Online Appointment Scheduling 2022: A Year in Review
Introduction to Online Appointment Scheduling
Appointments should be easy to access. It’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that appointments are easy to book. This should also be accessible to consumers of all kinds. Whether for academic advisement meetings, healthcare appointments, or government services, scheduling an appointment should not be a challenge. For consumers, the easier to schedule appointments, the easier they can access resources. For enterprises, the more accessible appointments are, the more appointment slots will be filled. This is why online appointment scheduling has become so popular.
Online appointment scheduling is a way of allowing customers to book appointments digitally without the need to interact with another human being. This technology has been around for years, although a modern online scheduling system will differ greatly from earlier iterations. Every year, there seem to be evolutions in online appointment scheduling. Whether due to culture or technological changes, 2022 was no different.
Empowering customers to book online is something enterprises in industries from retail and healthcare to education and events have prioritized in recent years. It aligns with the habits of modern consumers. People spend much of their time online and emphasize technology in their shopping experiences.
Consumers’ habits combined with increasing technological innovations have led to online bookings making up 46% of all bookings, according to Webinar Care.
2022 was a year that marked a continued return to normalcy following a chaotic several few years. While there were major global changes ranging from rising inflation and stock market decline to a new European war, generally speaking, it was a year that brought the full return of in-person shopping and appointments. It was an important year for the industry that brought some unique changes and shifts and one that furthered several longstanding trends.
At QLess, we are an industry-leading online appointment scheduling software solution utilized in industries like education, healthcare, and government, so we’ve prepared a guide to keep you updated with the significant shifts shaping the future of digital scheduling software. In this guide, we will dive into some of the major changes and impacts that 2022 has brought to online appointment scheduling. We will look at some of the current trends shaping the industry. We’ll also forecast how they will play out as we enter 2023. Let’s dive in.
Consumer Frustrations with Outdated Appointment Scheduling
One of the things to be most keenly aware of about the modern consumer is that they have high expectations for things. For example, ease of access. Technology has advanced to the point where consumers expect it to be integrated into every aspect of their lives. Appointment scheduling is no different. If your organization has an appointment scheduling system that is reliant on customers calling or emailing to block off a time slot, you may be losing out on customers that are unhappy with your appointment process. Booking an appointment online is the preference of the modern consumer and has a clear impact on customer satisfaction.
According to data from Zippia, more than half of Gen Z and millennials state that they would be willing to switch providers for the ability to book appointments online.
Consumers have a serious distaste for the difficulty that comes with appointment scheduling through phone calls. This limits their ability to book appointments after work hours. Customers want 24/7 access to appointment scheduling features. They are even willing to switch providers if enterprises can’t offer this level of access.
Has this changed at all in 2022? Not particularly. This is less of a new trend than one continuing to become more pronounced over time. For companies that still are reliant on phone call appointment scheduling, another year gone marks another year where appointment scheduling features have grown outdated. Many enterprises are reliant on outdated online appointment scheduling software. This can be just as much of a difficulty for customers.
Outdated appointment systems lack the flexibility of modern solutions like QLess. In an outdated system, customers will struggle to select a specific appointment type or schedule an appointment with a specific staff member. They will be navigating a system that doesn’t give them much choice in how the process plays out.
With QLess, the customer experience is transformed. Customers can:
- Alter and edit their appointments.
- Schedule different kinds of appointments.
- Communicate back and forth with staff.
Online appointment scheduling solutions have existed for many years. The technology has reached the point that consumers expect this experience to be seamless and easy. If enterprises can’t provide the straightforward, friction-free experience their customers desire in 2023, they will see a downturn in satisfaction rates.
Preference for Online Appointment Scheduling
Customers’ preferences should be the most important factor for enterprises determining the best ways to proceed in their business. The more customer-friendly your business is, the higher the likelihood of success. According to Entrepreneur, enterprises that offer a strong customer experience will earn, on average, 4-8% more than their competitors. So understanding what customers want is an important component of business success. When it comes to appointment scheduling in 2022 and looking ahead to 2023, the majority of customers will drastically prefer to have online appointment scheduling options available to them.
According to Zippia’s data on online appointment scheduling, 67% of customers prefer online booking. Businesses also gain an average revenue increase of 27% when using online booking systems. This is because if customers prefer booking appointments through these systems, they are more likely to give their business to organizations that use them. Online scheduling software allows organizations to fulfill the preferences of the average consumer. Enterprises that fail to do this may be losing out on business.
For proof of this, look no further than the education industry. In a 2022 QLess survey of students in higher education, the results showed that students’ preferences are drastically in favor of online appointment scheduling.
73.77% of students indicated that they are more likely to schedule meetings with counselors or other academic administrators if they can book them online.
The current generation of higher education students will age into an even more important economic role shortly. So, the importance of online appointment scheduling is not likely to diminish.
Consumers have preferred online booking to other methods of appointment scheduling for several years now. 2022 has only pushed this further. The younger generations, like Gen Z, are tech-oriented and aging into a significant economic role. According to Forbes, in 2022, it was estimated that Gen Z now has $360 billion in disposable income. Enterprises need to gear their offerings toward this demographic group. As the 2022 QLess survey shows, Gen Z drastically prefers the ability to schedule appointments online.
Reduced Consumer Spending Emphasizes Crucial Nature of Capitalizing on Appointments
One of the most significant events of 2022 that has wide-reaching consequences is the rising inflation rate worldwide. While inflation peaked in June of 2022 at 9.1% and then took a slight downturn, this caused prices to skyrocket across the country. Consumers have struggled as wages can’t match rising prices, leading to lean times for both consumers and businesses. So how does this impact online appointment scheduling, you might be wondering? The answer is simple. It has put a heightened significance on securing appointments for businesses as rising prices cause consumers to be more careful with their spending.
Data from Medallia shows that many consumers have had to make substantial adjustments to combat inflation. 42% of consumers said they’ve switched to buying cheaper and fewer products. Also, 28% have said they travel less and enjoy fewer leisure activities.
Essentially, it has become harder for enterprises to part consumers from their money. Even if your service is essential, many people are reticent to spend money on just about anything. That means if your appointments are difficult to access, many customers won’t even bother. Moreover, once an appointment is scheduled, enterprises need to be certain customers attend.
Missed appointments are a huge problem for enterprises. In the healthcare industry alone, they cost businesses $150 billion. When staff blocks off time for an appointment and customers don’t show up, it wastes time and resources. In lean economic times, where customers are trying to cut back on spending, ensuring they show up is a must. One of the ways to do this is through QLess’ appointment reminding features.
With appointment reminder software, enterprises can schedule automated appointment messages or send customized ones. These are sent directly to customers’ phones. This is more impactful than email reminders and can require confirmation to have the appointment set. Rather than an email reminder requiring a confirmation email from customers, these SMS reminders appear directly on customers’ phones. This increases the likelihood that they will both see and respond to these messages.
In an economic climate that has been drastically impacted by inflation and a decline in consumer resources, ensuring that every upcoming appointment is attended is a must. Capitalizing on opportunities has always been crucial for businesses, but with people more concerned with spending than they have been, it has impacted appointment-based businesses. 2022 and the impacts of inflation have only served to emphasize how crucial appointment reminders are with an online appointment scheduling system.
Booking Through Multiple Channels
How consumers book appointments has changed significantly over the past several decades. Before the internet, the average person would have to find the office they wanted to book an appointment with the phone book. Then they would have to ring them up and wait for a reply. Once online appointment scheduling was created in the 1990s, people would use desktop computers. But uniformity in how customers use an appointment scheduler no longer exists. Customers want several channels and the opportunity to book in the way that is most convenient to them. As we enter 2022, it is pivotal that enterprises offer multiple channels for their appointment booking processes.
According to a study by Deloitte, in 2022, 91% of consumers own a smartphone, and 68% own a laptop. Compare this to the percentage of homes with a landline, which, according to Statista, is less than 30%. Your customers will typically use their cell phone, mobile app, or computer to make bookings. What’s also worth noting is that many customers focus on scheduling their appointments through social media.
According to Zippia, 41% of all booking services are found through social media, with Instagram being the biggest of the social channels for online appointment scheduling.
This emphasizes the importance of social media marketing for enterprises and shows consumers’ willingness to schedule through different channels.
This is all part of a larger trend of consumers preferring convenience in their booking by allowing multiple channels to be used. If you only accept phone calls, you may isolate customers who prefer online booking. If you only allow booking from a desktop website, you may miss out on appointments from consumers that prefer to book appointments through their smartphones. Offering customers various online appointment scheduling channels is crucial and will continue to be as we move deeper into 2023.
QLess offers software that is both embeddable to websites and can be downloaded as a mobile application. This ensures that however customers want to schedule appointments, enterprises offer them a pathway. Having QLess doesn’t mean enterprises can’t accept phone calls. This software can augment the appointment scheduling businesses already offer, and ensure that enterprises aren’t losing out on the modern consumer who prefers to schedule appointments in many different ways.
Sustained Rise of Virtual Meetings
There have been many changes to appointment-based businesses over the past several years. But, one of the most substantial changes is the rise of virtual appointments. Virtual appointments first reached mainstream popularity when the pandemic began, forcing many to shelter in their homes. It served as the most effective way for people to meet for appointments. The assumption was that virtual appointments would diminish in popularity once the pandemic subsided. But while online appointments haven’t maintained peak popularity, the past few years have shown us that this type of appointment is here to stay. Enterprises need to accommodate that fact in their online appointment scheduling.
The healthcare industry is the best example when pondering the rise of virtual appointments. According to a late 2021 report from Fierce Healthcare, telehealth and virtual healthcare appointments accounted for 10-20% of hospital visits in 2021. While this was a significant decline from the pandemic’s peak, this new baseline is still 38x higher than the pre-pandemic baseline. Even as the world returns to normalcy, consumers are still prioritizing telehealth.
According to Storm3, by 2025, 43% of the US population is projected to be telehealth users.
This growth in virtual appointments is not limited to just healthcare. Virtual meetings are also highly popular in higher education. It’s also preferred by a busy student body that wants ease of access and convenience. According to a 2022 QLess survey of higher education students, 51.27% of students responded that they would prefer to attend a meeting with administrators or counselors that was held virtually. It is also worth noting once again that most students prefer online appointment scheduling. Data shows that 73.77% said they were more likely to schedule an appointment if they could do so online.
Using online appointment scheduling software to help enterprises run a calendar that includes virtual and in-person appointments is crucial heading into 2023. QLess offers virtual services tools that dramatically improve a business’s ability to juggle a mixed-channel appointment schedule. These tools are integrated with virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Using this software, customers can receive links for a virtual appointment when they schedule through the online appointment scheduling software. They can also check in through the app and be admitted for their virtual appointment when the staff is ready for them.
Enabling virtual appointments is highly important for the modern enterprise competing at a time when digital meetings have become highly popular amongst consumers. With the QLess online appointment scheduling platform, customers can select virtual appointments, be sent a link, and wait in a digital queue until the staff is ready to see them. It is the ideal modern solution at a time when enterprises need to be considering the importance of virtual meetings.
Impact of Personalization in the Online Appointment Scheduling Process
One of the most substantial changes of the past several years that enterprises have had to contend with is the growing importance of personalization in every aspect of the shopping experience. Consumers don’t just want a personalized experience where they feel they are communicated with on an individual level, with their wants and needs considered. They expect one. The standard automated reminders and email templates won’t do it anymore. Customers anticipate personalized interactions, and this carries over to the appointment process. Entering 2023, enterprises should target ways to offer better personalization in the appointment scheduling process.
According to Forbes, 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that offers personalized experiences, and 42% are annoyed when content isn’t personalized.
If you want to appeal to customers, making them feel like a person, not a number, goes a long way. With high-quality appointment scheduling technology, enterprises can give customers the personalized experience they crave.
Consider booking appointments through an outdated appointment scheduling platform. You see a calendar with dates and times available, and simply click the appointment time you want. You then receive an email confirmation at the time of booking. There is very little about that process that is personalized for customers. With more advanced appointment scheduling software, enterprises can have a scheduling process that better aligns with the personalization needs of the 2023 consumer.
Look at QLess’ software, for example. When customers schedule their appointments, they can pick from several different appointment types. They can also choose the employee they want the appointment with and pick whether they want a virtual or in-person appointment. Their choices are more significant, so they can customize their appointment to fit their needs. Then, the QLess software allows enterprises to automate messages. Customers can instantly receive a greeting from the business they have booked the appointment with. Businesses can also ask for additional information to create a smoother appointment process. It makes online appointment scheduling a more customer-friendly, personalized process.
Having personalized communication and customizability for appointment scheduling helps organizations to meet one of the biggest modern consumer needs.
Personalization has been an important trend in recent years, with McKinsey estimating companies that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue from personalized activities than average players. Personalization helps enterprises stand out. The past few years have shown that personalization is now an impactful component of the appointment scheduling process.
Need for Customer Feedback
How does your enterprise know when it is time for a change? There are many different ways to spot a problem in your business. Many companies hire consultants or invest heavily in data generation to try and pinpoint issues and develop solutions. While these options can certainly help an enterprise if you are looking for a way to improve appointment scheduling processes, the most straightforward way to do this is by asking the people whose opinions on this matter most: your customers. 2022 has been another year in the sustained trend of consumer empowerment. It has shown us that customer feedback in appointment scheduling is incredibly important.
Finding out what your customers think is an impactful way to find aspects of your appointment process that need improvement that may have been previously overlooked. Your customers can share their opinion on the appointment options, the intuitiveness of the appointment methods offered, and the overall experience. Hearing them out and implementing their opinions into what you do is an important way to fix key issues. It’s also a way you can ensure your customer experience is powered by your customers’ needs.
The benefits of receiving customer feedback are substantial. According to Lyfe Marketing, only one in every 26 customers will tell a business about their negative experience. The rest will simply leave without complaining or sharing that information with friends. This provides no benefit to businesses that can’t hear insights into where they might be going wrong.
Entering 2023, with 30% of consumers willing to share their negative experiences with a business on social media, your customers have substantial power.
Negative word of mouth is incredibly harmful to organizations. So, it is much better if your customers share their input with you than others.
The ability to collect and utilize customer feedback will go a long way toward improving your appointment scheduling processes. QLess’ online appointment scheduling system offers customer feedback software where organizations can solicit and store feedback requests. Using these solutions, enterprises can send pulse survey requests via SMS as soon as a customer has wrapped their appointment. This feature increases the likelihood of a response. From there, they can ask how customers felt about the appointment process. Afterward, enterprises can organize the responses to learn what they need to improve.
In 2023, when consumers have larger platforms than ever due to the enduring popularity of social media, listening to their opinions is more important than ever. With customer feedback, you can learn from your customers’ complaints and implement solutions that fix them. If many customers say their appointment time was delayed, that they had to make several appointment requests to secure a time slot, or that they want the ability to make same-day appointments, these are valuable insights that businesses should pay attention to.
Rise of Artificial Intelligence Offers Opportunity for Enterprises
One of the biggest developments of 2022 has been the rapid pace that Artificial Intelligence, or AI, seems to be on. With software programs like ChatGPT3 reaching mainstream popularity and providing excellent showcases of these solutions’ incredibly transformative potential, the age of AI is here. While the discourse around AI has been centered around all the jobs it could potentially replace, the current reality is much less bleak. AI has the potential to help organizations in many different ways. One of the most considerable ways is online appointment scheduling.
One area where AI has the potential to transform online appointment scheduling is communication. Chatbots have become one of the most common ways enterprises communicate to customers at scale without allocating resources to the conversation.
According to Service Bell, chatbots have customer favorability ratings of 70% and can help enterprises save money by reducing the time investment required from customer support teams.
But the standard AI chatbots have been mostly limited to a few basic responses. The potential of AI software like ChatGPT3 in appointment scheduling is near infinite.
Imagine, for a second, a chatbot that can instantly answer a huge range of customer queries and layered questions. Enterprises can upload their corporate policy and appointment calendar to the bot. The technology can then understand the logistics of their appointment scheduling process. This will be a huge resource for customers who may be confused about online appointment scheduling or want additional information on certain topics. 2022 showed us that this future is not far away.
The applications of AI with online appointment scheduling don’t end there. QLess has a smart appointment calendar that uses AI technology for resource optimization. It is a flexible, fluid calendar configured according to company policies and can be edited by staff. Staff can view the calendar to see their entire workflow for a day, week, or month. It’s also color-coded to ensure a cleaner user experience. The calendar adjusts to changes and is an all-in-one hub for scheduling and appointment planning. The AI technology controls what customers are allowed to book. AI then organizes the calendar to ensure a more coherently planned day-to-day for staff and customers.
AI technology has been here for years, but it is improving dramatically quickly. Looking back on technology in 2022, we might consider it the year that AI’s stratospheric ascent became most pronounced. Leveraging this technology in appointment scheduling will be a huge asset to enterprises in industries ranging from higher education to retail.
Queue Management Software and Online Appointment Scheduling Intertwined
One way to consider appointment scheduling is as the first step in the customer journey. There are several steps, each pivotal to the enjoyment your customer has. Enterprises worldwide have invested billions of dollars into improving the customer journey. However, some may overlook one of the biggest flaws in the typical customer journey: physical queues. Combating long in-person waits benefits businesses because it radically improves the customer experience, improving retention and driving growth. One of the ways to eliminate physical queues is by using virtual queue technology. This can be embedded into your online appointment scheduling system.
Customer queue management software is a virtual technology that can digitally control lineups.
Rather than customers needing to stand in a long line or sit in a congested waiting room, they can check into the lineup remotely from their phones or computers. They’ll receive a highly accurate forecasted wait time that is updated as the line moves. Then, once it’s their turn at the front of the line, they can arrive to receive the service they need. This technology is used everywhere. From urgent care visits to academic advisement meetings, This helps customers save time. Additionally, enterprises now have a tool to control their waiting process.
So how does a digital queue management system tie into the future of online appointment scheduling? The answer is simple. Many enterprises are using this advanced technology alongside their appointment scheduling features. How it works is simple. With QLess’ queuing software combined with online appointment scheduling, customers can book their appointment through the platform. They will then input information like their cell number and be sent a link to remotely join the line when it is time for their appointment. This blend of queuing software and an appointment management system completely digitizes the appointment process.
Some enterprises might question whether or not their customers will like the addition of all this technology into the appointment process. The answer is an easy yes. Customers love the advantages that virtual queue technology provides.
According to a QLess survey of 250 US adults, 57.22% of respondents indicated that they are more likely to patronize a business if they have early insights into wait times.
Customers hate long in-person waits, as a separate QLess survey of higher education students showed that 54.78% of respondents would skip academic appointments if waits were too long. With queue software, queuing is transformed into a drastically improved customer experience.
In 2023, customers have less patience than ever. A 2022 survey showed that 70% of guests would abandon a physical line before their purchase time, according to Yahoo, but 69% of respondents said they are less likely to leave a virtual line. By blending online appointment scheduling with a digital queue management system, enterprises can create a more seamless and enjoyable end-to-end customer experience in 2023.
The Importance of Data-Driven Decision-Making in 2023
One of the great business innovations of the past several decades of technology is the rise of data-collecting tools. Data has become an accessible asset for businesses to guide their decision-making, and the industry has naturally taken off.
According to a 2022 report, the global business intelligence industry is expected to have an 8.7% Compound Annual Growth Rate through 2028, making it a high-powered industry that companies should focus on.
As we enter 2023, the importance of data in online appointment scheduling remains sky-high. 2022 has made the technology to track data from appointments all the more accessible.
If enterprises are not using online appointment scheduling, getting useful data is very difficult and requires a lot of manual labor.
With QLess’s business intelligence features, collecting data on your appointment process is easy.
QLess automatically tracks several aspects of an appointment calendar. This includes:
- The number of appointments per day.
- Appointment no-show percentage.
- Employee utilization.
- And much more.
The queue management software tracks information like median wait time. This is so enterprises can access a huge range of helpful insights into their business.
QLess will then present that information back to organizations on a dashboard. This is where the data is organized into graphs and charts. As a result, this makes it easy to spot deviations and trends. The data can then be segmented according to various factors, like the date, time, employee who handled the appointment, and more. With this information, organizations can make data-driven decisions to improve their appointment process. If they notice too many appointment no-shows, they can improve their automated reminders. If they see that they are not getting a lot of appointment bookings at specific times, they can offer incentives to fill those appointment slots.
Making decisions guided by data is a huge benefit for modern businesses. It has been found that data-driven companies perform better financially than competitors, as using quantified information to guide your decisions leads to better results. According to a projection by McKinsey of what the future of data-driven businesses looks like, numbers and business intelligence should guide every decision an enterprise makes. With online appointment scheduling data, businesses can have clear insights into their appointment process. An enterprise can become a modern data-powered company and better compete in 2023’s crowded market.
Lingering Concerns From the Pandemic
2022 was a banner year in the recovery from the pandemic. It felt like the first normal year in a long time, even if it wasn’t fully normal every step of the way. Lockdowns had completely stopped, the pandemic didn’t dominate the news cycle, and infections slowed down after a tough start to the year. While the pandemic remains concerning, this year has seen a sense of normalcy return, which is something to be celebrated. However, while many have resumed life as it was before this tumultuous time, others remain concerned. Recovering from multiple years of stress and anxiety is not easy. Some customers are not all the way comfortable attending appointments or shopping in-store.
The concern levels regarding the pandemic have dropped significantly, although they are still higher than one might presume. According to the Morning Consult’s comprehensive chart, when 2022 began, 74% of all US adults said they were somewhat or very concerned about the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID. Exiting 2022, those numbers are 55% for Omicron and 54% for Delta. So while consumers are less concerned than they might’ve been a year ago, that is still a majority of the country that is worried about the pandemic.
QLess has also shown that this concern extends to the appointment process.
According to the QLess survey, 59.4% of US adults over 45 responded that they associate congested waiting areas with unsafe conditions.
While customers are certainly more comfortable than they used to be when 2022 started, it is only natural that many have lingering concerns from several years worth of pandemic anxiety.
This impacts the online appointments scheduling industry in several key ways. The lessened anxiety that the average consumer is feeling means more appointments are likely to be booked going forward, but the data also shows that COVID remains something enterprises need to be conscious of. With the rise of virtual meetings and queue management technology, solutions for enterprises that want to accommodate COVID-cautious customers are available.
2022 has been a year that has brought many changes to the world. Pivotal economic shifts, technological innovations, and global conflicts have dominated the news cycle and impacted businesses worldwide. Few industries have remained untouched by the changes 2022 brought, and online appointment scheduling is certainly not one of them. 2022 has been a year that has shown the significance of several key trends and technologies and opened eyes to the vitality of customer convenience and ease of access.
With the rise of Artificial Intelligence, queue management software, and appointment scheduling business intelligence, organizations have more tools than ever at their disposal to ensure their appointment process is seamless and consumer-friendly. 2022 has also been a year that showcased customers’ preference for online appointment scheduling and distaste for outdated systems.
Digital appointment technologies are increasing in popularity and aligning with the tech habits of today’s consumers, and 2022 has highlighted how bright the future of this industry is.