Online Booking System - image is of a mobile phone on desk next to keyboard, showing Online Book icon

In today’s blog, I’m going to be talking to you about Online Booking Systems.  If you prefer to watch my Facebook Live rather than read, which does contain 34 mins of information, you can find my video at the bottom of this blog.

A couple of my clients have recently asked about using online booking systems in the New Year so I thought I would share my experience and knowledge with you here today

What is an Online Booking System

As the name suggests it is a place where your clients or your customers can go online to book an appointment with you for your services and/or events.  Generally, your client will be presented with a calendar showing your availability and they can choose the time and date that suits them best to book in and see you for their desired service.

Why would you want an online booking system?

Now you may be thinking but I have my good old paper diary isn’t that enough? And in some cases, yes it is! If you love being in control of your diary and don’t get on with technology then maybe sticking with your physical diary is the best option for you.

However one of the biggest pro’s of having an Online Booking system is that it saves you time.  It allows you to get rid of the back and forth messaging, whether it’s WhatsApp, texts, emails or even phone calls of

Client – I want to book an appointment

You – Yes, of course. When would you like to book in?

Client – Oh I don’t know. You tell me when you’re free

You  – Tuesday at 5 pm?

Client – No I can’t do Tuesday, I’ve got the dentist

You – Wednesday at 9 am?

Client – No I’m working…

It’s all the back and forth conversations that take up your time and energy.  Online booking systems basically allow your clients to go in, to see your calendar, to find out when you are free and to book an appointment or an event that is suitable for them.

 

Questions to ask before choosing your Online Booking System

Setting up an online booking system takes time, effort and sometimes money so you don’t want to start with one and then have to switch to another one because that’s just going to be a pain in the bum.  When you are looking to book an online booking system, you, first of all, need to ask yourself:-

  • What services do I offer? 1-2-1 in-person appointments, 1-2-1 virtual sessions, group appointments, classes, workshops, appt packages, gift vouchers
  • How do I accept payments? Most booking systems offer Paypal and Stripe – you will need to create accounts accordingly.  You will also pay fees on client bookings.
  • Do I want to integrate with: Accounts software, Email Collection platform eg Mailerlite, Mailchimp, Virtual meeting platform eg Zoom, Google Meet, CRM system
  • Do I want Reporting features?
  • Do I want to be able to brand it to my business brand colours?
  • Do you want to be able to remove their logo and use yours instead?
  • Do you want a third party software platform that you add a link to on your website or do you prefer a plugin that you add to your WordPress website (if you use WordPress for your website)?
  • If you currently use Wix, Squarespace or GoDaddy for your website, do they offer an Online Booking System option within their features
  • Do you need a mobile app for your booking system?
  • Do you want customers to be able to cancel/rearrange appt after they have booked?
  • Do you want text/email notifications when someone books in?

The Pro’s of an Online Booking System

  • You save time – you avoid the “I want to book an appointment” conversation
  • Your client feels in control
  • You control the times that you are available
  • Avoids being interrupted when you are working on another task
  • Can take payment/part payment for service at the time of booking
  • Can collect client information before they arrive*
  • Avoid “no-shows” or reduce them dramatically

The Con’s of an Online Booking System

  • You are not in control of your diary completely

  • Your client can choose whenever they want to book in – this may leave gaps in between appts that you may have avoided if you had manually booked appointments yourself

My recommendations when using an Online Booking System

  • Use only an online booking system and NOT both system and paper diary – you will, unless you are super organised, forget to update one of them at some point, causing double bookings – which is painful and unprofessional
  • Take time each week/month/quarter and go through and block off all times you are unavailable that month due to work or social reasons to avoid double-booking yourself.  You can’t be in 2 places at once.
  • Encourage your clients to use this system to book their appointments to avoid them still messaging your unnecessarily to book in.
  • Update your Terms and Conditions to include Cancellation/Refund policy re your Online Booking System.
  • Update your Privacy Policy

Available Booking Systems

Third-Party/Stand-Alone Systems

Acuity Scheduling – I have personally used this and do recommend it.  It is a good option if you want lots of your systems to be streamlined.  However it does take a while to get used to and does take time to get setup initially (which is why I offer Acuity Setup as a service).

Pricing (per month) – 7 Day Free Trial – $15 Emerging Package, $25 Growing package, $36 Powerhouse

Pro’s – Lots of features including, number of staff/locations, client can self-schedule appointments, unlimited services and appointments, accept payments, Google Meet and Zoom integration. Mailchimp* integration, Mailerlite integration using Zapier.  Create your own Consultation Forms.  Group appointments, workshops, events. Gift vouchers.  Mobile App available. Service Add’ons

Con’s – Can be steep learning curve at beginning, can take several hours to setup.  Can seem too complicated for some.  Monthly or Annual Fees.

*please note that Mailchimp now charge for their Customer Journey Builder feature and you have to be on their Essential paid plan at $9.99 per month in order to send automatic Welcome emails

Home page of Acuity Scheduling

Calendly – used on behalf of  my clients

Pricing (per month) – Basic Free – $8 Essentials, $12 Professional, $16 Teams

Pro’s – Simple to set up. Can create multiple locations.  Offer free version. Create unlimited 121 services.  Mobile App is available.

Con’s – Mobile App some features not showing that are available on Desktop version (eg setting availability for holidays)  Need to be on the paid package for lots of features such as taking payments, group events, email reminders, automated workflows.  No gift voucher feature is available

Home page of Calendly Booking System

Trafft – Haven’t used myself but have researched for client

Pricing – At the time of writing this blog it is on AppSumo as a Lifetime Deal for $59 for 10 Custom Features and Paid Integrations or $119 for Unlimited Custom Features and Paid Integrations – Lifetime Deal (LTD) means you pay once and don’t have to pay again, regardless how long you use it for, so can mean big savings.

Pro’s – LTD for $59 approx £45, no further payments! Unlimited Services, Removed Trafft branding, Block off holidays and special days for staff, coupons, custom fields, group bookings, integrates with Zoom, Google Calendar, Outlook, Google Meet, Mailchimp, Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel.  Payments with Stripe or Paypal. Text and email notifications.

Con’s – Haven’t used myself so can’t comment on quality

10to8.com – Haven’t used myself except to add link to button on website

Pricing – Small Business – Free, $9.60 Basic, $20 Grow, $40 Bigger Business

Pro’s – Free version to test drive system

Con’s – Haven’t used myself so can’t comment on quality

10to8 booking system home page

WordPress Plugins

WP Amelia – Have installed and set up for clients – recommended

“Amelia is the most feature-rich and affordable Booking Manager for WordPress websites with a smooth and shiny interface.”

Pricing (Annual) – £47+VAT = £56 Basic, £83+VAT= £99 Pro

Pro’s – Unlimited appointments, unlimited staff, multiple locations, customisable design, payment via Paypal, Stripe or Mollie, WooCommerce integration, text messages, schedule recurring appointments, zoom appointments, group/event appointments

Con’s – Packages of services only available on Pro.  No Mobile App.  Have to access via Dashboard on website.

WPAmelia WordPress Plugin Home page

Brindle – Have purchased but have not setup – will update once I have used it

“Brindle Booking is a premium WordPress plugin that lets your customers & clients book services via a sleek, calendar-based interface. Perfect for booking on-location services, online meetings or calls, with support for multiple staff members and online payments.”

Pricing – Currently on AppSumo for $11 Lifetime Deal instead of $39.  Lifetime Deal (LTD) means you pay once and don’t have to pay again, regardless of how long you use it for, so can mean big savings.

Pro’s – $11 or approx. £7 one time payment!!  Simple to use, 121 appointments, zoom appointments, take payment at the time of booking, multiple staff members, customise services, customise branding, lifetime support. 

Con’s – This platform is in its infancy so not all features are available now however lots of features planned for Roadmap which are being implemented quickly. No mobile app.

Brindle WordPress plugin home page from website

Summary of Online Booking Systems

During this blog I have discussed:-

  • What is an Online Booking System
  • Why do you need one
  • Questions to ask before choosing your system
  • The Pro’s of an Online Booking System
  • The Con’s of an Online Booking System
  • My recommendation when using
  • Available Booking Systems – Third-Party/Stand-Alone Systems
  • Available Booking Systems – WordPress plugins

Next Step

Now of course this is not a complete list of available software out there, by any means, just some I have used and come across, with my opinions of them.  

I would highly recommend you do your homework and research the systems before subscribing.  Remember not all systems are equal but on the other hand, you may not need an all-singing, all-dancing version with all the features if you just want a straight forward way to book clients in, so don’t get sucked in by shiny features you are never going to use but will pay for.

And when you do decide on your ideal Online Booking System, set aside several hours where you will be uninterrupted to set up and learn how to use your preferred system.  

I hope this has been helpful.  Let me know how you get on and if you need any help please do get in touch.

Watch My Facebook Live Here