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!

Innovative Ways to Engage Event Attendees

Top Ways to Increase Engagement at your Events

Photo Courtesy of CES 2019

Any organizer who has been in the business for long knows that event engagement is an excellent way of measuring the effectiveness of your events. Simply put, engagement is how fully your attendees are participating and how much of their attention your event has captured. If attendees are tuning out or working on other things, you’ve lost them. So it’s important to captivate your audience, from the moment they arrive until the event doors are closed. But how?

Encourage Real-Time Feedback

Asking event attendees what they thought of the event after it’s over is a useful way to improve your outreach. But when guests have a great experience or need someone to complain to, they want to be heard right now. The good news is, since every one of your attendees is likely carrying a phone, you can make that happen easily.

Create a virtual suggestion box and publish it before the event even begins, allowing them to have input through the registration process and leading up to the big day (or days). Include polls and survey questions in presentations or on event literature. Encourage them to text your brand or engage with social media via targeted hashtags, then be sure to monitor and respond to those feeds in real time. Create an event app that allows them to interact with and give feedback on every part of your event, in real time. The options are endless and often easily implemented with the help of current event management technology.

Skip the Lines with a Digital Waitlist App like NextME

Nothing will lose a captive audience quicker than to make them stand around and wait. If you want to keep your attendees engaged and excited about your event, allow them to skip the lines and spend that time learning, networking, or exploring instead. One simple and effective way to manage this is with the NextME app. It allows attendees to sign in quickly and then go do other things while they wait for a panel to start or an interactive experience to be ready.

Rather than forcing visitors to stand around waiting their turn, NextME allows them to sign in with just a few simple details. The app will then text them a link that includes a countdown to their place in line. You can customize this link to include all sorts of information, links to your social media, prompts to help them engage further with your brand, and even interact with your eCommerce site. They can then wander the event as they please, spend some time networking with other attendees, or go grab a snack or a quick drink. A few minutes before their spot is ready, the app will prompt them to return. They can confirm or cancel their reserved spot with a quick return text. During and after the event, you’ll get insightful and actionable reports on everyone who checked in, allowing for easy follow-up and feedback. And all of this without requiring them to download a thing!

Make Networking Simple and Fun  

One of the biggest reasons for attending in-person events is the ability to network with peers across the industry. Not only that, good networking automatically means increased engagement and a more favorable response to your event. Why not make it easier with fun and interactive networking games?

Create a networking scavenger hunt, where attendees have to interact with one another to fill in a list. Use simple prompts like, “find someone with the same initials as yourself,” or “find someone celebrating a birthday this month.” Once they’ve completed the hunt, they’re in the running for a door prize or other gift. They’ll meet tons of new people, have fun doing it, and possibly walk away with a prize.

Encourage smaller networking groups. Large networking mixers can be intimidating, and it’s often hard to find the right contacts in a room of hundreds of people. Instead, have your attendees fill out questionnaires at registration and then use the data to place them into smaller, targeted groups of 20-25 people. This will help to encourage more meaningful connections and provide increased value for attendees.

NextME's Guide: Top 10 Brunch Spots in New York City

Top 10 Brunch Spots - New York City

Brunch has become a staple of life in New York, with thousands of eateries across the city competing for your boozy breakfast dollars. The options are wide and varied, and it’s hard to pick just one to visit if you’re only in town for a day or two. We’ve curated a list of the most intriguing spots to enjoy a mimosa and a plate full of eggs on a lazy Saturday.

Spoons, Toons, and Booze at Nighthawk Cinema

Photo Courtesy of doNYC

Remember those lazy weekend mornings of your childhood, spent with a bowl of sugary cereal in front of the tv? Recreate that feeling, and add a dash of adult refreshment, at Nighthawk Cinema in Williamsburg. With all of your favorite Saturday morning cartoons showing, an all-you-can-eat sugar cereal bar, and plenty of cocktails to be had, it’s the perfect brunch spot for those who want to go back in time. Oh, and if cereal is not your idea of good brunch food, they have a full brunch menu on offer too, with offerings like Salmon Ricotta Toast or their delicious Breakfast Burritos, paired with a Breakfast Club mimosa or bloody mary.

Ukrainian Brunch at Veselka

Photo Courtesy of SoHungry

Veselka is a 24 hour Ukranian eatery in the East Village. Their brunch menu includes everything from brunch pierogis and salmon latka eggs benedict to hot oatmeal and omelettes. If you’re in the mood for some delicious Ukranian comfort food for brunch, you can’t go wrong here. And of course, there are plenty of mimosas and prosecco on hand too.

Gospel Brunch at the Red Rooster

Photo Courtesy of The Red Rooster

For many, it’s just not Sunday morning without some good old-fashioned gospel music. Fortunately, the Gospel Brunch downstairs at the Red Rooster boasts live gospel music featuring Vi Higginsen's Gospel For Teens Choir paired with some of the finest soul food you can possibly want. Enjoy dishes like Poppa Eddie's Shrimp And Grits or Hot Honey Yardbird and wash them down with drinks like the Bloody Rooster or Mamita’s Michelada.

Brunch Buffet at 230 Fifth Rooftop

Photo Courtesy of Thrillest

What could be better than brunch with a view? The 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar offers an all you can eat brunch buffet every weekend. Billed as New York’s Largest Outdoor Rooftop Garden, it offers stunning views of the Empire State Building and plenty of other points of interest on the New York skyline. Worried about a chill in the weather? During winter months they erect heated clear igloos on the roof, and their penthouse lounge is fully enclosed year-round. Meanwhile, the buffet features standards like scrambled eggs and bacon, as well as a variety of salads and even Cuban sandwiches.

Veggie-Filled Brunch at Dirt Candy

Photo Courtesy of Wall Street Journal

Dirt Candy is known for taking the lowly vegetable, injecting a bit of flair and plenty of humor, and creating dishes that are both delicious and craveable. Their brunch features delights like Green Huevos & No Ham, Corn French Toast, Red Pepper Fritters, Brussels Sprout Tacos, and Korean Fried Broccoli. It’s the kind of imaginative cooking even the meat and potatoes set can enjoy. Since everything is seasonal and fresh, you never really know exactly which dishes will be on offer on a given day, but you’re sure to find plenty of options to tickle almost any fancy. Plus, they’ve got creative cocktails, generous portions, and excellent service.

Bottomless Brunch at the Black Ant

Photo Courtesy of Thrillist

For those with a more adventurous appetite, you’ve got to try The Black Ant in the East Village. One part Mexican kitchen and one part “I dare you,” the eatery is sort of like a live version of some of Fear Factor’s food challenges. But the brunch offerings tend to be more on the tame side. So if you’ve ever wanted to try duck confit hash or grilled octopus with chorizo, this is the place to do it. Looking for a bit of sweet instead of spicy? You’re going to love the brioche pumpkin custard toast. And their 90-minute bottomless brunch gives you all the Mimosas, Bloody Marias, and Smoky Jalapeño Margaritas your heart desires.

Family Brunch at Loosie’s Kitchen & Cafe

Photo Courtesy of the Venue Report

When you brunch at Loosie’s Kitchen & Cafe in Brooklyn, you’re part of the family. Located under the Williamsburg Bridge, it’s a mini-community all its own. Their delectable brunch menu is heavy on the home cooking, and features brunch favorites like avocado toast or chicken and waffles. But they also have less-usual options like chicory salad or a fried shrimp burger. It’s delightful food served in a friendly, welcoming environment you’re sure to love!

Jazz Brunch at Dirty French

Photo Courtesy of the Dirty French

Dirty French at the Ludlow Hotel really knows how to do brunch right. They start you off with a complimentary array of baked goods, and they serve scrumptious cocktails by the carafe or punchbowl. You can then choose from their array of hors-d'oeuvres or french inspired entrees on their delightful brunch menu. But perhaps the most surprising and wonderful part of the meal is the live jazz music you’ll enjoy as you dine. It’s a little slice of the Big Easy hidden in the Big Apple.

Pickled Brunch at Jacob’s Pickles

Photo Courtesy of Jacob's Pickles

If you like a bold flavor profile with your brunch menu, Jacob’s Pickles delivers in spades. They have all of the usual southern brunch fare: french toast, omelets, egg sandwiches, and creamy organic grits smothered in cheese. But they also serve eight varieties of pickles and pickled eggs too, as well as spicy sandwiches and fun entrees like catfish tacos. It’s the kind of comfort food that is particularly pleasing on your brunch plate, with southern twists in every dish.

Everyday Brunch at Mother’s Ruin

Photo Courtesy of Mother's Ruin

Saturday and Sunday are practically made for brunch. But what about when you have a lazy free day during the week? Fortunately, there are places in the city offering this decadent and delicious meal on weekdays too. One of the best is the Everyday Brunch at Mother’s Ruin. This fun, casual eatery delivers delicious, boozy brunch dishes to the masses whose days off don’t fall on Saturday or Sunday. Located on Spring Street in Nolita, it’s home to the boozy slushie and a great place to try Cholula-honey fried chicken and waffles or a falafel burger with cucumber mint dressing.

Waitlist and Queue Management App for Event Planning

The Launch of NextME’s Waitlist and Queue Management App in the Event Production Space

Over the past few years, the restaurant industry has discovered the time and cost saving benefits of using NextME to manage waiting lists. Restaurant owners, staff, and diners alike have enjoyed the rewards of this incredibly easy to use tech solution for an age-old problem. But what if NextME could help other businesses and industries just as effectively?

With this idea in mind, we began working toward integration into a new and exciting industry: event production. This industry is becoming more and more important in the business world, and delivering a positive customer experience has never been more crucial.

Experiential Marketing

Trade shows, conferences, expos, and other industry events are making huge waves in the business to business sales world. In fact, Forrester Research estimates that events are almost a quarter of the B2B marketing budget. It’s been proven as a leading way to communicate with potential clients directly and clearly.

Events and experiences are an amazing way to create connections with consumers too. Big names from Amazon to Oculus VR are harnessing experiential marketing to create positive associations with their brand. As consumers zip through the commercials on their TiVo, or stream their favorite shows on platforms that skip the ads entirely, live events and product demonstrations are quickly becoming an important way to reach out to the public directly.

For those new to the event marketing space, the biggest fear is usually that nobody will show up. Experienced teams know how to generate buzz and overcome this hurdle. So what happens if your event goes well? You’re likely to have lines of people waiting to engage with your brand during busy trade shows, conferences, or events. Long lines can kill your marketing before consumers and clients even get near them.

Picture this: You spend months designing and promoting a top-notch interactive booth for an upcoming trade show. Maybe it’s a high-tech experience. Maybe it’s one-on-one time with your best experts. Whatever the draw, you’ve got potential customers salivating over the chance to engage with your brand.

A potential customer hears the amazing buzz you’ve created and puts it on a to-do list for the day of the show. After arriving on the show floor, they seek you out, only to be turned off by a crowd of people who are already impatiently waiting their turn.

Don’t let a long line turn potential clients away. NextME’s technology is tailor made to handle this sticky situation.

A Better Waitlist & Queue Manager

Here’s how the above scenario could have gone. Instead of seeing a crowd when they first approach your booth, they’re greeted by a friendly smile of your host, armed with a tablet. The host plugs in the customer’s name and phone number and immediately the customer receives a text confirming their place in line. They’re now free to wander the show as they please, and can check in at any time to see their place in line in real time.

Better yet, the text the customer received included a link. This link takes them to a page you’ve designed, introducing your company, product, experience, or anything else you like. You can even use this space to collect attendee data and generate sales leads with interactive promos, letting attendees enter drawings, or newsletter sign-ups. It also lets them visit your social media pages or suggests a hashtag for posting their trade show experience. So you get to introduce them to your brand while they wait!

When the customer’s turn is almost ready, she’ll receive a second text alerting her to return to your booth. She’ll have the option to confirm or cancel her place in line, so you’ll receive fewer no shows than standard appointment setting methods. When she returns to the booth, instead of being bored by a long waiting period, she’ll be just as excited and ready to go as the moment she first approached the booth.

A Proven Queue System

And of course, this isn’t all theoretical. We partnered with digital marketing and event planning agencies, like Deckel & MoneyPenny, to manage wait times for large conferences. They used NextME for big name corporate clients like General Electric Appliances and other large corporations, so it’s already been proven to scale well.

The result? Increased efficiency. Happier attendees. A standardized process for queue management. Better communication. And the ability to meet tight deadlines with little training required for implementation. And after the doors close? Plenty of analytics and reports to pore over so you can see exactly what worked well and what might need tweaking for next time. To read more about NextME’s case studies, check it out here.

So what are you waiting for? If you manage events of any size, NextME is the solution that will allow you to up your game in real time while engaging attendees and providing essential real-time communication tools. Feel free to request a demo or give us a ring at (877) 639-8631.

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?