It has been quite a summer for Sheffield Central Counselling!
With months of planning and discussions, we launched a new website that features a new way to choose your counsellor, book and pay for your sessions by card. Although many businesses use similar systems, for example gyms and health spas, this is quite unusual in the counselling world. We are proud to be the first private practice in Sheffield that enables our clients to book and pay for counselling online.
With grant support from Superfast South Yorkshire we were able to fund the research, planning, design and building of our new booking system as well as a revamp of our website. And it could just be the most significant business investment we have ever made…..
So how did this come to pass?
Directors Gill Wier and Bay Whitaker had been wondering about the possibility of an online booking system for years. Gill says: “one of the reasons for the move was because clients were increasingly expecting to be able to pay by card as it’s more convenient and these days people tend not to carry a much cash in their wallets. We felt that our system was becoming outdated.”
Bay continues “Another issue was that over the years we had lost a lot of income from no-shows, because people would typically pay for their session in cash. Sometimes counsellors would have come into our offices just for that session, only to find that their client never appeared.”
The new booking system ensures that clients pay in advance, although meetings can be cancelled and automatically refunded up to 24 hours beforehand. It also means that, through the online electronic diary, clients can choose their own timeslot and book themselves in, without needing to coordinate diaries with their counsellor.
What are the benefits?
Previously, bookings would be done using paper diaries and there might be a series of messages to and fro before the client’s request would be picked up by their counsellor. By simplifying the booking and payments process staff time has been freed up to focus on what our business does best: actual counselling.
Bay continues: “Although it only takes a minute to forward a message on, still over a week or a month that adds up. And perhaps more important is the sense that we need to be checking the voicemail and messages several times a day in case somebody needs to book. Letting go of that and trusting the online system has felt very freeing.”
What do clients think?
Of course there were a few teething problems about launching the new system. Both Sheffield Central Counselling and their web developers Field worked very hard during the few weeks before and right after the launch, to iron out glitches. With the vast number of different devices in use for internet access, we had to ensure that design and functionality worked for dozens of different systems and screen-sizes.
However, the vast majority of our clients really like the system. They report that it is quick and easy to use, and much easier to reschedule appointments where necessary. They appreciate receiving both an email confirmation of any appointments, as well as a text reminder the day before, if they wish to select that option.
The new website has given more power, more choice and more flexibility to our clients, at the same time as reducing our workload. And although it is still early days, our revenues appear to be increasing since we introduced the new system. All in all, it has been a very beneficial development for our business.
Superfast South Yorkshire Connection and Innovation Vouchers Scheme provide eligible SMEs with funding to improve their broadband connections and/or introduce digital innovations into the business.
Sheffield Central Counselling Ltd received a grant to help fund a new online booking and payment system fully integrated with our website with the aim of streamlining the booking process, improving customer service and maximising income.
Sheffield Central Counselling Ltd has received funding from The Sheffield City Region European Regional Development fund (ERDF), part of the European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) portfolio 2015 to 2020.