If your company provides services that need bookings and you are hoping to attract more customers, maybe it is time that you consider online booking systems. There are many advantages to an automated scheduling system:
- Your booking system is available 24/7
- You can avoid double-booking and mistakes while serving more than one customer at a time
- It makes your website look professional.
However, you will have to make a choice on how to integrate such systems into your platform. There are many providers you can easily find, and many of them offer free solutions, but before giving in to the temptation of saving money and resources, you should consider all pros and cons.
Free systems. Normally, if you opt for free tools, you will have to share a link on your website. This is extremely easy and takes no effort, but has the disadvantage of redirecting users outside of your website, with the result that you cannot guarantee on the functionality of the external website, you cannot be sure it is mobile-friendly (and most bookings are made by phone), you do not have the chance to collect user data and people will be sent to a website that is not consistent with your branding, so they lose the familiarity with everything that speaks about your business: logo, colours, mission etc.
iFrames. Rather than redirecting people to an external website through a simple link, this solution allows you to embed the link into your website so that users will remain with you. Once again, you don’t have control over the look, the security and functionality of the system, but it is definitely an improvement, and it is also cheap, as most providers allowing embedding still do it for free.
Website integration. This is maybe the most effective solution, and it can be done by installing a plugin, via API or by developing your own custom code. Integration through plugin installation is maybe the most effective solution for small businesses in terms of costs and quality. It is normally very easy to run, and there are free plugins to install, although switching to a premium subscription could really make a difference in increased functionality for a reasonable price. API provides a way that gets very close to seamless integration: it allows excellent UX (user experience), and you have control of the user interface. It is not cheap, though, as it requires constant redevelopment. Even more technical is developing your own code: this would be the most desirable option, of course, as it allows a completely seamless experience, but it requires professional expertise, and it cannot be done in a couple of hours, so it is definitely the most expensive option.
Now that we have hopefully cleared some doubts let’s see which are the best available tools for automated booking management.
- Vcita: as well as a booking system, Vcita offers good customer experience because it allows you to interact with users, deal directly with re-booking and cancellations, import user lists from other applications and keep your history with the client. Their free plan includes up to 300 user management.
- SimplyBook.me is ideal for international businesses because of the many languages it supports. It also allows payments from many platforms and offers other functions to help you expand your client portfolio. The free plan includes 50 bookings.
- Acuity Scheduling gives you a high level of booking setting customisation, allows you to sync all your calendars and offers integration with powerful third parties, such as Zapier, Paypal, Stripe and Google Analytics.
- Bookeo started really small and grew exponentially, to the point that now it is no longer only an online booking system, but it diversified its offer by adding a course section and a tourism one. Its clients praise its user-friendly features, its simplicity and the marketing section that helps business development.
- Checkfront provides businesses with an open API and therefore, a seamless booking experience. You can set your rates and special offers, and the platform is well integrated with analytics tools. It specialises in the tourism sector.
These were only some examples of the online tools you can easily find, but it should be enough to give you an idea of the benefits your company can gain from switching to an automated booking system.
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