It is so easy now to run your life in the cloud thanks to the internet. From email communication to daily banking, we are all online in one shape or form every single day, whether on our smart phones, laptops, or desktops, we have many ways to always stay connected.
Thanks to this ability to stay connected, online appointment booking and scheduling systems have changed the world and how we interact with one another.
If you are a salon, massage therapist, life coach, or even a software company, every business in every industry all over the globe has a need for some form of an online booking system.
Take for example a bank needing a way to allow their clients to book an appointment with one of their retail banking staff.
Alternatively, a dog walker being able to grow their business by taking appointments from new customers, even while they are walking.
Chiropractors need a way to keep track of appointments, and as businesses like these grow, pen and paper just won’t do.
What Is Online Booking Software?
An online booking and appointment system is one that allows for the creation of a public calendar and gives people the ability to visit that schedule and reserve appointments, classes, events or services.
For instance, you can book an appointment with a particular massage therapist who works in a clinic with other massage therapists, and their online schedule shows you that therapists availability, for you to schedule an appointment on their calendar.
Choosing the right software is important, that is why to help you, we have put together an unbiased guide helping you select the best online booking system that’s right for your business.
There are numerous things you have to look for to ensure that the software meets your needs and expectations down the line.
Here is a massive list of 20 features and functions you need to ensure are included in your next booking system so you can get the most out of it.
There are many things that you need to look for when finding the best booking system. Online booking and scheduling software has matured quite a bit from the early days.
It is essential to utilize a reservation system for your business to be able to grow and bring on more clients.
1. Ease Of Use
The first thing you want to ensure is that the booking system is super easy to use.
If you sign up for scheduling software and there is a big learning curve, then most likely you are not going to stick around and try to figure out how to do things.
For a system to be user-friendly, you need to be able to create your calendar, services, and staff quickly and efficiently without confusion or requiring a lot of technical support.
As a business owner, you want your business to get busier and grow over time, naturally.
What’s important is to ensure your booking system can add more staff as your business grows, or more locations, and even more services.
You want to choose a system that doesn’t limit you on how many staff you can take on, or block you from adding more locations.
A scaleable booking system gives you the peace of mind knowing that when the time comes to bring on new staff or expand your service line, you can rest assured that your appointment software can handle the new growth.
3. In The Cloud
Everything these days is in the cloud. From your emails to your family pictures, we pretty much keep everything online.
Moreover, there is a good reason for that. It allows you to access your booking software from any device.
Another important reason is that you don’t have to worry about software updates, and a cloud-based system allows for automatic updates to happen without you having to do anything on your end.
You no longer have to worry about any data loss, as cloud-based systems provide automatic backups for all of your client’s records and notes too.
4. Mobile Access
Almost everyone nowadays has a mobile smartphone, running powerful software such as iOS, Android, Windows or Blackberry.
To start off, you and your business might be mobile, such as a dog walker, or mobile fitness trainer. This means that you need to be able to access your calendar from anywhere to check who is booked next and when your upcoming appointments are.
Not only is mobile access important from the point of view of you running your own business, but it is essential that your clients and customers have the ability to book you from their smartphones at any time and from anywhere.
Since most people carry their phones with them everywhere they go, you don’t want to miss out on someone looking for a therapeutic massage while walking on the street, because they couldn’t easily book an appointment with you.
5. 24/7 Bookings
Most businesses have the standard working hours of between 9 and 5, Monday through Friday.
The problem, however, is that most of your customers are not looking for you between these hours.
You see, many people will be looking for services such as doctors, or hair salons, or even a podiatrist late at night when they put their kids to sleep, early in the morning when they are drinking their cup of coffee or even on weekends while out at dinner with friends.
It is vital that your booking system is able to take appointment bookings outside of business hours. The last thing you need is lost business because your system only works when you do.
An important feature to look for when selecting your booking system is making sure it has a marketplace.
An online marketplace gives you the visibility to also get in front of other customers who are booking with businesses from other industries and to market yourself to other members of the system to gain even more visibility and traction.
So for example, if you are a makeup artist, being on the appointment bookings marketplace, gets you promoted and in front of someone who may have just booked an appointment for acupuncture.
Not only that, when a customer books with one service provider, they do not need a separate login when they want to book with you.
This makes it super easy to be found by customers that would also love your service, and helps your marketing efforts as you do not even have to do anything.
7. Appointment Requests
Another powerful feature of your next online booking system should be the ability to take appointment requests.
This is an excellent way to open up your calendar to allow your customers to schedule you, and without having to change the way you currently take online bookings.
Clients can request a service with you on a day and time that works for them.
This allows you to accept, or decline, and even suggest another time altogether. This gets your business up and running quickly and without having to worry about setting up a calendar with specific availability with days and times.
8. Email And SMS Reminders
Having a client book with you and then not show up is a big problem for a lot of service based businesses.
Luckily, the no-show problem can easily be solved. This is done by using a booking system that offers both email and SMS reminders.
You see, when someone books you online, 24 hours before his or her appointment, he or she get a reminder by email, text message, or both, reminding them of their appointment with you.
You want a system that does this automatically, that way you don’t have to think about this for every appointment. This helps keep the no-show problem at bay and gets more people coming through your doors when they should.
9. Sync With External Calendars
A lot of us use external calendars such as Google Calendar to keep track of our busy lives.
Because of this, a feature that should be included in your online booking software has the ability for syncing your business scheduling software to your external calendar.
This way, every time a booking is made, the system automatically pushes the event to your external calendar without you having to do anything about it.
If you are like many, you will now have your personal schedule and your businesses schedule in one convenient location, which allows you never to miss an appointment.
10. No Gap Scheduling
There is nothing worse than having gaping holes in your appointment calendar. This is not good as it means lost business and lost revenue due to loss of productive time.
To combat this, you want to make sure your booking system has what is called ‘no-gap’ scheduling built right in.
When someone comes to your booking page and onto your calendar, he or she are presented with the most optimal booking times that fill the gaps of your day.
With this important feature, customers are offered times that plug the holes in your day, giving you the most filled up calendar possible for that day, and one that allows for your schedule to be full.
11. Recurring Appointments
Being able to take recurring appointments is ideal for your business and its cash flow.
For example, if you have a particular client who wants to book with you every Monday for the next two months, this means that you just locked in 8 confirmed bookings that were quickly scheduled at one time.
Looking for a scheduling software means that it has the flexibility to perform recurring appointments as it allows you to build your clients loyalty while growing your business.
It also means that your client’s do not have to enter in multiple appointments back to back themselves, as your booking system can do this all automatically.
12. Website And Facebook Integration
When looking at scheduling software, make sure it offers website and Facebook widgets.
Being able to integrate a booking widget onto your site is an excellent way to keep people on your site and still be able to book appointments with you through your booking software.
Using the power of social media to capture even more leads and bookings by integrating your reservation system with the biggest social media network in the world, Facebook.
Integrations are an excellent way to give your clients the flexibility and ease to book with you how they want, and when they want.
13. Automated Review Requests
People love to read what others have said about your business. This social proof is a powerful way to draw in more customers to your business.
Look for a system that offers these automated review requests that are sent to your customers immediately after their appointment.
This makes it a simple process for your happy customers to write a raving review about their experience with your business.
This feature gives your customers a voice, and when your customers say good things about you, new customers are sure to listen.
14. Client Notes
It’s impossible to keep a recollection of all of your clients past visits in your mind.
A feature that you need to make sure your next booking software has is client notes.
You see, with client notes, you can store all of your customers and patient information on their individual record. In our acupunture example, you can use the software to create Acupuncture SOAP notes.
Make sure the system not only has the flexibility to not only add notes directly for each one of your clients, you can also add notes for each one of their individual visits too.
You need the full story of your client’s history, and client notes are an essential part of an online booking system that gives you that.
15. Automatic Invoices
The less you have to do after a client visit the better. This way you can quickly move on to the next client appointment.
An integral part of any online software is its ability to automatically send out invoices right after an appointment is complete.
By being online, your system should allow for your clients to be able to go back in and retrieve their past receipts from their previous visits with you.
Keeping things automatic keeps you organized and on top of your business.
16. Automatic Rebooking Reminders
You want to look for a system that features the ability to send out automatic rebooking reminders.
This is powerful as it stops your clients from disappearing or you seeing them less throughout the year by sending them a friendly reminder to rebook their next appointment with a link to your schedule.
Your business cannot afford to lose any of your existing client base. By going with a system that has this built in, you should see a nice boost in customer retention and growth in recurring revenue.
17. Business Reports And Dashboards
What is the point of an online booking software, if you can’t put your finger on the pulse of your business.
A powerful appointment software should be able to give you quick insights by viewing real-time information on the number of appointments booked, profile views, the number of clients and other useful statistics.
As the saying goes, if you can’t see the problem, you can’t fix the problem.
Like flying a plane, choose a system that comes with an admin dashboard, that way you know exactly where your business is now and where it is going.
18. Tech Support And Help Centre
The last thing you ever want is to sign up for a system, have questions, but then not be able to get a hold of someone for help.
A big thing to look for in an online scheduling service is a professional and easily accessible support team who can be reached by phone, email, or chat.
On top of this, for those who like to figure out things on their own, the appointment booking systems website should have a fully loaded knowledge base and self-service support center.
This should include an FAQ section and search functionality that has the different areas of the system broken up and categorized, such as: set up, reporting, and client management.
19. Unlimited Appointments And Clients
Nothing would frustrate your customers more than them trying to book with you, yet because of some limitation in your booking systems account, you have hit your max number of appointments for the month.
That just cannot happen! So this is why when you select your scheduling software, you make sure it offers unlimited appointments and unlimited clients.
Your business is always going to grow, and the last thing you want to deal with is caps and limits on your account.
Being able to handle an unlimited number of clients and bookings ensures that you can focus on running your business, and don’t have to worry about hitting maximum thresholds that will hold you back.
20. Data Security
Security online is key. Your businesses and your client’s data must be protected and kept secure at all times.
When deciding on a booking system, ensuring that it is fully encrypted & offers secure cloud-based client data storage is critical.
Privacy and data security is getting much more important every single day. You need to make sure that the booking service has your business information security on their mind from day one.
You need to be diligent, especially when it comes to your client’s information, and data security.
Choosing an online booking system should not be hard. Knowing exactly what to look for will definitely facilitate you on your way to business success using your new booking service.
For more information on how Yocale may be able to solve your online scheduling needs, visit business.yocale.com .