Tag Archives: systems

Self service or on-line booking does it really give the best experience?

appnt-locationMany Careers Services and other appointment based services such as your GP have been using on-line booking for a while.  But are we really getting or giving a better experience?

Has anyone done any analysis of satisfaction among on-line bookers vs those who were triaged?

In an ideal world where there are unlimited appointments and everyone understands exactly what they need and how to get it, then yes perhaps it’s the most convenient way to allow access to your services.

However….

  • Many users are not really sure what they need
  • People don’t read explanations of what is available
  • Some people find accessing technology difficult
  • Appointment availability is not unlimited

In my experience…

We have been using on-line booking for our simplest service “Applications Advice” for about 5 years now.

You would think it was fairly simple “advice on applications”, the page on the website and on the booking system states what this includes and what to bring. But more often than not these instructions are ignored.

It’s so easy to book,  users often book multiple appointments without meaning to, or have no real intention of attending, leading to high numbers of no shows.

On the plus side: It’s high volume so on-line booking stops people having to queue at 8am in the morning to get a chance of an appointment. It also frees up the phone lines a bit.

We recently started making some other types of appointment available on-line too, and certainly they get booked, but it’s clear some students have no real understanding of what they have booked or why.

Booking in person has benefits.

When a student comes in or rings up, we use diagnostic questioning to find out what help they need and how prepared they are.  This enables us to help them there and then, or if necessary refer them to an appointment. The help we give them makes them more prepared for the appointment and we are able to check that they understand what they need to do.  The personal approach makes students more likely to attend too.

Of course it’s time consuming but perhaps that time spent helping is actually well spent.  Benefiting both the student who is able to discuss their needs and get a tailored service, and the institution in terms of better satisfaction and less time wasted in non attendance.

Yes it means that you can’t book an appointment at 4 am in the morning, but is that actually the most important thing?

We are not alone

It’s clear that the NHS has been having the same thoughts, at my Doctors surgery alone they have clearly tried a few things… First there was the queue, then there was telephone booking, then there was on-line booking, and then there wasn’t! Now there is telephone triage where you speak to a doctor or nurse who decides if you need to come in or if they can quickly help you by phone. I have to say this latter approach seems pretty effective!

Is there a middle road?

I’m not sure I want to go back to the mad panic every morning on phones and queues waiting for an appointment.Do we have the time to talk to every student who wants to get advice on their CV to ensure they are ready for an appointment? Perhaps we do if it means that they need less appointments overall, it’s just a shift in staffing provision. Some systems may provide ways of unlocking appointment types after an initial consult and this could be a really good compromise.

I’m hopeful that improvements in on-line booking systems will prompt users into selecting the correct options, (if they know what they need).  However, I don’t think there is a substitute for talking to someone as part of the information & advice process before you get to advice & guidance.

What are your thoughts?