Appointment booking systems let you dedicate more time to your customers while freeing up availability for you to tackle the other tasks that come with running a business and developing yourself professionally.
Help with my visa! offers a powerful appointment booking system that gives our Sellers a significant degree of control over how their appointments are setup and resources allocated. Here are 7 steps to setup appointments on Help with my visa! to make sure you’re getting the best out of the tool for your business.
1. Setup appointments within a Master Schedule
Chance are you’re not just using Help with my visa! as a source of new customers.
You’ll have potential customers contacting your through your website, over the phone and through referrals, so it’s super important to organise your availability within a Master Schedule of all appointment sources to avoid double bookings (or worse!).
Our Sellers take one of two approaches to setup appointments within a Master Schedule:
- Workaround Appointments: Sellers setup appointment availability on Help with my visa! during all hours they operate and if an appointment is booked via a different channel, they remove that appointment slot from availability on the Help with my visa! marketplace as an exception (see below).
- Dedicated Time Appointments: Sellers specify which days and/ or hours of the week they want to dedicate time to Help with my visa! customers and block out that time in their Master Schedule so there’s no chance of double booking.
Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages but after a bit of careful consideration you’ll find a system that works for you.
i. Workaround Appointments
In a Workaround setup, this gives you the widest possible scope for getting new customers through Help with my visa!
If your services are highly sought after, you may find you can book out entire weeks just with appointments from Help with my visa! so you don’t need to spend too much time cultivating business via other channels.
The Workaround approach works best when you’re comfortable using the Seller Portal so you can easily login, block out the time as ‘unavailable’ as an exception and then confirm the appointment with your customer on the other channel.
ii. Dedicated Time Appointments
A Dedicated Time approach is easier to manage as it can be a one-time ‘setup-and-forget’ activity.
You decide what days or times you want to block out on your Master Schedule for Help with my visa! appointments, and you only offer appointments through the marketplace at these times. This avoids you getting double booked and you know precisely when you have availability for customers booking with you via other channels.
The big drawback of the Dedicated Time approach is that it may limit the number of customers who can buy services from you via Help with my visa! You may therefore show as ‘unavailable’ for prolonged periods of time when in fact you do have availability in your Master Schedule at other times.
On the other hand, you may find that you’ve used the Dedicated Time approach and aren’t getting enough customers to fill those appointment slots. If this happens, we recommend:
- Considering if the time or day you’re dedicating to Help with my visa! appointments could be better scheduled to match customer demand, e.g. if you only schedule Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, consider offering a different day of the week or time period to see if uptake improves
- Considering if you’re offering too much Dedicated Time on Help with my visa! for the product and services you provide and reducing the amount of time available in your Help with my visa! calendar
- Contacting us to see if we can help optimise your product and service descriptions or include you in any promotional activities we’re planning to increase demand
Once you’ve confirmed which broad type of approach you want to use to setup appointments on Help with my visa! you get down to the business of setting up your schedule.
2. Setup appointment schedules
It’s very straightforward to setup appointment schedules in the Help with my visa! Seller Portal.
You simply choose the days and times you want to offer appointments, then decide which products and services should be offered via appointment and which you’ll schedule manually.
Appointments can be scheduled 24/7 if you so wish but most Sellers will use a more typical 9-5 Monday to Friday schedule, perhaps with some appointment slots also at weekends. Appointments can be set to recur on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, subject to any exceptions you set (see below).
There’s a great deal of flexibility when you setup appointment schedules, however we’d encourage you to keep it simple and work to a routine until you get comfortable using the system. This makes it easier to manage your business overall as you know exactly when Help with my visa! appointments are offered and when you have time for appointments from other channels and other activities.
When you register to become a Seller on Help with my visa! we’ll take you through the onboarding process that includes asking you to provide information on when you’d like to schedule appointments with us. We will then setup your appointment schedule for you and confirm it’s correct prior to you going live with us. So the initial setup on Help with my visa! is done for you. Going forward, you can either make changes to the appointment schedule yourself by following the guidelines provided in the Welcome Pack we send you, or you can ask us to make the changes for you.
We’d recommend that you offer appointments for all products and services you provide as this gives you the best control over your time, however you don’t strictly need to do so. You may also choose to only offer appointments at certain times of the month or year, and for certain products and services, and manually schedule appointments at other times. We have this degree of flexibility in the appointment booking system but again, would only recommend adding this sort of complexity once you’re comfortable using the system.
3. Setup appointment duration
Every consultation is different and you can setup appointment durations to reflect how long the initial consultation usually takes.
The Help with my visa! appointment booking system automatically adjusts to compensate for appointment duration, so within a 4-hour time period you can see four customers with 1-hour appointment durations but if a customer books a 2-hour appointment in the middle of that 4-hour period, the appointment availability for other customers will only show as having 1-hour at the start and 1-hour at the end. This means another customer requiring a 2-hour time slot won’t be able to book an appointment within that 4-hour period. This way you maximise your time with customers without overbooking.
Appointment duration is based on two main parameters:
- By product or service
- By number of customers in a group
i. Appointment duration by product or service
Some types of products or services will simply take longer to provide than others.
A complex UK Nationality application may take significantly longer at initial consultation phase than a more straightforward German business Schengen visa application, therefore you can set the appointment duration to different lengths at a product or service level, creating a duration baseline for each product or service.
In the above example, you may wish to allocate two hours for an initial consultation with a UK Nationality customer but just half an hour with a German business Schengen visa customer.
This duration creates a baseline for appointment setup decisions you’ll make next.
ii. Appointment duration by number of customers in a group
When a single customer buys your product or service, the appointment has a 1:1 relationship; that is, one appointment for one person.
However, many customers apply in groups of two or more you need to consider how you wish to manage the duration of the appointment.
The Help with my visa! appointment booking system will let you choose to either increase the appointment length based on the number of customers in a group or keep a uniform appointment slot length.
So if your appointment baseline is 1 customer = 1 hour, then you can choose whether 2 customers = 2 hours or if 2 customers is still a 1-hour duration appointment.
Why might you want to choose one way over the other?
Well, in situations where there’s a lead applicant and dependent, such as a UK Tier 2 General Work applicant plus a dependent spouse, it may make sense to retain a baseline appointment duration as many documents for the dependent spouse are actually submitted by the lead applicant, so it doesn’t take much longer to assess two cases as the dependent has relatively few unique documents.
However, where a family of four makes an Italy visitor Schengen visa application, you may wish to multiply the baseline appointment duration by four as each customers needs their own set of documents.
4. Setup appointment constraints
So far we’ve dealt with how to setup appointments under ideal circumstances, but now we start to bring in real-world constraints to make sure your appointment schedule better reflects reality. To do this, we look at three things:
- Group sizes
- Min/ max appointment booking timeframes
- Appointment buffers
i. Group sizes
You can set a maximum group size at a product or service level to manage the number of customers who can book an appointment with you in a single time slot.
You may wish to consider the type of service provided for how you set a maximum group size.
For example, if you’re giving a full advice service and need to see all applicants in person, you may wish to limit the size of a group to say, six customers, so that you can sensibly manage all of that group at the same time.
On the other hand, if you’re offering a document checking service and doing this at distance over email or the phone, you may wish to either increase the maximum group size to 20 or leave it set as unlimited as this type of service is easier to manage with larger numbers of people as it’s predominantly conducted through a single point of contact with the bulk of the work done at another time.
If you do set a maximum group size and a customer has more than that maximum number of people in their group, there’s nothing to stop the customer from booking a second appointment for the remainder of the group. This way, all customers get the service they need but your time is still managed between servicing the different members of each group.
ii. Min/ max appointment booking timeframes
You can set how soon and how far in advance customers can book appointments with you, which can be done at the product or service level.
You may be willing to offer same-day appointments, in which case you effectively have no minimum booking timeframe – as long as a time slot hasn’t started, it’s available to book. You can, however, set constraints if you’d like a little more advanced notice of an appointment by setting a minimum appointment booking timeframe, such as next working day, two working days in advance or even more.
Maximum appointment booking timeframes set how far in the future you’d like to offer appointments. A good rule of thumb is offering appointment availability one-month in advance, so you show your appointment availability for the next four weeks.
You can, however, set this maximum at a product or service level, so for example, as customers can’t make a Schengen visa applicant more than 180 days before their intended date of entry into the Schengen Area, you may set the maximum appointment booking timeframe for a Schengen visa application at 180 days to prevent customers applying too far in advance.
iii. Appointment buffers
An appointment buffer is a little break between appointments.
You can set your appointment schedule to say, always give you a 10-minute break between appointments so it gives you time to prepare for your next customer.
Appointment buffers can be set to occur at the start or end of appointments and you can set how long each break is to suit your ways of working.
5. Setup appointment pricing
You’ll need to provide a baseline price for each product or service you offer for sale through Help with my visa! This is the amount charged where there is a single customer.
When there’s more than one customer in a group, you have three options:
- Charge the baseline price per customer
- Charge the baseline price to Customer #1 and discounted prices to Customer #2 onwards
- Charge a single price for the appointment slot regardless of how many customers are in the group
The prices you set must be consistent with your published fee schedule.
i. Charge the baseline price per customer
This is the easiest setup, if you have one customer in the appointment time slot they are charged the baseline price, say, £1,200.
If there’re two customers in the group, that baseline price gets multiplied by two, so the charge is £2,400.
And so on for three (£3,600), four (£4,800) and more customers.
ii. Charge the baseline to Customer #1 and discounted prices to Customer #2 onwards
This option lets you always charge the baseline price to Customer #1 but any additional customers are charged a discounted price. So while Customer #1 may be charged £1,200, Customer #2 onwards may be charged a discounted price of £800 each.
This type of pricing structure works well when you have lead applicant-dependent situations where many documents are only submitted with the lead applicant and there’re relatively few documents specific to the dependents.
iii. Charge for appointment slot
If the amount of work you need to do for a product or service doesn’t vary significantly by the number of customers in a group, you can charge a single price for the appointment slot regardless of how many people are in it.
You may wish to use this charging mechanism if you’re providing an application submission-only service, where you’ll submit a single batch of applications at the same time and there’s no impact on you whether there’s only one application in the batch or 10 applications.
6. Setup appointment resources
So far we’ve worked on what the customer sees – appointment availability and pricing.
Now we look inside your business and match up resources to actually deliver the products and services you sell through the Help with my visa! marketplace – your qualified immigration advisers or solicitors.
Your approach to setup appointment resources covers three steps:
- Identify the resources
- Schedule resource availability
- Match resource registration level to each product or service
i. Identify the resources
The first step is to identify who in your organisation can provide the products and services you wish to offer. It may just be yourself, or you may have a team of others who also deliver the work. You’ll need to identify these resources and then create them in the appointment booking system so that they can be scheduled for work.
ii. Schedule resource availability
Next you set the hours and days each resource is typically available.
If you run a fairly standard 9-5 Monday to Friday working pattern, you might want to schedule resources as being available 10-4 Monday to Friday or only on certain days of the week so they can rotate tasks within the office. You can also set lunch periods and breaks, so they’ll never have an appointment scheduled over the top of a designated break time.
When scheduling resource availability this should be considered a baseline that you can tweak through exceptions (see below).
You should also consider how frequently you may wish to change shift patterns as your resources could be committed as far out as your maximum appointment booking timeframe.
For example, if you have a product or service with a 180-day maximum booking timeframe, an appointment booked during that timeframe will commit a resource to providing the service. If that resource subsequently leaves your organisation or is otherwise unavailable to you, you’ll need to either assign another resource or contact the customer to cancel and re-schedule the appointment.
Resources can be re-assigned manually in the Help with my visa! appointment booking system so you have a good degree of flexibility in scheduling resource availability.
iii. Match resource registration level to each product or service
If you have resources that hold different levels of OISC registration or other areas of competency, you need to take care to ensure that only those resources with the appropriate registrations are assigned as available to serve customers buying those products and services.
For example, if you hold OISC Level 2 registration and your colleague holds Level 1, you can both be assigned as potential resources to any product or service that requires Level 1 registration.
However, for products or services that require a Level 2 registration, you should only assign yourself as a potential resource as only you are authorised to provide that level of service.
If you’d like to free up more of your availability, you can manually re-assign Level 1 cases to your colleague or simply only set your colleague as an available resource for Level 1 products or services.
7. Setup appointment exceptions
If you need to make changes to appointment schedules or resource availability as the result of a one-off or infrequent event, you can use the exceptions tools to amend the appointment booking system without having to re-write your baseline setup.
Exceptions can be used in circumstances such as blocking out appointment availability on public holidays, your own and your resources’ holidays and when you’re otherwise unavailable to provide a service such as when you’re ill, attending a conference or have another commitment.
It’s important to setup exceptions as soon as you can to prevent appointments from being booked when you have resources unavailable. Exceptions like public holidays and your own holidays can therefore be setup well in advance.
In unforeseen circumstances such as illness, we recommend you block out appointments for much longer than you think you’ll be off work for and contact those customers affected to re-schedule.
Why block out appointments for much longer?
Well you’ll not just miss appointments while you’re ill, you’ll need to re-schedule them for when you’ve recovered. Plus it may take longer to recover from an illness than you first thought, so this gives you a little breathing space.
As a rule of thumb, consider blocking out appointments for 1.5x the duration you believe a resource is going to be unavailable if ill so that they have time to fully recover and cancelled appointments can be re-scheduled.
Getting started as a Seller on Help with my visa!
That’s a lot of pretty detailed information on how to setup appointment on the Help with my visa! marketplace. But do remember, we will setup all your appointments for you when you register to become a Seller with us.
All we ask is that you provide us with the basic information needed to get going and we’ll do the rest.
You’ll also be issued with a detailed Welcome Pack that contains visual step-by-step guides to show you how to use the Seller Portal and make changes to your appointment booking system yourself.
We’re also on hand to make changes on your behalf, and again we’ll give you contact details in the Welcome Pack.