Verizon Information Services, born after the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, will introduce a scheduling service in September on SuperPages.com, an online directory service.
The new feature will target: florists; small businesses, particularly medical and legal professionals; and home-centric service providers such as landscapers, painters and rug cleaners.
Verizon aims to reduce the front-office workload for this constituency by allowing customers of these small businesses to go directly to SuperPages.com to schedule appointments and fill out forms.
“These are the most attractive sectors because it saves a lot of money and time and because consumers would seem most willing to do it online,” said Patrick J. Marshall, group vice president of marketing at Verizon Information Services, based at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport in Texas.
Marshall claims that this will be one of the first efforts by any online Yellow Pages to offer this add-on to small businesses. Verizon claims to list more than 14 million U.S. businesses and thousands of advertisers on SuperPages.com.
The scheduling service still lacks an official moniker. To participate, SuperPages.com customers — those who are listed on the site — will have to go through a few hoops.
For instance, businesses will have to answer questions such as whether they have a Web site, whether they have any limitations on their scheduling service and which SuperPages.com package they want to sign up for. SuperPages.com is compatible with most scheduling systems.
Once the business's scheduling or form-filling service is integrated with SuperPages.com, consumers can search on the site in several ways for their doctor or lawyer and give a choice of three times for appointments.
Then, the information will be conveyed to businesses using SuperPages.com for confirming appointments based on availability.
“We're sort of the broker in the middle, and that's actually the role we'd like to play,” Marshall said.
Verizon will charge businesses an incremental fee for the services. The company typically charges $79 to $350 a month for a bundle of services. The offering ranges from e-commerce storefronts to packages such as MerchantMatch, a request-for-proposal service.
Marshall said the scheduling service met a need. Consumers are stretched for time, balking at the long waits to fill out forms or schedule appointments with doctors, lawyers and the like.
Consumers are also less brand loyal.
“This is less so in doctors' [cases] but more in home-centric services,” Marshall said.
For the business, the scheduling function basically trims front-office costs.
For example, Marshall said research showed that dentists' clinics spend one-third of their practice costs taking calls, answering questions and dealing with insurance companies. Verizon sees potential in segments such as these for its scheduling service on SuperPages.com.
“It could be a substitute, it could be a complement,” Marshall said.