3 Reasons To Use An Online Booking System

Are you missing out on potential sales because you aren’t using an online appointment booking system in your business?  Sounds a little drastic I know, but more and more people are turning to online bookings as their preferred booking option.

I was reading through some comments on a random post the other day about people’s experiences with finding and booking service based businesses. Every comment (and there was quite a few of them) said they had chosen one business over another based purely on which one had an online booking system on their website!! Those websites without an online booking option didn’t even get considered in most cases and were quickly skipped over – even if they had great reviews etc… 

I was quite shocked to discover that so many people were using this as their primary criteria when selecting a business to use. And this wasn’t just for one industry either – it was everything! From finding a new hairdresser or nail salon through to booking mechanics, electricians, plumbers, accountants, health professionals and more! It didn’t matter what services people were looking for – they all preferred to book online. (and no I wasn’t scrolling through an “introverts anonymous” page!) 

So, let’s jump in and have a look at some of the main benefits of using appointment booking software, and why you should consider using online bookings in your business.

1. Convenience

You want to make it as easy and convenient as possible for your customers/ clients to book an appointment with you – without complicating things for yourself in the process. Having an online appointment booking system is the perfect solution for both parties. Most booking software is almost set and forget. So after a little setup time initially, it runs in the background with very little upkeep required on your behalf.

Not only is this convenient for you, but also for your customers. Many of your customers will be scrolling through the internet outside of business hours. People are busy (and let’s face it, often impatient), and if they come across your services and want to book with you, they want to be able to do it then and there while it’s fresh in their mind, not have to wait until the next day to call you and find out your availability.

Even if it’s just to book a consultation call with you, having the ability for people to book online will help to open up your business to new potential leads. (**I’m not saying you will definitely get more leads or more work by adding an online booking system. It simply provides another highly convenient way for people to reach you, which may open up your services to more people who only like to book online. Obviously there is a whole lot more that goes into getting leads and sales than just a booking system alone, it’s just one part of the equation that makes the process easier). 

An online booking system can help improve your customer journey, meaning they are more likely to book your services or purchase from you. So stop turning your customers away without even realising and make it easy for them to book an appointment with you! 

2. Streamline Your Processes

One of the things I often look at with my clients is how they can improve their current processes. Automating or simplifying parts of their process is often a discussion point and while I don’t think everything should be automated, it can certainly be helpful in some instances. An appointment booking system is one of those tasks where I think it’s beneficial to have some automation in place. Implementing an online booking system is a quick and simple way to help streamline your entire booking process.

Having an online booking system just makes the whole process smoother and simpler and it frees you up to attend to other things. It reduces a lot of the manual work you would normally have to do (i.e. confirming availability, sending out meeting requests & Zoom links etc…). And it actually puts some of the work back onto your customer, but they are happy to do this as it’s more convenient for them! You provide your availability and it’s up to them find a suitable time within that for their appointment. Win-win!

Many appointment booking platforms or apps even allow you to integrate a payment as part of your setup (e.g. through Square or PayPal). This is a fabulous feature if you need to take payments as part of your booking process as it’s all done at the same time they make the booking. Again, this reduces the amount of manual work you need to do, making your process just that little bit more efficient. This also helps with reducing no shows and cancellations for your appointments as they have already paid at the time of making their booking so they are less likely to not turn up. 

3. Save Time

The more streamlined and efficient your processes are, the more time it will save you. 

Having an appointment booking system in place means no more going back and forth with someone trying to find a suitable time for you both to meet. Anyone who has had to schedule meetings with multiple people before knows how time consuming and frustrating this can be! And this is definitely time that you could be spending more effectively rather than trying to set up a meeting with someone. 

Automating the appointment booking step in your process improves your efficiency as it reduces a lot of the manual work you need to do. It might not seem like much work for an individual appointment, but it does add up! And the more appointments you have, the more time it takes. Most booking platforms don’t require much ongoing work to keep them running, so you won’t need to worry about spending heaps of time keeping it updated. 

An online booking system may take a little bit of time to set up initially, but I think it’s well worth investing some time to set this up (and making sure it’s done properly). The rewards will be long lasting as once you are set up, you will find that it will start to save you time – especially if you are dealing with a high number of bookings in your business. An online booking system works in the background, taking care of your bookings while freeing you up to work on other things. You can even take bookings while you sleep, how’s that for effective time management!

What to Look For in an online booking system

As with any software or systems you implement for your business, you want to do some research and make sure the program you choose is going to meet your needs and your budget before signing up to anything. There are lots of different appointment booking systems (both paid and free) out there, so take a look at a few to find the one that best suits you. Think about what features are essential to your business, what would be nice to have and what you don’t need at all. Remember to make use of free trials so you can go in and use the program first hand to see if you like it.

Each business will have their own needs to consider, but here are a few features to look for in a booking system/ platform;

  • 2 way syncing – this is a must to get the most out of your online booking software. This is a fairly standard feature, but some programs only offer 1 way syncing which isn’t the most ideal solution for most people as it means manually updating calendars or availability. 2 way syncing means that your online booking calendar links with your usual calendar and any changes made on one platform are automatically updated in the other. e.g. If you have a booking made online it will automatically add it to your calendar, or if you have an appointment in your calendar it will automatically remove your availability for that time in your online booking calendar. Also check how often the 2-way sync is performed, some only update once a day where others will update constantly as changes occur.
  • Payment integration – if you want to be able to take payments as part of your booking process, make sure the program you choose can integrate with your payment gateway (Square, PayPal etc…). This is often a paid feature of booking systems, but it can help to reduce no shows and is a good way to further streamline your process. Also check if there are any additional fees involved from the booking platform itself so you aren’t hit with any unexpected charges.
  • Customisation (e.g. having multiple meeting or appointment types/ durations available etc..) – Again this is often a paid feature, but if you need to be able to schedule different sorts of appointments this can be an essential feature to look for. Have a look at what other customisation options are available that you may need. Most platforms allow you to add your own branding, set your availability directly on the platform, set buffers between meetings, choose how far in advance appointments can be made, set if appointments can be changed or cancelled by the customer and how this is managed etc… Make sure you can customise your chosen platform in the way that you need to for your business. 
  • Team bookings – if you work with a team of people you may need a system that allows your customers to select the relevant team member to book in with, so look for a platform that allows you set up multiple staff/ calendars. This could also apply if you rent out spaces (like meeting rooms) or even equipment and people need to be able to select a particular item. 
  • Ability to integrate with your existing platforms (e.g. website, social media channels, accounting software if taking payments etc…). You want to look at where/ how you are going to use this online booking feature. Most platforms will allow you to embed your booking link directly to your website which is where most people are going to find it. You can also add this booking link to your Google Business Profile, add a link in your newsletter or social media platforms or even add it to your email signature. As these booking systems are run through the associated software platform, you can still use them even if you don’t have your own website, but think about how you are going to get that link in front of your customers.
  • Ease of use – you want something simple for both you and your customers to use, after all the whole point of implementing an online booking system is to make things easier and more convenient. 
  • Reminders – What sort of reminders do you want for your customers? Most platforms offer standard email reminders when appointments are made, but some also offer SMS or text reminders, so consider if you need that kind of service for your customers (this is usually an additional cost). 
  • Budget – this is always a consideration when looking at new software. Compare features and pricing between different platforms to see what will work best for you. Some people will be able to use a free system, but others will need a paid solution to meet their needs. Check that the plan you choose has all the features and functionality you need. Consider future use also, as you want a system that will serve you both now and as you grow.

Final Thoughts

Online booking systems are a great way to provide a convenient booking solution for your customers. They can help to save you time and streamline your processes meaning you can work more efficiently. While service based businesses would probably benefit the most from an online booking system, anyone who books out spaces, equipment or anyone who needs to have consultation calls with customers or even any other meetings can benefit from a booking platform. Simply send your link out to people and get them to book in a time, no more going back and forth to find a suitable meeting time. 

Once you have decided on a platform to use that will meet all your needs, make sure you have gone through all the different settings and options and ensure everything is set up how you want it before you start sharing the link (yes you can go back in and fix things if needed, but it’s best to have it right from the start).

Test it works! There’s no point in having an online booking system set up if it doesn’t work or it’s too difficult for people to use. Get someone you know to do a test run for you to check everything is working as it should. Check the syncing function – does your availability show up properly in your online calendar? When they make a booking does this automatically get added to your calendar (and theirs)? Do all the links work properly, if you have payments enabled is that working correctly? Once you have everything working correctly, make sure you share and promote that link!

Even though most booking platforms are mostly ‘set and forget’ once they have been set up initially, it’s still important to regularly test and review everything to make sure it’s still working correctly. Technology and automations are great – when they are working properly! Schedule this into your calendar to do a quick review every couple of months or so, that way you can identify any issues quickly and resolve them because if your booking system is broken, your customers will go elsewhere. Remember to get feedback from your customers to ensure the process is smooth and convenient for them also. 

So, if you want to streamline your booking process, save some time, improve your customer journey (and potentially get more enquiries/ sales) then I’d highly recommend you look into an online appointment booking system. And if the whole idea of setting something like this up seems too hard or too overwhelming, it’s the perfect sort of task you can outsource to a VA! Or check out what sort of onboarding assistance the different platforms offer as many can help to get you up and running. 

If you’d like to book an obligation free chat to discuss how an online booking system could benefit your business, or how else I might be able to assist you to improve your systems or help you get things ticked off your to do list, book a call with me (through my automated online booking system!) by clicking on the button below.