go to the computer once a day with my email open, showing me who booked for when. If the date does not work, I can email them and let them know what we do have available. It is much easier to do over the internet than on the phone. At least for me. I have issues saying no.
FaceBook had limitations, since we were filling up so fast, I had to constantly take entire days off. For example, Tuesday the 11th of February was totally booked, so I needed to block it off, but I had to take TUESDAY off. I needed something that would allow me to block off JUST the 11th, not every Tuesday forever.
I looked at several apps. None of them actually are perfect for us because we do "all in by 10am", but Square was the easiest one for me to make work. It was easy to link to the Square site from my FaceBook page. The Button on my FB page works like it did before the change and my clients are used to going there for information so it made sense to continue with it.
Here is what the Square appointment system looks like for clients:
The hours noted above are NOT our hours of operation but they ARE the hours we take appointments for. They are available in 30 minute spaces. I can block off one entire day for one stylist or everyone easily with one click from the APP or the desktop site.
The dates that we have availability are shown and then you choose a time. I am flexible, and the time chosen just means that you can be in the salon any time before 10am.
Clients can choose whomever they wish to book with and it will show what days and times that stylist or bather has available. This feature costs $50 per month. I am happy to pay that for the ease of the system.
This is the email I get showing the appointment date and time. I can edit the appointment if it does not work with the schedule since we are still booking clients on the phone. I ALWAYS send a confirmation email to every client.
This is my inbox from Saturday and Sunday. These dogs are already scheduled for the day they wanted and I can sit at the computer tomorrow morning and add each one. If there is an issue with the dog not fitting the schedule or the day already being full I can adjust it in less than 2 minutes.
Many of the major software programs offer an app for booking and online booking that syncs your system. I refuse to give up control of my data and as a result will take this time to sync manually.
If you use Google calendar most online booking apps can be synced automatically.
I fully expect people are going to be using this program more and more as they find out it is available. It can be a time saver and a stress reliever. If you are not doing online booking consider it. try it for a bit on a free program and see what happens. You might find that it helps you get other things done better, faster and without the phone ringing a million times per day.
I am so glad that I decided to try this. I am trying my best to reduce my stress and this is one way I am doing it. My health and sanity is worth this. Now if I can just remember where I put my phone so I can check my email.....