You have a service business, own a hotel, or run a tour agency. Business is starting to pick up, and as it does, you begin to notice that's it becoming a bit more hectic to keep track of your customers, appointments, and reservations.
You're trying to find a better way to organize yourself, but email folders, Google Calendars, and Excel spreadsheets are no longer enough. Your employees are spending lots of time on the phone booking appointments, and you start to wonder if there isn't an easier way to manage reservations. Fear not. There is, and it comes in the form of an online reservation and booking system.
Below, I'll answer four questions that you should ask yourself before onboarding a reservation and online booking software.
What is a reservation system?
Does my business actually need it?
Do my customers want online booking?
Which online booking software options are out there?
You may not be 100 percent sure what a reservation system is or what it does, leading you to question if you actually need one. For businesses that have scheduling and booking at the core of their services, reservation and online booking software is an essential tool to help manage appointments, schedule meetings, reserve time-slots, and check availability. A reservation system can be useful for businesses ranging from salons and gyms, to hotels and rental providers, to restaurants and medical offices- basically, any business where something needs to be booked, scheduled, or reserved.
An online booking software will integrate into your website so that customers and clients can book and make payments online, check availability, and review their booking history. On the business side, you'll be able to manage that availability, automate billing and invoicing, and get analytics about web traffic and referrals. When implemented into your website, an online booking system can really help change the way you run your business on a daily basis.
If your bookings are limited to one customer per week, you might not need an online booking system quite yet. If, however, you are having issues with keeping schedules organized, are spending a lot of time on the phone with customers, or are missing out on too many opportunities, then an online booking software could do the trick.
Organizing schedules: If you're having trouble with the visibility of your staff's schedules, an online booking software can help give you an overview of everyone's timetable, making sure that you're booking people in at the right times. Many online booking solutions also offer syncing with Google calendar so that your staff's personal calendars are up-to-date too.
Too much phone time: By providing the option for online booking, you're freeing up time for your staff who would normally spend that time on the phone talking to customers and scheduling appointments. Online booking makes most of that process online and automatic, freeing up time for your staff to do other things.
Missed opportunities: If your booking options are limited to the phone, you could be missing out on opportunities for customers trying to reach you outside of your scheduled office hours. Research from Acuity Scheduling shows that over 40 percent of bookings made 1 day in advance are made during non-business hours, while another study by TrekkSoft shows that tour and activity providers get 30 to 40 percent more bookings just by having implemented an online booking software.
If you're mainly dealing with millennials, the answer, unequivocally, is yes. According to one study, 25 percent of millennials will only book online, and as the move towards mobile grows, having the option to book on a mobile device is a must. This is especially true in the travel industry, where mobile travel bookings grew 1700 percent between 2011 and 2015, accounting for 18 percent of online revenues.
Many online booking systems also include the option of sending an automatic SMS notification to customers and clients before their scheduled appointment or stay, which has shown to decrease the number of no-shows by up to 57 percent.
There are a ton of online booking options available, many of which are tailored to specific types of businesses.
SimplyBook.me is a scheduling and booking software for businesses ranging from fitness and spa, to medical clinics and city councils. It has features for online booking, SMS reminders, online payment options, and integration with Facebook, WordPress, and other content management systems to integrate with your current website.
MyTime is another scheduling app useful for service businesses like salons, automotive services, pet care, and home and garden services. Aside from online and mobile booking and payments, you can also save customer data for easy reference, as well as add liability waivers to online booking to streamline the process. MyTime also offers a "Marketplace" portal where users can search for and reviews services that they're looking for, which you can participate in to provide you with more exposure for your service business.
TrekkSoft is a travel booking software built for tour operators, activity providers, tourist offices, and rentals. The software comes with a website builder to help you build a website that's optimized for booking, or the option to add "book now" buttons to your existing website. It also includes a resource manager to manage both staff and equipment, calendar sync, and trip notifications via email.
Checkfront is an online booking system for booking accommodation, activities, and rentals. It allows for self service bookings, online payments, and automatic billing and invoicing, while also providing a real-time dashboard for a quick glance at relevant data, rich analytics, and data export.
Staah ConvertDirect Booking Engine
Staah is a complete hotel management system, offering a separate reservation system called ConvertDirect Booking Engine. The booking engine comes complete with detailed conversion tracking, a three-step booking process, funnel analytics, and a mobile-friendly booking engine.
Base7booking is another hotel management solution with a booking engine to help you maximize your guest bookings. It includes a smart calendar for managing reservations, various language options to cater to guests from around the globe, and integration with Google Analytics to get better insight into how your customers are landing on your page.
The days of asking whether or not your small business needs an online reservation system are long gone. The answer is yes. If you want to be able to keep up with your customers, maximize business, and stay organized, then it's time to adopt an online reservation and booking system.
Check out some more reservation and online booking software in our ranking of the top 25 options.
Original article published on November 1, 2013.