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With You provide free and confidential support with alcohol, drugs or mental health.

Use this Guide if you’d like to offer people who use your services an easy online way to book appointments or meetings. It covers a lot of the advantages and disadvantages of using Calendly.

Steps to offering people an online way to book appointments and meetings

Would offering online booking be useful to the people you support? How can you work this out?

  • Explore how much time your staff and volunteers are spending emailing or phoning people to arrange appointments. This is time that could be saved.

  • Find out if people are missing appointments a lot (an online booking system can send reminders).

  • Talk to the people who use your appointment-based service. Find out if they book other things online.

With You run assessment meetings to understand a client’s needs and how they can best support them. This is an early interaction in their support services. These appointments are often delivered remotely.

With You were booking appointments by phone, but wanted to make it possible for people to self-refer for assessment. They knew that people were looking for help online. Research projects, website analytics and their live chat service told them this. They wanted it to be possible for people to book an assessment session when they were looking for help.

They also wanted a system that meant staff could add appointments for people who preferred to book by phone. They needed to be able to track all appointments in one place.

This type of software is usually called online appointment scheduling. There are several brands offering software with similar functionality. 

All these software options display a choice of dates and times for people to book sessions. Many also allow you to limit the times that are available for people to choose from. Some, like Calendly, connect with an individual or organisation calendar and use that to decide what dates and times to offer.

You need to think about which of these features you need. You also want to look into:

  • How easy it is for people to use

  • What information the system needs from people booking an appointment

  • Where it stores this information and whether it meets your data protection requirements
  • How much it lets you customise how it looks.

With You were already using Calendly for some services. They decided to keep using it because it:

  • had already been approved by their information governance (data protection) team.

  • is an “off the shelf” system without development costs.

  • works well with Google Calendar, which they use

  • allowed staff to make appointments on behalf of clients using the phone as well as taking online bookings

Also, some of their staff already knew how to use it. Because of this they also knew its limitations. Calendly:

  • doesn’t allow you to change how it looks.

  • offers a way to add questions to the booking form - but not everything With You wanted.

  • doesn’t easily connect to client management systems. This means workers have to manually log the appointment dates on their system.

  • only processes bookings if the person booking has an email address. This was the biggest problem, as some service users don't use email. 

  • couldn’t be customised to help people check they were eligible for the service they were booking with (for example, that they lived in the right location).

With You have found Calendly works well enough to be usable and deliver value. However they aim to replace it with a bespoke (developer built) system that gives them extra functionality, avoids these issues and saves them time.  

Calendly needs to connect with a calendar so it can log appointments that are booked. 

It also as several options for controlling what time to appointments show as being available:

  • Between set times and on set days 

  • Between set times and on set days, after checking a calendar for clashes

  • Between set times and on set days, after checking multiple calendars for clashes, and assigning priority.

You should try out these different options and book test appointments then see how they appear on your calendar.

When With You first started, they tried connecting Google Calendars for each staff member to Calendly. But this became difficult as staff weren't used to using Google Calendar. 

Instead they now have a Google Calendar for each service. They set the times Calendly can offer appointment slots. One person monitors that calendar. When an appointment is booked they select an available staff member and invite them to the appointment using the feature within the calendar.

They also make sure that Calendly is set to:

  • The correct length for their service's appointments (usually 1 hour)

  • A maximum number of appointments per day or week so the service isn’t overloaded

  • An appropriate amount of break time between each appointment.

You need to:

  • offer people training in how to use the new system

  • make sure people understand how it is going to make life easier for the people you support

  • make sure they have support to get used to using the new system while doing their jobs.

With You introduced their system to a small number of people at a time. They trained them and acknowledged that there were some extra admin steps because of Calendly’s limitations.

Gradually they increased the number of appointments on offer through the new system.

They discovered that it helped to introduce this new appointment system to staff as a method of self-referral - to get support. This helped staff support the culture change required to make it work.

If you’ve never offered online booking before, you’ll need to a marketing plan to make sure people know about it.

Consider how to use your marketing channels. Do you need developer support to make the link obvious on your website, or can you do it within your site's content managing system?

With You worked with their web content team and developers to make sure that each service's page had booking button. The button linked to that team's Calendly appointments. The button was more visible than a text link.

The website also offered a phone number for people who did not want to book online.

Further information

Self-referral processes: find more ways to offer online referrals in other guides

Want to analyse sensitive data gathered in your referral process?

We don’t have a current contact at With You for this Guide.