Many retail businesses nowadays add appointment scheduling to their customer experience offering. These businesses rightfully assume that scheduled visits support resource planning, resulting in more efficient resource utilization. And, it makes their customers happier with shorter wait times and more focused interactions. However, a solution comprising appointment scheduling alone is like a meal without the main course: good, but not satisfactory.

What is lacking in a scheduling-only solution, is Visit Management: that’s when customers actually show up for their appointment and the business has to handle them. Typically, this would cover check-in, waiting (i.e. queue management), and routing to the right agent.

Why is this so important? If there is so much value in the act of booking an appointment, why does managing the visit make such a difference, and what added value does it offer to the business?

Let’s look at the situation through the customer’s eyes: booking an appointment is a promise made by the business to greet and meet the customer at the customer’s preferred time, and to provide the customer with the best possible service. Now, if a customer arrives at the designated location on time, but then is not met and taken care of the moment he or she enters through the door – immediately the business loses points for failing to deliver on its promise. There has to be a check-in process in place, where customers’ arrival is immediately noted and appreciated. Without it, customers will be less likely to book an appointment again.

From the business standpoint, it is naïve to think all customers who book an appointment arrive on time – or at all. Depending on the type of business and purpose of the appointment, no-show rates can be anywhere between 50-80%. Customer accuracy is also greatly varied. Knowing exactly when customers arrive is crucial for proper planning of service resources, calendar capacity, and customer-handling processes.

In addition, it is important to remember that even in a scheduled-service environment, not all appointments start and end on time. When delays start to build in the process and agents start running behind their schedule, a system has to be in place to handle customers: allow them to wait calmly, knowing their place in line is kept; route them to alternative service agents, if their preferred or allocated agent is unavailable; and so on. Again, this is all part of the commitment to deliver what appointment scheduling promises.

While offering the option to book appointments is a great step forward to any retail business, it is Visit Management that helps both service providers and customers make the most of this option.

Originally posted on Qnomy blog

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