Fun Fact: I’m terrible with dates.
Lunches, birthdays, showers — I can’t keep any of them straight. Needless to say, my calendar is my best friend.
Another Fun Fact: I’m very particular about my hair.

And when you visit the salon as often as I do, you need to remember when you’re supposed to be there.
Thankfully, my stylist offers online scheduling. I just visit her website, see when she has openings and book the time that work best for me. I also get helpful email reminders about upcoming appointments.

When I got one of those friendly reminders this weekend, it got me thinking. Surely other types of businesses can benefit from online scheduling. Like, say, apartment companies…

We know that lead follow up isn’t exactly the industry’s strong suit. In fact, 40 to 50% of incoming calls to any given property go unanswered—and that’s during business hours. Every one of those calls is a missed opportunity.

From our research, we also see that about 40-60% of the leads collected through our clients’ websites come in after hours.
So why not steal a page from my stylist, and offer an easy way for prospects to schedule their tours straight from your website?
Here are three big ways this eases the burden on your team and improves the process for your prospects:

1. It gets rid of the back-and-forth between leasing agents and prospects.

You know how it goes. A prospect contacts you through your website, a leasing agent responds. The prospect is interested in a tour. The agent is available these days, the prospect is available these other days. They settle on a date. The agent sends a reminder as the day approaches … maybe, if they remember and don’t get pulled away by something else.
It’s a tedious, annoying process.

Compare that email volley to an online scheduler, like this one on The Ivy Apartments’ website, which allows a prospect to view available tour times and make an appointment themselves. Plus, they can add the appointment to their personal Google Calendar with just one click.
Additionally, prospects automatically receive confirmation and reminder emails, which help boost tour attendance. The property staff gets a notification that a new tour has been added to their schedule, too.

2. Prospects can set up a tour when it’s convenient for them.

As I mentioned previously, we’ve seen that at least 40% of website leads come in after office hours. The Internet is open 24/7, and there’s no need to wait until the next day to get a reply from the leasing staff.
The scheduling tool even works on responsive websites, so prospects can schedule a tour from their smartphone just as easily as from their computer.

3. It makes managing your team’s availability a breeze.

When a prospect schedules a tour, that time slot is automatically pulled from the list of available times on your website, so leasing agents never run the risk of being double booked. And it works the other way, too. When a staff member manually adds an appointment to the shared calendar, it syncs with the website, removing that time slot as an option for future website visitors.
You can also manage when each agent is available for tours, and set exceptions to the schedule (which is especially handy around the holidays).

When you provide self-service scheduling, you give apartment hunters the ability to explore their options at their convenience and you decrease the amount of time your staff spends on follow up, freeing them up to better serve current residents and prospects at the property.
Now if we could just get more apartment communities to offer a mini-facial at the end of the tour… Maybe another page worth stealing from the salon? This renter can dream.

Originally published at National Real Estate Investor.