As we recently announced, CounselllingBC.com has changed our online appointment scheduling provider to the company Full Slate.
There are several great features that you'll notice in using Full Slate for your online appointments. These include:
- the ability to send text reminders to clients before an appointment at the interval or your choosing (if they provide consent do to so). Email reminders are automatic.
- the ability to edit and format all appointment confirmations and reminders that are sent to clients
- a mobile friendly version of the site that automatically displays when making an appointment from a mobile device
- the ability to send an email to all your clients via the Full Slate dashboard
- the ability for Full Slate to automatically generate appointments based on your office hours, the length of session time and the amount of down time you require before or after your appointment
- the ability to take online payments for your services via PayPal
- clients can cancel and reschedule appointments- with the amount of notice required determined by you- without the need for phone-tag
- the ability to add a "widget" to your website or app to your Facebook business page to increase your exposure online
And this is only a small list of the features of Full Slate.
In talking with counsellors and psychologists, I've noticed that many of them have concerns about using online appointment schedulers for taking counselling or therapy bookings. A lot of what I've heard is inaccurate, so I've created a list of the 10 most common myths I've heard about using online bookings for your counselling practice.
As I respond to the myths below, I'm specifically referring to the features offered by the booking system Full Slate.
Myth #1: If I take online appointment bookings, I will lose control of my calendar
I hear this myth all the time. The fear is if I open up my calendar online, I'll suddenly lose control of who I see and when I see them- I may get bookings when I don't want to see people and I will then have to spend lots of time trying to fix it all.
It's important to remember that you do have complete control over your online calendar. You choose the following:
- what days you work
- what office hours you have
- what times are offered- on the hour, quarter hour or half hour
- how much down time you have before and after each appointment
- when you take holidays so you block out days or weeks of appointments
- how far in advance clients can book
Full Slate generates all your appointment times automatically based on the appointment settings you input. And these can be changed quickly and easily at any time.
Myth #2: Using an online appointment scheduler means I have no control over the type of clients that I will see i my practice.
Again, counsellors are concerned that they will suddenly have new clients making bookings and turning up, not knowing if they are a good fit for their services.
Full Slate allow you to either automatically accept appointments or requires you to approve appointments.
I recommend that you don't approve an initial appointment until you have first spoken to the client. That way you would never accept an online booking without first speaking to the person, screening them for suitability (based on your criteria) and then deciding if you want to work with that client.
Think of the online appointment scheduler as a conduit that just connects you with clients and then you make the decision if you want to work with them.
Myth #3: Managing an online booking calendar means a huge increase in my administration.
Of course there is a small increase in the administration of managing an online appointment scheduler. However, in the long run, I am convinced that it actually saves you an enormous amount of time.
In the past, I have sometimes spent quite a bit of time playing phone-tag with clients who want to make appointments or reschedule current appointments. Once you take online bookings, phone-tag is virtually eliminated. I have also found that I have been unable to get back to some potential new clients soon enough and so they end up finding a new therapist before I have even had a chance to talk to them. That issue has been reduced signitificantly with online booking.
Clients can go to your online schedule anytime of the day or night and make a booking or request a change in booking time. This alone is a huge convenience for your clients and you.
Myth #4: Online appointment schedulers are not secure or confidential
Yes, some online appointment booking systems are not secure. This is not the case with Full Slate.
Full Slate uses SSL encryption to ensure the encryption and confidentiality of all your client data. SSL encryption is the highest form of online encryption widely used on the Internet today.
Full Slate is also HIPPA compliant, which means it passes rigorous North American laws that state the minimum level of online security and encryption of client data.
Myth #5: Online appointments bookings don't work if you have multiple offices and/or staff members
False. Full Slate works very well if you have multiple office and/or staff members.
In fact, if this is the case for you, using an online appointment scheduler would be a huge reduction in administration for your administration support and your staff members.
Full Slate allows clients to book with specific staff members and/or office locations, and can individually notify each staff members when a booking request is made via SMS and email.
Myth #6: Online appointment schedulers mean an increase in the number of 'no-shows' for counselling appointments
False! The opposite is true. Online appointment schedulers actually mean that your no-shows are dramatically reduced.
Research has shown that SMS and email reminders significantly reduce the number of missed appointments by counselling clients.
My personal experience has been that my no-show rate is non-existent and that clients are appreciative of the automated reminders.
Myth #7: My current clients won't like the change to using online appointment bookings
If you currently book each client in at the end of each session, then not much will change for your existing clients. At the end of the session, or later in the day, you will make the booking in the Full Slate online diary and your client will get an email confirmation and and automated email and/or SMS reminder closer to the date at the interval specified by you.
Clients experience this as an improvement in the service you provide for them and will be thankful that you are making it easier for them to confirm and remember their next appointment with you.
Myth #8: It's not worth the extra monthly cost to pay for an online appointment booking system
False. The ROI (Return On Investment) is almost immediate as soon as you get your first booking. One booking will pay for at least 3 or 4 months of your online appointment scheduling fee. After that, every online booking you receive is 100% profit for that month.
The power of online appointment scheduling is that prospective clients can make bookings through your CounsellingBC.com profile or website at any time of the day or night. Marketing research has shown the providers that do offer online appointments can experience an increase in their business of 30%- quite a compelling statistic. (I've actually seen my referral numbers increase more than that since I instituted online booking)
When a visitor arrives on your page, it's often likely they are in distress. When they can take an action, such as making an online appointment, their distress is relieved, to some degree. And on the Internet, where it is the norm to be able to take immediate action and get a result, offering online appointments is a no-brainer.
Myth #9: Online appointment schedulers are only effective if you have a full therapy or counselling practice
This is also incorrect. If you are worried about having people see that your practice is not at full capacity, this is easily fixed. Offer only 1 or 2 appointments online a day.
This means you have full control over the times you are offering, and you also are seeing clients exactly when you want to work. You can always offer more times on the phone when you speak if the appointment time is not ideal.
Myth #10: Online appointment schedulers allow clients to cancel at a whim- making my income unreliable
Full Slate allows you to set the interval at which people can cancel or reschedule their appointments.
For example, if you set that no changes or cancellations can be made 24 hours before a scheduled appointment, then your client cannot use the system to make changes or cancel their appointment.
Personally, I have my setting at 48 hours and don't accept cancellations via SMS or email, so that I can speak to the client about the reason they may be cancelling an appointment. If you are interested in signing up for a free trial of FullSlate please click here.
If, after signing up for the free trial at the above link, you are interested in attending an in person "tips and tricks" session with me on November 14 from 5 - 6 pm in downtown Vancouver, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Please note that the November 14 session is limited to 10 people so book soon if you want to have a spot.
(Article adapted with permission of Clinton Power - my good friend and colleague from Sydney, Australia)