If you are still booking appointments for your business via phone or email, it's time to step up your game before you get left behind. Consumers like things fast. And easy. That's especially true when it comes to making an appointment. They just want to get it done, with no hold times on the phone and no waiting for an email response to their request. That's where a good online booking calendar comes in.
You don't have to just take our word for it. Recent research from the statisticians at GetApp found all the following when it comes to the ability to book an appointment online:
And this all makes sense. In a world where you can summon a ride in a few clicks from your smartphone (thanks to Uber) book a place to stay almost anywhere in the world (with Airbnb) or order dinner delivered to your door from a huge number of restaurants (via apps like Deliveroo) people now expect the similar conveniences from almost all service providers. If the research is to be believed you could lose up to 30% of your potential clients by not offering online appointment scheduling.
Given that we've now shown you just what a difference it makes to customers when they can book appointments online you are probably getting ready to figure out just how to do that, starting with choosing a software product to provide you with the online booking calendar you'll need to set the system up.
But what makes an online booking calendar good? What features should it offer? And how much should it cost? Here's a look at some basic features to look for when choosing between the various options out there.
Besides wanting things to be as fast as possible, consumers want things to be as easy as possible. A good online booking calendar offers a consumer facing interface that is easy to navigate, easy to understand and does not require them to enter reams of information just to make an appointment.
At the same time, the best system is easy for the business owner to use as well. If the software you are considering looks over complicated or like it may come along with a steeper learning curve, then you should keep looking, as no one - not you or your potential clients - has time for that.
Consumers want to know that any information they share with you - both personal and financial - is as secure as possible. No one wants to think that just because they wanted to book and prepay for a service online their information - or even their identity - will be compromised.
Not everyone works Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 and not everyone books their services in hourly or half hourly increments only. Some providers may also want to take pre-payments or deposits for their services at the time an appointment is booked.
The ability to customise your online booking calendar to suit your needs - and those of your clients or customers - is a must. Being able to do that without having to spend hours struggling to set everything up is a real plus. Again, if the software you are considering looks too complicated, move on, there are easy-to-use options out there.
There is also appearearance to consider. If you appointment scheduling page sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of your well-designed website it won't exactly be appealing will it? Look for a software that will allow you to create an online booking calendar that compliments, rather than clashes, with the rest of your branding.
Not all of those who use an online booking calendar need a payment gateway as well, but some do. For example, if you're a tattoo artist, can you really afford to block off four hours of your very valuable time if you don't have some form of reassurance the client will show up? Requesting a deposit will help do that and if the client can pay quickly, easily and securely they'll be happy as well.
How many hours do you waste calling clients and customers to remind them of their upcoming appointment? And how often do you encounter a voicemail, leaving you unsure of whether they will get the message on time or not? Email confirmations can be even less reliable.
A better solution is to send a text message reminder. Remember that survey? More than 60% of respondents said they would be open to receiving text reminders and that they would help them remember to keep the appointment so not sending SMS appointment reminders really would be a bad move wouldn't it?
A good online booking calendar will offer you an SMS text option and it will be one that's easy to set up and easy to maintain.
In an ideal world, you shouldn't have to worry about pricing when it comes to choosing a great software solution that will help grow your business and keep your customers happy. But this isn't an ideal world and small businesses do have budget restrictions.
That means that the best online booking calendar should not cost you more than the price of a couple of fancy coffees a month. It should also come along with a free trial, so that you can take it for a ‘test drive' before committing to it.