I’d Like an Appointment, Please
Author: Hadas Lahav, Product Line Director
Several days ago my home phone line went dead. I tried all the usual stuff – pressed the phone on/off button numerous times, unplugged the socket and then plugged again, shook the phone, shook it harder – nothing helped. The phone line needed professional help.
I have to admit that the thought of calling the support line of my landline provider made me a bit nervous. I imagined myself waiting patiently on the line for 30 minutes only to be informed that a technician wouldn’t be able to be scheduled until October.
Since I had little choice, I hesitantly dialed the support line number using my mobile phone. To my surprise, a call center representative answered within less than two minutes. She looked at my account details and noticed that there were several incidents with my landline over the past few months. “We will send a senior technician to check the problem,” she said. Here it comes, I thought to myself, now she is going to offer me an appointment next month. I was really surprised again, when the representative said “The technician can visit you tomorrow. What time slot suits you better, 13:00-15:00 or 15:00-17:00?” End of story – the senior technician arrived at 16:00, worked hard to fix the fault, and brought my landline back to life. I am now a very happy customer.
Can customer satisfaction and organizational efficiency co-exist?
The story of my landline is a very common one. Things get broken and need fixing all the time. When you are a customer all you want is good service — from the moment you report the fault until the technician fixes the problem. When you run a service organization, you naturally want your customers to be happy, but you also want your organization to be efficient.
Can these two principals co-exist when it comes to appointment booking?
Let’s start with customer satisfaction. When I call a support line I do not want to be put on hold forever. I want someone to answer the phone quickly, identify the problem, and if a technician visit is needed, quickly provide me with appointment options so that I don’t need to wait on the line.
The quicker the appointment options are provided, the less time customers will spend on the line, and so the average call duration will be shorter and the call queue will therefore also be shorter. This leads to the obvious conclusion; that the process in which appointment options are provided must be very quick. Since searching for available appointment slots is a complex process, a good way to make it faster is to use parallelism, i.e: run several searches in parallel, and provide the combined result of the appointment options searches to the customer service representative.
Now let’s have a look at organizational efficiency. As a service manager, I want to provide my customers with flexible appointment slots, but I also want to keep my schedule dynamic so that I can handle in-day changes and exceptions when they occur. What I need is a mechanism which will ensure that the committed appointment window is obtained, without locking the job to a specific technician in advance. This allows the schedule to be constantly optimized, while the jobs can be dynamically shifted between technicians and times, as long as the appointment window is met. A job with an appointment will be locked to a specific technician only when dispatched. This way the schedule is kept highly flexible, and the service organization maximizes the efficiency of its resources.
Self-service appointment booking – the fastest way to customer satisfaction and organizational efficiency
So far we discussed an option to increase customer satisfaction, and another option to increase organizational efficiency. But what if there is a way to increase both using a single feature?
In today’s world the internet revolution means that customers now expect service 24×7. Many customers would actually prefer to avoid talking to a customer service representative over the phone and book their service appointment online, if they can. In addition, providing self-service appointments reduces the number of calls to the call center saves costs and makes the organization more efficient.
The process of self-service appointment booking is similar to booking an appointment via a customer service representative, except that there is no need to interact with one. The customer can go online, select the type of service they need, ask for appointment options, select the preferred option and even ask for notification messages to be sent via email, SMS or IVR.
Happy customers, happy service managers
Appointment booking is one of the key processes in many service organizations. Fast appointment options, flexible appointment scheduling and self-service appointment booking, are three major steps towards happier customers and service managers.