Is your appointment book full?

A lot of businesses these days take appointments. Hair salons, nail salons, auto repair service centers, even some high-end clothing stores.

Many of the books seem to be little more than a recording device that documents which clients have figured out that they need to come in. They fill almost at random, as if the time has no value.

Why is that?

As a business owner, wouldn’t you prefer to see the book completely full? Wouldn’t you want to be turning away business, or scrambling to find more people, more machines (or whatever) and finding a way to extend your hours so that you can serve them? Or even better, raise your price every time you find yourself getting overbooked.

There’s a balance to be had, but an appointment book should be more than just a recording device. Most businesses fail to take advantage of the real value of that multi-faceted, all-powerful (and valuable) book.

For the marketer, the book is a motivational device and a tool. A tool that reminds you that your job isn’t done until that book is full. From what I see when I ramble around here and there, very few people seem to care how full their book is. Maybe they don’t associate the slots in that book with income. They should, unless they’ve managed to get away from trading $ for hours.

Until you manage to stop trading $ for hours, ask yourself this: how many days in advance can I fill a day in the book? If you can’t fill tomorrow’s appointment slate before tomorrow gets here, then start there. IE: try to fill tomorrow before the end of today. Once you’ve done that, try to beat the new record every day and keep trying.

If you want to block out some time, fine, do that. Just don’t let anyone schedule it and stick to it. You gotta have “you time” too.

You know there are businesses who have their book filled weeks in advance. What do they know that you don’t? Ask them. Model the successful behavior. If you find that something doesn’t fit, adjust.

For the front desk person or receptionist, the book is a tool to help them know who is walking in the door so that they can address the client by their first name (yet many don’t). Worse yet, many of these folks never know if someone is coming until they show up.

I don’t know what my kids’ orthodontist makes per hour. He bills by the project, but his time is still easy to put a value on – if you know his income. The actual amount is beside the point. When my guys miss an appointment (usually because I forgot to put it in Outlook or on my phone), I get a call from the orthodontist’s staff the NEXT day or maybe the day after that. Too late to do anything about it other than reschedule.

Meanwhile, that 30 minutes at 3:05 pm on Wednesday June 27, 2007 is long gone. Can’t ever get it back. Can’t ever get paid for it. GONE, GONE, GONE. It’s just like a leaky bucket. Empty.

To be fair, some businesses that run by appointments do send out appointment reminder postcards a week or so ahead of time, or call the day before, or call a few minutes after the appointment was supposed to start – but not very many.

A very tiny few send the postcard, send an email and call the day before or a few hours before. They should be doing all of these things. Kept appointments are as good as gold. They mean revenue. Lost appointments can be directly traced to hard dollars lost.

HARD DOLLARS LOST. There, I feel better now. This is easy to fix. Start today.