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Managing your schedule and booking clients can take up a lot of time that you could otherwise spend serving those clients, or eating lunch. We examined three online booking services that make it easy for clients to book appointments online via your company's website or Facebook page. The three are popular with service-based businesses such as consultants, cosmetologists, and personal trainers.
Each service lets clients pick times that work for them, and then it sends automatic reminders to reduce no-shows. You choose between a solo plan (to support a single owner) or a multiuser plan (to support an unlimited number of staff members who have access only to their own calendar. Since the services function entirely online, there's nothing to install on your computer; and you can access your calendar from any computer that has a browser. Each service also maintains a mobile-friendly website, so you can manage your calendar from a smartphone.
But there's more beneath the surface. Each service has unique features such as promotions, analytics, and the ability to accept prepayments. Which tool is right for your service-based business? Let's take a look.
Since it launched in 2010, 15,000-plus subscribers have booked more than 10 million appointments through Schedulicity across the United States and Canada, making it the largest service in our roundup. Schedulicity is also the most robust, with strong customer-relationship management tools and customizable deals and promotional tools.
Signup and Setup
The straightforward setup process walked me through the steps of creating a profile for my music lessons business, defining the types of lessons I offer (including pricing and duration), and specifying the times that I'm available. During sign-up, a pop-up window offered help from a live chat support team, though I found the steps easy to follow without additional consultation; Schedulicity also has lot of videos and even free webinars.
Schedulicity provides a ScheduleNow button for your website or Facebook page. A client who wants to schedule an appointment clicks the button and then, with the aid of a pop-up, walks through choosing a service and provider and picking a time from among your open spots--all without leaving the browser or having to install anything. After creating an account with Schedulicity, clients gain access to a personalized scheduling page with one-click rebooking, appointment reminders, and links to cancel or reschedule appointments.
Another option is to add appointments or block out personal time from the management page. When you create a new appointment, you can select from current clients or add a new client, and you can create a one-time appointment or a series of recurring appointments.
You can subscribe to your Schedulicity calendar via Outlook, iCal, or Google calendar. Because the subscribed calendar is read-only, you must make changes from the Schedulicity website.
Importing my current client list entailed rearranging my spreadsheet to match the columns that Schedulicity needed, but all of the data imported without error. You can rate each client's reliability, and you can define whether individuals can book appointments online or must contact you to set up an appointment. A client history report shows past bookings, deals, and promotions.
The one thing that Schedulicity won't track is money. Clients can't use the service to pay in advance for services, and you can't use it to keep track of deposits that you may require clients to pay in order to hold a time slot. This limitation isn't a big deal if your policy is for clients to pay at the time that they receive your service, but if you require a deposit to secure a time, you'll have to track that separately.
Deals, Promotions, and Marketing
Schedulicity lets you send mass email messages to your clients based on various templates, including industry-specific artwork, newsletters, seasonal promotions, and invitations to book or connect online. You can also invite Facebook fans and Twitter followers to check out your online listing and book online.
News media have reported many instances where businesses that use services like Groupon to offer a deal have lost money when overwhelming response to a promotion has forced the company to provide too many discounted services in a day. Schedulicity helps protect your business from this misfortune by letting you set caps on how many times clients can redeem a particular promotion, and on how many discount-claiming clients can schedule a service on a given day.
Price: $19 per month for a single user; $39 per month for 2 to 20 users; personalized business plans are available for larger numbers of users; 30-day free trial
Pros: Clean, easy-to-understand design; robust marketing tools; lots of support documentation
Cons: No money management
Bottom line: Schedulicity is easy to use despite incorporating lots of options, especially in connection with its robust promotional tools.
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