What Is Booking Software?
So you are setting up your day spa (or salon, or yoga studio). The brick and mortar store is coming together, you have your products prepared, but because of the particular business you are in, you can't depend on customers just walking up and buying stuff from you. You deal in appointments, tours, and classes.
You could choose to depend on people calling in and setting up appointments, but for crying out loud, this is the 21st century. What you really need is booking software. Something you can attach to your website and link to social media so your customers can sign up for your services on their own. Something automated to take the burden of scheduling off your shoulders.
The thing is, there are a lot of options when it comes to picking what booking software will be best for your particular needs. Enter Merchant Maverick with the solution! Read on for some tips on selecting the best possible booking software for your specific business.
How Can Booking Software Help Your Business?
I should think the answer to this question is somewhat self-explanatory: automated booking software will save you time and headache when setting schedules. However, within that benefit are several facets:
- Packages and Gift Certificates: Most booking services give you the ability to issue and accept gift certificates. Further, most also allow you to group services and products together into packages that will (hopefully) tempt customers into spending more of their hard-earned cash with you.
- Social Media Tie-Ins: Many booking sites now feature integrations with Facebook, allowing customers to book, check in, and review your business through the social media site, in addition to your own website.
- Make Booking Efficient: One of the biggest drawbacks to keeping your appointments on a paper calendar is the possibility of double bookings. Making the process electronic eliminates this chance since the software will automatically block out appointments that are already claimed. The only slots prospective customers will see are ones that are available.
- Analyses: Want to know the exact numbers of classes you have taught? Or the haircuts or facials you have given? Which of your services are most popular or profitable? These questions can be answered, surely, without booking software. However, answers are more easily found and digested when you subscribe to booking software with a reporting feature. Make good decisions for the direction of your business and continue being profitable!
Common Features to Look For:
Booking software boils down to a couple of important components, no matter what provider you go with. Here are the core features you need to look for:
- Web Interface: Whether through your website, Facebook, Google, or some other web location, make sure you are comfortable with the manner in which your customers sign up for your services. Most providers offer plugins for your own website, while some redirect to their own sites. You will also need to decide whether or not you want the aforementioned social media integration so that customers can check in on Facebook.
- Live Calendar: One of the most essential parts of booking software is the calendar. In fact, it encapsulates the entire point of paying for one of these products. You want a calendar that automatically updates as customers sign up for services. With the ability to customize and modify your hours, services, and staff members, you will be able to "set-and-forget" your calendar and let it automatically fill itself for you. Once you have clients booked, you can integrate your favorite calendar, whether that is Google Calendar, iCalendar, or Outlook.
- Manage Clients: Most booking software now keeps tabs on your clients for you, keeping their contact information up to date. This can be especially useful if you plan to also use email marketing in the future. Pairing your client database with Campaign Monitor, Benchmark, or MailChimp could go a long way towards boosting your sales.
- Accept Payment: While not all booking software providers have this handy feature, it is certainly becoming more common. And for good reason! Customers today demand convenience, and what could be more convenient than signing yourself up for an appointment online and paying right then and there? This feature means you will have customers who walk in, take your class or have a haircut, and walk out; they already paid online.
How Much Will it Cost?
A number of factors may affect the price of booking software. The final cost will vary not just between providers, but also between the level of features and access that you require. Here is a breakdown of some things that will impact your bottom line:
- Number of Locations: If you have a single location, you will be able to get a lower rate from your booking software. Sometimes adding additional locations results in a small increase in price (around $10). Other times, the difference is more drastic ($30+). It will be up to you to do a bit or research, aided by our handy reviews above, and pick the provider that is the best value for you.
- Number of Staff: As with multiple locations, adding extra staff will likely increase your overall price tag. However, it is usually less expensive to add staff than locations. On the other hand, some providers offer a single sign-on option, where all employees use the same username and password. Others (usually for a higher price) give each staff member their own profile.
- Payment Processing: I mentioned above that some programs allow you to accept payment when customers sign up for your services. This feature is usually part of the higher-level subscriptions, so if you are interested in this ability, be prepared to pay more for it.
- Number of Bookings: Some, but not all, booking services charge for different levels of bookings. You pay a certain price for "X" number of bookings, and if you need more, you pay extra. This is a kind of an annoying practice, but if the other features of the program make up for it, you may find it worth your time anyway. On the other hand, you could look for a scheduling solution that does not do this.
Choosing Specific Booking Software
Now that you have some idea of what booking software brings to the table, which features to look for, and how much a system might cost, it’s time to get specific. At Merchant Maverick, we’ve spent countless hours researching and testing the best scheduling programs on the market. Read our comprehensive reviews for more information, or check out this handy comparison table if you want a quick overview of the industry in general.