I have recently taken over running a repair café.
Repair cafes are wonderful places where people bring in their broken household items and a team of volunteers tries to fix them. The intention being to extend the life of those items, save them from landfill and stop the purchase of a replacement.
Until Covid I had been a volunteer host – welcoming in our customers and allocating them to repairers.
It was often chaos as people would turn up whenever they felt like it and then I had to get them to fill out paperwork, read and sign our terms and conditions and then get sit them in the ‘waiting room’ in the hope one of the team would soon be finished with an item and ready for the next one.
We would have queues of people and a little bit of moaning when people wanted to know when they might be seen.
We did manage to improve things a bit by creating an online form for people to fill in and to give us a vague time when they might be arriving.
Once we were able to open up again in August, I was asked to take over the management of the café.
With my ops background this was music to my ears.
Covid meant we really needed an appointment system to manage the flow of people better and I wanted a slicker process for when people arrived.
I used Calendly, an online appointment system, to create booking slots and with group bookings you can choose how many slots are available at a particular time.
So, I created two different appointment types – one for electrical/mechanical repairs (four repairers) and another for the sewing team (two repairers).
And recreated the questions on the paper form for people to complete as part of the booking process including signing to say they agree to our terms and house rules.
I also set up follow-up emails so they get the details of where to come to, a request to cancel if they can’t make it, a reminder email the day before and a follow-up email the day after (which means we are now getting testimonials to use too).
It’s been a game changer as the booking process is now largely automated and I can tell at a glance how the bookings are going.
I can also download a csv file of all the bookings to create one spreadsheet of who is coming which helps us manage how many volunteers we need and they can have a look see at the type of repairs coming in.
The day before the session, I print off all the forms, attach the repair form for the repairer to complete and the job’s a good ‘un.
On the day, as people arrive at their allotted time, I simply register them as arriving, number their form so I can track progress and then allocate them to a repairer. No more unwieldy form filling.
This has saved us hours of time and the management of the whole thing is now a lot less stressful. It can be managed by one person (me) with time to clean tables in between repairs and get the wonderful volunteers tea and cake to keep them going.