Guide to Appointment Booking Software for Small Business Websites

Acuity Scheduling Calendar Embedded in WebsiteAppointment booking software puts a calendar and some simple forms on your website so your clients can book your services themselves. Appointment software packages will manage your scheduling or, if you prefer, drop the appointments into the online calendar you already use. At around $20 a month, these could easily pay off for your small service business by making the booking process available 24/7 and extending your reach to the do-it-all-online crowd.

Scheduling software vendors typically offer free trials and, with something as important as your reservations or bookings, you’ll want to try out several before you buy. Here are some of the features to consider:

Price

These services typically charge in the range of $10 to $40 a month, with prices rising based on the number of users on your staff and the features.  There is typically no limit on appointments you can book.  Genbook, a long-time player in this field, prices at $20 a month for one user with all features, up to $70 for six-plus users. BookFresh offers a flat $19.95, unlimited users. Acuity Scheduling is free for one user while Appointy offers a free, low feature version for unlimited users.

Setup

These are “cloud” services, so everything’s done online. You set up the back end by working your way through a menu of choices, entering the details of your business. Some services let you import your existing client list from a spreadsheet. With the back end complete, you insert some simple bits of code on your website, Facebook page or blog to make a button appear—customers click and a widget pops up on your site or they’re taken to your branded landing page on the vendor’s site to make an appointment online.

Calendar and Booking

Your customers should be able to view a simple calendar to see open dates and times for appointments, services, prices, locations and available staff member’s names. Appointy lets clients set up a recurring appointment. After the booking, Acuity Scheduling can present an intake form for the client to fill out online, instead of spending time on arrival at your business.

Confirmation and Reminders

After a client makes an appointment, many of these services will send a text and some will send an email confirmation. Appointy and others go one step further, selling email marketing services so you stay in touch with clients between appointments.

Accept Payment

If you’re in a business that requires a deposit to hold a reservation, some of these services, like Appointy, Schedulicity and BookFresh, will accept credit and debit cards or PayPal for you.

Special Offers and Vouchers

Displaying promotions or coupons on your calendar could help you fill slow days. Genbook and Schedulicity will manage a “buy now” offer program for you, handling the payments for a small cut. Acuity Scheduling integrates with voucher codes or group booking discounts from Groupon, Amazon Local and Facebook.

Reviews

The scheduling process is a good time to ask customers for reviews and ratings and several of these services like Genbook and BookFresh let you collect and publish reviews to your website or Facebook.

Customer Relationship Management

Some of the scheduling software packages double as customer relationship management software. Acuity Scheduling tracks client history and details so you can manage your marketing.

Business Analytics

Acuity Scheduling, Genbook and others claim “robust reporting tools” that track revenue and income performance by appointment types and staff members.

Image: Acuity Scheduling calendar embedded in a website

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