One of the killer applications on the web over the last few years has been the explosive growth of using online booking. Whilst the Web 1.0 world goes trundling on with (fairly) conventional e-commerce solutions based around catalogues and mail order it seemed for a while that the web was all about B2C consumer shopping. And it is, for the moment. However, bright companies that don’t have a mail-order model (that’s most companies) are realising that there are actually lots of other killer applications out there and the t’interweb world is starting to appreciate and use them in anger.
My current favourite is Online Booking Systems. They are wonderful at providing huge potential online without requiring the entire sales process to exist online.
We have a number of clients in the Healthcare sector; this fits the model particularly well.
Lets take a look at a typical client journey for, say, Laser Eye Surgery. I say “client” here, I should say “user” because that is what the t’interweb world calls clients or customer. I don’t like the word user and prefer to call them what they are so I won’t apologise in advance for the confusion it might cause.
- INTERESTED. A potential customer has their interest pricked in having Laser Eye Surgery. So much so they decide to find out more. They will hear anecdotal stories from mates, work colleagues and the press. Hell, they might even see a TV advert (if they watch day-time TV). Interest starts with an Internet search so off we go and Google “laser eye surgery“. Lots of results, a few companies seem to dominate the space, a few clicks later and bingo we’re off and running and looking around companies, articles, blogs and forums.
- WANT MORE. I’m kind of happy that this “laser eye surgery” might just suit me, I’m a little happier that they may be able to treat me after I’ve checked the “Am I suitable application”. Maybe more information and talk it over with the wife, it’s not cheap! Lets fill in an information request. 2 days later information pack drops through the door. Wahey, this does look good, just need to have one of those “free consultations” they all talk about. Now when is the best time to sort that out? and where do I need to go?
STOP As a visitor I am now at a very critical stage in my client journey. I’ve started my cycle online but now I need to phone a call centre, they’ll ask me questions I won’t have answers to. Besides, why do I want to talk to a call centre at all. Without online booking what we have now found is that the client journey has to continue offline and that is fraught with cost (for the supplier), convenience issues (for all), call-centre economics (call-queues, press 1 to, speaking to faceless people, busy tones, call backs, human errors, urgh). All that good work so far is now left in the hands of a call-centre bod who’s targeted to clear 100 calls per shift at an average of 1m30s per call and a “close rate” of 20%.
ENTER ONLINE BOOKING My journey can now continue, at my pace, when I want to and when I want to. As the visitor, I am still in control. Back into the journey we go.
- VERY INTERESTED. Lets book online. I can check my diary against what’s available, I can move meetings around. I can try different days or even different clinics as I work in London but live in Guildford. If I’m not sure I can halt my booking halfway through and come back a day of two later to continue the process. This is rather nice and I get to do this “all on my own terms”. yes, I’ve got to answer odd questions about my medical history but I’d expect that anyway. Ace, I’m booked in.
- COUNTDOWN. Only got a week before my consultation, I’m being sent maps, parking locations, information about my consult day, what I need to do before hand. All automatically, all sitting in my Inbox in Googlemail, Facebook, LinkedIn or wherever I want it sent. A nice SMS text arrives the day before with local links I can click to see maps on my mobile when I’m actually visiting the clinic.
The journey is not over for me, I still need to discuss this further; look into the pro and cons and decide at some point. In fact it might take me a year or so to pluck up the courage and save the money for the operation so I’m still going to wander around the web looking at stuff. What’s nice is that when I go back to Company X, they remember me! they remember that I had a consultation and now they are showing me stuff that’s useful for me. Better still, 1 year later they advise me that I’ll need another consultation as my prescription may have changed. They know which clinic I went to and when I prefer my appointments to be so they make suggestions on the web site, all I need to do it click to confirm. That’s easy and I’m back for a consultation a year later and now I decide to to go ahead.
Now I’ve become a customer, a real client. Finally, I’ve been able to book my treatment directly online, where I want and when I want. I have spoken to people, I’ve met the lovely girl who did my consultations (both of them actually, they remembered who did my first one when I booked my second one). I spoke to the surgeon and I think I spoke to the call centre once to confirm some details that were not quite right during the online booking process.
A beautiful journey, beautifully executed. It’s what t’interweb was invented for.