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Bill Winterberg

Battleship Is Not a Game You Play With Clients

Playing the scheduling guessing game means lost productivity for you and your clients.

December 5, 2011
by Bill Winterberg, CFP

As a busy financial service professional, you are always conscious of how you spend your time each day in order to maximize your personal productivity. Week in and week out, meetings make up a significant portion of your total activities. You meet with clients, your staff, vendors, centers of influence, allied professionals and so on.

But scheduling those meetings, particularly with multiple participants outside of your practice, can quickly turn into a futile process. Instead of exchanging dozens of e-mails and playing phone tag, you can take advantage of your calendar and schedule applications available on the Internet to simplify your meeting arrangements.

Scheduling Battleship

Think about how you schedule meetings today. You’re all too familiar with the drill: A client emails a request to meet with you sometime over the next week. You open up your calendar to see what days and times you have available and send a reply back to your client with a few proposed meeting times. Unfortunately, none of the times you proposed coordinate with your client’s availability. She turns around and sends another message with times that work for her, but this time, you’re previously committed for other activities and are unable to confirm a meeting time.

This process continues back and forth until finally the two of you can mutually agree on an appointment, wasting precious time for you and your client. I call this activity “scheduling battleship,” as the two of you volley meeting times at one another in the hopes of finally landing one that ultimately works. It’s entirely plausible that you and your client can collectively spend more than 15 minutes exchanging e-mails and voicemail to schedule a 15-minute phone call!

Let Clients See Your Calendar

You likely have an internal calendar that can be viewed by anyone on your company’s network, but for those clients and colleagues outside of the network, there’s no way for them to view your availability. What you need is a calendar you can share with others outside of your network, which shows your meeting availability without disclosing any information about your existing appointments.

Enter Tungle.me, a free, web-based scheduling service that synchronizes with your existing calendar and publishes a public version viewable in any web browser. Tungle.me synchronizes with many popular calendar applications, including Microsoft Outlook 2003 through 2010, Apple iCal or Entourage, Google Calendar and Lotus Notes 8.0.4 FP4 and above.

Connecting your calendar to the Tungle.me service is straightforward. First, create a free account using your email address and selecting a password. Once you confirm your account activation, customize your Tungle.me page by including your contact information and selecting a URL others can use to access your calendar. For example, my Tungle.me calendar can be viewed at http://tungle.me/billwinterberg. Then configure your default availability for each week by painting in the times you want Tungle.me to show as available and selecting the default meeting duration.

The last step is to synchronize Tungle.me with the calendar you use for business scheduling. Once synchronized, Tungle.me will automatically remove time slots from your public calendar when you create meetings in your business calendar. Tungle.me supports synchronization with more than one calendar, so you can connect it to both your business and personal calendar to avoid booking appointments when you have personal activities you plan to attend.

Easy Scheduling

With your Tungle.me calendar configured and synchronized, you simply send your personal URL to any client or colleague who wishes to book a meeting with you. They will be able to see all the times you have available and send one or more proposed meeting times, all without needing to create their own login. You’ll receive a meeting invitation by e-mail with a link to view the proposed times. Confirm the meeting that works best and both parties will receive a confirmation e-mail with the meeting date, time and any additional details entered by either party.

Since your business calendar is already synchronized with Tungle.me, you don’t need to manually add the new appointment to your calendar. Tungle.me automatically does this for you, saving you a little time, but also preventing you from double-booking another meeting in the same time slot. Now when another person views your public calendar, you will no longer be listed as available for the time slot you just confirmed for the new appointment.

More Business Building Ideas

This is just one example of the tools I highlight in my presentations to financial service professionals. To learn even more, I invite you to join me along with over 40 exceptional speakers at this year’s AICPA Advanced Personal Financial Planning Conference.

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Bill Winterberg, CFP, provides technology consulting through www.FPPad.com and is the technology columnist for Morningstar Advisor. He’s been published in Journal for Financial Planning, Financial Planning Magazine and other industry publications.

* The AICPA’s PFP Section provides information, tools, advocacy and guidance to CPAs who specialize in providing tax, retirement, estate, risk management and investment advice to individuals and their closely held entities. All members of the AICPA are eligible to join the PFP section. For CPAs who want to demonstrate their expertise in this subject matter, apply to become a PFS Credential holder. For more topics such as this, join us at the 2012 Advanced PFP Conference on January 16-18, 2012 in Las Vegas. We have two new two-day classes at the conference as well: Implementing PFP Services and the PFS Exam Review Class.