Want to know the understatement of the year?
“Building a great schedule is hard work.”
Hard work doesn’t even begin to describe the monumental task of building your employees’ schedules. Not only do you have all the people who work for you to take into consideration, you also have to think about how long appointments typically last, any time that’s needed between appointments, client preferences for appointment times, recurring appointments with specific members of your staff, and all religious holidays (lest you appear insensitive).
And after you’ve considered all those things, you can pretty much bank on the fact that you left something out from what you need to consider.
So yes, building a schedule that’s considerate of all the things it needs to be considerate of is hard work, but that doesn’t begin to cover the tediousness of it.
Today we’re covering 5 tips to make sure you’ve taken different aspects of building a schedule into consideration. Let us know in the comments below if there’s anything we missed out (as we can pretty much bet there will be :)
Tip 1: Figure out how much time is needed between appointments
Depending on your business, the services that you offer may need a bit of padding between the timeslots that clients have to choose when booking an appointment. If you are a massage therapist, for instance, you may want to allot a 10 minute buffer on the end of any of your massage sessions to reset the room before the next person can book an appointment.
This can make for some strange appointment start times, but ultimately it will keep everything running more smoothly and align your timing with customers’ expectations.
Some web schedulers allow you to automatically apply buffers to the ends of your service durations. As a schedule maker, you can use your net scheduler to pad the ends or beginnings of each of your appointments so clients aren’t all packed on top of one another.
Tip 2: Have a deadline for your staff to submit preferences and guidelines for them to follow
As a schedule builder, you know that you can’t work completely blind to the hours that employees prefer. As a good manager, taking people’s preferences into consideration is a sign of respect and can gain you loyalty.
That being said, it’s not easy to source, compile and use all of your staff’s preferences. Depending on how many staff you have (and how accommodating you want to be) using all of their requests in your schedule building efforts can be a herculean sized task.
I think all managers at least have a deadline for when their employees can turn in time off requests or shift preferences. To make things easier, you can use Google forms (a free tool) to create a form so that you can limit the number of preferences any given employee can have.
It will also standardize the format which people send requests through so that when you’re compiling the schedule, everything’s a bit more streamlined.
Tip 3: Add in vacations before it’s too late
How far out do you let people make appointments for? 3 months? 6 months? Whatever your advanced appointments setting is, as the schedule maker for your business, you’ll want to have your employees vacations plugged in at least that far out.
A good rule of thumb is to ask for vacation plan updates on the first of the month. If you plug that in as a reminder on your calendar, you can quickly send out an email to your staff to ask if anyone has updates on time off needed.
If you allow for advanced appointments up to 6 months out, you can ask about vacation plan updates for that far into the future. So, for instance, on January 1st you could ask about vacation plans for July so you can go ahead and plug those in before July displays on your web scheduler for booking.
Tip 4: Don’t just stick to your open hours because you’re resistant to change
As a support person for online scheduling software, I’ve seen my fair share of scheduling set ups. I’ve also talked to a fair number of schedule makers who seem stuck in their ways despite booking patterns pointing them in different directions.
Just because in the history of your business you have been open from 9am-5pm Monday - Friday does not mean you have to keep those hours of operation. Consider this: do you have clients who would prefer having a 7am appointment? Do you have staff that are morning people and would want to offer an appointment at that time?
Sometimes we try and fit people into existing schedules, when really everyone would benefit from some flexibility. Try asking your staff if they’d prefer to have hours outside your normal hours of operation. Offer those times up for appointments and see if any clients bite.
I’m not promising that this will work out, but if it does, you have the benefit of pleasing clients who wanted more appointment time options and the benefit of giving your employees a more flexible schedule!
Tip 5: Profit maximize based on booking patterns
If you’ve ever tried to buy an airline ticket for a Saturday night flight, you know that you have to pay a whole lot more than buying one for a Monday evening. All those smart airline analysts know that executives will pay a bunch more to get home to see their families over the weekend.
Your takeaway? Like airlines, you have specific appointment times that are in higher demand than others. See if you can offer “discounted” prices for the less popular times and up the price for the times that more people are asking for.
Unlike airlines, the price differential doesn’t have to be as dramatic, but you can make it distinct enough to have a more even spread of appointment times.
There are our 5 tips to becoming an even better schedule maker. If you use a web scheduler, then you can take all of these tips to your online scheduler maker account to put to practice. If you are in the market for a net scheduler, consider signing up for TimeTap’s free web scheduler to help manage your appointments: