Emma Rochester, AR's in-house IT & Systems Manager, shares some valuable insights into what to look for in a clinic appointment booking system.

CRMs systems have come such a long way in the recent years allowing for quick appointment booking, with access to patient treatment records, helping your clinic to be fully compliant with GDPR and stock taking/product purchases. They have transitioned from having a basic diary to now having more advanced booking functions and features allowing for a smoother patient journey, making it easier for you and your team to manage most of your day to day tasks all together in one accessible place.

There are so many options now out in the market place – CRM's are big business! From general booking systems and hair/beauty salon based software we are now seeing a generation of CRM systems coming through that are designed to facilitate aesthetic clinics. Trying to navigate through the options can be challenging, especially as there are many useful tools and functions that you need on a day to day basis to support the running of your practice. Here at Aesthetic Response based on the thousands of calls that we manage I believe we are experts in diary management, from time allocation, practitioner schedules, treatment types and lengths, multiple appointment bookings, room allocations, cancellations and waiting lists. I could go on! Part of my role here at AR is to look into the systems that new clients are using – to familiarise myself with them then to train our wider team to use them. I also liaise with the support teams at the various CRM companies, ironing out glitches and ensuring that things are running well at our end. Over the last few years I have met with some of CRM developers from different companies in our office – showing them how we work and what features are key to a good, efficient appointment booking system. I have highlighted a few of these features that are worth considering as you look into the various CRMs that are available:

Does the system have a clear, and well thought out UI (user interface), is it easy to navigate around the CRM from the minute you open it up?
Are the colour options designed to enable you to read the diary without any issue, for example is the text is fully visible? Do the colours on the screen distract you from the information presented on screen? Are the colours easy on your eyes?
Do logical layout and pop ups to guide you seamlessly through the booking process? If done correctly this will ensure all details are captured and the right treatment/treatment room/equipment are selected, minimising on the potential for staff to make mistakes.
Systems with the ability to be able to create, cancel and change bookings with an appointment trail, along with automated confirmations and reminders sent straight through to the client via text or email can be incredibly valuable to the practice: automated reminders can result in a higher attendance rates and also provide a safety net as you are not relying on your receptionist to remember to send a reminder out via text or email. Further to this client preferences for communication whether text or email can be selected, which in turn helps to build relationship.
Ideally the system should have an integrated payment terminal as this ensures a seamless, safe process when taking deposits and treatment fees, These platforms should be instant with a full payment history recorded, again providing an audit trail protecting both the practice and the client.

It's very important to be able to update patient data quickly, but safely – having simple prompts and alerts to ensure all changes are correct and that all data is captured in line with your needs.

It can be really useful to have an alert facility to inform you when a treatment requires specific equipment/rooms to avoid any confusion and in some cases double booking.

The options of Day, Week and Month views are necessary to be able to manage client expectations: seeing full availability of the practitioners enables the person handling the calls to talk the patient through all of the options, and to search quickly and efficiently for an appointment slot to fit their requirements.

Does the system have the function to integrate with your website for online bookings? If you choose to use an online booking facility do you want people to be able to cancel and change their booking online without having a conversation? Do they receive automated booking confirmation? Can you control the appointment availability shown? Just a few things to consider.

Having the right training on a new system is critical as it will impact on many things: efficiencies with time, staffing levels, customer service, audit trails, stock control to name but a few. The better you know your system the more you will get out of it!

Good ongoing support from the team behind the CRM is essential moving forwards – a good package will ensure that help is at hand. Systems are not infallible – they will have glitches and hiccups along the way – make sure you have someone you can contact in the event you need help to resolve something.

I hope you have found these insights helpful, I am aware that it is important that you choose the best system for you - not only to fulfil your current requirements but also those that you will need in the future as you grow your business.

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