How many times this week have you been with a customer and had to put them on hold so you could schedule an appointment with another customer? It feels rude, but you can’t afford to lose any business.
Or, how many back and forth emails have you gone through just to set up a call—one that won’t last as long as the amount of time you wasted setting it up?
It’s a common conundrum for small businesses, but today there are so many tools at your fingertips to make appointment and meeting scheduling a snap!
Technology to the Rescue
Whether you own a salon and need to book client appointments, are a landscape designer and need all stakeholders on an update call this week, or a copywriter scheduling an interview, you can streamline your day by letting the robots do the heavy lifting.
It sounds scary, and you may worry that you’ll need tech-savviness to set up a system, but if you know how to email, you already know enough to use today’s tools.
We’ve already talked about saving you precious time by switching to digital signatures and getting a robotic assistant, and today we’re going to help you regain even more of your time to do what you love!
Restaurants Have Been Doing This Forever
Online scheduling is nothing new—you’ve been able to book a table at many restaurants for nearly two decades. That’s all we’re talking about here—tools to allow people to book, cancel, or reschedule online, instead of having to call you or send 20 emails back and forth.
There are apps that do everything from scheduling to payments, and others that you can use in combination with each other to create the perfect scenario for your company, but flexibility is one of the top features you should be looking for when considering your options. Flexibility for your company (in that you can customize) and for your customers (in that they can access it from any device, for example).
And the great news is that today’s tools are simple and can be customized for your needs. For example, if you run a medical office and know one of the doctors will be on vacation, you enter the dates she’ll be out of the office into a scheduling app, and people online will not be able to schedule appointments for those dates.
Pro tip: poking around your existing tools may reveal an option you already pay for (for example, if you use Square as your payment processor, they offer an appointment tool).
Two Different Types of Apps
It is important to note that in the scheduling world, there are two types of tools:
- Appointment booking (which often requires a payment processing feature for deposits or payment)
- Meeting booking (which is more focused on getting multiple people on the same page)
Some companies need both types, while others need only one. A graphic designer is more likely to need a meeting booking tool, for example, while a mobile vet will need appointment booking.
The goal of any tool, however, is to cut out unnecessary manual work on your part and to make your website (or other points of communication) even more necessary for customers.
Appointment Booking Apps to Consider
There are so many amazing options these days to allow people to book appointments with you online, even requiring a deposit or payment. Automating this doesn’t just free up time—it modernizes your process to meet customers’ expectations.
Acuity Scheduling is a popular option for small businesses or freelancers as it allows you to integrate with PayPal, Stripe, Square, Braintree, and Authorize.com and can connect to your iCal, GCal, Outlook, and Office 365. One of the major advantages is that not only does it tie in a payment system, but bookings also happen in real-time, so no one double books (not all options are live).
Simplybook.me is another great option not only because it’s customizable down to the colors and branding, but it can be embedded on your website and your Facebook Page so you always meet customers where they are. It sends you alerts for all bookings, you can collect customer feedback, and it features payment processing along with gift card and coupon options. You can even accept payments in Bitcoin! This is a more robust option, but for some, more options can be overwhelming, so dive in knowingly.
Speaking of robust, vCita does everything from bookings and payments to CRM (customer relationship management) and marketing. This could be your shortcut for more than just booking appointments. Regarding appointments, it is a great tool when working within teams so you can add notes to appointments and no one misses a beat. The focus is on the full relationship with the customer and even offers SMS texting alerts for clients, prospects, and you.
Setmore is a straightforward scheduling platform with both free and premium options. Like the others, it allows online booking and reminder alerts as well as calendar integration so everything is synced. It also integrates with Instagram and Facebook, as well as WordPress, Slack, and (most likely) your existing CRM tool. It is mobile-ready, which means it is optimized for your clients on the go. Other benefits include reviews, staff logins for time management, and custom branding.
10to8 is a fascinating system because the creators designed a tool based on their research at Cambridge University on appointment workflows, design, and communication. This tool helps with your coordination, offers automated text and email reminders, provides built-in chat to connect with clients, manages payment processing, and most uniquely, includes reporting on your booking performance over time.
Five Meeting Scheduling Tools to Consider
Herding cats is a huge part of any professional’s life, and getting people to a meeting or on a call at a time that works for everyone can be rage-inducing. Here are five tools that will make your life much easier and allow you to get back to work!
Calendly is one of the most popular options today and can be added to your website easily. It is a snap to set up, integrates with your calendar (and theirs), is time-zone aware, and offers metrics and reporting as well as privacy options. You can set up one-on-one meetings, round-robin meetings, collective, and group meetings. What we really love about Calendly is that it offers a “minimum scheduling notice” option so no one can book last-minute meetings if you don’t want them to.
My personal favorite one-on-one meeting scheduler is Assistant.to. Instead of embedding on your website, it lives in your Gmail at the bottom when composing an email and is all click, drag, and drop. It allows you to offer an individual a series of times, which can be remembered by the app, or customized every time you offer your calendar up to others. I prefer this because I don’t make my schedule public, and there are times that I’m willing to meet with one type of individual but not another, so this makes it all private. Sweet privacy!
This tool offers flexibility to schedule time with the team by meeting time and is designed to collect information to grow your database. It connects with Gmail, Outlook, GSuite, and Office365, and features email sequences, templates, and tracking too. It packs a pretty powerful punch, especially if you’re already using Hubspot in your marketing.
Appointy is an interesting option because not only does it feature the standard cat-herding options for meetings, it can be used on your website or Facebook page, and it comes with a subdomain that you can share with your customers. It supports over 20 languages, and clients can book recurring appointments—a super useful option that can save even more time!
YouCanBook.Me is a scheduler for external and internal meetings and can be customized. Once something is scheduled, it can actually send out reminders via text or email and keep no-shows at bay. It’s extremely easy to use and is laser-focused on taking everyone’s schedule into consideration. And there are no infinite frills to wade through.
Almost all of the aforementioned tools can be embedded in your website. If that sounds overwhelming, looking up how-to videos on YouTube can help (for example, “how to embed Calendly on website” will offer dozens of options to dig through, and a few minutes of watching can get you pointed in the right direction).
Lastly, if your website runs on WordPress, there are ample plugins to choose from that work natively on your site, all with various customization options.
Let us know in the comments which of these scheduling and booking tools you are going to try, or if there are options you use in your own business successfully. Let’s save time and herd fewer cats together!