Retail currently stands at a crossroads. Technology is redefining what many previously took for granted in the customer experience. In the age of Amazon, what can retail do to keep people coming back to stores?

According to Forbes, the number one need that customers have from a store is personalized customer service. The simple truth is that the heart of retail hasn’t changed; however, what has is how you can give your customers a meaningful, unique in-store experience.

Integrated appointment booking is the cost-effective, sustainable and profitable answer. It’s retail’s modern day response to technology, harnessing it in a way that gives organizations visibility into key customer data and store operations – all with a solution that can either stand on its own or seamlessly integrate with your existing workforce management enterprise.

The existence of billion-dollar businesses like Uber and Lyft reflect a need for personalized customer service, even when it comes to services like transportation. According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), every age group and education level has increased its Internet use, making appointment booking a prime solution regardless of age.

It puts power in the customers hands, letting them choose what level of service they desire and who waits on them. It helps with proper staffing and, when integrated in an existing enterprise, can give corporate offices visibility into stores. It’s a practical tool for work scheduling and task management.

A massive benefit of an effective appointment booking solution comes from the underlying cost cutting. When integrated into an existing labor management system, a product like Next! can add in relevant HR data and other information from a product like Reflexis Task Manager. It saves organizations countless time and money, both in implementation, training and management costs. The added bonus of increased visibility into stores also allows businesses to see exactly how their store teams operate, paving the way for increased potential in better task management, efficient scheduling, integrated payroll and more.

AppointmentPlus mentions the many benefits of using this kind of software within the retail world: more effective customer self-scheduling, reduced no-shows, increased accessibility, optimized staff scheduling, targeted marketing and improved customer support. Contrary to what may come to mind intuitively, traditional scheduling is often far more expensive than using an appointment booking solution.

“Expenses include paper appointment books, dedicated receptionists and sales lost over preventable mistakes,” said AppointmentPlus. “These range from $400 per month to as much as $1,000 per month,” in reference to individual stores. When extrapolated toward an organization with thousands of stores, the reality is that companies with thousands of stores can potentially lose millions a month.

Lost chances for customers to book appointments is lost time and money. This not only shows that there’s a genuine boom within the online scheduling world for an in-person service, but that customers actually prefer a combination of technology and in-person experiences when it comes to quality servicing.

Consider the implications of customers going through a method as simple as scheduling an appointment via a phone call, which offers no visibility into the customer for higher offices at an organization, no pathway for customers to decide what they want and relatively little guidance. Mobile appointment booking is a far more efficient, time-effective and instant process for customers.

With appointment booking comes the greater likelihood of customer retention and loyalty. It may be a small benefit for individual stores, but for billion-dollar organizations, a strong appointment booking solution will transcend its initial costs and bring in revenue. Customers value meaningful connections –retail is in a prime position to use technology to bring them to the customer’s fingertip at their choice. If you want to take a look at the numbers, let’s see how appointment booking has succeeded in other industries.

Health care has already seen a shift to using online scheduling. Projections for 2019 show 66 percent of healthcare providers offering online scheduling, with 64 percent of patients using it and generating $3.2 billion in revenue, said an Accenture-quoted study.

“While users aged 15-44 remained consistent between 2013 and 2015 at 84 percent, Americans 45-64 years old increased from 73 percent to 77 percent,” the above article stated. “Internet use by older Americans, ages 65 and older, jumped from 51 percent to 56 percent.”

There also lies a growing market of customers within the health care industry, many who will only trust service providers who give them appointment booking as a replacement for making a phone call – one that could determine the long-term future of health care as a whole.

“Millennials have always had access to online information,” said a study conducted by health care magazine Patient Pop. “71% prefer to both schedule online and to receive digital reminders rather than by phone contact.”

Health care is just one example. At stores like Home Depot and Verizon, customers are free to schedule in-store sessions from as far as their home. The biggest example of a company that mixes personalized customer service and online scheduling is Apple, whose Genius Bar services started in 2001 and brought the company $44 million in revenue in 2010, per Fortune.

This service has revolutionized the concept of online scheduling within brick and mortar technology stores. Amazon, a company that brick and mortar retailers practically view as the bogeyman, still uses a form of online scheduling for its base transportation services, along with appointment booking its own home services.

As a corporate leader, your goal is to empower your store teams and help them use these tools to create meaningful connections with customers, while still being able to see what keeps them returning and reward employees who do well. A strong appointment booking tool will also offer you a chance to drop costs of implementation, as it can be rolled out in a matter of weeks and integrated with a proven labor management system.

With Next! Appointment Booking, we make this possible for you and your store teams, with a track record of having proven our excellence through our products, services and our consulting. Because at Nextenture, we know that effective retail is a journey.

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