BookingTimes Blog

COVID-19 is having a dramatic impact on service-based industries. With many countries requiring quarantine or imposing mandatory closures of businesses, the impact is being felt across businesses small and large.

Here are some of the best strategies that BookingTimes clients are using to make the best of the bad situation.

 

“Communication is Key” - Email Communication and Customer Outreach

Put yourself in the shoes of your clients.  They probably don’t know if you’re staying open or if you’ve closed.  And if you are open, then they’d like to know the measures that you’re taking to keep them (and your staff) healthy. 

Here’s a few ideas: 

  • Update your website with any local updates. 
  • Send emails letting everyone know your status. 
  • Tell customers how you are handling things and how that impacts them.  
  • Text all cancellations immediately (to staff and customers).  

Last week, BookingTimes clients sent out over half a million emails to their customers.  The emails simply stated that: 

  • Services are continuing. 
  • Highlighting the disinfecting process between clients. 
  • Offering free cancellations for anyone who may be experiencing any flu symptoms. 

 Not only does this strategy keep their customers fully aware of their status, but it also builds trust & goodwill.

 

“Stay Accessible” - Online Bookings and Remote Business Management

Similarly to communicating your hygiene standards, being transparent about your availability and allowing your customers to book, pay and manage bookings online means that people feel confident to make an appointment without having to ring and check if you’re open.  

It’s also a good time for those home-based & mobile services as customers won’t have to enter the public realm and make contact with undesirable germs. 

For those offering services at a business location,  make sure that you manage the customer overlap and give yourself ample time to clean your equipment, surfaces, etc, in between customers.  

 Additionally, having a central, online booking system allows your employees to do everything from home.  Remember, you need to take care of your employees who take care of your customers.

 

“Look Forward” - Gift Cards For Future Use

Wuhan (ground zero) has seen already its first COVID-free days! 

Many people are happy to hunker down during community isolation and spend their days watching Netflix. 

 As a business owner, you’ll also want to find some easy wins (even in a shutdown) to ensure the continuity of your business and staff. Unless you can get some toilet paper to sell at a huge markup today, the next best thing would be to pre-sell some gift cards for your services.

If you offer a discount (and that’s going to be important in the upcoming weeks/months), you’ll be able to have some income now, PLUS some momentum after the lockdown ceases. Despite the heavy atmosphere surrounding COVID-19 as a service based industry owner, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. With a little skill, tactical strategy, and social responsibility - we will all get through this - and we are in it together.

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Are you missing out on repeat business?

Why you should add Memberships and Subscriptions to your massage business.

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Most small to medium-sized businesses know that the cost of customer acquisition can often make or break you, and as the old adage goes, “It’s much easier to keep a customer than it is to find a new one.” But finding new and creative ways to retain a customer can often be limited by the capacity of your staff to keep track of every historical booking of every customer, and be aware of any extended gaps in their services. BookingTimes offers a solution to both tracking activities as well as customer retention.

Memberships guarantee recurring revenue (predictability)

Do you know what the beauty of a business with online components is? You can use the tools in your website to generate reliable recurring revenue each month. By removing the anxiety that comes with uncertainty in your operation, making decisions for growth becomes much easier! The best thing you can do for your business is to maximize your returns on existing customers by creating recurring billable services through subscriptions.  Keep them coming back for more with a monthly membership; an example may include one massage a month, plus the option to book in for more massages as a discounted rate (available for members only). Consider adding membership-only specials to get them back in a second time that month, or to get your clients buzzing to all their friends and neighbors about your fantastic services, add a referral bonus points program! If they cannot come in for a certain month, consider a rollover service that bumps out their membership by an additional month for unused services.

Subscription services

Entice your members with subscription packages to skincare products, cosmetics or other boutique items. Get those extras flying off the shelves! Alternatively, you could allow their bonus points to roll into a payout for these extras as well. Alternatively, memberships/subscriptions could also cover facials and other spa services. It all depends on what your specific business offers. The options are endless! Consider a customizable experience for your best customers – the ones who already know and love your services!

Mix and Match Packages

Speaking of customizable services, you could put together different package levels of memberships to include a one hour massage, a facial and a sauna (customize according to your specific offerings) so you can upsell the client into a higher package for a very lovely, relaxing monthly outing!

Avoid the waiting period

Create upsell opportunities via other products

Offer other products at a small discount for members only, such as gift cards, retail items or special services.

Membership doesn’t have to mean discount

Membership price structuring is completely up to you! While establishing pricing models, you should take into consideration the return on your initial investment of acquisition and offer incentives. However, sometimes consistently providing the services to your customers is enough to incentivize them to come back. No discount necessary.  BookingTimes has innovative solutions for your business needs, customized to your specifications. Make the most of your online tools by utilizing these features to keep your existing customers coming back for more, month after month.

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Running your own business can be overwhelming, adding the complexity of managing multiple schedules of driving instructors can be daunting. There are so many decisions that need to be made. Taxes that need to be filed. Websites to update. Schedules and appointments to keep track of. It can often feel like there’s just too much for one person to do and guess what, you’re right! Why reinvent the wheel when you can outsource some of this work to others in a thoughtful, easy to use system?

When it comes to choosing a platform to support your growing driving school, there are many things to consider preliminary; 

  • How much does it cost? 
  • Will they support my expanding business?
  • How easy is it to set up and learn?
  • Will it contribute to or hurt my SEO?
  • Who owns my data if I use this software?
  • What will this software DO for me? 
  • How will this software make my life easier?
  • Is it worth the money, time and effort of setting up?
  • If I run into trouble, is someone there to help me?
  • Is there an app for that?
  • What do other businesses think of it?

Take a few minutes to also consider some things that are less obvious. How will the software platform assist you if you’re planning to expand your business into new service areas? Is it easy to setup/alter your existing platform? Does the software account for driving time between Drive School appointments?

Write a list of your pain points with your current system, even if you are not using official software, whatever method of organization you’re using probably has some pain points that your new software should address. The software you choose should be fully customizable and tailored to what makes YOUR life easier. 

If you hire contractors, how simple is it to generate 1099s for them during tax season? How easy is it to generate revenue reports, or split commissions between different people?

Here is a list of strategic functionalities that will be pertinent when making your final software decision:

  • Travel times between lessons
  • Contractor management 
  • Business Expansion
  • Zone Allocation management
  • Built-in Suite of Reporting Tools to answer questions like how much you made last quarter, what is your current booking volume and much more.
  • Marketing tools such as MailChimp extensions, Twilio, Constant Contact, CRMs, Rep. Management so that you’re actively reaching out and generating contact with potential customers. 
  • Any particular pain points that your current system isn’t handling well.

 

Discuss this list with the software sales team. If they don’t have a solution for you built into their platform, it’s time to move to the next platform!

BookingTimes is a customizable platform that’s truly adaptable to your unique needs. With many features such as appointment bookings, SMS text message reminders for your clients, streamlined invoicing and backend reporting.

P.S. BookingTimes carries all of this functionality. Our Business-In-A-Box model is fully customizable and tailored to your specific needs. Not sure about something in particular? Just ask, our responsive team of in house developers are capable of anything!

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One of my favorite things to do is to talk to other business owners.  I'm always looking at why some businesses are more successful than others.

I've got 3 essential rules on how to reach your success.

1. Define Success

I grew up thinking success was to be like Michael Jackson who would come home to his Neverland Ranch complete with tigers, monkeys and all kinds of exotic things.

After finishing school and university, I thought success was running up the corporate ladder and becoming more and more involved in the design and management.

And then I thought...the story will just go on and on forever.

So you need to define what success looks like for you.  What are you aiming for?  Goals like "more business" is really not motivational and won't create any kind of lasting impact on you.

You'll find a much more concrete foundation by saying "I want to be the premier service for X by making a measurable difference in those people's lives".  At least, that's what makes me feel good.

An easy way to determine if you're on the right track to defining success would be to ask yourself "if I told my parents about my goal, would they tell their friends?" And once you reach success, will your definition change?

Success is really the goal of why you got into business in the first place.  It's why you get up in the morning and where you're headed.

Aim high!  You may still miss the target, but at least you won't shoot your foot off.

2. Aim for the Target

Once the target has been identified, most people struggle to stay on target.  If you've ever driven a boat, you have both the waves and wind continually pushing you off course.  You're frequently tuning your direction.

One anxious journey, storm clouds completely removed all the landmarks and mountains out of our visibility and all we saw was the ocean and had absolutely no sense of direction.

We'd accidentally left the GPS at home, and didn't think we needed to go back for it.  What I would have given for even a compass!!

If you have a rock solid vision of what success is, you aim for it.  You take the hits from the wind and waves, you correct and keep aiming for your goal.

It doesn't really matter if you think you can or can't achieve it.  If you commit yourself to the target, you will get there. But if your target keeps moving, you'll never be able to build anything substantial because you'll be continually starting from scratch to hit the latest target.

3. Do the Work

There's thousands of moving parts in a business, and to be good at business, you need to do all of it.

That's not going to happen overnight, and you shouldn't feel bad about it taking so long.

When I left school, I joined the army and remember going on all night marches with my pack on my back and rifle in hand.  There was no color to the scenery at night, just 100's of shades of grey.  I was always waiting for the cut scene where after 10 seconds of walking, the scene would change and I would be at the destination - it never happened!  

A 50km journey is really a journey of 65,000 steps that you take, one at a time.  But you'll never arrive at your 50km destination unless you take each step sequentially.  You have to keep walking and eventually, you arrive.  

All business owners are busy trying to find enough hours in the day.  Hire some help if you need it.  Get a casual or virtual assistant if you can't afford (or need) someone full time.  Your primary goal is to do all the work required to move the needle to achieving your success (see point #1) and then keep making sure taking steps efficiently.  No point scaling walls if you can just walk around it.

That said, don't burn people along the way.  Achieving success in business should never be at the expense of your relationships or reputation.  If you're doing those things, you're doing it wrong.

Conclusion

You can do it.  Never sell yourself short.  When you dig deep, you find a well of talent and resilience that you didn't even know existed.  You can do the impossible.  As Audrey Hepburn once said: "Nothing is impossible.  The word itself says I'm possible".

Define your target, aim and stay on your target, and then do whatever you need to do, to go out and reach success.

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One of my recent undertakings is to swim 30 laps at the local pool.  I don't particularly like using up valuable time to do exercise, however, it's incredibly refreshing and there's plenty of time to think about things while following a thin black line.

I've been getting much fitter and I've been noticing a regular improvement in my endurance and speed.  Not to mention that I can now do tumble turns at the end of each lap!

As I was pondering on my improvement and admiring my own prowess in the pool, I thought "I'm doing so fine, that obviously someone is going to notice my fine form, my fast speeds, my flawless technique and then meet me at the end of a lap and sign me up to the Olympic team."  I was a little disappointed that they weren't there when I finished.

Similarly, I used to sing in the shower when I was a teenager.  The acoustics were wonderful and I knew that if the right person heard me through the bathroom window, they'd sign me up straight away with a record deal!  I'm sure they knocked, but I didn't hear the door because I was in the shower.

What's going on!!  I had the talent *cough cough* but there was no traction.

I pondered this and realised.  If you I want to go to the Olympics, you have to enter swimming competitions.  If you want get a record deal, you need a band and you then go and submit your music to a record label.

Rather than waiting to be discovered, go and place yourself into the same location as those who can help you achieve your goals.  You need to be around the selectors doing what you do, to be able to achieve your goals.

You can't stay at home and expect people to hear you from the bathroom, or be at the swimming pool to find a selector. 

Here's some ways to be around your clients:

  • Email them.
  • Write them a blog article that would help them in their day-to-day activities.
  • Send them a text message saying happy birthday.
  • Ask them if any of their friends would be interested in your services.
  • Give them a fridge magnet.
  • Follow them up if they don't have another appointment - this shows that you care.
  • Remember their name.

By changing what you do today, will ensure that you have a better destination from yesterday.

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I was reading some of Seth Godin's material today about how when someone takes an idea from someone else, it's not stolen but it grows. We all benefit from ideas that grow. An example he used was nobody knows how to make a computer mouse. You at least need a metallurgist, a plastics expert, a technical engineer and a software developer to make all the individual pieces before it's even assembled. It's the connection of all of those people that bring value to the customer.

Our businesses are based on the same principles. We have suppliers, accountants, book keepers, tax agents, couriers, landlords etc. We coordinate all of these all working parts before we can even open our doors.

But we then stumble on building customer connection.

I admit, I go to the same hairdresser - even though I don't get the greatest hair cut in the world. I could go somewhere cheaper and get a haircut of the same quality. I go to her because she remembers my name and the name of my kids.

My favourite shop in the world is a florist at Daisy Hill...and I'm a guy who used to buy flowers from the supermarket!! But I love going to this one specific florist not simply because she has good flowers, but she tells me about looking after her parent's gigantic dog and what's going on in her life. I always leave her shop feeling good - and I don't even like flowers!

I think that says a lot about how you build your small business. Yes, your service needs to be of good quality, but more importantly, you need to build connection to your customers. The service you provide may help them feel better and more normal, but the way you spend time building your connection with them is what makes them feel good. They will walk out remembering how you made them feel. If they felt uncomfortable, rushed or disconnected, those feelings will override the quality service that you provided them.

Keep working on building those connections. You'll fail sometimes and other times you'll kick massive goals. There's no book to teach you how to do this. You need to learn what works for you - give it your own flavour. You'll be kicking goals in no time.

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Hopefully, you're full of food, are fully rested and are ready to break into the new year with new ideas and motivation!

There's a malaise after the holidays season though that we can easily bust through by working a little smarter.

Send a Newsletter via Email

Remember that communication with your customers is a great way to build ongoing rapport and builds loyalty.  An email reminds your customers that you're open for business and you're ready to assist them in the new year.

Don't just send them an "open for business" email though.  Send them something substantial that adds to their life and makes them engage with what you're communicating.

Think of when you email your mum.  You don't say "Hi mum, what's for dinner?"  You share a part of your life's journey with her and she shares part of her life's journey with you.  Obviously, your customers aren't your mum.  But if you apply the same deep relationship principles when dealing with clients, you build relationship and loyalty.

Create a Blog Article

Add something to your site.  Something for Google to search on and for your customers to read.  Literally anything goes! 

Here's a few ideas for you to share:

  • A post-Christmas recipe.
  • Something that encouraged you in the holiday break.
  • A funny story that happened.
  • A list of presents you received but would like to swap with your customers.
  • If you're really motivated, a list of how your services can benefit your clients to get into the swing of their work again.

You don't have to be an award winning writer.  People want to engage with you - they don't care about how you write it. 

Offer a Holiday Discount

Business is still usually slow to start?  Send your customers an email and offer them a discount if they book in January. Who can't resist a good deal!!

An even better option is to give a ridiculously good discount to existing clients if they refer a new client to you in the month of January.  That's going to return your existing clients AND increase your client base at the same time!  

Enjoy your Day!

The key to happiness is simply enjoy each day based on what that day brings you.  Be yourself and enjoy the moments that the day brings.  Here's a great, timeless saying:

Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift.  That is why it's called "the present".

 

Have a great year ahead!

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