Driven by a vision of relentless product improvement, co-founders Jason Morehouse and Grant Jurgeneit launched a beta version of Checkfront in 2009. Their goal was to create an application that integrated seamlessly into pre-existing websites and simplified scheduling and payments. The company’s commitment to improvement through integrations with other software and responses to customer feedback continues.
While the company remains fairly small and has received some flack for lagging in customer service during its early years, its unflagging growth, beautiful system design, and solid reputation suggest that Checkfront is a good investment for businesses in the tour and activity sphere. Professionals who take single appointments (rather than recurring bookings) might find a more fitting solution somewhere else.
Checkfront’s four pricing plans differ mostly according to the number of staff accounts and bookings your business takes per year. The plans are as follows:
- 3 staff accounts
- Basic support
- 1,200 bookings per year
- Limited integration
- 10 staff accounts
- Priority support
- 3,000 bookings per year
- Access to additional integrations
- 20 staff accounts
- Toll-free phone support
- 6,000 bookings per year
- 2-hour consultation and setup
- Unlimited staff accounts
- Dedicated account manager
- 12,000 bookings per year
- 3-hour consultation and additional support
Checkfront offers a free trial available which lasts 21 days, no credit card required. Annual subscriptions and nonprofits both receive a 15 percent discount. Developers of system integrations receive a free designer/developer account.
There’s a 30 day money back guarantee (45 days for Enterprise accounts) for any paid account. Recent changes to the plans largely favor consumers, lifting the cap on staff accounts for the Enterprise plan and offering more payment integrations at the Soho level.
Ease of Use:
Checkfront takes some cues from game developers, opting for a presentation that builds anticipation and gamifies the learning process. The user interface is clean and organized, and setup is particularly easy, taking less than 30 minutes on average. The whole platform is very intuitive and stable. What’s most refreshing about it is that everything is exactly as complicated as you, personally, want it to be. Minimalists can create appointment types by doing little more than naming them, while the more detail-oriented can add media, packages, pricing, etc.
Setup: Setup is a guided process. After entering a minimal amount of data to create a profile, you’ll be dropped into a three-step tutorial that tracks your learning process. It’s short, quick and helpful. You can also ignore it, if you choose.
Integration: Checkfront’s design was created for businesses with pre-existing websites. Its developers have made it very easy to embed a functional plugin directly into any CMS platform. Checkfront assumes that if you already run a website for your business, using short codes to insert your booking application shouldn’t be too much hassle — though there is the option of using their functional-but-basic booking site. After you install a plugin on your website, you simply have to make some automated formatting choices and copy-paste an automatically generated short code into your CMS. You have the option of adding more shortcodes to the basic one to control the layout better. If you’re not using WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla for your website, you can also create a droplet code that “embeds an interactive real-time booking window into any website”. You can also create a Book Now button.
User Interface: As mentioned, the user interface is awesome. Professional and modern, with simple colors and lots of white space, the layout has been nicely formatted and arranged to lead the user where she needs to go. Developers keep adding neat touches to make the software even more intuitive, such as the ability to navigate the calendar with a keyboard. The navigation bar in the header is also very impressively and intuitively arranged, a simple but useful element which should never be taken for granted. A unique option is the ability to customize your dashboard with a drag-and-drop interface.
Settings: Checkfront is designed to integrate seamlessly on other websites and attractively display inventory. When adding a service or product to your inventory, summary and details can be formatted however you like, and you can connect links to external websites. You can also easily upload or link to video and up to five images per item. Checkfront offers basic customization, including branding and choosing text for booking policies and welcome notes. More on the back end, you can create detailed access settings for each staff account as well as a nickname. Settings for bookings (which I’ll describe more in the Features section below) are based on sets of rules and “events” you can apply to certain items or timelines, effectively making it possible to create different settings for bookings based on when they occur rather than who’s offering them or only item-by-item.
Calendar: The coolest thing about Checkfront’s multi-format calendar is the option to view customer and inventory calendars. The customer calendar shows one to six weeks of appointments ordered by day, item, and customer. This gives you a great overall view of what’s coming up. The inventory calendar lets you see the remaining inventory of each item on each day (again one – six weeks’ worth), color coded so you can see quickly whether each item is full or sold out. In fact, all the calendar views are color-coded according to the booking’s status. The customer’s name appears within the colored bar representing the invoice/booking, which can stretch across days, along with the number of items they have booked. In the weekly and daily views, the calendar only shows booked time slots, rather than a full view of that day with appointments scheduled in.
Customer Experience: The customer experience of Checkfront really depends on the business using it, since the booking application is meant to be integrated into another website. The application is clearly designed, reaching all the standards customers used to booking online might hope for. On the confirmation page, for example, you can see clear buttons to add to or clear your order. As a customer you can also print receipts or create another booking automatically. Finally, customers can search a business’ inventory by keyword within the application.
Customer Service and Support:
Checkfront’s customer service is top notch. They promise an average of a four hour response turnaround during the workday (Pacific time) for email support requests.
Updates: Checkfront is very diligent about updates, releasing at least frequent updates.
Instructional Videos: A 4.5-minute-long video gives you a great feel for the backend of the system. Four other short videos describe how to install and setup, use Xero, and use Facebook to take bookings.
Community Forum: Threads are broken down into announcements, feature requests, tutorials, developers, and general questions. Checkfront’s responses to users tend to be very respectful and honest: In a conversation with potential client, Jason Morehouse warns them: “Checkfront works best for businesses with reoccurring inventories. Most of our customers offer rentals, tours or some sort of reoccurring activity / event. If the availability and items change often, for example lots of one-off dates that don’t reoccur, there are better systems that line up with that setup … you’d probably want to look for appointment scheduling in that case.”
Support Library: The Support Library is made up of links to tutorials or descriptions of 44 topics concerning getting started, billing/subscriptions, extensions,, developers, configuration, inventory, and tutorials.
Blog: CheckFront’s blog updates users on integrations, testimonials from around the world, and instructions.
Email Support: Receive email support via the company’s website or the support portal in your account.
Phone Support: You can reach Checkfront by phone at 1 (800) 559-0985 in the U.S. and Canada.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Virtually all the complaints about Checkfront I could find online were made in the first year of v1.0’s release, and they all had to do with customer service.
Customer Service: Several complaints about customer service were posted on Google Apps Marketplace. Checkfront posted very polite, thorough responses to them (though not always in a timely manner).
Buried Features: While the learning tools are great, it isn’t always obvious where to look for the information you need.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Checkfront has received good reviews from various online sources. It’s rare to see a product with higher than three stars across the board: Checkfront got 4 out of 5 stars on Google Apps Marketplace, 4.8 on GetApp, 3.8 on Google Play (for the Android app), and 3.5 on iTunes (for the iOS app). Users most often praised the customer support, many integrations, and ease of use.
Customer Support: Many users appreciated Checkfront’s support, especially their setup help. One Google Apps Marketplace reviewer called support “very friendly and extremely intelligent,” and another, “top notch.”
Integrations: Other users liked the payment processing options and accounting applications.
Interface: Users described the GUI as “intuitive” and “clean.” The dashboard is also unusually beautiful and functional.
Scheduling: Finally, a KillerStartups.com reviewer noted that Checkfront helps businesses customize their availability and seasonal rates — particularly applicable to the tour/activity industry.
Checkfront offers some great advanced options for making the interface work for you, taking payments and invoicing clients, and viewing and analyzing the data the system is constantly collecting. While not offering wildly configurable settings or tangential business solutions you would never have thought to look for in booking software, Checkfront has some neat tricks up its sleeve.
The software’s current features include:
Integration with Websites: An essential feature of Checkfront, seamless website integrations are made as easy as possible, particularly if you have a WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal site. A hosted booking webpage, droplet code for any other CMS, and Facebook integration make it possible to book customers right from other sites too.
Dashboard: Checkfront’s is the most user-friendly and functional dashboard I’ve seen yet! There’s no satisfaction quite like opening a software application and feeling like a pilot. You can choose to display up to 4 of 11 useful widgets — including a monthly calendar, of course, but also graphs of booking volume or website visitors or bookings by month, lists of new and upcoming bookings, an activity log, revenue by month, and bookings by category, month, or item. Drag-and-drop these widgets in any order you prefer, and open certain widgets like bookings and the monthly calendar in full screen to see more detailed information.
Mobile Apps: Checkfront has developed solid mobile apps for Android and iOS devices. The iOS app works quite well, though it’s very simple; you can see basically see and add bookings, as well as scan 2D barcodes. Switch between days on a monthly calendar to see the number of bookings, then hit “view” to get a closer look. From the listed bookings, you can select one and see more details or check in the client.
Automatic Invoices & Receipts: Checkfront’s invoices and receipts have a branded, professional look. They include an automatic booking ID, booking status, your booking policy, 2D smartphone barcode, and details of the order, including date, time, quantity, and rate. You can also add notes to an order and choose to show it on the invoice/receipt for the client to see.
Booking Options: Bookings on Checkfront are made as open invoices, to which clients can add products and orders. You can bookmark an invoice for easy viewing later. There are six pre-made color-coded booking statuses and you can create as many custom ones as you desire. Each invoice has an automatic booking ID assigned to it. From the invoice, you can check customers in and out (to keep track of no-shows and customer activity) and add notes to the appointment. Email notifications can also be configured according to the creation date of the appointment.
Reports: The system logs and displays lots of information to the user, including timestamped records of every interaction with a customer and booking status update. Visually pleasing reports display data on traffic (website visits & bookings as well as staff bookings), system activity, transactions, vouchers, booking volume by month, revenue, booking totals by item, bookings by discount or voucher, a daily booking report by category & item, and a daily cash-out report. All the reports are in a format (either chart or graph) suited to them, with an adjustable scope or level of detail when appropriate. You can view the system or booking log within the activity log, for example, or choose to view according to staff member or priority. All reports can be exported as an Excel sheet, CSV file, PDF, Word document, or XML.
International: Through user-inputted translations are at different stages of completion, Checkfront supports Chinese (Simplified), Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Thai. You can also create a private translation for your own account, which isn’t shared with other users or taken as the official translation. There is no documentation or support in other languages than English. Checkfront supports 28 different currencies.
Customer Map: Using existing customer data, Checkfront creates a Google map accessible through the navigation bar of your customers’ locations in relation to yours — an interesting little feature the developers must have thrown in for fun! (Or, I suppose, to offer you more data in keeping with their commitment to reports and analytics.)
Checkfront allows you to take full payments or deposits, fixed or percentage-based, at the time of a booking. You can also choose to charge customers a full amount, but only if booking less than a certain number of days from the start date. It’s possible to create taxes or service fees, either compound or inclusive, which you can then apply to all customers or only customers in a certain region.
Checkfront integrates with the following payment processors, applicable according to region, to accept payments:
eWay & eWay 3.1
- Kentucky Interactive
For maximum uptime and speedy performance, Checkfront uses servers in 5 different locations throughout the US, UK, and Asia. They display weekly network status updates here.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Checkfront has integrated with a variety of third party platforms to make the software a streamlined solution for small businesses. The following features are available via integrations.
SMS Notifications: Though free as a Checkfront add-on, integrated SMS platform Twilio charges $0.01 per message.
TripConnect by TripAdvisor: You can show real-time availability, pricing, and bookings for accommodations on TripAdvisor through this new application.
Email: You can use MailChimp or Constant Contact for customer email marketing.
- Slack: New to Checkfront is Slack integration, so you can get a notice in that service when a booking is made.
Signature: Checkfront recently integrated with RightSignature to allow you to accept legal signatures on forms online.
Document Sharing: With Google Drive integration, you can upload and share documents onto your Checkfront account.
Marketing: Through Google Adwords and Analytics, you can see and optimize the success of your website traffic.
CRM: Checkfront is integrated with both Salesforce and Zoho CRM.
Calendar Notifications: You can include downloadable iCal notifications in customer confirmation emails.
Accounting: Checkfront is integrated with Xero for business accounting.
Mobile: Accept bookings through Apple’s Passbook and use 2D (QR) barcodes on receipts for iOS and Android apps.
CMS: Checkfront offers short codes for easily plugging into WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla! You can also copy-paste a Droplet Code into any website.
Facebook Booking: You can take direct bookings on Facebook through the Checkfront app.
Payments: Checkfront integrates with 23 payment platforms. For more information see the “Payments” section above.
A small company with some great programming skills and increasingly good customer service, Checkfront seems committed to their users. They’ve created a product that is scalable and functional for small businesses. Constant upgrades and the high quality of their integrations show how receptive the company has been to customer feedback from its very origins. They offer a sincerity and transparency very rare in business, and the software industry particularly.
Checkfront’s system is a flexible and functional solution for companies managing tours, events, rentals, activities, or accommodations. Advanced booking and pricing options, as well as support for a wide range of language and currency, make it useful for many businesses. But, as the company’s own website states, “we aren’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution.” So keep in mind that Checkfront isn’t suitable for everyone, nor is it the cheapest option around. That said, you won’t find booking software easier to use or with more potential for growth.