What is an online scheduling system?

Online scheduling systems are now the norm in many industries and not offering one can cause you to lose business. In a time when everyone is after instant actions, having to call only during business hours or wait on the phone until someone can assist them can cause a lot of frustration and send your clients to your competitors. Every type of company will feel the benefits of an online scheduling system regardless of whether it is a consulting business, medical practice, salon or any other service-oriented company.

An online scheduling system is a piece of software that integrates with your website to provide your business with a convenient way to manage time. Not only can your customers visit your website and book an appointment with your or one of your team members but you can also use it to manage the timetables of your internal employees.

A good scheduling system will include the ability to implement automation so that you can cut down on missed appointments and last-minute cancelations by sending reminders to clients via email or SMS. Scheduling systems also give you a way to accomplish many other tasks related to business including collecting payments, registering clients for upcoming events and creating sales reports.

Beyond offering a seamless experience for your clients, you can customize scheduling solutions to match your company’s website and branding so that no one knows you are using external software. This helps make your business look modern and can give new customers an extra boost of confidence when it comes to your level of professionalism.

Key Features of Online Scheduling Systems

Every online scheduling system will offer a different set of features, so it’s important to choose one that fits with your business’ needs and budget. Make sure you look for the following features if you want to streamline the online booking process:

  • A central dashboard to manage multiple calendars for you and your employees
  • The ability to set blocks of time or days as unavailable
  • Client access to book and cancel appointments
  • Support for reoccurring appointments
  • The flexibility to schedule bookings for a variety of times such as 30 minutes, one hour or longer
  • Forms to collect client information such as contact details and reasons for meetings
  • Integrations with other popular calendars like Microsoft Office or Google Calendar
  • Mobile-friendly displays so clients can schedule appointments from any device
  • Automated appointment confirmations and reminders sent to you and your clients via SMS or email
  • Integrations with your CMS so you can track customer information and appointment history
  • Social media integrations for promoting events and conferences
  • The ability for more than one person to schedule a time for group sessions
  • Customize the look of the calendar with your branding
  • Automatic refunds or partial refunds for time-based cancellations
  • Send out invoices and accept online payments via credit card, e-check or other payment options
  • Accept coupons or discount codes for services
  • Create sales reports for different team members and the entire company
  • A SaaS-based solution that can be easily updated and maintained

Keep in mind that while the features listed above are common, some of the most robust online scheduling systems or those built for enterprise companies may include additional features. If you are interested in specific functionality, know that you may need to seek out a more specialized system or one that relates to your particular industry. On the opposite side of the spectrum is free scheduling software but these come with limited flexibility and customizations. However, if you’re not looking for something fancy, they might provide you with what you need.

Finding the Right Online Scheduling System

There’s no shortage of online scheduling systems to choose from so you should plan to research different options and compare what’s being offered at a variety of price points. When you start the process, it will be easiest to limit your choices if you have a clear idea of what you want the system to be able to do. A good place to start is with software directories which provide you with product descriptions from the online scheduling company itself alongside unbiased customer reviews that discuss everything from ease of use to the level of customer service provided by the supplier.

After you’ve narrowed down your choices to a select few, reach out to the companies to schedule a demo or start a free trial. This will enable you to go beyond the basic messaging you read on the company website and actually test drive the product. You’ll be able to see how easy it is to use, if it integrates with your current technology and if it truly serves your business goals. If you find that a solution doesn’t work for you, you won’t have invested your money into the wrong option.

Once you’ve made your final decision, get your online scheduling solution up and running as fast as possible. Run a few tests to make sure that when your clients give it a try, they won’t experience any glitches. Let your customers know that you’ve taken new measures to make meeting with you more convenient for them with an announcement via social media or email. You might even want to offer an incentive for those who opt to use the online booking process.
You’ll instantly find that much of the time that was previously allocated towards administrative tasks is now free, giving you and your team the ability to focus your efforts on more profitable activities.