How To Create An Online Booking System Free Ultimate Guide
As your business grows, you will require inteligent tools to help you better manage your daily tasks, time and coordinate with customers and staff. One of the tools that you will ultimately need is most certainly an all-in-one appointment scheduling and online booking system.
But how to find and set up an online booking system that will do the job effectivtely and help your business scale? In our ultimate guide, you will discover all the answers and best practices that we gathered over the years’
What is an online booking system?
In short, an online booking system is an interface which enables customers to book the services that you offer in the form of an appointment. With an online booking system, businesses and professionals alike are in control of the services and available slots that are bookable by clients. Setting buffer time and configuring recurring appointments is also possible with many systems. Advanced booking programs will also allow you to set up a customized and branded booking page, as well as send out automated reminders via SMS & email.
How to find an online booking system that suits your business?
Every business is different, and there’s probably no online booking system that works perfectly for all of them. That’s why you need to do your research and find your perfect match.
1. Write a list of the features you need
This will provide you with comparable attributes and help you make an objective decision based on facts. To give you an idea of what useful features are there, here are a few:
- Customizable online booking page that you can brand
- Easy-to-build-in ‘Book Now’ buttons and widgets that you can use on your website, some tools like 10to8 even have WordPress plugins
- The ability to set up as many 1-to-1 and/or group services as you need, be it in person or online appointments
- Automated SMS & email reminders, 2-way client chat – do check if they are included in the price
- Intelligent reporting to track your business performance
- External calendar sync and integrations with the everyday apps that you already use
After you have a full list, do your research. Type in ‘best online booking system’ to Google and you’ll see comprehensive comparison guides from Zapier, FinancesOnline, FitSmallBusiness, and others. GetApp, for example, facilitates a comparison function that lists the features of different software tools side-by-side to make it easy for you to compare them.
Now you might want to read reviews from customers who have already been using the software that you are about to try.
3. Sign up for a trial
Finally, sign up for a free trial that allows you to access the full feature set. The longer the trial is, the more time you’ll have to experiment with the product.
If you are still hesitating between two products this can be a good solution to narrow it down to a final winner.
How to create an online booking system?
After you’ve found the online booking system you want to use, now you only need to set it up and tailor it to your business.
1. Feed in your business details
Enter all the business details you can, as the more information customers can access about your business, this will instill an element of trust.
Make sure that all the details you provide are correct, if you offer services at a physical location, make sure that the address is correct. If possible, add a map view.
2. Set up availability and services
Define your working hours and add blocked out slots for scheduled breaks for example lunch or recurring meetings etc.
Create the services you offer and make sure that they have descriptions, durations, and prices, if applicable, against them. Decide whether you want to take payments online and if so, set it up and test it.
Define the buffer time for each service. Most online booking systems will allow you to restrict how a service can be booked e.g. publicly via your booking page, via private URL or only you can place bookings through your internal calendar.
If you have more staff members, make sure that they all have the correct permission roles, services assigned to them, and correct availability set up.
3. Automate reminders
Automated reminders can reduce no-shows by up to 90%, so it is needless to say, that taking the time to set up these reminders is of the utmost importance.
SMS reminders have a higher open-rate, so make sure that you send out text messages to complement email notifications.
Different services often require different message content, and in many cases, you need to send out a chain of reminders before the appointment. Set up time and service-specific reminders to maximize effectivity.
4. Customize your booking page
Branding is exceptionally important nowadays, as it makes your business memorable for customers. Make sure that you have your logo shown on your booking page, and if you have the option to use a cover picture or other imaginary on the page, only use hi-res images (here are some stock photos), as poor quality pictures can make your booking page appear suspect and untrustworthy.
Remove any other company’s branding from your booking page. To do this you will usually have to upgrade your free online booking system to a paid plan.
Don’t forget to write a detailed description of your business, and what customers can expect. If possible, showcase reviews from previous customers in the form of a review badge.
5. Set up calendar sync and app integrations
If you manage multiple calendars for example via Google, iCal, Outlook.com, Office 365 or Exchange, setting up 2-way calendar sync can come in handy, as it will allow you to see all your appointments in one place and stop double-bookings from happening.
An online booking system is probably not the only app you use, and luckily, it can be integrated with all the everyday apps that you use for email marketing, accounting, social media or video meetings.
Before you start sharing your brand new fancy booking page, make sure that it works properly and provides customers with the best possible user experience.
Place a booking yourself, check if everything works as expected, whether the payment has gone through, reminders are arriving and there are no glitches in the process.
7. Share your online booking system
Increase visibility online by sharing the online booking option with your existing and potential customers. You can do this via your own website, email campaigns, social media and even on your business card.
This topic is so important that we have written a separate article on how to share your booking page for maximum impact.
And ta-da! That’s it! Now sit back and see the bookings roll in. If you enjoyed the ‘How To Create An Online Booking System Free Guide’, make sure to share it on social media. There might be somebody across your friends who need this kind of information to supercharge their business.
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Anna, whose middle name is Hashtag, is an enthusiastic Digital Marketing Executive. She drinks her coffee with cream and Instagram, retweets (almost) every fun fact about koalas and never misses an interesting Facebook webinar about exciting new features. She aims to collect and share the utmost interesting content. And she's also the one, who jumps up and down if we have a new follower on social media.
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