Updated: Aug 1
Cloud-based technologies and automation forever changed the way small businesses, firms, practices, and sole proprietors operate. As advanced systems develop and digitize, even mom-and-pop stores now have the ability to access the most advanced technologies through the use of cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
One such application that has increased productivity and decreased costs for many small to medium-sized operations is appointment scheduling software. What does this kind of tool do, and how does it affect how a doctor, stylist, consultant, coach, or cleaner operates? That’s what we want to look into in this article.
What is an Appointment Scheduling Software?
An appointment scheduling software is a solution that provides an automated scheduling system through an online tool. These kinds of software help businesses of any size and industry organize bookings and appointments. The main way that these software works is by creating a landing page where clients can pick available slots and schedules to meet up with a professional or consultant.
Appointment scheduling software helps improve scheduling efficiency while eliminating the need for a manual check and book process. This helps both businesses and their customers save time and resources in the process. This kind of system helps keep companies and firms productive by organizing weekly schedules, sending out automatic notifications, and storing information in a secure database.
ZealSchedule is an example. It is an all-in-one appointment scheduling suite that auto-pilots your entire schedule. You can easily check out the software with a risk-free 7-day free trial that gives you access to all features.
Crucial Features and Use Cases
Today, dozens of appointment booking software and tools are available to users with different appointment scheduling software features. FinancesOnline has a list of appointment scheduling software to get started.
Features and functions vary per appointment setting software, but there are some crucial features that each must-have. Here are some of the non-negotiables to look out for when selecting appointment scheduling tools.
1. Online Appointment Booking and Management
Up to 77% of patients believe that the option to book, cancel, and change appointments are highly important. The first function that any appointment scheduling tool must-have is an interface to book, cancel, and reschedule appointments.
Online appointment booking helps a clinic, salon, barber, yoga instructor, social media consultant, life coach, or any professional who sets appointments avoid the hassle of the back and forth of trying to figure out what time an appointment can be booked.
2. CRM Database
Client relationship management has been around for decades, but only now are we starting to see digital versions of it. When people schedule in a spa, salon, and other services, they will likely be making multiple visits. By having a CRM in place, businesses and practices can keep records of visits, client information, special requests, and so on.
A CRM database can also act as a command center for customer service and support. An appointment scheduling software must provide these functions by allowing for features like importing and exporting client data, converting visitors into leads, listing down past communications, applying filters and conditions, and so on.
3. Mobile-friendly Interface
The world is moving into a mobile frenzy. Figures show that 82% of clients use mobile devices to book appointments--a far superior channel compared to the 16% and 2% are made from desktops and tablets, respectively. With this said, an appointment schedule needs to have a mobile-friendly web application or a mobile app to allow people to make bookings online.
4. Email and SMS Notifications and Reminders
Another of the more important appointment booking system features is a notification and reminder system. Today, most of the top appointment scheduling tools provide an automated notification service that sends reminders and follow-up emails and SMS messages to people who make bookings.
In most cases, some tools also give people the liberty to customize these reminders and add special instructions according to categories and cases.
5. Payment Gateway
People are starting to use less physical cash and depend on digital payments. Another big feature of online appointment systems is having a payment gateway for payments upon bookings. Potential users should also look at what forms of payments a system can take. Can it take credit cards, mobile wallets, or bank transfers?
Another consideration to look at is the corresponding fees that a system will take as a cut. Most systems take up anywhere between 2-5% in fees for digital payments.
6. Integrations with Other Apps
Let’s say a life coach takes up virtual sessions via Zoom or Google Hangouts instead of face-to-face meetings. This scenario is certainly becoming the norm in today’s new reality. What if a system could automatically create a unique Zoom link along with the booking via a seamless integration? This and many other connections with other apps are another of the basic appointment scheduling features and services that an appointment scheduling software should have.
Other useful integrations are those with a cloud-based calendar (like Google Calendar or Apple Calendar), chat support, marketing tools, analytics, APIs, and so on.
Future Implications of an Automated Frontdesk
Think about this: 28% of bookings happen in the evening after salons close. This implies that professionals can now have more time freedom while taking appointments even when they aren’t working. More and more service-based businesses will start relying on automated front desk features like appointment scheduling software. This will help facilities and small businesses remain optimal and productive.