I love getting my hair cut, but I hate making the appointment. My salon doesn’t have an online booking and scheduling system, which means I have to call. Say what you will about the current generation and its distaste for human interaction, but phone calls can be tough for a variety of reasons. Whether someone has a hearing impairment, difficulty with the language, or just a fear of the phone, an online booking app makes it so much easier for clients to schedule appointments. Additionally, everyone can save time if patrons can just select an available opening, rather than go back and forth with a receptionist. Online appointment booking also results in improved staff productivity and fewer human errors compared to taking appointments over the phone.
Apps for scheduling appointments are well within reach for a business of any size. Many of them have a free version, plus a paid subscription option that adds features and lets you customize the booking page with your business’ logo and look. Appointment booking apps also connect to online calendars that you probably already use, such as Apple or Google Calendar, so adopting one is a fairly seamless process.
The best appointment scheduling and booking apps think about all kinds of businesses and their needs. Here are some of the features, scenarios, and business types that these apps support:
- Appointments in which clients come to a central location
- Appointments that require a deposit or prepayment
- Automatic buffer time between appointments
- Automatic text reminders to clients before an appointment, with an option to cancel or reschedule
- Businesses with multiple locations
- Clients with a preference for which staff member they see
- Group appointments
- Housecall-style appointments
- Multiple, predefined appointment types, such as a 20-minute consultation, 60-minute session, 90-minute session
- Package deals and special offers
- Required confirmation for new booking requests
How Do I Set Up an Appointment Booking App?
When you create an account with an appointment booking app, you’ll need to have some key information on hand. First, be ready with your business assets, like images and company logos, as well as the days and hours when you offer your services. Be sure to block off time for breaks or other routine business that you may need to do. You can change these details at any time, but you’ll want to enter something when you first set up.
Next, you need the details about the services you offer, such as descriptions and prices. Some apps let you include images, too. If you have images, use them. You don’t always have to set a fixed price, but for certain types of businesses, it’s helpful.
If you already use a calendar, such as Google, Apple, or Outlook, connect it.
When you complete the setup, go ahead and test it out. Pretend you’re a client booking an appointment. Is it easy? Do you see all the information you need? Finally, check whether new appointments sync properly to your calendar. Additionally, when viewing the availability from the client side, you want to make sure that any times when you have something on your schedule, don’t appear as an available opening for an appointment.
Ready? Go ahead and embed your interactive booking service on your website or start adding the link where necessary.
How Do Clients Book?
Once you have an appointment booking app, how do clients know where to go to book? The answer depends on which service you have and how you choose to set it up.
At the very least, most apps gives you a URL that points to a booking page. You can give this URL to clients however you like, such as putting it on your website or Facebook page or in the description of your business on other pages, such as TripAdvisor, Google Maps, and so forth.
The very best appointment scheduling apps let you embed an interactive booking page right on your website, though sometimes you need a paid account for this option. Some apps also support integration with Facebook pages, letting clients book from there.
Appointment Booking vs. Meeting Scheduling Apps
Very similar to appointment booking apps are meeting scheduling apps. The first type usually presumes clients come to you to request an appointment. These apps can help you maximize the number of clients you see in a day. The second type, however, is more oriented toward finding a time when two or more parties can meet without other time constraints.
It’s important to know the difference and use the right tool for the right task at hand. A few meeting scheduling apps that I like are Doodle, Rallly (yes, three ls), Calendly, and FreeBusy. But let’s save them for another time.
For now, let’s look at some appointment booking apps to explore what they can do for your business.
6 Top Appointment Booking Apps for Your Business
Free with limited features; from $15 per month for more advanced account options
Acuity is one of the most robust appointment booking services on the market. With a free account, you can offer unlimited services and appointments, though you miss out on great features such as the ability to embed the booking scheduler into your website, meaning clients must visit an Acuity URL to reach your booking page. Paying members get not only an interactive app to embed, but also syncing with your personal calendar, integration with invoicing tools and accounting tools, payment processing with PayPal, Square, and Strip, plus more. The highest end service, called Powerhouse Player, can be HIPAA-compliant if you need it to be, so you can use it for healthcare appointments.
Free on one device with limited appointments; paid accounts from $9.99 per month
Appointfix is a mobile-only (Android, iOS) appointment booking app that syncs with Google and Apple Calendar. You use it to create appointment options for clients for a fixed amount of time and for a fixed price. The app helps you keep track of clients, including when they last had an appointment and any notes you made about them. With a free account, you can use the app on one device and schedule up to 100 appointments per month. A Premium account ($9.99 per month or $99 per year) lets you use the app synced across two devices, and you can send semi-automated reminder messages from your own phone number. The $19.99 per month ($199.99 per year) An Ultimate account moves the SMS reminders to a generic phone number, which can send messages on a fully automated schedule.
Free; $10 per month per staff member who takes appointments
If you’re looking for a free appointment booking app, Appointlet is the one to use. You get plenty of control over your booking page at no cost, though you’ll have to be comfortable using its web app, as it doesn’t have a mobile app. You can set up an intake form, for example, so you can collect key information about new clients. The free account allows you to upload your organization’s logo, sync with a Google or Office 365 calendar, and even includes access to some reporting tools. A paid Premium account, which costs $10 per month for every person who needs to take bookings (or $96 per person per year), lets you remove Appointlet’s branding from your booking page, work with pooled availability among teammates, use Stripe for billing, and more.
Free; paid plans from $29 per month
BookedIn is a capable booking app that a busy business owner can set up and manage on the web or a mobile device (Android, iOS). It has you set up your available business hours and list the types of appointments you would like to offer, including each one’s duration and price. The free version of the app only allows for five appointments per month, so this app is really only worth keeping if you like it enough to pay for it. It’s designed to be used by a team, with plans based on the number of people in your group. A Solo one-person account is just $29 per month, while a Squad account supports as many people as you need for $89 per month; there are options in between, too. Paying members get online payment processing, calendar syncing, and unlimited text message reminders to clients.
Free with limited features; starting from $9.90 per month for paid plans
When you set up with SimplyBook, the app asks for information about your business and offers suggestions for beautiful themes for your booking page, which also gets a unique URL. This service is also globally positioned because it accepts payments from a long list of providers from around the world and supports multiple languages. In terms of what you get, it’s a good app, although you may need to watch out for added charges, as it offers a couple of add-on options that you don’t find in many other booking apps. The free plan lets you take 50 bookings per month and add one custom feature (that is, you get to pick one special feature that otherwise isn’t included). Free account holders cannot process payments or offer clients rewards and coupons. Paying customers get all features, can add more custom features, and get more bookings per month. If you hit the ceiling on bookings, you can buy more as an add-on. You can also buy a package of text message reminders for an additional fee.
Fees are based per transaction and vary according to Square’s pricing terms
If you already use Square for payments, you might as well use its included appointment booking app. The app, available on the web, iOS, and Android, is easy to use and comes included with a Square account. You don’t pay anything extra to use the appointment scheduling app, but you must pay all the usual Square fees, which vary based on whether they are made with a physical card, online, and so on. With the Appointments app, you can set up a list of appointment types and add them to your booking page, where people can request them with you. It doesn’t have the most in-depth options, although its simplicity is part of what makes it so attractive. It’s a good option if you need something simple, quick, and easy…and if you already use Square.
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