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Taking Back Time With Online Scheduling


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By Daryl Oie

In this day and age, the need to effectively manage your business and your time is imperative. With so many other things on your mind marketing, customer service, report writing, accounting, computer systems, etc can overload you.

However, without any appraisals or inspections scheduled, there would be no business. Appointment scheduling is one aspect of the industry that is most often overlooked. Like many inspectors and appraisers, you probably haven’t given much thought to the way you schedule your appointments.

Maybe you have an office staff that answers the phone and schedules your appointments. Perhaps you do like I did and direct all your calls to your cell phone, which you answer continuously throughout the day. Or, maybe you have clients leave messages on a voice mail or send you a fax or an e-mail, which you reply to when you are finished with your on-site workday. All these methods may work for you, but is it the most efficient way?

Missed Calls Equal Missed Business

We all know how important it is to answer the phone in order to get business. You may be on the job site and not wish to be interrupted, be talking with clients, on the telephone, golfing, fishing, or just doing something where you are unable, or do not want, to answer your phone. The potential client leaves you a message and then calls the next person on the list and leaves a message, or, worse yet, they go online and book with someone else’s online scheduler.

With the downturn in the current real estate market can you

really afford to lose that prospective business?

Time is of the essence and you don’t want to miss out on potential business because your client could not reach you to book an appointment. An online scheduler fills those gaps, by allowing your clients to schedule appointments when you are not available.

Missed calls can now be turned into scheduled appointments and scheduled appointments mean more profits. With the downturn in the current real estate market can you really afford to lose that prospective business? Do you know how much business you are losing?

The Juggling Act

Scheduling can be somewhat of a juggling act, and keeping track of appointments, vacations, doctor appointments, etc. can be complicated. With multiple inspectors or appraisers, scheduling gets even more complicated. If you are one of those people who answer the phone and schedules appointments throughout the day, even during an appraisal or inspection, it’s imperative that you write the information down accurately and save it in a safe place.

How does it look to the client if you are scheduling other

appointments while on the client's time?

If you don’t have your appointment book or calendar with you, how do you know you aren’t double booking yourself? Not to mention, how does it look to the client if you are scheduling other appointments while on the client's time?

It’s a Matter of Choice

Online scheduling systems offer your clients an alternative way of booking your appointments. Why is this necessary? My cell phone works just fine. I have to sell my self to the client so I must talk with them. These are the typical responses we get from some home Inspectors and appraisers. The majority of your business is repeat business coming from referrals by past clients realtors, or mortgage brokers who know you and trust your work. So most of your clients have already been sold on you and your services, they don’t need to talk with you.

There are times when the client wants to talk with you about your services and they can still call you on your cell or office telephone. But the majority of clients just want to book their appointment. We all know that the faster and easier it is for the client to book their appointment the more likely they are to use your services and that is the key to success for online scheduling systems.

It doesn’t matter if you currently schedule appointments

by telephone, call center, fax, or e-mail, you will be enhancing

that system and your office efficiency by adding

an online scheduler system.

Lets face some facts; You can only work so many hours in a day (12 -16 seems right), if you have a secretary they probably works 8 -10 hours a day, and call centers are usually open 16 hours a day. Online Schedulers work 24 hours a day 7 days a week and they do so much more than just schedule appointments.

Is the Online Scheduler a standalone answer to your scheduling problems? Some users think so and will only book inspections through their online scheduler. Others use it to schedule appointments when they cannot get to the phone or when the office is closed. Either way it is a great addition to the way you are currently scheduling and keeping track of appointments.

It doesn’t matter if you currently schedule appointments by telephone, call center, fax, or e-mail, you will be enhancing that system and your office efficiency by adding an online scheduler system. Online schedulers offer a convenient easy to use alternative to your clients for scheduling appointments. They also offer you and/or your staff a better way to track appointments, send confirmations, and create a user database.

Online Scheduling Systems

With the popularity of the Internet and advances in technology, you are now able to take control of your appointments with online scheduling systems and other online tools. These days we do everything online – send reports, pay bills, book travel, research information, keep in touch with friends and family, etc. The internet has become a main outlet of communication, so why not schedule appointments the same way? Online scheduling systems are a way to give you and your staff back some of that valuable time spent setting up and juggling appointments. They get you off the telephone so that you can concentrate on the job at hand.

With Online scheduling systems you input the days and hours that you want to work, allowing you to schedule your days off weeks, months, or even years in advance. Then you direct your clients to your website so they can schedule the appointment themselves. They input all the necessary information (property type, address, square footage, etc.), and then choose any open appointment time they prefer. The Client instantly receives your pricing, your contract, and an email confirming the appointment. They don’t have to go anywhere else and they don’t have to play phone tag in order to get the appointment scheduled.

Scheduling with online systems prevents

overbooking, late booking, and double booking.

Most scheduling systems are fully customizable and easy to use. You can login into the system from any computer, and most schedulers offer unlimited tech support. Scheduling with online systems prevents overbooking, late booking, and double booking. They can be set up to put your contract in front of the client before the inspection or appraisal, send email confirmations when the appointment is scheduled, send email reminders before the appointment and send a customized thank you note after the appointment. This saves you and/or your staff time and allows them to complete other important tasks. Online schedulers do this and more for about the price of one appraisal or inspection every few months.

Convenience as a Marketing Tool

Having the convenience of an online scheduler can be a valuable marketing tool. Your clients can book appointments online in real time 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

For those clients who prefer to talk to a real person, you're still

able to schedule appointments the old fashioned way.

Your scheduler works even when you don't by setting up appointments on weeknights, weekends and holidays when the office is closed. For those clients who prefer to talk to a real person, you're still able to schedule appointments the old fashioned way and then enter the information into the online scheduler yourself.

One of the best features of online schedulers is that all the information entered into the scheduler is collected in a database that can be used for future marketing and promotions. You’ll have a database of all your clients and you can effectively track where your referrals are coming from.

Saves Money Too

The average time it takes to schedule an appointment by phone is about 8 minutes. If you make $100.00 dollars per hour in your business that is $1.66 dollars per min. or $13.33 dollars per appointment scheduled. If you’re scheduling a couple appointments a day you are wasting almost $30 per day. Most online schedulers can be used for less than the cost of your morning Starbucks coffee. The savings is even greater when you consider the amount of time you save by not being interrupted on the job site and giving your clients the convenience of booking appointments with you when your office is closed. Trying to duplicate these scheduling systems yourself would cost thousands of dollars and many months of testing.

Most online schedulers can be used for less than

the cost of your morning Starbucks coffee.

Gone are the days of the paper and pencil. With online scheduling systems you can effectively control your own schedule and provide better service to your clients. It puts you ahead of the competition by offering more convenience and saves you money too.

Don’t lose any more business to unanswered phone calls or waste any more time and money scheduling appointments the old fashioned way. Appointment scheduling is evolving. First there was the telephone, then the answering machine, fax, pager, cell phone, and then e-mail scheduling. Online scheduling is the latest phase in that evolution. It's what your company needs - a fast, convenient, inexpensive, and easy way to schedule appointments, send appointment confirmations, send your contracts, and build a database.

DJ Piercy and Daryl Oie are owners of the 24-7scheduler , an online real time computer based scheduling management tool for multi-user, multi-office or one man operations.

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It all sounds terribly efficient at first glance. You would need a very, very detailed published price list, which I'm not comfortable with. My main objection would be giving up the option of turning down clients when I suspect total dozer bait or something else just doesn't feel right. I used to grab every job. I have the luxury of being a little fussier now. I'm sure I have lost an inspection or two because I was deep in a crawl and couldn't answer the phone straight away. I'll willing accept that loss rather than not knowing what I'm getting into.

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I agree, Richard, vis a vis how do you obtain the appropriate information to quote an proper price and schedule the correct amount of time required. I answer my own phone, as well, which means a caller oftentimes will have to talk to the tape. This actually has a benefit, though. If the caller was referred to me by someone he/she trusts, then a message will be left and the call will be returned. If instead it's someone who cribbed my name from a realtor's list and who wants to interview me, I say go ahead and call the next person on that beloved list.

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Like the others above stated, I believe this MIGHT work if you had a large educated, web savy, Client base.

I tried an online schedule a few years ago and found that people wanted to talk to someone live or they did not fill out all the information properly. You'd get to the inspection and find they didn't tell you about the crawlspace or EIFS thinking they'd save a few bucks (which is kinda true, I never go up on a Client at the inspection).

However, I did find something about a month and a half ago that I wish I had from day one. It's Americas Call Center.

I've always been against call centers because the people sounded like they were reading from a script or strung out on drugs.

With all the calls my wife was taking, plus filling out the contact sheets and emailing the Agreements, she'd be working as late as 8 or 9 at night. She (and I) needed a break (if Moma's not happy, no ones happy). This business was running our lives.

I chose ACC because they only answer phones for home inspectors and because they have a performance based pay system. I hired them so I could lighten my wifes work load. I secretly hoped we wouldn't lose too much business (because my wife or I were not answering the phones).

We had some wrinkles to work out, but I could not be any happier with them. It's been one of the best decisions I've ever made business wise, plus they cost a helluva lot less than an assistant (we've went through 3 this year).

If they've cost me any business, they've made up for it by getting the calls that would have rolled to voice mail while my wife was on another line. If anything, they've helped streamline our business and most importantly, gave us or lives back! For example, while typing this I'm eating a bowl of fresh Peach Cobbler my wife just made. She hasn't had time to cook like this in a long, long time!

Another huge bonus is that they upsell all of our services. They take away the emotion of booking an inspection. When my wife or myself would book a home, there'd be many times we wouldn't charge for the add ons because we were afraid we'd lose the inspection. Not ACC. They charge what we tell them to and have a list of all our add-ons. For example, they booked my first 4 figured fee for a residential inspection on a home this week! When I looked down the list of our add-ons, they sold every one that was applicable for that home. I know that if I had booked that inspection, I wouldn't have charged for half of those add-ons! They have defineatly added to our bank account! It's nice to do the $600 2000sf homes!

I've had a few inspector friends call in and "test" them (none from my area though!). They've received great grades from all those who've called. We've been keeping track of Customer Satisfaction since we've been using them. Everyone except one person has been extremely happy. (the one person has a very strong accent and is hard to understand, she was a little miffed at them when they didn't understand her)

If you try online scheduling and find it's not for you, give Paul at ACC a try.

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