A simple guide to picking an online bookings for your business
Running a business is tough. There never seems to be enough time to get everything done. As you grow, so does the number of administrative tasks
that need your attention. Not least, is the constant (missed) phone calls and ping-ponging of emails with clients trying to find a mutually suitable date and time.
Online booking systems/booking engines/booking platforms can help to eliminate a lot of these such tasks as well as provide a host of other benefits.
Below, I have described what to look for and how to go about adding an online booking system to your business.
Things to think about when considering an online booking system
There are many reasons why business starts to use online bookings. There are a wide range of options in systems that will suit your needs. Some businesses just require a calendar that prospective customers can see available dates. Others want a solution that allows them digitise their diary. Most booking systems base their pricing on the features that you use. Many systems offer tons of features, but to get them all, you need to pay a large fee. Once you are clear on what you need, you will be much better placed to identify the booking system that is right for you. There is no point in paying for a deluxe package when you will only ever use one part of the system. Here are just a handful of common reasons for using booking systems:
- Increase efficiency
- Eliminate no-shows
- Get more customers
- Improve brand profile
- Accept payments
- Send automatic reminders
- Keep notes on clients
- Maintain waiting lists
- Comply with data privacy laws
- Manage one to one appointments
- Organise group events or classes
What features do I need in an online booking system?
To determine what features you require, think about the parts of your business that you want to improve. For example, if your motivation is to eliminate no-shows, then you will need a system that sends reminders and collects payments. If your intention is to gain more business, then you might consider listing your business on an established marketplace like Airbnb. To help you determine what is important to you, make a list of the things you want and order them in order of importance to you. Depending on what you are willing to spend, you may find that all of the things you need are outside of your budget or will cost you more than you will gain.
How do you want to be billed?
Now that you have decided what you need from an online booking system, you will need to think about how you want to be billed. These days, it is common to pay a monthly subscription. Most system will give you a free trial. Free trials usually last anywhere between 14 and 30 days. Be wary of systems that require you to give your card details to start a trial. If a booking system does not require payment up front, they will likely be eager to engage with you. They will want to make sure you are getting the most out of the system during your free trial. On the other hand, systems that require your card details will be more interested in you forgetting about your trial ending.
Some systems will not charge you a monthly fee, instead, they will charge you a commission on each online booking you take.
Finally, some systems will charge you a subscription and a commission on top of each booking. Whatever option you choose, my advice is to make the most of your free trial. Then be sure you are getting more value from your system than you think you are paying for it. In other words, ask yourself, if the price doubled on this system, would I pay it? If the answer is yes, then you know you are on to a system that is a good fit for you.
How do you want to be paid?
If you are accepting online payments, you need to consider how the money will get to you. Most online booking systems will not process payments directly themselves. This is due to the heavy burden and litigation surrounding handling payments. Companies such as Stripe, PayPal and Relex have built billion euro industries specialising in securely processing payments. Most online companies will use one or all of these to process their payments.
Many booking systems will require to create your own account with one of these payment vendors. Once you do, you then need to connect your payment account with your online booking account. Once connected, your booking system can accept payments and deposit the funds in your payment vendor. From there, you can move the money to your bank account.
Some self-praise here: BookingHawk.com takes care of this for you. We handle everything. You will not need to create your own account with a payment vendor. You can immediately begin accepting payments and the money will go to your bank account. This will save you the hassle of setting up an account with a vendor. I am highlighting this as I have yet to discover another booking system offering this facility.
Regardless of which method you prefer. Often there is a delay between the time the system collects the payment and when it ends up in your bank account. This is something you should ask your booking company’s support agents about.
How hands-on do you want to be?
Speaking of support, you should ensure your booking system comes with great support. The nature of booking systems is that they are highly configurable. No two businesses are the same. Booking systems need to be flexible and provide a wide range of features. The last thing you will want is to become frustrated when trying to figure this out. I recommend that you choose a booking company that is easily accessible. That means a live chat or a phone number. To test the responsiveness, during your trial, look for support, but not from your point of contact.
Where to go next?
Now that you know a little bit more about booking systems, you may want to start a trial with one. There is no shortage of them to be found. To save yourself time, why not open a chat with one of our agents on the home page. They will ask a little bit about your business and help you determine what kind of system would work best for you. Don’t worry, we have no interest in trying to trick you into signing up with us. If you are not a good fit, we will save both of us time and let you know!
To date, our system has proven very popular with small businesses. Often solely run businesses. So click onto BookingHawk.com and open the green chat bubble in the bottom right corner, because if you don’t, you could be about to pass on the perfect booking system for you.
Hi, my name is Niall Smith and I am the Founder and CEO of BookingHawk.com. I am an experienced software engineer and have worked with companies like AOL, Guidewire, Deloitte and SAP. I am a graduate of The New Frontiers entrepreneur development programme. I live in Dublin, Ireland with my wife. I love to meet other founders and learn from as many people as possible.