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- Date Established
- Miami Beach, FL
- Intuitive User Interface
- Easy to Use
- Customizable Feature Set
- Inconsistent Customer Service
- Poor Mobile Apps
A relatively recent arrival on the web-based appointment software scene, BrightCalendar offers solutions exclusively for the charter and tour industry. It’s headquartered in Miami Beach, Florida, and managed by Kevin Martin of web marketing and development company BlueClaw Group. BlueClaw offers customized packages – including BrightCalendar – for charter, tour, marine, and outfitter businesses seeking online booking and marketing solutions. BrightCalendar is essentially independent of BlueClaw, however, revealing no connection to the company in its website.
Perhaps because it’s a young company or perhaps because it wants to control its image, BrightCalendar severely limits its public face. With just an outdated Facebook page and fragments of a company profile available on the Internet, BrightCalendar doesn’t seem too interested in connecting to existing or potential customers through popular channels. The company’s approach is very personalized and contained: Rather than viewing standard demos through YouTube or Vimeo, potential clients submit their business information to BrightCalendar. BrightCalendar creates an account based on the details given and schedules a personalized half-hour demo to explain how the solution fits with the client’s needs.
The unique setup process captures BrightCalendar’s general business model: Tailor the product to a very specific need, and make sure your potential customers (and only your serious potential customers) know exactly what they’re getting. As such, the software doesn’t really work for businesses outside of the tour/charter industry and doesn’t satisfy any desires for help, support, or interaction outside of the company’s website, phone contact, and email address. Nevertheless, the software is a solid product with helpful options for reservation booking and excellent POS, payment processing, and revenue tracking capabilities.
Table of Contents
BrightCalendar offers annual pricing between $599 and $999.
Unlike most companies, BrightCalendar does not offer monthly or self-selected standard plans. Pricing is based on what you and BrightCalendar together determine your business needs after conversation and a personalized walk-through demo. The client can opt to test the new account for 7 days with no credit card or obligation. The price you settle on during the demo and trial period remains the price you pay for your account in the future.
All accounts include unlimited use and bookings, setup, phone and email support, the mobile app, and new features.
Ease of Use:
BrightCalendar features a generally intuitive, straightforward user interface.
- Setup: Initial setup is done for you, based on information you email BrightCalendar and your website. For the 7-day demo you receive an email with a temporary username and password to log into your account.
- Graphic User Interface: While BrightCalendar isn’t necessarily hard to navigate, it lacks the slick ease of more polished sites. The dashboard has a professional appearance, mostly white and blue with lots of rather small Arial font. Icons accompany major titles but are generally limited. The dashboard can be set to month, day, or default view, in which you can view the current day’s bookings and a list of accessible calendars. A green “add reservation” button in the top left corner makes creating new reservations easy from anywhere within the site.
- Settings: BrightCalendar settings are mostly standard and straightforward. Interesting ones, however, include making a reservation from the settings page takes you through the exact series of windows that a customer would view, though of course without leaving your dashboard to visit the client booking page. Other basic useful settings include the ability to view four months at a time and configure any one day’s availability and services. You can set appointments to public, not shown, or call for availability.
- Calendar: The software’s calendars are reasonably interactive and intuitive. You can create multiple calendars in one BrightCalendar account, each with unique settings. Configuring a calendar involves choosing settings like start and end dates, whether payment or deposit is required upfront, how many calendars are subordinate to it, a logo, tax and gratuity options, and what credit cards to accept.
- Categorization: Items, reservations, and charges can all be separated into groups, making them easy to track and organize.
- Customer Management: Going to the customer page means opening a search by last name or email rather than seeing a complete list or list of groups; however, you can export a .csv file of the list that comes up from your search with one easy click of a button. Unfortunately, there’s no way add customers yourself from the customer management page; you have to book a reservation and fill in the information that way. From the “Payment Gateway” settings page you can choose what customer contact fields to display and make mandatory for when customers book with you.
- Coupons: Creating a new coupon is very simple. Determine its name, maximum number of redemptions, start and end date, value, whether clients can use multiple, and whether it offers a percent or dollar amount discount. Voila!
- Customer Booking: BrightCalendar’s front-end is very simplistic and easy to follow, with lots of white space in its layout and clear fonts and buttons. Customers first choose a day, then a type of tour, and finally the times for that type offered for the chosen day. After choosing how many tickets of what kind for that booking, they see a preview of the order with options to add to cart, add a coupon, change the reservation or check out. The checkout page is equally clear and simple, with the total owed appearing at the top of the page and an SSL certification appearing beneath it. The confirmation email is well laid out and easy to read. Unfortunately the email comes with no link back to the booking page. Your account’s email address appears as the sender.
- iOS App: The app, which seems functional, has an interesting layout: From the dashboard you can choose Reports or Availability. Though there’s no full calendar view on the app, from these buttons you can view or make reservations, apply payments, and create reports.
Customer Service and Support:
BrightCalendar’s customer service and support is both uniquely personal and extremely limited. There are records on Facebook and the Better Business Bureau of customers being ignored or promised solutions they did not receive.
My experience with the company was mixed. While it ended up taking a total of one week to complete the conversation-demo-login process, having to connect with a knowledgable human voice from the beginning of my relationship with BrightCalendar definitely improved my attitude toward it. Ultimately, however, I (modern as I am) would prefer a range of thorough and accessible online customer service tools to sparse contact with the most knowledgable of humans.
- Personalized Setup: In order to avoid the low retention rate inevitably suffered by sites offering free demos, the company offers to set up your account for you and guide you through a personalized walk-through demonstration of how it works. This approach establishes a personal connection between you and the company early on and cuts down on the number of people leaving the site out of frustration with or ignorance about potentially simple issues. As I mentioned in the Overview, it also puts you at the mercy of a single personal or perhaps small team of customer service representatives who operate via one phone and one email address.
- Facebook: BrightCalendar’s Facebook page, founded in 2004, has garnered almost 3,000 “likes.” Unfortunately the company offers little information on its “About Us” page and has not posted or updated since the summer of 2012.
- No Additional Help: There is no self-starter alternative to contacting the company directly: no FAQ, blog, or tutorials.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
BrightCalendar’s extremely personalized approach to customers and tight control of its public image prevents the dissemination of lots of bad press; however, some angry customers posting on Facebook and Google Play, as well as one who went so far as to report to the BBB, suggest that customer service and the Android app are the company’s Achilles heel.
- Unresponsiveness: BrightCalendar received an F rating from the Better Business Bureau after failing to respond to a customer complaint as well as attempts by the BBB for background information.
- Android App: BrightCalendar’s app received a 2.5/5 star rating on Google Play. Users complained that the calendar wasn’t syncing properly or, in some cases, at all.
- Limited Customer Relationship Management: My biggest problem with the software was how little it lets you do with your customer data. While offering detailed, beautifully streamlined options for payment information, BrightCalendar doesn’t offer any tools for analyzing or reaching out to your customer base.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
According to the tour, charter, and resort business owners who offered testimonials for BrightCalendar’s website, customers enjoyed the software’s flexibility and ability to suit their unique needs, financial tools, and ease of use. Several users also praised the customer service, calling it “incredibly quick and responsive” as well as “professional, friendly, and prompt.”
- Streamlined Solution: Customer management and revenue reporting.
- Well Suited for Target Industries: Fits unique businesses like CT River Expeditions, who said “Since it was the only system that was truly capable of handling the uniqueness of our businesses schedule. Not only is the reservation system flexible…”.
- Easy to Use: Some customers described the system as easy to use, particularly setup and creating reports.
- Good Customer Service: Users liked the personal attention and advice they received from BrightCalendar, so much so that one writes,
The customer support goes above and beyond with assistance and follow up!
BrightCalendar has a few solid calendaring tools, excellent payment management and financial reporting, and very basic customer relationship management.
- Scheduling: Scheduling is highly tailored to tour/charter businesses: Combine private and group fares of different availability levels (maximum numbers of participants) for each occurrence of an event or activity; extend activities across several days; and adjust fares, availability, add-ons, and customer forms for any particular day or activity.
- User Management: BrightCalendar offers very flexible options for adding multiple users. Every user you add to the account receives a password as well as completely tailored permissions: You can choose which calendars they can view and exactly what functions (reservations, settings, layout, customer search, etc.) they have access to.
- Customizable Widget: Unlike many other in-site scheduling widgets, BrightCalendar’s can blend in to the appearance of the business site without either pulling customers to a new booking page or distracting them with BrightCalendar advertisement. The widget boasts clear, distinctive buttons and images with descriptions for each activity. It’s designed to be easy to implement and to integrate with Facebook.
- Custom Links: BrightCalendar designed links to the booking page to be as specific as you like. You can find a global link (for your whole calendar) on the settings page of your account as well as a date- or activity-specific link on the reservation management page.
- Coupons: Coupons, which are automatically hidden from customers if you don’t offer any, are easy to create. If a coupon brings the customer’s payment down to zero, the booking page will skip the payment information fields for ease of use. BrightCalendar supports both regular and bulk coupons like Groupon and Living Social vouchers. You also have the option to exclude the cost of add-ons from coupons.
- Forms: The coolest things about BrightCalendar’s customer information forms is that they can multiply according to the number of people in a group booking and that each element has a fully customizable format and content. You can supplement the customer’s information about themselves with notes to their bookings that only you and whoever you allow access to can see.
- Financial Tools: BrightCalendar’s financial tools are some of its most creative and useful ones. You can create rain checks and refund customers as well as apply payments to bookings at any time. You can track what your clients owe you and what you’ve already collected.
- POS Platform: The software makes it easy to create and track inventory, add additional charges to or change the price of an activity at any time, and create preset or custom deposit amounts. You can create bookings without any payment required or take full prepayment only. Each add-on you create can include any number of items in your inventory. You can also add fees according to either the number of bookings or the number of people booked.
- Custom Reports: In addition to taking payments, you can analyze them pretty thoroughly too! In BrightCalendar you can create reservation, credit, and financial reports for a particular time frame. Financial reports include revenue breakdown by reservations, optional items, fees, refunds, tax, and owed. You can create custom reports by choosing up to 8 (out of 22) fields to display. You set how to order the results display and whether to allow “limited access users” to view it. Print any report or export it as a .csv or .pdf file.
BrightCalendar gives you flexible options when it comes to payment collection. You can collect credit card numbers (of specific card types) to charge later, use your current merchant processor, or get set up with BluePay, Merchant Warehouse, Cybersource, or Authorize.net. Whatever medium you use, you can choose whether you want to require a full deposit, default deposit, new deposit, or no deposit at all.
BrightCalendar does not support cash or check payments.
BrightCalendar is PCI-compliant and hosted by RackSpace, whose reputation for stability and security is excellent. Scan Alert performs security audits for the company every three months. Your data is never deleted. For your clients’ ease of mind, SSL Certificates appear on the booking widget.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
BrightCalendar shies away from all but payment integrations. The company is partnered with BluePay and Merchant Warehouse and supports Cybersource and Authorize.net for payment processing.
BrightCalendar’s expremely tailored and personalized approach to business and software development has its upsides and downsides. Creating personal contact within the company during setup certainly makes it harder for the potential customer to casually end a trial account out of apathy, uncertainty, or frustration. At the same time, reliance upon one small office’s availability for all your needs could frustrate those accustomed to greater autonomy or more immediate satisfaction. The company’s interaction with its clients has the character of the relationships between friendly small-town businesses: pleasant, personable, and relatively inefficient.
As far as functionality, BrightCalendar offers some great features for the charter and tour industry that standard booking software geared toward a variety of SMBs simply doesn’t. It has some particularly flexible payment, POS, and financial reporting options that could make it an invaluable business tool for many. That the calendar widget is built to blend into a business’ pre-existing site speaks volumes. The software’s limitations in customer management and the company’s limitations in customer support channels make me hesitant to give a blanket endorsement of BrightCalendar, but it’s a totally reasonable option for charter and tour companies. If your business is within that industry or has similar needs, I definitely recommend you contact BrightCalendar to set up a no-strings-attached demo. Expect good people, slow service, and a solid product. Just like the old days.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.