The Ultimate Guide to Online Appointment Scheduling
It’s been one of *those* mornings.
The kind where you sleep through your alarm, wake up in a panic, and shower faster than you thought humanly possible. Then on your way out the door you shove a cold bagel in your mouth (breakfast of champions) before tearing out of the driveway to make your first appointment.
You get to work exactly one minute before your client and take a quick moment to compose yourself. You think you might actually be doing okay until you realize you forgot something.
You don’t have your appointment book.
In your rush to get out the door, you left it on your bedside table. Now you have no idea what the day ahead will look like for you, which clients you’ll be serving… you got nothing.
This is the moment you realize somethings gotta give.
Sound familiar? Every service professional has *that story* about the day their client booking process just didn’t work anymore. So they started looking for alternative options and discovered the solution: online appointment scheduling software.
In this guide to online appointment scheduling, we’ll teach you how this kind of solution will save you time, reduce your stress levels, and help you grow your client list. We’ll also cover how to choose the right software for your unique business and promote it to your clientele.
Let’s get started!
What is online appointment scheduling software?
It’s pretty simple: online appointment scheduling software is any application that allows hair stylists, tattoo artists, massage therapists, and other service professionals to create an online calendar, which their clients can visit and book appointments through.
Let’s pretend you’re an in-demand physical trainer who spends most of their day in the gym, sculpting muscles to God-like perfection. You’re busy and can’t answer the phone every time a potential client wants to book a session with you.
Luckily, you can invest in online appointment scheduling software.
With this kind of tool, you’ll be able to customize your calendar, add it to your website, social pages, emails, etc., and invite your clients to book available training times whenever they want. You’ll then be able to easily track and manage your booked appointments from any phone, tablet, or computer.
Why is online appointment scheduling important?
Online appointment scheduling sounds cool, right? But we know what you’re thinking…
“A whole new system? Ain’t nobody got time for that. My old-school setup might be glitchy, but I know it like the back of my hand. I think I’ll just stick with that.”
We get it, change is hard. But switching to an online appointment setting solution is so jam-packed with benefits, you’ll definitely want to make the transition ASAP. Here are a few of the advantages you can expect to experience:
1. You’ll save time
The shop needs sweeping, the books need balancing, and someone (YOU) needs to call the plumber about that leak in the bathroom. But your phone is ringing off the hook with new client appointment inquiries. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.
Sounds like you need a killer appointment app. That way your clients can schedule your services online, giving you the time you need to get your most pressing tasks done.
2. You’ll avoid stress
Does your daily to-do list make you sick to your stomach?
Besides servicing your normal clients, you also need to call Carl back to book his color session, reschedule your Friday afternoon appointments because your babysitter is sick, and get in touch with Tami because she still hasn’t paid the balance on her last tattoo.
This all sounds… Ugh, stressful.
Online appointment scheduling will transform your life by allowing clients to book appointments on their own time. It also automates the email and/or text reminders that follow.
3. You’ll make more money
Why did you start your own service business? We bet “to make more money” was one of the main reasons, along with “to have more freedom” and “be my own boss.”
Good news, top appointment apps help put more green into your wallet:
- First, you’ll be able to book more appointments per day because you won’t have to spend as much time on tedious admin tasks. More appointments, more money.
- Second, you’ll score new clients on a regular basis because clicking a button on a web page is *much* easier than calling a stranger to book a haircut, therapy appointment, or personal training session. More clients, more money.
- And third, it’s easy for clients to view your calendar, pinpoint empty slots, and book an available time that works for them. More bookings, more money.
At Bookedin, our customers tell us that our online booking app helped them triple (yes, TRIPLE) their business — no lie.
4. Your clients prefer it
We’re going to go out on a limb here and guess your clients do *not* wake up in the morning and think, “You know what sounds fun? Playing phone tag with my esthetician!”
Nope, your clients want to book services quickly and then get on with the rest of their day. This is exactly what an online appointment scheduling app will let them do.
First, they look in the mirror and think, “Eeeekkkk!”. Then they head to your website, check out your available dates and times, and book a session that works for them. No phone calls or let-me-check-my-calendar-and-get-back-to-yous. Just streamlined appointment setting.
5. Client communications will get easier
Automation, AKA the eighth wonder of the world, will definitely help you save time and reduce stress (see above). But it will also make client communication much easier.
Once your customers book an appointment via your online appointment scheduling app, they’ll automatically receive a confirmation email and/or text. As the scheduled date approaches, they’ll get a reminder message.
In other words, your online appointment scheduler will take care of 90% of client communication for you. That way you can focus on other business-building tasks.
How to schedule appointments online
We’ve covered the “what” and the “why” of online appointment scheduling. I guess it’s about time we tackled the “how.” Don’t worry, learning how to set up your services for online scheduling is a walk in the park. Let’s go for a stroll…
Invest in the right scheduling app
You’ve decided to make the switch to an online appointment scheduling app and you’re pumped. More time, less stress, happier clients? “Sign me up,” you think. So you jump online and realize there are A LOT of different options available. Which to choose?
When it comes to choosing the best online booking and scheduling system, here are a few must-have features to look for:
Ease of use
If your online appointment scheduling app is hard to use, what’s the point? You might as well stick with your current system. So make sure the system you choose is user-friendly.
Luckily, most apps offer free trials — take advantage! Research a few options, then take one for a test drive. Did you enjoy using it? Was it intuitive? Or did it make you want to tear your hair out in frustration? Also, was the support team helpful?
Even the best softwares on the planet have quirks and nuances you’ll need to learn. A friendly support team is one of the best ways to learn them. And don’t worry about asking *dumb* questions… Most support reps LOVE hearing from customers — promise!
Do yourself a HUGE favor and invest in an online appointment scheduler that can process deposits. That way you get at least a portion of your agreed upon fee up front. Even if your client ghosts you on the day of your booking.
We’ll talk more about no-shows later in this guide to online appointment scheduling. For now, pick a scheduling tool that can help guard your business against these unsavory client types.
Lastly, read reviews to see what actual users have to say about the scheduling apps you’re considering. What do they like about them? What drives them bonkers?
For example, if multiple users say something like “great app, terrible customer service,” you know that the app in question operates well. You also know that the folks who make the app aren’t the friendliest. Terrible customer service is, well, not so fun.
Streamline the scheduling process
Once you’ve chosen an online appointment scheduling tool and set up your account, you need to optimize it. That means setting up a few automations and making the booking process as client-friendly as humanly possible.
So what can you automate with a tool like Bookedin? Communications.
Once a client books an appointment, they’ll automatically receive a custom confirmation email and/or text message. You can also program your booking app to send individualized appointment reminders and post-appointment follow-ups. Think of all the time you’ll save when the robots send communications on your behalf!
Automations are a godsend once a client schedules an appointment. But if the booking process is cumbersome, few people will ever get to that point.
Here are a couple of tips to streamline your appointment scheduling:
- Social booking: If you’re a hairstylist, tattoo artist, or photographer, you’re probably on the ‘Gram non-stop. Most service professionals use social media to reach their target clients. So doesn’t it make sense to add your booking link to these sites?
- Custom booking forms: Every client is unique, which means the service you provide will change depending on who you’re providing it to. Custom booking forms will allow you to learn more about your clients so you can serve them better.
- No accounts: Raise your hand if you’ve ever planned on booking a service, only to realize that to do so, you had to create an account. It’s annoying, right? Increase bookings and satisfaction by skipping client accounts.
Everything about your booking process should be easy. The automations and client-friendly features available in online appointment scheduling apps like Bookedin make this possible.
Minimize appointment cancellations
“Seriously?” you think to yourself. “When will my clients finally show me some respect and show up for their appointments?” We hear ya. Cancellations are SO FRUSTRATING. But to cut them out of your business, you need to understand why they happen in the first place.
Here are a few common reasons:
- Forgetfulness: Most appointments are missed because the person who booked them forgets to show up. You know how it is. Life gets busy and things slip through the cracks. Annoying? Sure, but it happens to the best of us.
- Lack of funds: You’re good at what you do, so you can charge a pretty penny for your services — pennies that your clients have to fork over. Rather than admit they can’t afford you, some clients will decide to bail.
- Surprises: You may have noticed, life is unpredictable. If it comes down to making an appointment or getting their kid to the hospital, guess what your clients will choose?
Appointments cancellations are never fun. But you can minimize them by choosing an online appointment scheduling app that includes pre-payment and automation features.
Think about it, who’s more likely to arrive for their haircut, massage, or photoshoot: the guy who clicks a button to book a service, or the dude who clicks a button and fronts $50 to hold onto the booking? That’s right, the answer is numero duo because he has skin in the game. And if he still doesn’t show? Well, at least, you’re not completely out the money.
Cool, anything else you can do to minimize appointment cancellations? Abso-freakin-lutely!
Tap into your app’s automation features and send both confirmation and appointment reminder messages via email and/or text. Remember, your clients are busy. A quick note reminding them of their bookings will increase the likelihood that they show up.
5 ways to boost your online appointments
BOOM! You decided to ditch your pen and paper appointment book — finally. Now you’re set up with a slick digital system like Bookedin and can already feel the stress melting away like a creamsicle in the summer heat. Feels good, right?
Good news, things are about to get even better. Check out the five tips below to learn how to easily boost your online appointments.
1. Market your online scheduler
If you want your clients to book your services via your online appointment scheduler, you have to tell them that it exists. Revolutionary concept, we know, but we still needed to say it. Fortunately, marketing your new booking procedures isn’t difficult. Here are a few ideas:
- Website content: Do you blog? Write about your online scheduler. We also suggest creating a banner image that promotes your online booking link to your website visitors. The easier it is to find, the more people will use it.
- Social media posts: Encourage your clients to book your services online via your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter profiles. Social media is a fantastic way to reach people and generate conversations — use it! (More on social below.)
- Email newsletters: Email may be old-school, but it’s still a great way to stay in touch with people, especially for business purposes. Message your newsletter subscribers and let them know that they can now book appointments online.
- Your voicemail: People will continue calling you until they learn there’s a better way to book. Use your voicemail to promote your online scheduling link.
2. Enlist your email signature
Most of us don’t think twice about our email signature. We sign off with a quick “thanks,” or “best,” or “sincerely,” followed by our name. There’s nothing wrong with this. But it won’t help you market your online appointment scheduling capabilities.
Instead, put your email signature to work by including an appointment booking link for recipients to use. That way they’ll have easy access to it.
Most email providers (think Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook) allow their clients to embed images in their email signatures as well. A sig with your shop’s logo would look pretty sweet, right? Just be careful with this feature. Some browsers aren’t compatible with images. You may want to play it safe and include a simple link that will always go through.
3. Reward customers who book online
If you want to schedule more appointments online, consider rewarding customers who book your services via Bookedin or a similar piece of software.
For example, a massage therapist could give a 5% discount to online bookers. A hair stylist could offer a free shampoo session to go along with all cuts scheduled via the web. And a physical trainer could send a free meal plan to clients who make online appointments.
These small rewards will help boost your online bookings. They’ll also help save you money and stress because your resources won’t be as strapped.
4. Use social media to book appointments
We’ve mentioned social media multiple times in this guide to online appointment scheduling. Know why? Because these free sites are an amazing resource for independent service providers — especially Instagram. Here’s how to tap into it via Bookedin:
Because of it’s highly visual nature, Instagram is the preferred social channel for many hair stylists, tattoo and makeup artists, personal trainers, and other service professionals. It doesn’t hurt that the network has one billion monthly active users, too.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at how to add a Bookedin scheduling link to your Insta.
- Fire up the Instagram app, visit your profile, and click “Edit Profile”.
- Type your Bookedin URL into the “Website” field.
- Write some amazing call-to-action copy in your bio section to let folks know about the booking link. Hot tip: use emojis, upper and lowercase words, and punctuation (#, !, *).
- Hype your booking link whenever you make a post on Instagram. That way people know how to schedule an appointment if they dig your work.
You’ll notice that Instagram doesn’t give you a slick “Book Now” button like you can post on your website. Instead, you’ll need to utilize the website link they provide. No biggie, this link works well for directing clients to your online scheduling page.
5. Take advantage of Google My Business
First things first, what the heck is Google My Business? Fair question…
Think back to the last time you searched for a business on Google. Maybe you were looking up a new restaurant in town or trying to find the nearest hardware store. Whatever the case, you probably saw a business profile in the top right corner of the search results page.
This is Google My Business and it allows business owners and/or managers to create a free Google profile, complete with service information, physical address (including Google maps details), hours of operation, phone number, and even Google reviews.
This listing can be incredibly beneficial to shop owners such as yourself because it will help you build your online presence and interact with potential customers.
For folks who use an online appointment scheduling app like Bookedin, Google My Business is even more awesome because you can add your booking details to your Google Listing. The result? Your clients can schedule appointments with you directly from Google search!
Here’s how to set up the connection:
- Create your Google My Business listing. By visiting this link. Be sure to add all relevant information such as your shop’s name and contact details.
- Once inside your Google My Business account, click the “Info” tab on the left-hand side of your screen. Then scroll down to “Appointment URL” and click the pencil icon.
- Paste your Bookedin link into the “Appointment URL” section. Then click “Apply” and wait for Google to confirm the information you’ve entered.
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of your ideal client. They’re in the market for a haircut, new tattoo, full-body massage, etc. So what do they do?
They ask Google for top-rated professionals in the area. As they’re sifting through the search results, your business pops up. They click on it, read a few reviews, notice your booking link, and make an appointment on the spot. BOOM! New client, no big marketing effort needed.
Common online appointment scheduling myths
There’s no doubt about it, online appointment scheduling is pretty great, as this guide to online appointment scheduling has beautifully laid out (wink). But you might still be on the fence about a tool like Bookedin.
We understand. There are definitely a few myths out there that keep service professionals from investing in an online booking tool. With that in mind, let’s go myth-busting.
Myth #1: It will cost me too much money
If you own or run a service-based business, money is always a factor. In fact, you probably spend a lot of your time brainstorming ways to make more of it and spend less. ‘Tis the constant plight of the entrepreneur. So we totally understand if your first reaction to online appointment scheduling software is, “No thanks, too rich for my blood.”
Just answer this one question: how much cash does your shop lose every month because of no-shows? $500, $1,000, even more? An online booking app will help you cut these losses without forcing you to spend an arm and a leg.
The truth is, *not* having an online scheduling system is costing your business too much money.
Myth #2: It will kill my productivity
“Interesting,” you say, “online appointment scheduling won’t hurt my bank account. But it will definitely kill my productivity, right?” We understand your concern.
As a shop owner and/or manager, you play a lot of roles: marketing lead, web designer, chief copywriter, social media manager… Oh, yeah, and you also have to actually, you know, perform the services your clients hire your for. In other words, your time is a precious commodity. The thought of wasting it probably gives you night sweats.
Online booking software will make you *more* productive than ever before.
Tools like Bookedin will allow your clients to book appointments without calling, emailing, texting, DMing or contacting you in any way. Then this kind of tool will take care of follow-up messages, appointment reminders, and post-appointment thank you notes automatically.
Once you’re set up with an online scheduling app, you’ll have more time in the day, less stress to deal with, and happier clients who remain loyal.
Myth #3: It will be too complicated to use
You know what’s complicated? Fielding client calls, manually logging appointment details into a moleskine notebook, losing said notebook, and having to wrack your brain to determine which of your clients is coming in that day and for what service.
Online booking, on the other hand, is simple. For example, look how easy it is to start making appointments with Bookedin:
- Download Bookedin from Apple App or Google Play store.
- Create Your shop profile, including business name, type, and location.
- Add the services you offer by clicking “Settings” at the bottom right corner of your screen, and then selecting the “Services” tab.
- Add information about your services such as duration, price, and payment options.
- Launch your Bookedin online booking page, add it to your website and social channels, and market it to your client base.
Simple stuff — even for the most technology-challenged folks. We think it’s time to kick the it-will-be-too-complicated-to-use myth to the curb.
We hoped you enjoyed this guide to online appointment scheduling!
By taking the client booking process online, you’ll be able to save time, avoid stress, and better serve your customers. And as we just saw, these benefits can be achieved *without* much headache. You just need to commit to the change, market your new online appointment scheduling capabilities to your clientele, and enjoy the extra freedom.
Ready to make the switch? Give Bookedin a try right now for free. We’re confident you’ll love our platform’s intuitive interface and powerful features. See you on the inside!