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Swedish CEO and founder Niclas Marie created TimeCenter’s small business scheduling software with a partner in 2006. Marie became a small business owner in 2002 when he started nicar media, a web development shop. In the following years he developed appointment scheduling software for two Swedish companies. In 2007, Marie worked with user interface expert and marketer Daniel Ellenson to launch a beta version of TimeCenter, software similar to what he had created but aimed at small- to medium-sized businesses.
Marie and Ellenson released TimeCenter in the US in 2009. YoungUpstarts and GetApp featured reviews of TimeCenter two years later. Today the software is available in English, French, Swedish, and Danish and has scheduled close to 4 million appointments.
Pricing varies according to the number of individual calendars your business requires. Each staff member or resource requires a separate calendar, in which you can set up either classes or services.
TimeCenter’s 30-day trial account includes unlimited calendars and doesn’t require a credit card. For paid accounts, TimeCenter accepts Visa or MasterCard and offers to refund your subscription within 30 days (no questions asked) if you don’t like the service. The three tiers of paid accounts are:
1. One: $29 per month
- Single user
- One calendar
2. Pro: $49 per month
- Small Team
- 10 calendars
3. Premium: $99 per month
- 50 calendars
SMS: Text message reminders and confirmations come in packs of 100, 500, and 1000, starting at $16 cents per text. TimeCenter offers 50 free text messages thrown with any prepurchase (beyond the one month subscription). Every account receives 10 free text reminders to start.
Prepayment: You can choose to prepay for 3, 6, or 12 months, with 5-10 % discounts offered for the longer subscriptions and 50 free texts for any, including the 3-month subscription.
Ease of Use:
TimeCenter’s best reviews all describe the software as easy to use. Its user interface is minimalistic and plain while retaining a professional feel. The straightforward layout and lack of extraordinary features makes setup and navigation through the site very simple. It took me less than an hour to discover every feature, and only a little more time to test them.
- Setup: Initial setup requires only very basic business information and a single service name and duration. First-time users will get the briefest of pop-outs explaining the main tabs, but the site is otherwise self-explanatory. The only thing I found counterintuitive was setting up calendar availability. Rather than choose regular business hours for a main calendar and creating service categories or staff calendars within that, you manually create totally unique hours on a particular day for each separate “calendar” and can repeat that schedule over the coming days or weeks. You can insert breaks into the day’s schedule or delete several days from within a string of repeated schedules. Essentially, there is no primary calendar; all schedules are created and kept separately.
- Graphic User Interface: TimeCenter’s ease of use comes largely from its friendly icons, clickable buttons, primarily white and light gray color scheme, and simple organization. Big buttons, clickable checkboxes, and drop-down lists for every customizable setting make your choices as a user very clear. The site’s simplicity makes use very non-threatening.
- Settings: TimeCenter offers some options for most settings, but never many. For example, you can add your own 80-character message on to the automatic appointment details shown in SMS reminders and confirmations by, but the messages are identical and impersonal. You can choose the text but not the formatting for email reminders/confirmations. You can decide that events and classes should not always be open, but you can only set their availability to one or two weeks in advance. Service settings include name, duration (which can be set to the minute), and description. There is an option to hide each service from clients.
- Customization: TimeCenter’s business websites all look identical; there is no room for branding with colors or a logo. A blue header names the business and a two-tab bar offers to take you either to a bookable list of services or an “About Us” page featuring a business description with a booking policy and contact information. A Google map of the business address is integrated into the “About Us” page. You can customize the text in SMS and email communication going out to clients.
- Calendar: TimeCenter’s calendars have day, week, and month views available. The day view lists only the appointments in each calendar; the week view shows open and filled slots; and the month shows each day as open, closed, or fully booked. Color coding tells you whether each clickable day or time slot is open, fully booked, or closed. Icons in the week view associated with each appointment show you at-a-glance whether clients are new or have notes attached to them. You can also print out or add a memo about the appoinment to the pop-out box that opens when you click the appointment in the week view. From that same box you can go to the customer’s profile or cancel, reschedule, or rebook the client. Selecting an open slot takes you to your client database to choose a customer to book. Overall using the calendar is painless and fun.
- Staff: Each staff that enters an email address in their account setup gets their own password. The main administrator can restrict access to calendars and client database for any staff. The calendars belonging to each staff member appear as tabs in a sidebar. Services are tightly associated with the staff calendar under which they were created and can only be adjusted through that particular staff’s page.
- Customer Booking: Businesses can easily integrate a Book Now button, which leads the user to the TimeCenter page, into a pre-existing website. The customer booking page layout imitates that of the rest of the software and is therefore very easy to use. During booking, customers can view the calendar by week, month, or even as a list (for classes). A name and cell phone number are always required to confirm a booking, along with any other fields you deem mandatory. Unfortunately, required fields are indistinguishable from optional, making it impossible to tell what information is necessary until the customer’s confirmation is denied. This annoyance is balanced out by the fact that each client receives a password associated with their email address for signing in to view, cancel, print, or reschedule their appointments from the booking page. You can demo the customer scheduling process here.
Customer Service and Support:
TimeCenter offers quick, thorough answers by email and even offers phone support, though you might strongly prefer email if you live as far from Sweden as I do. For your convenience, 21 FAQs are listed under the support tab of a business’ TimeCenter page for the most common questions.
Additionally, CEO Niclas Marie also keeps up a “Small Business Guru Blog” at blog.timecenter.com with tips for small business owners. TimeCenter seems to limit its client and media outreach to the blog and email/phone support. The company has no public videos or Facebook account. Daniel Ellenson’s Twitter account is officially associated with TimeCenter, but unfortunately he stopped activity in 2011.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
While TimeCenter’s public reviews are limited to general company profiles and several totally positive customer reviews, I found some limitations and one glitch while testing it.
- No payment information: TimeCenter deals strictly with appointment scheduling, making it incapable of taking payments from clients or even tracking revenue. Integration with a payment platform, the option to safely capture credit card information, or even just the ability to produce reports based on the worth as well as the mere number of appointments would greatly enhance the software’s capabilities.
- One staff per service or class: There’s no way to assign more than one staff member to any service, though you can add multiple services under a single staff.
- No categorization of services or classes: TimeCenter treats all services and classes as uncategorized and equal, presenting them in a simple list. This could be overwhelming or tiring for clients as well as staff trying to book appointments.
- Text message glitches: While I love TimeCenter’s text message features, the test SMS messages I sent contained glitches. One contained a couple odd characters in the middle of my sentence and the other, a longer one, was cut off.
- No branding or site customization: There is no way to make the customer scheduling page your own.
- Not yet enhanced for mobile devices: While TimeCenter has no app or mobile view, the company is developing mobile enhancement for its website so that customers can book more easily on their phones or tablets.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Virtually all of TimeCenter’s positive reviewers described the software’s ease of use, while a couple cited the general benefits of switching to online appointment booking (eg. cutting the cost of a receptionist and allowing customers to book 24/7). Here’s what they said:
- Easy to use: Once you get used to the unusual way calendars are set up, manipulating TimeCenter really is totally intuitive. A provencredible.com review called TimeCenter “user-friendly”; a KillerStartups reviewer called it “smooth” and easy to use; and a South African pediatrician wrote,
“Compared to other booking systems, it is extremely intuitive and quick and simple to use, both for the patients and for me.”
- Easy to customize texts and emails: A 4-star user rating on GetApp included praise of TimeCenter’s customer email and text message feature. As with other settings and features, TimeCenter really does strip down your responsibility in communicating with clients so that all you have to do is select recipients and enter your text in the text box.
- Client information: TimeCenter also does a good job letting you choose what information from your clients you want to collect and keep. The seemingly limitless custom fields you can add to the customer booking page, general notes, and time-specific “journal entries” are all kept in the customer database, which you can export via Excel for use outside the software.
TimeCenter doesn’t extend to helping you with your finances or marketing efforts, but it does scheduling well. While the clickable calendars with list, week, and month views are nice, and while it’s great that you can sync your TimeCenter calendar with iCal, these features are more standard fare than signs of greatness in scheduling software. Most of the standout elements of TimeCenter revolved for me around the way it creates an automatic account for your clients and makes it easy for you to communicate with them.
- Journal Entries: In addition to the “notes about client” element of a customer profile and the record of their answers to custom booking field questions, you can add “journal entries” to the customer database. This way you can keep track of time-specific notes, such as how a customer appoinment goes or feedback the customer gives. Each note in the journal captures the date it was written and its author.
- Client Communication: In TimeCenter you can communicate with clients through both text and email. You can send SMS message or email newsletters to all or selected clients. Though you have to be a paying subscriber to send newsletters, trial account users can send up to 10 texts directly to individual clients from the client profile page. When I tested this feature, I found the text messages delivered right away (from a random 5-digit phone number) but contained some errors.
- Customer Database & Analytics: You can add as many custom fields (and make them required or optional) to client profiles as you desire, as well as one appointment question. Each field and the appointment question appear when customers book online. You can find and merge duplicate records as easily as you can export an Excel sheet of client information. In Account Statistics, you can find out how many appointments you have scheduled over any period of time – broken down by day of the week, month, calendar, and service. Unfortunately, you can’t upload a preexisting customer list.
- Class Registration: TimeCenter offers course management in addition to services. You can choose how far in advance classes are available for online booking as well as how many slots any one client can reserve.
- Multilingual: TimeCenter started in Sweden and was not available in English until 2009. Today you can find the software in Danish, French, English, and Swedish.
TimeCenter does not take prepayments, deposits, or credit card information or integrate with any payment platform that does. The site suggests ways you can take client cards by phone or in person.
For the sake of security and minimizing downtime, TimeCenter chose UK-based Rackspace to host their server, which also includes 128 bit SSL-encryption for further enhanced safety. Since July 2010 the server has had 99.99% uptime. TimeCenter performs daily backups and plans to start backing up every minute in a few months.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
You can sync TimeCenter calendars with external calendars that accept iCal, including Outlook, iPhone and iPad, and Google Calendar. Syncing is painless and instant. TimeCenter does not integrate with other software or websites.
TimeCenter provides reliable, secure software that has worked for businesses across the globe over the last seven years. It doesn’t promise to replace your accountant or become a marketing consultant, but it performs a receptionist’s job quite efficiently. TimeCenter makes it easy to keep clients informed about your business and reminded of their appointments. It is undeniably easy to use for both customers and businesses.
TimeCenter promises stability and slow, steady growth. While not the right fit for tech-savvy business owners who want software that can integrate with others for the sake of increased functionality and a greater social media and online presence, TimeCenter has proven itself durable and useful. If its unusual calendar setup works for your business and you want the ability to keep extensive notes on your customers, TimeCenter might be a good choice for your appointment booking software.