Suddenly Virtual: Using Online Scheduling Services to Make Customer Appointments

by Heather Allen, Amanda Bombino, and Liana Volpe

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As the need for remote teaming and virtual service delivery continues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline staff in the public workforce system continue to explore the ways in which technology can assist them with their essential job duties on a day-to-day basis. At this unique moment, technology may be able to assist with customer-facing job duties in ways that workforce professionals have not considered or needed prior to the pandemic, which forced extensive operational changes at the local level. Additionally, the pandemic has caused widespread and unprecedented unemployment, thereby vastly increasing the number of potential customers that need the public workforce system’s services. The personalized one-on-one and group services offered by career counselors and other frontline workforce development staff are especially essential to customers now.

One area where frontline staff may want to seek alternatives is using online scheduling services to more efficiently arrange customer appointments. Online scheduling services can eliminate much of the time-consuming back and forth via phone or email when trying to make and/or change customer appointments. This frees up staff time to focus on more customer-facing, value-added tasks.

What are Scheduling Services?

Online appointment scheduling services are technology tools that allow customers to schedule, reschedule, and cancel appointments through a web interface, without the need for staff assistance or involvement. If applied in the public workforce system, scheduling services could allow customers to schedule appointments with their career counselors in real time, with most of these technologies offering 24/7 web access via a computer or mobile device. Scheduling services instantly update a calendar when changes are made, thereby reflecting an up-to-date calendar at all times and eliminating any confusion or hassle in scheduling appointments.

Why Do You Need Online Scheduling Services?

Automating formerly manual processes, such as recurrent appointment scheduling and appointment cancellations, gives customers more control over the scheduling process while providing frontline staff fewer administrative duties.

Online scheduling services help to ease the burden of administrative tasks related to constant phone and email flow, so that staff can dedicate more time and expertise to clients and their workforce needs.

Online appointment scheduling services utilize up-to-date, sophisticated technology to schedule services that accurately reflect your calendar, which allows you to worry less about scheduling appointments and time conflicts.

With the flexibility of online scheduling systems operating 24/7, clients do not have to wait until the next business day to schedule or cancel an appointment. Instead clients can access scheduling services at any time, which better accommodates time constraints or scheduling needs.

By reducing some of the time-consuming and often burdensome administrative tasks, staff are able to focus on more high-touch activities that necessitate human intervention. In this way, the public workforce system can allow technology to do its job so that staff can focus on the tasks technology cannot do.

Three Possible Solutions for Online Scheduling

Below are three technologies that offer online scheduling services that frontline staff may want to consider. Readers should note that the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development is not endorsing any of these proprietary products.

What is Calendly?

Calendly is a scheduling platform that allows administrators to distribute calendars to individuals for appointment and event reservations across all devices. Calendly allows administrators to link calendar events across several platforms (Google Calendar, Outlook, etc.) in one place so that scheduling conflicts can be easily avoided. Administrators can also customize Calendly profiles to fit a business or organization’s branding and aesthetic.

Platform Features

Standard features include:

> Calendar integrations with Google Calendar, Office 365, Outlook, and iCloud

> Schedule unlimited events

> Personalized Calendly link (e.g., calendly.com/janedoe)

> Automated event notifications

> Add Calendly to your website

> Help center access

Benefits

> Ability to schedule one-on-one meeting time slots

> Round robin: Automatically distribute meetings to your team based on availability, priority, or equity

> Collective: Enable your invitee to schedule a time with multiple team members at once

Pricing

1. Basic (free)

Features

> One calendar per user

> Calendar integrations with Google Calendar, Office 365, Outlook, and iCloud

> Schedule unlimited events

> One event type

> Personalized Calendly link

> Automated event notifications

Integrations

> Add Calendly to your website

> Intercom integration

Support

> Standard email support (available Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern)

> Help center access

2. Premium ($8 per month)

Features

Same as basic plan, as well as the following:

> Two calendars per user

> Unlimited event types

> Remove Calendly branding

> Pooled availability options for teams (round robin, collective scheduling, multiple team members on one page)

> Group events (for tours, webinars, classes, etc.)

> Customizable email notifications and reminders

> Add links to event confirmation pages

> Invitee redirect

> Metrics and reporting

Integrations

> Over 700 app integrations with Zapier

> Custom integrations with webhooks

> Integration with Zoom

> Integration with GoToMeeting

Support

> Additional three hours of available email support

> Live chat for 10+ users

3. Pro ($12 per month)

Features

Same as premium plan, plus:

> Six calendars per user

> Short Message Service (SMS) notifications

Integrations

> Color customization when adding Calendly to your website

> Salesforce integration and support

> HubSpot integration

> Mailchimp integration

> Stripe integration

> PayPal integration

> Google Analytics integration

> Facebook Pixel integration

What is SignUp?

SignUp is a virtual scheduling tool that allows you to organize events, meetings, or activities in an easy and effective way. The platform allows organizers to send out a “sign-up sheet” to individuals so that they can sign up for events, which is supposed to gauge interest and increase event turnout. As well, SignUp allows organizers to choose from pre-made templates based on the type of event or meeting, which makes the sign-up process even simpler. This service could be used for events of any size. Frontline staff could engage this service for scheduling one-on-one meetings with customers or for organizing larger workshops.

Platform Features

Standard features include:

> Unlimited emails

> Unlimited participants and SignUps

> No passwords for participants

> 1,500+ theme combinations

> Mobile-friendly SignUps

> Collect payments and contributions

> Ability to lock dates on your SignUp schedule

> Quick multi-day copy

> Fast shift scheduling

> Simple shift swap (for participants)

> Sort, archive, and favorite SignUps

> Add links from Dropbox and Google Drive

> Social media sharing

> Upload images and logos

> Calendar sync and embed

> Email delivery tracking

> Import and store your contacts

> Custom notification options

> Free iPad app: Clipboard

> Teacher sharing

> Advanced messaging

Benefits

> User-friendly features make it easy for participants to navigate the platform and sign up for events, which creates less hassles for event organizers

> All plans (excluding basic) offer free, mobile-friendly SignUps from Apple or Android devices, which makes this platform more accessible to organizers and participants

> Virtual access to event SignUp lists help organizers prepare to accommodate for any in-person capacity in accordance with public health guidelines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic

Pricing

The following plans are available. Custom pricing is also available for large nonprofits, corporations, and U.S. educational institutions.

1. Basic (free)

> Unlimited emails

> Unlimited participants and SignUps

> No passwords for participants

> 1,500+ theme combinations

> Social media sharing

> Calendar sync and embed

> Administrative tools

> Upload unlimited logos and images

> One primary organizer

> One custom field

> One group page

> Customer support: Email

2. Starter ($9.99 per month)

Same as basic plan, plus:

> Unlimited text (SMS) reminders

> Mobile-friendly SignUps

> Collect payments and contributions

> One assistant organizer

> Two custom fields

> Unlimited group pages

> Ad-free upgrade available

> Customer support: Priority email

3. Plus ($24.99 per month)

Same as starter plan, as well as:

> Five assistant organizers

> Three custom fields

> Add a waiver

> SignUp lock/unlock

> Participant check-in

> Customer support: Priority email/coaching calls

4. Max ($49.99 per month)

Same as plus plan, as well as:

> 15 assistant organizers

> 5 custom fields

> Advanced participant hours tracking and reporting

> Customer URL

5. Campus (starts at $99 per year)

Same as max plan, plus:

> 150 organizer upgrades

What is GenBook?

GenBook is an online platform that allows organizations to book customer appointments and manage schedules in a seamless and efficient manner. In addition, GenBook’s easy-to-use Smart Calendar allows you to optimize your schedule with color coding, categorization, staff assignments, and automated bookings. The platform’s tools and features give organizations the structure needed to successfully offer services, while still providing enough flexibility to adjust appointments in a timely manner.

Platform Features

Standard features include:

> Unlimited text and email communications

> Unlimited bookings

> Unlimited reviews

> Unlimited integrations

> Unlimited payments

> Dedicated account manager

> Unlimited access to free resources in the Genbook Learning Center

> Free onboarding

> Mobile app

> Schedule optimizer

> Local phone and chat support

Benefits

> Online scheduling

> Client experience

> 24/7 availability, real-time booking

> Client BookNow site (a branded, booking site)

> Secure payment availability

> Can connect calendars, email tools, and more — iCalendar, Constant Contact, Siri (ability to receive voice-activated updates on your schedule through Siri), and Google

> Can accept bookings through website, social media, and more

> View customer appointment history via a performance dashboard

> Simple and secure booking

> Customization of colors and branding available

> Heads-up feature informs of calendar availability

> Grant access for other users or staff with ease and manage operations all from one account dashboard

Pricing

GenBook has plans where users are billed either monthly or annually. Specific pricing follows:

> Solo account (1 user): $29 per month, $300 per year

> Team account (2 to 5 users): $59 per month, $588 per year

> Company account (6 to 12 users): $99 per month, $996 per year

Conclusion

When looking into technology to simplify the customer appointment process, frontline workforce development staff may want to consider platforms such as Calendly, SignUp, and GenBook offering 24/7 access to calendars, which can be booked by customers at home or on the go through their mobile devices. In order to find the service that best fits the organization’s needs, workforce development professionals can take advantage of the free trials offered by GenBook and Calendly or try out the free basic plan offered by SignUp before making a decision about the most suitable technology.

As the public workforce system continues to operate in a virtual environment, technology tools, such as scheduling services, can offer many benefits to both staff and customers alike. Frontline staff could make the most of these technology supports to lessen the administrative functions that can be automated in order to dedicate more time and effort to services that require human intervention.

Heather Allen is a Program Coordinator, Amanda Bombino is a Research Intern, and Liana Volpe is a Research Associate at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.

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About Suddenly Virtual

Suddenly Virtual is a series of products highlighting the challenges facing the public workforce system and how frontline staff are stepping up to solve those challenges. Here is the current list of products in this series:

Suddenly Virtual: Using Online Scheduling Services to Make Customer Appointmentsblog post

Microlearning Strategies: Another Approach to Virtual Workshop Deliveryblog post

Using Text-based Courses to Provide Remote Workforce Servicesblog postand brief

A Review of Workforce Area Websites in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania blog post and brief

Workforce Services, Eight Weeks Later — blog post and brief

Accessibility in a Virtual Environment — blog post and toolkit

Delivering Workforce Services in the COVID-19 Environment — blog post and brief

A Practical Guide for Frontline Service Providers During the COVID-19 Pandemic blog post and brief

Introducing the Virtual Services Toolkit: The Basics — blog post

Virtual Services Toolkit: The Basics — toolkit

How Texting Can Enhance Public Workforce Service Delivery blog post

Suddenly Virtual

Helping Workers, Businesses, Practitioners, and Policymakers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Heldrich Center for Workforce Development

Written by

Founded in 1997, the Heldrich Center is devoted to transforming the workforce development system at the local, state, and federal levels.

Suddenly Virtual

Suddenly Virtual is a series of products highlighting the challenges facing the public workforce system and how frontline staff are stepping up to solve those challenges.

Heldrich Center for Workforce Development

Written by

Founded in 1997, the Heldrich Center is devoted to transforming the workforce development system at the local, state, and federal levels.

Suddenly Virtual

Suddenly Virtual is a series of products highlighting the challenges facing the public workforce system and how frontline staff are stepping up to solve those challenges.

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