The Impact Of Coronavirus On Service-Based Businesses
Coronavirus affects everybody everywhere – and not only those that catch it. Economies that have contained the virus are being hard hit by their lockdown. Industries as diverse as education and retail are either restructuring or at risk of collapse.
Using 10to8’s unique, anonymized data, we have analyzed the changes happening to booking-behavior as a result of COVID-19. Our insights include which sectors adapted quickly, which ones have struggled, and the overall impact of lockdown on businesses.
We see a clear pattern of businesses entering lockdown: A spike in no-shows, a collapse in bookings followed by a rebounding as each sector moves online with varying degrees of success.
Of particular concern is that the medical sector is one that has been slowest to adapt to lockdown. Over 60% of regular medical appointments did not take place at peak lockdown, a far higher number than many other industries that have been able to move their bookings to the virtual space.
In the US, we have seen that the state-by-state lockdown measures have caused a smaller change in bookings behavior than in the UK. With UK service-based businesses being 25% less busy than their comparable US cousins.
There are some unexpected positives. Whilst it has still been severely affected by lockdown, the beauty sector has been extremely creative in being able to move some of its bookings online.
The fastest to transition to virtual appointments was higher education. Bookings that were previously in a physical location moved online within two weeks! During that time, there were almost no cancellations and no drop off in the number of bookings.
The coronavirus business impact raises interesting questions, the answers to which will appear over time. We’re learning more about the virus, and ourselves, every day.
In this article we examine each of our insights and point to what else we might glean from our unique standpoint.
A quick note on our data: 10to8 gathers aggregate and anonymous bookings data from our business customers. No private individuals’ data is ever used – nor can it be accessed by our analysts. We can never see what appointments are for or any information on the staff or clients who have bookings. To gain further insight from our data we have visited the public websites of our clients to see what kind of bookings they take and how they are publicly changing what they do due to the coronavirus outbreak.
COVID-19 impact: Large numbers of regular medical appointments are not taking place
There has been a surge in demand for front-line services fighting the virus, from healthcare to cleaning, along with industries that help society cope with lockdown measures, such as logistics, delivery, and IT (such as remote working software tools).
Our first, concerning, observation is that regular face-to-face medical appointments have dropped significantly since the pandemic started.
At 10to8, we saw a 63% drop in overall medical appointments, with the UK being more severely impacted than the US with a drop of over 75% in the UK compared to 57% in the US. Even with non-urgent surgeries and routine appointments being suspended, this drop is significant.
What happens to patients with chronic healthcare conditions? When it’s possible, their appointments are being done remotely, over the phone, or via video calls. We have seen a large shift of medical appointments to be conducted remotely, since the start of April. However, that figure still remains surprisingly low at less than 20%.
In complementary healthcare, the shift toward remote appointments has been much more dramatic: 58% of appointments are now held virtually, compared to just 1% pre-COVID. Similarly, 38% of physiotherapy sessions are held remotely, as Physios start to offer sessions over Zoom.We saw a 63% drop in overall medical appointments, with the UK being more severely impacted than the US Click To Tweet
We see that in our systems the majority of medical appointments are still in-person, so those who require face-to-face medical care can still receive it. But in many cases, patients are asked by doctors that they attend on their own, without a chaperone to support them.
Now doctors are using 10to8 with larger time slots for bookings and combining this with separate waiting areas for those individuals at higher risk. We have also noticed an increase in the use of specialized equipment which raises new coordination and resource booking problems, that 10to8 medical appointment scheduling software helps tackle.
Ongoing treatments, such as for cancer, biological therapies, and immune suppression medication, are being reviewed to assess whether the risk of the treatment has changed as a result of coronavirus.
The landscape of medicine is changing every day and the only certain thing is uncertainty. However, new sub-sectors can grow on the soil of this uncertainty. Whist telemedicine is on the rise as healthcare tries to move online the medical sector is moving relatively solely.
Coronavirus effect: lockdowns in the US are less economically damaging than in the UK
Both the United States and the United Kingdom saw the first coronavirus deaths at the end of February, and by late March there were lockdowns in place in much of the US and the whole of the UK.
In both countries, service-based businesses started seeing bookings drop two weeks before the lockdowns were introduced. However, in the UK, the lockdown appears to be stricter than in the US, with bookings falling by 25% more.In the UK, the lockdown appears to be stricter than in the US, with bookings falling by 25% more. Click To Tweet
Despite the UK being worse off, the calls for lifting the lockdown are stronger in the US, where many states are looking to reopen the economics as job losses mount. Whether this results in a boom in the economy or in viral transmission remains to be seen. The lockdown in the United Kingdom is far from over and businesses may have to remain in hibernation for longer.
The two countries take very different approaches to reopening their economies. Donald Trump’s 3-phase plan gives freedom and responsibility to governors to make their own decisions and support business owners as they feel fit. In a country known for individual freedom and entrepreneurship, this makes much sense.
In Britain, however, the ‘we can rebuild our economy but cannot bring people back to life’ mindset encourages people to stay at home for as long as coronavirus is no longer a threat to the nation as a whole. This might not happen until strategic coronavirus testing is introduced and the vaccination is developed.
Coronavirus business impact: many Beauty appointments are online
Service-based businesses in the Beauty sector were one of the businesses that suffered the biggest disruption caused by COVID-19 with bookings dropping by 80% in the first week of lockdown. However, some beauty professionals were able to get creative and shifted to offering services online. For example, one of our customers, a hair salon in London, is offering virtual haircut consultations.
This seems to be one area where the UK is leading the charge. For beauty appointments, somewhat unexpectedly, British makeup artists, cosmeticians, and barbers shifted to video sessions more so than their American cousins. In fact, British online bookings have risen faster than any other country.
See the many ways creative beauty professionals can move online.
Coronavirus effect: Education sector moving online in just 2 weeks
Pandemic or no pandemic, students worldwide have paid for their education and expect lectures, seminars, and welfare services in higher education. So universities moved to remote student engagement setup and they did it incredibly fast with a dip of only 30% in total bookings for educational institutions using 10to8.
At the beginning of March, only 18% of student appointments took place online, but in just two weeks this number rose to 61% and has been increasing since. Many of these Universities benefited from 10to8’s student engagement platform, helping them make the shift more quickly.At the beginning of March, only 18% of student appointments took place online, but in just two weeks this number rose to 61% Click To Tweet
The transition wasn’t smooth for everybody, many education institutions struggled and are struggling with the transition. As a reaction, numerous tech companies, such as Google, Microsoft, and Zoom stepped up to rescue struggling tutors and teachers.
One of the biggest issues reported is no-shows and disengaged students. In a remote teaching environment, it is even harder to make sure that students attend their classes, consulting appointments, and mentoring sessions. Tracking class attendance which often counts towards a student’s final grade is also a tedious task (that 10to8 can help with).
Coronavirus business impact: 10to8’s helping businesses, from no-shows, extended features to moving online
In mid-February, service-based businesses faced 15% more missed appointments than usual. To minimize the effect of harmful appointment no-shows on businesses, we advised our customers to be more lenient and understanding with their clients. It is always better to get an honest cancellation than a no-show and wasted time.
To support service-based businesses gave our free users more SMS reminders, allowed our Basic Plan users to customize their text messages, and gave all plans longer SMS, so they include vital health information. All of this to ensure that our customers can clearly communicate during the crisis and crucial information doesn’t get missed.
Since then, we have been working to help all businesses get online and start providing bookings virtually and handling the scheduling headache which goes hand in hand with the sudden transition we have all been impacted by. We have seen some great successes in higher education and many other areas and we hope to help all service-based businesses survive and thrive in the future.
COVID-19 effect: more questions than answers
At the end of our first dive into our data, we have more questions than when we had started. As a company, we are learning a lot about the business impact of COVID-19 and how best to help our customers cope with it. Here are some of our outstanding questions.
Why didn’t businesses move to remote appointments earlier?
And could this be the new normal/
We have seen 50% of complementary health, 40% of physiotherapy sessions, 60% of student appointments, and even 10% of sports bookings move to online. We have seen companies moving to remote working, saving their employees from risky commutes. We know there are huge environmental benefits to not traveling, so how much of these trips won’t happen in the future if bookings can be made online? And if it was possible to do these bookings online what stoped businesses from taking the virtual-plunge earlier?
Are service-based businesses ready to reopen?
As lockdown eases, people rush to get their haircut, see a movie, and have a restaurant meal – will there be enough professionals to satisfy this demand? Or will they have all moved to other careers to make ends meet during the pandemic? Will these businesses be able to manage a sudden, significant increase in their bookings? Do they have an online booking system like 10to8 in place?
What new types of businesses will grow out of the pandemic?
And how will existing ones have been changed? We’ve already seen telemedicine grow from essentially zero and it’s likely that the long need for social distancing will raise new industries and transform existing businesses. For example, big retail shops make customers queue on the street and smaller shops are unable to reopen until they can align with social distancing rules.
These are just a few of the questions we have. We hope to be back with the answers when this unprecedented situation is over in the form of another long article. If you’ve got a question you think we could answer let us know in the comment section. We’d love to hear your thoughts and see if we can answer something that otherwise would have seemed impossible!
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Matthew Cleevely founded 10to8 with a few friends to help simplify managing bookings and make the world a little bit more organized. He helps out where needed across the business in strategy, accounting, finance, compliance, fundraising, and people.
Outside of 10to8 he works with a wide range of high growth businesses to help them achieve their goals. He's also got an MEng in Engineering from Oxford and MPhil in Economics from Cambridge.
Richard is the Managing Director and Co-founder of 10to8, responsible for day to day running of the company. He has been with 10to8 since he completed a Ph.D. at Oxford.
Richard previously worked in the City, and at several technology companies and startups.
Anna is an enthusiastic Digital Marketer, who drinks her coffee with cream and trending hashtags. She loves a fun fact about koalas, listening to and speaking on insightful SaaS podcasts, and creating content that ranks high on the SERP. Connect with her on Linkedin.
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