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Citizens Schedule Time with Government and Community Organizations: On their terms and convenient to their schedules

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Businesses of many stripes have learned that today’s demanding consumers want control over their relationship with a company on their terms and on their schedule. It is no surprise that the trend is now being recognized by government and other community organizations.

No matter who we speak with in the sector, we’re hearing the same thing – citizens now expect efficient access to government services and leaders. After a very long process of getting basic government information online, the next step in the evolution is to make access more user friendly.

Something as simple as renewing your passport is now being coordinated via online scheduling for municipalities of all sizes. Gone are the days of back and forth phone calls, emails or waiting in lines. When the citizens show up, they are already in the queue, the providers know why they are there and the entire machine moves along at a faster clip.

As we respond to requests from governmental agencies from small to nationwide, it prompted us to review the work we’ve done in communities and report on where we believe it’s going.

The City of Houston

The city of Houston, Texas developed ‘Rebuild Houston’ in an effort to renew the city’s drainage and street infrastructure. Rebuild Houston was approved as an amendment to the city’s charter and established pay-as-you-go funding to maintain and improve the city’s drainage and street infrastructure, and to plan upgrades to meet future needs as the city grows. When improvements were made, city residents were assessed based on their share of the project. If city residents felt the charge was not appropriate they could ask for an appeal hearing.

The Public Works Department chose to use the Setster appointment scheduling application because they could integrate it with their existing systems. Only city residents who had been notified about the assessment of drainage fees could access the application to schedule their own appeal hearing appointments, because they were the only people who were eligible for appeal hearings. City residents could also call the city’s back office, where Setster’s scheduling widget was available for city employees in scheduling the appeal hearing for the resident.

Brian Anderson, The Chief Information Officer for the City of Dallas remarked on working with Setster

 “We needed a quick and adaptable solution to support our online customer appeal hearing request process. After an extensive search we found that Setster uniquely fit our requirements for functionality and adaptability. The implementation was a huge success with our customers and end users.”

The decision saved significant hours on the phone for both City of Houston employees and Houston city residents. Cost savings are estimated at $575,000 annually.

NeighborWorks America

NeighborWorks America creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities. NeighborWorks America works through partnerships, public and private, to drive change at the local level for individuals, families and communities. In their words “We are an organization that cares deeply about affordable housing and community development and the people who benefit from them.”

To be successful at this work, the leaders recognize there is no substitute for the reach, breadth and know-how of the NeighborWorks network – more than 240 of the nation’s best community development organizations – and the support structure they have built over more than 35 years.

Setster has a partnership with NeighborWorks America which provides appointment scheduling for the many organizations in the network. We developed a quick get started kit for the organizations who are often times overwhelmed and understaffed in the work they do. To date we’ve launched the features to dozens of those organizations in the network with more coming on regularly.

Making it easy for those benefitting from their services to get time with the staff and resources of the network has been a jump forward in the success.

We are proud of our relationship with NeighborWorks America. They build the skills, supplement the resources and amplify the reach of the network organizations so they can build more houses, empower more individuals and transform more communities than they would be able to do on their own.

What’s Next?

We’re seeing widespread interest in scheduling for government services. The interest now includes those responsible for the wellbeing of their constituents at educational institutions, public health services, nonprofits and other public sector organizations. Today Setster works with a growing number of such groups and we’re preparing proposals for some of the largest institutions in the world.

To provide greater exposure for these organizations we’ve launched online booking through search results on Google and Bing. Those searching for services or access to officials can now book directly through search results providing the entity is using Setster as their appointment scheduling solution.

We’ll continue to be on the leading edge of trends connecting communities with their institutions. If you’re tasked with the next generation of services we encourage you to get a demonstration of Setster in action.

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Take Back Your Calendar

Making The Most Of Your Time

If you’re jumping from screen to screen looking for the next dopamine fix, you’re not alone. If you have been wondering how you can spend that time doing something productive it’s not so simple. It requires a long view. A belief in slow, steady rewards. And it requires discipline that leads to new habits.

In the “always on” culture we are now trained to seek the latest social feedback on the last post. Our notifications are the distraction that satisfies for the short term. We keep feeding the LIKE machine to guarantee a little feedback that keeps the cycle in motion.

We are distracted and unable to focus. We argue that we don’t have time to do meaningful work or follow that path to our dreams. Yet, we return around the clock to our notifications, tweets, and emails that don’t even need our attention. The thought of missing out leaves us slaves to the machines, non-vital relationships and the incessant chirping that keeps us wired.

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Think back to another time when you were reading a book and you didn’t realize hours had passed. Or when you were  in a conversation that transfixed you without checking your phone for anything else or perhaps more interesting. When you sat down to do something (like write) and you just did it. For long stretches without distraction.

Author Michael Harris has published two books which confront our current state of longing for less and some approaches to ponder. In the 2014 “End of Absence” and his latest “Solitude” he suggests that we have so much of everything all the time that we are no longer at peace without a lack of constant stimuli. To take it further, we are afraid and uncomfortable when we are alone.

Mindfulness is now trending in coastal meditation studios and even on, yes, apps. This is a great news. The simplicity of the approach from teachers like Shunryu Suzuki is that getting to a quiet place in your mind is a useful tool that can be summoned at any time.

That sounds simple enough. Just try it. Sit still for 20 minutes and see if your mind doesn’t begin to circle around from this thought to that thought. It takes years of practice to get to “Beginner’s Mind” – the truly clear state where the mind is unburdened from what you know and what you might learn.  From there you can begin to really be in a creative and focused state.

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This isn’t easy. We hope that we have surfaced some coping techniques and workarounds with technology that might get you closer to a more focused, creative life where you make progress spending your days on the work and rich relationships that you know live within you.

None of this is necessarily easy (we said it again). We’re so deep into our distracted lives that you’ll need to muster up some serious discipline and repetitive exercises to get there. Nobody will do it for you, but if you’re reading this you might just be willing to try.

As Tom Robbins boldly noted in his book “Still Life With Woodpecker”

It’s not men who limit women, it’s not straights who limit gays, it’s not whites who limit blacks. What limits people is lack of character. What limits people is that they don’t have the *!%*ing nerve or imagination to star in their own movie, let alone direct it.

It’s not an impossible task. You do have the nerve and imagination to make the most of your time and stop wasting it on quick hits. You may learn to carve time that is conducive to productive, creative work. All the while not missing out on important opportunities. (Hint: They’ll be there when you get back.)

Take Back Your Calendar

Photo by Dafne Cholet

Photo by Dafne Cholet

The late satirist Nora Ephron wrote a 2007 essay on the shortcomings of email. At the top of her list was the incessant back and forth that often precludes the scheduling of a simple appointment. We’ve all been there. By the time you finally get the appointment you may have forgotten why you wanted to meet, or worse you’re already frustrated with what you had to go through to get something actually scheduled.

The first thing you need to decide is are you available to meet or aren’t you? You may feel a sort of panic when committing to a time when anybody can schedule you. Will something more important come up? Do I really want to spend time with them? Only you can commit to your availability and willingness to meet, so we hope to help you make that a little easier and free up some time.

Uninterrupted time is a rare commodity these days. After every interruption “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.” according to research from UC Irvine. Can you imagine the amount of time you’re spending scheduling appointments and the distraction that causes? 

It’s time to take back your calendar. If you truly want to speak with your customers (or anyone else for that matter) why not create times when you are free and let them choose a time that works with their calendar?

Productivity guru Tim Ferris recommendsbatching meetings or calls in one or two set days, with 15 minutes between appointments. Scattering them throughout the week at odd times just interrupts everything else.” That makes sense. So adjust your available times around blocks which are built for interruption and dialog. You can have other times blocked off for focused work.

David Allen, bestselling author of “Getting Things Done” (GTD) describes the calendar as the “hard landscape” — put things on your calendar that can only happen at a particular time. That makes sense too. Random reminders or tasks that aren’t time specific would go on a list you check with some frequency. Otherwise the calendar loses it’s foundational job of knowing what you have to do at specific times.

The founders of Google Sergey Brin and Larry Page are known to block “office hours” each week, where anybody in the company can grab a block of time and get feedback on what they are working on. This has opened the busy executives up to a variety of points of view that they might not have gotten normally.

When the commitment to a specific time is cemented, the reliance on vague or unformed dialog in email often stops. The scheduler will be more prepared when they’ve explicitly asked for your time. A bonus will be fewer emails of idea meandering and more productive meetings.

If any of this sounds familiar or desirable, following are some best practices we’ve seen in our work with the business of scheduling.

1. Define and share when you are available. It’s a courtesy to your customers and you’ll know each day if it’s going to be a meeting day or a “get work done” day.

2. There is some training involved. Many business people have grown so accustomed to the back and forth that they’ll be surprised to know that they can simply book time with you. They’ll be amazed, but it’s something new so encourage them with a link with a call to action such as “Schedule an Appointment With Me.” Include this in your email signature and include in the body of your emails.

3. Encourage those you’re meeting with to provide background information in advance and what they hope to achieve. You’ll be prepared and you may even bring in someone with expertise on the topic — saving you from another meeting.

4. Put some buffer time between appointments to prepare for the next. It can be as little as 15 minutes, but it makes all the difference.

5. Now that you’ve put some constraints around your availability, you’ll likely need to adjust and refine the approach over time. Which times are best? When are you better at doing the focused, creative work that benefits from fewer interruptions? Make calendar adjustments a part of your regular administrative preparation.

6. We keep hearing from our customers that there’s something freeing about owning their calendar. It’s not always easy to put your finger on, but you know you have some more time to focus on quality, needle-moving work and that those appointments you do have are more focused and productive.
We’d like to hear about your experience in taking control of your calendar and giving your customers sane access to you. Write us at info@setster.com

Design Within Reach: An Authentic Brand By Appointment

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In this case study we detail the careful implementation of appointment scheduling for Design Within Reach (DWR). DWR is a gold standard for retailers with a highly recognizable brand that represents quality, taste and sought after merchandise.

With four years of continuous use of Setster’s platform, no one could say it better than the client themselves. “Setster is easy to implement and maintain, and our business has seen a solid return on investment by driving increased order size and facilitating an intuitive, easy to use appointment setting experience for our clients.”

Download the case study.

Add Facebook Book Now Button With Setster Appointment Scheduling

Facebook leads the charge to give your customer simple options to speak with your business

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Today’s customer expects control in their interactions. That includes the ability and simplicity to manage when they can speak with you. Facebook is in tune with the trend now adding the Facebook Book Now Button.

Some of the benefits to your business are:

  1. The Book Now button is the most prominent action button on Facebook and it is by design implemented to help your customers quickly connect with you.
  2. The entire booking process happens within Facebook, in a very sleek and app-like user experience that people are accustomed to when using Facebook. Even on mobile!
  3. After booking, your customer will still receive the confirmation notifications you have already set up in your Setster account.
  4. The entire application is built between Setster and Facebook so you don’t have to dive into any technical or overly complicated steps to do get this done.

If you’re already using Setster it’s very simple to add the “Book Now” button to your Facebook Page. Here’s a link to our support article with the easy steps.

If you’re not already using Setster and you have a growing Facebook audience, now’s the time to create an account.

 

 

Retail By Appointment: The importance of in-person appointments for today’s online retailer.

 

Retail by Appointment

With omnichannel initiatives underway at most online retailers, in-person interactions with customers are often facilitated through scheduled visits to brick and mortar locations. Warby Parker and Apple were early adopters who knew that not all transactions could take place online, but that easily scheduled visits to their real-world stores were valuable brand extensions creating loyal customers on and offline.

In our new whitepaper we outline how Design Within Reach, Bonobos and Indochino use Setster’s appointment scheduling to bring online customers in-house for white glove treatment that include fittings, 1 to 1 coaching, and personalized shopping consultations. We then look ahead to how scheduling is being built into publishers’ search results through integrations with search engines and directories.

Download the whitepaper

Appointment Call to Action Button for Facebook Pages

Facebook today announced the introduction of new features for Facebook Pages to help arm businesses in connecting with consumers, and Setster is excited to be part of this undertaking.

Facebook now enables people to seamlessly schedule appointments by clicking on the call-to-action button within Pages. The new appointment scheduling feature will direct people to a fluid and easy to use booking experience that is also mobile optimized.

The Setster team is proud to be among the first solutions to integrate as part of this new booking capability that Facebook is introducing today, and we believe that this plays well with the omni-channel experience that Setster businesses are used to delivering to their customers.

Setster with partnership with Pingup, has made this all possible with no development needs on your part. Every Setster business will be able to receive appointments within Facebook Pages and allow for an in Facebook experience that is more personable and trustworthy.

With more than 1.1 billion people active on Facebook every day, it is a great opportunity for your business to capitalize on the available features Facebook offers, especially this one.

If you’re interested in knowing more about this feature visit the Facebook for Business blog, and the Setster team is also available to answer any questions.

How to Leave a Positive Impression in a Meeting

 

Positive Impression

Everyone wants to leave a positive impression on others. To be known for having all kinds of positive characteristics within us, don’t we strive to appear the very best in front of people? Of course, we do! This becomes an even more crucial task when we are trying to makes sales call, attend a meeting or appear for an interview or presentation. This is when it directly makes an impact on the bottom line we seek, both the social and economical kind. (more…)

6 Steps To Better Company Meetings

Company Meetings

Meetings are a great way to get work done in the office but most of the time they carry a lot of risk of doing more harm than good. A wrong tone in your voice, poor body language or even an accidental facial expression can throw your clients and colleagues off for good. Setster knows the importance of good meetings and we are here to give you 6  steps better company meetings. (more…)

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Using Setster has helped our sales team schedule demos seamlessly! We would recommend Setster to anyone looking for an online scheduling software.

The response from my clients has been phenomenal. As a small business owner, Setster makes it much easier to manage appointments.

Setster has changed the way we handle appointment scheduling. With a simple user interface,multi-location and multi-service capability, we focus on what we do best and let Setster handle the rest.

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