How Small Businesses Can Optimize Appointment Waitlist Management

How Small Businesses Can Optimize Appointment Waitlist Management

Waiting is a fact of life. And managing waitlists is often a big part of doing business. 

You may be thinking of the waiting area at your favorite salon or those little buzzer coasters at restaurants. But there are so many more industries who have to tackle this problem. From bowling alleys, to car lots, to stylists, to sales professionals, to event organizers and exhibitors, waitlists seem to be everywhere.

And those annoying buzzers or the old-fashioned clipboard technique are a poor way to keep track of such a vital part of your business. Fortunately, today’s technology has given us a better way to manage the wait through appointment waitlist platforms.

How Small Businesses Can Optimize Appointments and Waitlist Management

Create an Appointment Waitlist

If your salon, repair shop, or other service business uses a walk-in model, you might be leaving money on the table. But moving to an appointment-only model can also have financial drawbacks. A better solution is to create an appointment waitlist — it’s the best of both worlds.

An appointment waitlist allows you to schedule clients way ahead of time — regular visits, planned service appointments, monthly appointments. And it also allows you to manage walk-in clients. So if your dog grooming business has monthly bath and cut clients and walk-in flea baths or nail trims, you can include all of these types of visits in the same system. This allows you to fill slow times or no-show appointments with walk-in clients, and also reschedule late clients or last-minute drop-ins with ease.

Confirm Appointments with Text Reminders

Many walk-in type businesses have found that setting appointments can actually hurt their bottom line when people don’t show up. They may have booked a full day of appointments and staffed their business appropriately only to find that half of the clients have gone elsewhere or forgotten the appointment. Staff is left twiddling their thumbs waiting for people who are not coming. The whole business is less busy, and consequently less profitable, than it should be. 

This is similar to the no-show problem restaurants have faced for years using reservation systems like OpenTable. Since NextME was originally designed for the restaurant industry, our platform was created with this difficulty in mind. 

With a simple text message, just before their appointment clients can let you know if they’re still planning to keep their appointment. If so, they are prompted that they’re soon to be next in line. If not, the waitlist is moved forward accordingly and the day progresses smoothly. The staff stays busy, the business stays active, and workers and clients alike don’t have to waste time waiting. 

Let Clients Control How They Wait 

By sending SMS updates estimating wait time and then notifying clients when they need to head back, you allow clients to control and manage their own time. They don't have to hover in or just outside your shop (or keep checking back). They can take off and do as they please, then only begin to return once they receive a text letting them know that they're next or almost next in line. 

Not sure how this would look? Take Apple's Genius Bar. They do an excellent job of allowing clients to schedule their appointments and then wait wherever or however they like. Since many of their locations are inside shopping malls or busy commercial areas, this means people can shop or run errands as they wait. This leads to happier clients and better customer service ratings across the board. And there’s no denying that they’ve managed to create a loyal following.

Take Advantage of Clients' Captive Attention

In today’s data-driven world, your clients are constantly bombarded by marketing messages. So finding ways to get their attention is harder than ever. What if you could get your clients to view a page with your chosen messages, voluntarily?

One of the best features of NextME’s waitlist platform is that it sends your clients to a page where they can monitor their place in line in real-time. This creates a captive audience who is already interested in your business and its services. And you get to decide what content is displayed on the page beneath the countdown. 

This means you could advertise potential upsell products or services like adding a blowout to a hair cut or offer new air filters for clients coming to your automotive shop. You could also showcase your website, give customers the option to sign up for your email list, or encourage them to follow your brand on social media. Have a customer loyalty plan? This is a great place to give them a sign-up link.

This waiting page is also a great option for event management teams. It allows event exhibitors to manage wait times for attendees visiting booths. The marketing page allows exhibitors to prep attendees while they’re waiting to experience all a booth has to offer. They can use the page to help attendees make a more meaningful connection to your brand or cause by combining mobile marketing content and one-on-one meetings with staff members. 

Want to see how an appointment waitlist can help you grow your business? Give NextME a call today!


Restaurants Save Time and Money with a Waitlist App

Technology is everywhere, from the smartphones we carry with us to the advanced systems in our cars, to the tech in use at places of business large and small. And the restaurant industry is no exception.

From touchscreen food and beverage dispensers that offer diners more options and a serve yourself experience, to biodiesel converters that will convert your used fryer oil to fuel delivery trucks and catering vehicles, technology is improving the way we do business. And better yet, it’s improving the bottom line of an industry with infamously tight margins.

But how, exactly, is all of this progress helping restaurateurs to save? We’ll examine how just one inexpensive bit of technology can increase profits, decrease costs, and help your restaurant run more smoothly even at the busiest of times.

Stop Seating Parties Like It’s 1999

Many eateries who don’t accept reservations are still relying on those costly, germ-ridden pager systems they’ve been using for 20 years or more. Yet these systems are pretty much the opposite of technological progress.

In addition to the sizeable cost of outfitting a restaurant with these bits of last century tech, you’re also on the hook for the expense of maintaining them, and replacement costs that can reach up to $100 per unit. Then there are the man hours spent on upkeep, searching for wayward pagers when guests get tired of waiting and just ditch them in the waiting area, and the eyesore of a blinking tower of plastic that greets your guests when they approach the host’s table.

Ditch the pagers, and instead tap into the technology that most of your diners are already carrying with them anyway. With a waitlist app like NextME, you can replace all of that outdated equipment with a single sleek and sophisticated iPad or iPhone. Plus, the app is a simple solution to implement, and new host staff can be trained and up to speed quickly for a minimum of downtime. As an added bonus, guests don’t even have to download the app to take advantage of the NextME system! They simply give the host their phone numbers, then receive SMS texts notifying them of their wait times and positions in line.

Keep Guests Engaged to Prevent Walkouts

Hosts see it daily. A party comes in, puts their name on the list, and sits down to wait. But when their turn comes and their name is called, the party is nowhere to be found. The host then has to spend valuable time trying to locate them before moving on to the next party in line. It’s a frustrating experience for all involved.

With the NextME waitlist, customers can see exactly where they are in line, along with their estimated wait times - all via SMS texts without needing to download a separate app. Additionally, they can browse the menu, check out your current specials, read reviews on your social media pages, and otherwise engage with your brand while they wait. All of this leads to 25% fewer walkouts over all. But what about those who still leave? Since guests can confirm or cancel their table when they’re told it’s ready, your host won’t have to waste time tracking down wayward parties.

Double Your Table Turns

If you could double the number of tables you could serve per hour at peak times, what would that do for your bottom line? You may be wondering how such a thing is possible, and what it has to do with waitlist apps.

Displaying digital menus to patrons while they wait can significantly cut down on the time spent at the table trying to decide what to order. And since NextME’s customer facing mobile marketing page allows you to display your menu, specials, social media, and other promotional messages to each guest on the waitlist, you can expect tables to turn much faster – up to twice as fast! For those who are counting, that means double the revenue during peak dining hours.

Keep Your Front of the House Running Smoothly

Have you even calculated how much time your hosts spend answering questions about how much longer the wait will be? Or tracking down parties who have wandered off or pagers that have been ditched in the bushes outside? As you’ve already seen, waitlist apps can help eliminate each of these time sinks to allow your hosts to focus on what really matters: hospitality. And that increased staff efficiency means more productivity with fewer FTEs, and a less stressful shift for those working peak hours.

But Does It Really Save Money?

NextME’s track record has been proven, and restaurants can attest to the effect it’s had on their customer satisfaction as well as their bottom lines. Of course, your results will vary depending on the size of your restaurant and the volume of guests you seat on a given day, but it’s not unreasonable to suggest you’ll likely save thousands. In fact, Southport Grocery & Cafe, a tiny brunch destination, saved over $2,000 by switching to NextME. And a larger chain, Lou Malnati's, saved upwards of $10,000 across their 13 locations. So the real question is, can you afford not to update your waitlist?


Best Mobile pp for FOH Restaurant Staff

Most people are sharing apps that list/rate restaurants or tie into food delivery. The NextME app is quite different. The NextME app is one of the greatest apps a diner/patron will never have to download to use. Now, that might sound a little crazy without understanding exactly what NextME is.

NextME is a digital waitlist app that allows people to utilize their cell-phone number to hold their place in line. While there are other similar platforms on the market, most require downloads and sign-ins on the consumers’ end which can be a bit frustrating if the app isn’t something you use on a daily basis. NextME allows you to simply walk in and leave your info. When that information is put into the app, you are sent a text message through the app with a special link (that works on your phone’s mobile web browser) which will show a real time countdown of your position in line. NextME also sends you a text to let you know the host is ready to seat you, and you are prompted to reply to the app via text if you still want your table.

Restaurants love us because on that countdown page for each person on the waitlist, we can place digital menus, videos, partner ads and anything else you want your patron’s eyes on. With that said, the ability to browse the menu in digital form speeds up table turnover, and increases peak hours because diners know what they want and are instantly able to prompt the host.

Diners love us because they shouldn’t have to learn a new system/app every time they want to go out to eat. A cell phone is a device that most, if not all diners have. It just makes sense to build an app around their number.

Ready To Introduce A Digital Waitlist App To Your Restaurant Employees?
Have any questions or curious as to what benefits a digital waitlist app like NextME can do for your restaurant? Comment below or reach out to us!

It’s time to say goodbye to outdated pager systems! Try a 14-day FREE trial of NextME and replace your expensive pager system with SMS text!


Your Friday Night Just Got Better

We’ve all been to a restaurant when it’s busy: The waits are long, and if you live in a city like Chicago, the waits are even longer.

Although Chicago doesn’t have a shortage of fantastic restaurants, everyone seems to know which ones are the best. For example, if someone wants deep dish, they’ll probably go to Lou Malnati’s. If they want a good burger, they’ll go to Kuma’s Corner.

(I may be a little biased because I work at Kuma’s Too, but that’s beside the point.)

This is the famous Kuma burger, and you probably got hungrier just looking at it.

Whether you’re in the industry or not, we all know what it’s like to be hangry. We trade an hour wait for the certainty of a delicious meal. Yet, knowing this, we’re always filled with an irrational mix of anxiety and rage until the host says that message from above — “Your table is ready!”

As a hostess myself, I’ve seen customers’ faces light up all too many times after giving them the good news. I’ve also experienced the looks of panic and subtle death stares when I tell people they have to wait 45 minutes to an hour to be seated. The servers constantly bringing out burgers, mac and cheese plates and wings that saturate the room with a delicious aroma of homemade buffalo sauce doesn’t help, either.

Lucky for me, working at Kuma’s has its perks: Between the friendly staff, delicious food, and awesome beer selection, I definitely haven’t had much to complain about. Plus, they have an awesome digital waitlist app called NextME that I use when the restaurant gets packed. It not only makes my life easier, but helps increase table turns and decrease hangry customers.

Since Kuma’s doesn’t take reservations, NextME does a great job at managing our walk-ins. All I have to do is enter the patron’s name and number into the digital wait list, and the app will send diners an automated text saying which spot in line they’re in using a web link. When it’s someone’s turn to be seated, I press a button that sends them another text telling them their table is ready. I don’t even have to tell my customers to download anything!