If your appointment based business already has it’s own website then using an online booking system is a great way to attract new customers. Website booking systems let your customers book and pay for your services 24/7, and are surprisingly easy to setup and use with little technical know-how.
Online booking systems have many advantages that can boost your businesses bottom line. The most obvious advantage is an increase in bookings. Customers who may not have booked your services are more likely to book on impulse, rather than continuing their web search and booking with another business that does provide the convenience of bookings online. These days everyone is comfortable with using the Internet to book and pay for services, so if your business doesn’t provide the capacity for online bookings then you’re missing out on new business.
To start offering online website bookings on your website you must first choose an online reservation system. Most booking reservation systems charge a small monthly fee which can vary from $20 per month up to $100 per month for enterprise solutions. Prices are usually determined by the number of services you provide, and the number of staff/resources that your business has.
Many online booking systems allow your customers to pay for bookings using an online payment solution. When choosing an online booking system make sure that PayPal payments are supported, as PayPal is by far the most trusted and widely used payment gateway today.
Before selecting which website reservation system you will use make sure you try out a demo of what the booking calendar will look like for your customers. Booking systems vary greatly in the technology they’ve been built with, so you want one that’s easy to use and looks good on your site. The booking experience that an online reservation system provides will be the difference between completed bookings and abandoned bookings due to an outdated or un-friendly user interface.
You want to make the booking experience as easy and straightforward as possible for your customers. Don’t choose an online reservation system that forces your customers to create accounts before completing a booking. This is a big turn-off for your customers, and will result in many abandoned bookings. You also don’t want to force your customers to enter line after line of personal information that you don’t even need. A good online reservation system should let you choose what information you collect from your customers when making bookings. It’s important to request only the information you need, since long booking forms will also result in abandoned bookings.
Other features to look out for in a website reservation system are email and SMS/text appointment reminders. Automated appointment reminders will reduce no-shows, saving your business money while providing a handy service to your customers.
Many businesses today use tools such as Google Calendar in running day to day activities. If your business falls within this category then you should choose an online booking system that has Google Calendar integration. Some online reservation systems let you integrate with Google Calendar using “calendar feeds”. Calendar feeds can only update your Google Calendar one-way, and there’s a long delay between updates which means your Google Calendar is not always up to date. If using Google Calendar is important to your business then choose an online booking system that has full two-way Google Calendar integration, allowing you to modify bookings directly within Google Calendar and also ensuring that your Google Calendar is always up to date.
Lastly, make sure your online booking system is powerful and flexible enough to handle things such as staff leave, custom working days/times for your staff, and non-working days for when you’re closed for business. The last thing you want is your customers booking times when your business or a staff member is not available.
Once you’ve chosen your online booking system you simply create an account, fill in some details that define your business and operating hours, then copy and paste some HTML code directly on your website.