Uncovering efficiency online – online booking for independent optometrists!

Online booking. We know it, we have used it for ourselves, yet are we using it in your independent optical store.  It is a common conversation that we are involved in with members, and some really common concerns are raised each time. 

So, we thought we would debunk the rumours and eradicate the fear of the online realm once and for all right here! 

Why should I change a system that isn’t broken?

Firstly, we answer this by saying it isn’t a system change, it is simply a system addition, as not all your patients will have the capacity or want to book an appointment online.  However, in this day and age where everyone is busy, booking medical appointments often gets pushed aside during business hours as a result of work commitments and general life admin.  It is due to this that people turn to online bookings.  It is convenient, immediate and gives the consumer total control over their booking decision.  When given this option, over 50% of consumers will choose to book appointments online. 

Will it help me gain business?

We don’t need to tell you that large chain optical stores are an independent optometrists’ biggest competitor.  All large optical chains have this booking option and have been using a long time, making them more attractive to a large population of consumers.  This is particularly relevant to younger generations that live predominantly in a digital world.  So, in answer to the original question, this is just a beneficial addition to your practice that can have you levelling up with the big guys in this game.  Giving consumers one less reason to choose a chain over your independent optical practice is always something we are for!

What about double booking?

This is one of the biggest worries for those looking to transition to combining telephone and online booking options.  We are here to reassure you that the beauty of an online booking portal is that you are in control.  What this means exactly is that you can release appointments online at specific dates and times, meaning that you can block these out in your scheduling system as online appointments so that anyone taking a booking by phone won’t be able to double book a time slot.  This is a fail-safe measure, however it should never be too much of an issue, if you are using Sunix or Optomate, most online booking portals will link directly into the practice management system, so that a booking will appear in your system the moment an appointment is made online. 

Additional cost?

We cannot lie to you, there are small subscription fees associated with the use of online booking portals.  However, that being said we have found that this expense is given back to you in time.  By including this option, you will find that a large percentage of your patient population will utilise this tool.  With that in mind, if you translate that to the amount of time a day your front of house staff pick-up the phone to take a booking or reschedule a booking, this cost is well worth it.  Online booking will free your staff to spend more quality uninterrupted time on the floor with your patients or dispensing frames, increasing in store productivity and aiding in an overall positive patient experience.

Do I need a website?

Technically, no.  Although a website is encouraged to give consumers a better idea about your practice and the optical service/s you provide, it is not an essential component to having an online booking system.  Instead, your practice can feature through the booking apps and websites.  We recommend adding links to your online booking portal to your social media channels as well, this is a great way to appeal to millennial and genX populations!

We promise these apps bring nothing but simplicity and convenience to both you and your patients.  Making your optical practice accessible 24/7 works in everyone’s favour. Booking portals take the hard yards out of scheduling and go as far as sending automated appointment reminders and confirmation SMS or emails to your patients. 

If you are keen to add this service to enhance your independent optical practice, we suggest exploring portals from Sunix, My Health 1st & HotDoc, we have found these to be the most user friendly and compatible with optical practices.  As always, we encouraging chatting to your industry peers who have implemented this already to see how they have found it and get some extra top tips.  We are here too to answer any more questions or to help tweak your website to include this function – you know where to find us!!

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