Charlotte Menhennet, Sales Manager of call handling solutions provider Answer4u, looks at how inefficient diary management may be impacting on the productivity of companies across the UK – and suggests why utilising the services of a virtual receptionist for appointment booking can help solve the problem.
Consider the Macroeconomics
According to the House of Commons Library Business Statistics Report, the number of private sector companies in the UK approached 5.7 in 2018.
Of these, around 4.3 million (75%) are registered as having ‘no employees’ and are mostly sole traders or self-owned partner-manager businesses. The statistics show that together these companies have a turnover of around £231,143 million.
An average sole business owner can easily spend 20 minutes a day (around five per cent of their time) arranging meetings and booking appointments. If they spent that time instead on activities which directly increased the business’s productivity, that turnover could increase to £243,308 million – £12,165 million more simply by becoming more efficient with diary management.
While looking at time spent versus productivity in this way may be a little theoretical, we’ve all felt the impact that constant interruptions have on the amount of work we can get done. Taking a five-minute call to rearrange a business meeting can set you back for a further 15 minutes after you put the phone down, as you mentally work your way back into the task you were pulled away from.
For that reason, larger organisations often employ personal assistants to support their senior staff. But while the top team may get help running their diaries, what about everyone else? The latest ONS statistics show that around 582,000 people are employed as business sales executives, sales accounts and business development managers. That’s a lot of appointment diaries that need to be managed, with many companies leaving team members to look after their own.
In some industries, customers routinely attend appointments at business premises throughout the day, and these businesses rely on a well-functioning appointment system to keep time spent on booking appointments to a minimum – but it still adds up. For instance, according to NHS England, just over thirty million patients were seen by NHS dentists in the two years to June 2017. If each of their appointments took staff just one minute to arrange, a rough calculation shows that making the bookings alone took a massive 62,500 working days.
So the questions we have to ask are – are the right people carrying out these necessary administration tasks, and are they doing it well?
Addressing Diary Management Within Your Own Business
Efficient administration of time and diary management is a specialised skill, and is absolutely necessary for keeping a department running efficiently.
As with any other specialised skill, it makes good business sense to have specially trained staff to carry out the task. Dedicated, experienced diary management support will help make sure all your staff are in the right place at the right time, and their productivity is maximised – avoiding time wasted through incomplete or inaccurate diary entries. Not only will your team members be freed up to concentrate on their own role instead of acting as admin support as well, they will also benefit from working together with someone who knows how to get the most out of their available time.
And with dedicated diary management support customers are able to contact your business about an appointment at any time and easily make bookings, amendments or cancellations as they wish – not always possible where an individual manages their own appointments.
Similar options for diary management are available to every company: ask staff to handle their own diaries – but risk losing some of their productive time in doing so, employ dedicated in-house admin staff, or draw on a flexible, professional, cost-effective external diary management service from a company such as Answer4u.
Whichever solution you choose, diary management is not just about entering details correctly; it also requires expert time management – a crucial factor in boosting your company’s bottom line.
The Essentials of Good Diary Management
Efficient diary management will help streamline your day-to-day activities and allow you and your team to focus on your core business.
Ideally, support will be available 24-hours a day, or at least run for extended hours to make sure any changes made early or late in the day are picked up before your team sets to work again.
If possible use a real-time diary management system that links up your Outlook, online and in-house diary so that any changes made are instantly visible on all platforms. A system to forward urgent calls or send update messages by text or email would also be a useful back-up. There will be many times when a meeting or appointment needs to be cancelled at short notice or a venue changed, and this facility will help reduce any disruption.
The service needs to be resilient – if you employ your own admin team to book appointments, make sure you have a plan in place to handle calls during periods of absence, whether planned or unforeseen. If a staff member calls in sick, the task of rearranging their appointments needs to be automatically picked up with the right access permissions in place to make changes.
It’s also a good idea to consider back-up plans to cover you if your phones go down and you’re not receiving incoming calls or emails. Have you got a system in place to transfer calls, or external support to draw on? And if you’re considering contracting an external company, make sure you ask about their resilience too.
Consider providing training for everyone who manages diaries. They need to understand your business, the most efficient way to schedule your appointments, and how to plan in the differing requirements of appointments – for instance, understanding how long different types of meetings should be booked in for. They also need to know how to handle multiple diaries at a time, and consider the impact on one diary of changing an appointment in another.
And going back to basics, anyone working with appointment administration also needs to be efficient in capturing all the information needed. It can be a major frustration when you need to make a change but don’t have the right contact details to get in touch with the client. If you manage diaries in-house, consider putting a data capture system in place such as that provided as standard by a specialist company like Answer4u.
Is Diary Management Support for You?
It may feel strange to hand over more control of your time, but good diary management can be an essential tool in maximising productivity – and improving your bottom line. The right people need to be in the right place at the right time whatever your industry sector, and whether you’re a sole trader or a leading blue chip company.
To find out more about Answer4u's Diary Management Solutions:
Call us today on 0800 822 3344, fill in our online enquiry form or email firstname.lastname@example.org.