Most business owners are aware of the importance (and, frankly speaking, necessity) of scheduling software, regardless of the type of business.
If you’re a reader of this blog, you have probably heard that 90% of customers want the convenience of being able to schedule appointments online.
In fact, by 2019, it is estimated that 64% of people will be scheduling appointments online.
Scheduling software allows businesses to run 24/7, taking appointments well after-hours and at zero cost.
A scheduler sustains and increases your bookings, your clients and your business. It automates many time-consuming tasks, from scheduling appointments to sending out confirmations and reminders, making businesses run much more efficiently.
It cuts costs by reducing no-shows and is designed to promote more business through its extensive features like re-booking reminders.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of an online appointment scheduler, which is part of the reason why the topic of all of the benefits of scheduling software has been such a big talking point on this blog. Businesses need to be powered the smart way.
We’ve also talked about all of the ways your business can be negatively impacted by not using scheduling software.
At this point, if you are reading this article, you are likely up to date on the importance of an appointment scheduler. You are ready to take the plunge of taking your appointment book online.
If so, congratulations. It’s going to revolutionize your business in more ways than you had likely even anticipated.
With the correct choice of scheduler, it can be easy to use, require little to any learning curve and, above all, be added seamlessly into your business. Naturally, that brings us to the question of what is the best option out there?
How should businesses choose the best software for their business? What features should they look for?
First and foremost, not all software is created equal. But there are a few key things to look for in your appointment scheduler regardless of the type or size of your business.
Broadly speaking, the software needs to be great both in terms of its front end software (i.e. the actual booking page) and backend (the scheduler itself).
It should have some essential characteristics (for example, ease of use) as well as some key features. Choosing a software with these key features will allow businesses to get the most out of their the software.
The best appointment scheduler isn’t just designed to take online appointments. It should be able to do much more, from client management to automation and more.
Keep in mind that businesses don’t need to invest a lot of money to their scheduling software, either.
Some of the best schedulers on the market today are offered completely free of charge. Even for businesses that would require a few more upgrades needn’t spend a lot to in order to access these features. In fact, some of the best schedulers are highly affordable.
Schedulers offer an incredible return on investment anyway, making any spending, however small, of great value.
With that said, here are the key characteristics and features businesses should look for in a software to ensure that they choose the best piece of software possible.
What To Look For In A Scheduling Software
1. Easy To Use Backend Software
Ease of use may not be the most exciting feature to look for, but it provides a critical foundation. The software must be easy to use for both staff as well as for clients who are actually booking appointments (the latter of which will be discussed in more detail in #3).
From an employee or staff perspective, an easy-to-use appointment scheduler is necessary to ensure that the system actually gets utilized.
In short, look for a scheduler that emphasizes ease of use and/or an intuitive system. Look for other signs of an easy-to-use system such as colour coded calendars, etc.
2. Data Security
Another absolute necessity in a scheduling software is data security. Security needs to be a top priority for businesses today as new security risks seem to make themselves known every single day.
An appointment scheduler will be storing just about every facet of your business along with sensitive and highly confidential information, from client records to payment details and more. As such, it is absolutely imperative that the software is highly secure.
That means looking for a fully encrypted scheduling software that also offers cloud-based data storage. The reason why cloud-based client data storage is beneficial is because it prevents against any data loss as it will automatically backup all of your data.
In short, examine the software’s security measures very seriously. Look for a fully encrypted software that is also cloud-based.
3. A Streamlined Booking Page
When it comes to potential clients, easy booking is critical to conversions (i.e booked appointments).
Consider that once the client is on your booking page, he or she is already halfway there. They are at the check-out and are about to pay for your service. As such, the checkout process needs to be fast and simple. There shouldn’t be any long lines or be difficult in any way.
When the check-out process is difficult, people put items back on the shelf and leave the store. The same is true of online booking.
The booking page needs to be easy and quick by eliminating as many steps in the booking process as possible). You may even want to look for a book page that guides users through the booking process.
All of the top e-commerce sites, from Amazon to eBay, drive sales through this very process: by making the checkout process as easy as one click. The same applies here. In fact, nearly 30 percent of all online shopping carts are abandoned due to long and complicated check-outs.
In addition to a booking page that’s streamlined, it also needs to be responsive (this will be discussed in more detail in later sections).
In summation, look for a booking page that is:
- Streamlined (i.e. easy and quick booking)
- Clean, professional look
- Mobile responsive
4. A Functional, Customizable Scheduler
One of the most important parts of your appointment scheduler is the actual calendar itself. Not only is it important that it’s easy to use, but it should also be highly functional. In other words, it should do what you need it to do.
Look for a scheduler that is highly customizable. Consider what your particular scheduling needs are, whatever they may be, and ensure that the scheduler can accommodate your needs.
For example, do you need to be able to take appointments every other week or only have certain services available on certain days or make multiple appointments in one time slot? If so, ensure that your scheduler is customizable and flexible enough to accommodate your needs.
Also look for a scheduler that syncs with external calendars, like Google Calendar.
This provides an added layer of convenience and functionality. Whether you prefer to continue using your external calendar or you have an external calendar for personal use, this syncing option ensures that both calendars are updated with all of your bookings.
A major benefit of scheduling software is that it automates many time-consuming tasks involved in appointment-based businesses. If businesses want to run as efficiently as possible, they need to automate as many aspects of their business as possible.
When it comes to schedulers, look for features such as email and SM confirmations and reminders (more on this in the section below – it’s a very important one), rebooking reminders and automated review requests.
These features not only keep appointment-based businesses running like well-oiled machines, but also encourage more business. Reviews, for example, are critical to your business.
When it comes to content marketing, testimonials were rated as having the highest level of effectiveness.
In short, businesses need to automate wherever possible in order to increase their efficiency and ultimately their bottom line.
6. Reduces No-Shows
Most businesses have an average of between 1 and 2 no-shows every single week. Businesses inevitably lose a lot of money every year due to no-shows.
An average business that brings in 10K every month will lose a whopping 26K every year in missed appointments when automated reminders aren’t in place.
Therefore, it is critical that businesses take a proactive approach to reducing them. When it comes to schedulers, it is necessary that the software is equipped with some sort of feature to reduce no-shows.
Some software may require upfront payments, but the best no-show feature is through email and SMS reminders (or a combination of reminders and upfront payments).
Not only do email and SMS reminders reduce no-shows – in fact, some scheduling software, such as the software we offer here at Yocale, can reduce no-shows by as much as 80 percent – but it also automates this time-consuming task for businesses as well.
In turn, staff can spend less time on the phone and more time on items that will generate a lot more value.
This is a big one. Not only is mobile friendliness important from a business perspective, but also from a customer booking perspective as well.
Mobile is leading the way right now and is quickly taking over. For the first time in history, more people accessed the Internet via their smartphone than a desktop computer.
Most people have their smartphones with them at all times. As such, it is imperative that businesses choose a scheduler that allows people to book appointments from their mobile devices and that the booking page is mobile responsive.
It all boils down to convenience. People want the ability to book appointments at a time that’s convenient for them, whether that’s on their lunch break or after hours. Businesses need to accommodate their requests in order to be competitive.
On the internal business side of things, it’s also important that the appointment scheduler is accessible across all mobile devices, from Android to iOS. That is, it needs to function as a mobile scheduler.
The reason for this is that it allows business to access their upcoming schedule at all times, wherever they may be.
In this case, businesses should look for a cloud-based scheduling software. This allows businesses to access their booking software on any device.
Ultimately, businesses need to have a tight level of control over their schedule and a mobile scheduler makes that possible.
8. Detailed Reporting & Invoicing and Client Management
Naturally, you are going to want to get the most bang for your buck. That means choosing an appointment scheduler that offers the following key features: detailed reporting, invoicing and client management.
Detailed reporting allows businesses to measure their bookings and other stats against their performance goals while invoicing allows businesses to track payment methods, inventory, etc.
A scheduler with a client management feature will allow businesses to take detailed client notes, which will enable them to provide a higher level of service to their customers and build customer loyalty.
An added benefit of these features is that it keeps business streamlined, making them more efficient in the end. Efficiency has been an important topic in this article; here are some additional ways you can improve the efficiency of your business operations.
9. An Online Marketplace
An online marketplace is a huge asset in a scheduler. An online marketplace essentially connects businesses to thousands of users who are looking for services like yours. In short, an online marketplace means a lot of additional exposure for your business.
Essentially, it’s built-in marketing that doesn’t require any additional time or costs. But, remember, it’s not just any kind of marketing. It’s smart marketing.
An online marketplace allows businesses to market their services to thousands of users that are specifically looking for the services that business offers.
As such, conversions – that is, the number of people who will go on to book appointments – will be high given that they are specifically looking for those services.
A scheduler that has its own online marketplace will sometimes give businesses a profile that will represent the business online. It’s a great option for businesses who don’t yet have a website as the profile is home to everything they would find on a typical website.
A scheduler is designed to increase bookings, so it should be able to accommodate an increase in clients, staff, etc. However, that’s not always the case.
A scheduling software needs to be able to accommodate your business as it grows, from time slots to schedules to appointments and staff to locations. This is essential to keeping your business running efficiently over time.
Key things to look for include unlimited appointments and clients.
11. Technical Support
Although a great appointment scheduler will be easy for staff and managers to use, that doesn’t mean that you still shouldn’t seek out technical support in your choice of software.
Technical support will be especially helpful in the beginning as you introduce the new software into your business.
Ultimately, if you have a question to ask and the software provider isn’t easily accessible to offer their assistance, this is going to cause a domino effect of inefficiency.
The key here is to look for some sort of help center where professionals are able to answer any questions you may have, whether by phone, email or chat. You will thank yourself later for looking into this – we promise.
12. The Extras (Website/Facebook Integration + Other Business Tools)
Everything mentioned above is non-negotiable when it comes to scheduling software. The software must have these key characteristics and features in order to ensure that you are getting the most out of your software.
However, there are also some additional functionalities out there that can certainly sweeten the deal. They will likely move you in favour of one software over another if all other elements are otherwise equally matched.
Website and Facebook integration is one such example. This will place a booking feature on your website and Facebook page so that you can maximize your conversions regardless of where potential clients may be.
It also gives your clients the flexibility to book services however they see fit, making you a premium service provider in the process. This is the kind of scheduling software that will easily set you apart from your competitors.
In addition to website/Facebook integration, an appointment scheduler that also offers other business tools, like various marketing tools, such as email marketing, can also streamline your business operations even further and is another bonus.
Assess the Company
Last, but not least, it is always a good ideal to delve into the company behind the software just as you would with any product or service you’re investing in. As such, start off by reading reviews. Does it have positive reviews? Has the company been endorsed by major businesses?
These are all good questions to ask.
The Bottom Line
Scheduling software is one of the most powerful tools a business can have.
Yocale offers the top scheduling software on the market today and has been featured in Microsoft to Forbes and beyond. It’s easy-to-use and offers all of the features listed above and more. It’s also free to use. Get started here.
To read more about our features, click here.
If you are currently using an appointment scheduler, we would love to hear more about your experience in the comment section below.