Would you benefit from using an external booking service?
In 2017, the service industries accounted for 79% of total UK economic output. Delivery of these services frequently involved, at some stage, taking a booking, reservation or appointment. This blog article discusses the pros and cons for both private and public organisations of using an external booking service. The case studies referred to in the article are Paperclip customers. They have been anonymised to maintain confidentiality.
How does an external booking service work?
Firstly, calls to your phone number are redirected to the external booking service. In the case of larger organisations, the number may be a specific booking line, but in the majority of smaller organisations it is simply the main contact number.
When calls arrive at the external booking service the name of the service provider appears on the operative’s screen. This enables the operative to answer as though they were sitting in the service provider’s office and an integral member of their team. Paperclip, for example, prides itself on delivering a seamless and anonymous service for its customers.
Sometimes, a caller has a query other than a booking, reservation or appointment. At Paperclip, we often handle FAQs for our booking clients’ callers or, where the call requires a more comprehensive answer, simply transfer the call or take a message (see case studies below).
To ensure a seamless service in the ears of the caller, the service provider gives Paperclip access to its back-office bookings system. The Paperclip operative can therefore see the available time slots that can be allocated and advise the caller accordingly. The service provider can track in real-time its workload, and can block off periods of time for training, holidays or other purposes. They can also add in bookings that have come through to them via other channels.
The key to delivering a successful external booking, appointment or reservation service is for the booking service provider to really understand the key touchpoints its client has with their customers. At Paperclip, for example, we have a detailed programme for successfully onboarding new clients. We seek to understand the services they provide, the terminology and language they use, and the questions their customers will ask when making a booking, reservation or appointment.
What are the benefits of using an external booking service?
The benefits are best explained by way of simple outline case studies.
Private medical practitioners
Many of Paperclip’s customers are medical practitioners: osteopaths, physiotherapists, complementary/alternative therapists. They range from sole traders to practices with multiple outlets.
No professional medical practitioner who understands patient service and lifetime customer value is going to answer a phone call during an appointment. The external booking service handles their calls and, effectively, manages their diary.
As mentioned earlier, there is often a need to provide additional information over and above making an appointment. This can range from practical information such as what to wear, where to park and the practice’s cancellation policy to reassuring the patient by explaining what to expect.
The key resource for most medical practitioners is their time. A Paperclip osteopath client has calculated that using Paperclip for his bookings and admin allows him to deliver two extra appointments every day. On average this means he generates an additional £120 of revenue each day – £2,500 per month – for a fraction of the cost of Paperclip taking his bookings.
Larger practices often recruit a receptionist, one of whose tasks is to deal with bookings and appointments. In such cases, Paperclip provides the back up to deal with the additional calls at peak times, lunch breaks, and holiday/illness cover.
Booking service for IT service and support companies
If you’ve ever had an IT problem that has killed your email or, even worse, crashed your system you’ll realise just how frustrating and stressful that can be. Your stress levels increase even further when you are unable to get through on the phone to make your supplier aware of your problem.
The technical desk wizards at IT service and support companies generate revenue by solving these problems. They are best served by not having to issue support tickets or responding to non-technical customer service questions. This is where an external booking service can really add value both for the caller, who is reassured his problem is registered and in the system, and for the support team which can concentrate on solving the problem.
Estate agents can book viewings
Paperclip’s estate agent clients are some of its most active. There is rarely a call to an estate agent that is not critical or important in some way: asking for a valuation visit, booking a viewing, finding out if a property is still on the market, tracking progress on a transaction and so on.
For some estate agent clients, Paperclip handles the overflow bookings when the agent’s team is tied up on other calls. For others, Paperclip delivers a complete back office solution covering bookings, chasing feedback from viewings, arranging valuations and more. This allows the specialist – the estate agent – to focus on achieving the best deal for their client.
I must admit to a vested interest here having recently sold my house and bought another property. When arranging viewings, the variation in service levels was astonishing. One agent admitted that on Saturday, their busiest day, they allowed calls to go to voicemail and frequently only listened to them at 5pm when the shop closed. I was one of their ‘5pm victims’ on a couple of occasions and I can still feel the frustration and angst as I type this blog months later!
When should you use an external booking service?
The growth of the internet has spawned a plethora of online booking systems. However, even in relatively simple scenarios, booking theatre or cinema tickets for example, such systems can be frustrating because you are unable to ask supplementary questions, or find it difficult to switch or add seats if family or friends decide to join you.
Any service business which has a human dimension and which prides itself on its customer service should consider the flexibility and adaptability of an external booking service over an impersonal and inflexible online alternative.
As detailed in the case studies, external booking services release specialists – medical practitioners, estate agents, solicitors, IT support teams – to concentrate on what they do best and on what generates revenue for their business.
What are the most common questions asked by Paperclip’s prospective bookings clients?
Confidentiality and security.
When your clients include medical practitioners, solicitors and estate agents then confidentiality and security are always at the top of the agenda; personal privacy and commercial sensitivity.
Paperclip has invested heavily in IT systems and procedures that are both GDPR compliant and also meet the far more stringent data privacy requirements of many clients. All data is encrypted. Where notes are taken during a call they are shredded on a daily basis and disposed of by a specialist confidential waste service. All Paperclip staff members are bound by the strict non-disclosure agreements they sign when joining the team.
Our service is specialist and complex
Everybody, from osteopath to electrician to solicitor, understandably believes their business is specialist and complex and, therefore, difficult for a third party to understand and explain. However, whilst the technical delivery of the service may require detailed specialist knowledge and expertise, the booking service is typically more about customer service and basic FAQs. On the rare occasion that specialist advice may be required then the call can be forwarded or a message taken for the client to follow up.
We need more than a simple booking service
The booking services provided by Paperclip range from taking a straightforward booking, reservation or appointment through to making follow-up calls, handling waiting lists and dealing with cancellations. The aim is to provide an external booking service that fits the client’s service ethos, working practices and priorities.
Want to find out more?
Every Paperclip client is unique. To discuss whether an external booking service will work for you call me on 01246 418181.
Managing Director, Paperclip Booking Systems
Outstanding. We used Paperclip Admin to cover maternity leave in our company, they were friendly, professional and efficient. We found their phone answering service very helpful when we were unable to take calls ourselves.
John Owen, County Conveyors