As a certified massage therapist in Boston, Massachusetts, Lisa Bedoya knew there had to be a better way to schedule client appoints than via email or phone. Since turning to Full Slate late last year, Bedoya has noticed an increase in repeat clients. She attributes this boost in business to the ease with which clients can now make appointments online, as well as the email newsletters and special coupons she sends out using contact information gathered through her online scheduling system.
How do advertise your business?
Through my website and a lot of word of mouth. My clients send in their friends and people from work who they hear need a massage. The only thing that I have done [online] is Yelp, and I didn’t like it. I stay away from things like Groupon and [LivingSocial], because sometimes you have people who are just scouring these deals for the lowest price. I like to have repeat clients, and I like to build relationships with my clients, so I really feel like word of mouth is the way to go for me.
What are the specific reasons or challenges that made you interested in online scheduling?
I am a one-woman operation, so I was spending a lot of time communicating with my clients. I still need to do [that], but for the nuts and bolts of scheduling, I just needed that to be off my plate. Sometimes there would be five emails before we could settle on a time for [a client] to come in. In this day and age, I think people really want to know immediately if you are available today or if they have to wait a week. They do not want to leave a message and wait for you to get back to them just to find out if you have availability.
Have you noticed that you’ve been able to attract more clients since you started using Full Slate?
The first thing I noticed was that everybody loved it. I have good relationships with my clients, so I don’t think any of them wanted to tell me that I was a little bit old school with the phone calling and all that. But the minute I got on board with online scheduling, I swear for a week almost everybody who came into my office said, “I love that schedule,” or “By the way, that scheduling system was so easy.” It definitely increased business. I didn’t count it, so I don’t know percentage-wise, but I know in terms of value as far as my own time and what I need to spend it on, it is definitely of value. Now when I meet therapists who still use a pencil and paper, I don’t know how they do it. I don’t know who finds them or who deals with that.
With so many online scheduling platforms available, how did you decide to go with Full Slate?
Honestly, I was looking through an online [message] board through my professional organization, which is ABMP [Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals]. Often there would be threads about scheduling systems, and I would start reading through them and there would just be so much information. [Full Slate] offered a free trial and a discount if I got it through my professional organization, so it was a very easy jumping off point. I thought, it’s a month trial, so let me just try this. I tried it, and it was perfect, so I didn’t think twice about signing up. [I’ve been using] it for what feels like between six months and a year, maybe nine months.
I noticed you’ve integrated your Full Slate scheduling system into your Facebook page, too.
Personally, I don’t think a lot of people schedule through Facebook, but I like that they have [the option] on there because I want to have as many [ways] for people to see a button that says, “Schedule Now” as possible. I don’t know if there are people going through Facebook [to schedule], but I don’t get the feeling that they are. I don’t really know how to measure that, actually, because I don’t see where [appointments] are coming from. Right now my Facebook page only has 70 people on it, so I don’t dedicate tons of time to marketing through Facebook, but it is definitely a good thing to have it on there.
How else do you reach out to existing customers? Do you send a regular email newsletter?
Yes, I send out an [email] newsletter. I use Vistaprint. Everybody who signs up for an appointment must enter their email address, and it just goes directly to my mailing list. I’ve noticed that after I send an email—which is maybe once every month or once every two months—there is a definite increase in my bookings for the next week. I think people are busy and they want to come in for appointments, but sometimes it just gets out of their consciousness. Then they see my name again through the email, and they think, “Oh right, I’ve got to get in to see Lisa.” Usually I will offer some little special to grab the attention of people who are on the fringes of my mailing list—people who only come in every so often.
Are there any downsides to online scheduling that you’ve come across?
I wouldn’t say there are any downsides, but I would say there are a few things that [platforms] with higher prices, more involved systems, [have] that Full Slate doesn’t have. For example, people can pay online when they schedule with their credit card or through PayPal, which is nice. I don’t have a ton of people who do that, but it is nice to have that option. But with the most expensive [platforms], like for example MindBody Online, you can capture the credit card and save the information so that when people come in, they can just say, “Put it on my credit card.” So that piece of it, I wouldn’t say is exactly seamless. For me it works, because I use the Square system [as] a credit card swiper. It’s very easy. But if there was something that could be added to the Full Slate program, [that would be it]. And who knows, they might go in that direction.
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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