How To Increase Customer Engagement With an Online Booking System for Small Business Websites
Your customers appreciate autonomy and the ability to make decisions at their convenience. Fortunately, an automated online booking system cam facilitate that. How? Let’s explore it.
How do you book appointments? Do you communicate with your clients via phone calls or emails, check availability and then painstakingly enter the schedule details into a spreadsheet or calendar? Without an automated online booking system for small business websites, managing appointments or reservations can become a tedious and time-consuming process.
Fortunately, booking software integrated into your website can streamline the scheduling process and make booking appointments hassle-free. But how does this software work, and how to choose the right one for your small business website? Read on to find out.
- An online scheduling tool can help small businesses save time and reduce administrative burdens by streamlining the scheduling process and automating the manual process of appointment bookings.
- Using the web-based interface of appointment scheduling software platforms, customers can search for available bookings, choose the preferred time slots and make payments independently and conveniently.
- Businesses with online booking systems can actively update their calendars in real-time, manage bookable inventory, customize booking details and generate performance reports to make informed business decisions.
What is an online booking system? From reservation to appointment scheduling software
An online booking system is software that enables customers to make reservations, book services, schedule meetings and manage their own appointments online. This software enables customers to search for available schedules, choose a preferred date or time and make online payments to secure appointments or reservations using a web-based interface.
The software automatically updates the business calendar, making it easier for you and staff members to view open schedules or upcoming reservations, manage availability and avoid double-booking appointments. You can also set automatic reminders for upcoming customer appointments and implement cancellation fees so customers take their bookings seriously.
Different types of booking software exist to accommodate the different needs of any business. For example, hotels and restaurant businesses can use reservation software to allow patrons to book rooms and tables online. Healthcare providers, spas, beauty salons and other service-based businesses can employ different scheduling software to manage client bookings and one-on-one appointments.
The benefits of an online booking system
Why should you implement online appointment scheduling software for your small business website? Let’s discuss the top advantages.
- Improved efficiency: Online booking software saves you time and increases business output by automating manual tasks such as appointment scheduling, availability management and payment processing.
- 24/7 availability: Customers can book appointments anywhere and anytime, which allows them to schedule meetings outside regular business hours. Remember that convenience is a powerful tool.
- Reduced number of no-shows: Clients can commit ahead by making payments on the appointment booking page, followed by automated email and SMS reminders to lessen the likelihood that they miss or cancel appointments.
- Increased revenue: By making it easy and convenient for customers to schedule appointments, you can attract more customers and, consequently, generate more sales.
- Optimized business operations: Online scheduling tools can generate insightful reports on appointment history, customer preferences and booking trends, which can prove helpful in refining your business or marketing strategies.
- Enhanced customer satisfaction: By providing clients with accurate, real-time availability data, easy management and the option to set up recurring bookings, you can significantly reduce scheduling conflicts and enhance their experience.
- Streamlined business processes: You can integrate scheduling apps with various business tools, such as payment gateways, CRM systems and marketing tools, to create a cohesive and interconnected ecosystem that simplifies operational workflow.
How does online booking software work? 7 key elements of the booking process
The booking software has two main components: The customer-facing booking interface and the business-facing management interface.
Businesses must access a web-based dashboard to manage and organize schedules, set availability and booking rules, and customize customer appointment details.
For customers to be able to schedule their upcoming appointments, seven key aspects of the booking process must be met.
- Booking pages: This is the web-based interface your customers must access to make reservation requests or book appointments online.
- Availability checks: Customers should be able to select the service package or appointment type they want to book and get a real-time calendar view of available time slots to make informed decisions.
- Client information: Scheduling tools should include client-intake forms that clients use to provide their name and contact information, as well as other details regarding their appointment requests.
- Payment collection: Making payments in advance using a secure payment gateway on the booking page should be possible.
- Schedule confirmation: The system should automatically send the customer an automatic confirmation email or message with the booking details for reference.
- Automated reminders: Customers should receive email reminders or messages about their upcoming appointment or reservation.
- Post-Booking follow-ups: Follow-up emails or messages could be sent to clients after the appointment or reservation to request feedback, offer further services or enable them to set up recurring appointments.
How to choose an online booking system for small business websites
When deciding which booking software to choose, small businesses must consider a few key factors. These include your business needs or preferences, software features, integration capabilities, pricing and customer support availability.
Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular appointment scheduling and reservation booking tools, their pros, cons and prices. Although you should always research the available options yourself, this overview might help you make an informed decision and learn what to look for when choosing the right tools.
Appointment scheduling tools
Calendly takes a coveted spot as one of the best appointment-scheduling software for small businesses. It features a simple and intuitive user interface. This means small business owners who aren’t tech-savvy can use the tool without feeling lost. Calendly also enables creating a customizable booking page that you can personalize according to your business needs and requirements.
|Pros||– User-friendly interface|
– Highly customizable
– Seamless integration with a diverse range of tools, including sales & CRM, video conferencing and marketing tools
– The Basic plan allows unlimited appointments for one-on-one meetings
|Cons||– Limited features in the Basic plan|
– Customer support is self-instructional
– Some report usability issues on the mobile version
– Sub-optimal integration with Microsoft Office/Outlook
|Pricing||Essentials ($8/seat/mo), Professional ($12/seat/mo) and Teams ($16/seat/mo) plans offer increasingly more features. There is also a custom pricing option for larger enterprises.|
Square Appointments is another great choice for small businesses looking for a scheduling tool with a seamless way of accepting payments. It comes equipped with advanced scheduling features, automatic appointment reminders, online payment processing and customer management tools. Scheduling meetings is easy as customers can view open schedules and choose the preferred time and date.
|Pros||– Easy to use|
– Highly customizable
– All-in-one solution for appointment booking, invoicing and payment processing
– Provides an option for customers to pay in installments
– Integrates with Google Calendar, Instagram, Yelp and other apps
– Dedicated account manager
|Cons||– Limited support for integration with payment tools|
– High pricing relative to competitors
– Setup can be confusing and time-consuming
|Pricing||The Free plan is limited, but users can get more features using Plus (starting from $29/mo) and Premium (custom pricing) plans. Users pay monthly on a per-location basis.|
Acuity Scheduling is a scheduling app with a robust set of customization features. For instance, advanced features like Make Me Look Busy allow you to strategically block off selected time slots to imply limited availability and foster a sense of urgency. Integrations with payment processors like Square, Stripe and PayPal allow collecting payment in advance.
|Pros||– Highly customizable with custom features|
– Robust third-party integrations with Zoom, QuickBooks, MailChimp and other tools
– Calendar syncing across multiple platforms
– Integrates with Squarespace websites
– Mobile apps for Apple and Android users
|Cons||– No free plan|
– Relatively complex user-interface
– Users may need to get past a learning curve
|Pricing||Acuity Scheduling offers three plans: Emerging ($16/mo), Growing ($27/mo) and Powerhouse ($49/mo). All plans include a 7-day free trial.|
Reservation booking tools
Checkfront is an excellent choice for businesses that offer multiple services and need a centralized management platform. Using this software, you can enable customers to view daily, hourly or nightly availability in real-time. This can help provide a more detailed view and prevent double bookings. And to ensure timely and consistent communication with clients, you can set automated notifications to be delivered right after bookings.
|Pros||– Easy to navigate and use|
– Free trial included
– Flexible customization options
– Comprehensive booking management features
|Cons||– Phone support is not available for Starter plan users|
– The learning curve may be steep for new users
– Prices are high for small businesses with limited budgets
|Pricing||Although the Starter plan is $0/mo, if you need more features and support, you will need to pay for Growth ($107/mo) and Managed ($595/mo) plans.|
ResNexus is powerful and feature-rich reservation software that helps businesses manage bookings for their services or properties. Key features – like automated yield management – utilize advanced algorithms to help you determine optimal pricing for varying market conditions. The booking engine is user-friendly and easily embedded onto your website, so guests can select their preferred schedule and book directly with ease.
|Pros||– Lifetime pricing guarantee|
– Smooth integration with online travel agencies like Airbnb, TripAdvisor and Vrbo
– Excellent customer support
|Cons||– The setup process can be complex|
– Pricing is not transparent
– Limited reporting options
|Pricing||Although there is a 30-day free trial, to learn about ResNexus pricing, you need to contact the company and request a quote.|
ThinkReservation is one of the most popular reservation tools for businesses in the hospitality or tourism industry. The Channel Manager feature enables integration with multiple distribution channels, including online travel agencies and global distribution systems, allowing businesses to expand their reach and increase bookings. You can also synchronize inventory, rates and availability across different channels to eliminate discrepancies and reduce the risk of overbookings.
|Pros||– ADA-compliant and mobile-responsive |
– Robust channel management capabilities
– Revenue management and optimization tools, including dynamic pricing algorithms
– Exceptional customer support
|Cons||– Pricing is not transparent|
– Limited customization with automated email templates
– No free plan
– Learning how to use the software may take time
|Pricing||Pricing is provided upon request.|
WAcademy Web Services: Online Booking System
If you are looking to manage bookings efficiently for your own business purposes, implementing a trustworthy and easy-to-use online booking system might be the way to go. Whether you need appointment booking or reservation scheduling software for your small business website, perhaps we can help.
If you are currently in the process of planning or even building a website, we can help you with free web design services. As you can save a ton on web design with WAcademy services, it might be easier to integrate more sophisticated client management and booking software that fits comfortably within your budget. Besides free web design services, we can also integrate a booking system on your new website.
How can we offer free web design services, you may ask? It’s all pretty simple, and it’s NOT a scam. WAcademy runs a web design internship program that trains the web designers of tomorrow. To ensure the best possible results for our interns, we provide real-life projects. This is how we started working with small businesses that need business and ecommerce websites.
In return for your trust in WAcademy and our interns, we offer free web design services. And over 30,000 small and medium enterprises can attest to that!
As we design your website, we can implement a variety of services to make it more efficient and user-friendly. From automated invoicing, GDPR cookie banners, under construction pages and pop-ups to Meta Pixel, live chat, SEO and social feed integrations to website administration services. We can help your business take off online.