You rent your skill and time to customers, your business is starting to pick up, and as it does, you quickly notice that it has become more cumbersome to keep track of your appointments.
Google Calendar, Excel Sheets, and email folders are not meeting your demands, your teammates are spending way more time to sort appointments than actually focussing on the business. If this is what describes your day at work, you probably need an online appointment scheduling software.
You are now surrounded by another question - What is the best way to implement an online appointment system for your small business? There are plenty of choices, and these softwares come in all size and forms, it definitely is a pretty daunting task to figure out, which solution is the best suited for your business.
In this article, we categorise the types of query that you should be having, before zeroing on any appointment scheduling solution.
1. Does it provide the functionality you need?
Conduct a thorough analysis of the processes that you want to automate, and then study the features of the software, have a list of things that you need from the software, and get all the items ticked.
2. Is the software customizable to meet your custom requirements?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, each organisation has its own set of custom requirements, which the software needs to address. Verify that all your custom requirements are being taken care of by the software.
3. Is the software user-friendly for all the constituents?
The software will be used, not only by you but your team members, and customers. The software should provide all sorts of users the friendliness and ease to use it, without having a major learning curve.
4. Does the software require a contract, what are the pricing plans?
Most enterprise software come with a contract, for small businesses most software have the pay as you go, model. Double-check, before signing up, if there is some hidden clause or contract about the data and privacy. Also, inquire about any free plans the software might have, and what would it take to migrate from one plan to another.
5. How does the Appointment Scheduling Software Work?
Most of the online scheduling software is designed for internal scheduling, where an internal staff allocates time from an admin interface, customer self-scheduling is a recent phenomenon, it allows your customers to book an appointment from your website or the application’s page.
6. How long does it take for you to get up and running with the appointment scheduling system?
Different software come in a different size, form, and implementation timeline. If you have a large team size, and a host of services to offer, it might take you long to implement this solution. One of the important queries to raise is the time to live, for the software.
7. How often is the software gets new releases and fixes?
A cloud-based solution provider who is committed to providing it’s customers the best of experience will have a continuous cycle to develop and improvise the software. A regular upgrade shows the proactiveness and reliability of the team.
8. Does the software provide integrations with other software that you use on a daily basis?
In today’s world of myriad software systems, integrations can save a lot of time. While they range from the very simple to the highly complex, in general, they’re getting easier to facilitate.
Most of the online scheduling applications come of as stand-alone solutions, small businesses often feel the need to integrate this scheduling piece to the systems that are already in place. For instance, does it integrate with Quickbooks, Google Calendar, Salesforce, or marketing solutions like MailChimp?
We at Karen, integrate with over 1500+ SaaS applications, and there are multiple more in-depth, innovative, integrations under development as we speak.
Concerns on Appointment Booking
9. Is it a scheduling solution or appointment requesting solution?
Most software out there offers to request of a timeslot, instead of a full circle of appointment booking. A proper scheduling software takes into consideration previous appointments, avoids deadlocks, and there is no further requirement for your receptionist to still confirm it for you.
10. Do you need an additional website to book the appointment?
Ideally, the solution should not require you to put an additional website, either they should integrate with your website, or have a standalone page for all your event types.
Our tool Karen works with any website and helps you get more business. Depending upon your site, you can use the iframe embed code and all your event pages will be live on your website.
11. Does the solution send reminders?
The scheduling solution should send automated, pre-configured reminders via SMS and email to your clients.
12. Can you sync your existing calendar with the software?
Does the software provide integrations with your existing outlook, or google calendar?
13. Can you view, export, and print your Appointments?
The software should allow you to be able to navigate through all your appointments, export in CSV or PDF format, and print it for offline use.
Concerns related to Customer
14. Can I limit how far can the customers book appointment?
Your software should allow you the flexibility to be able to customise the duration and hours on when the customer could book an appointment with you.
15. From which all devices can the customers’ book appointments?
While having a web interface which opens up on Desktop is necessary, but not a sufficient condition.
16. Can customers see other bookings?
The system should be secure enough, that does not allow, other customers, to see any other booking, the software should guard your privacy.
Concerns related to Managing Staff
17. Can the software deal with staff taking different appointment types and availability?
The software should provide features, where multiple individuals from the same organisations can take appointments as a team or as individuals. While building Karen, we have taken this into consideration, you can create multiple teams, and each team gets its own booking page, once a meeting arrives, it can be assigned to any of the team members, per convenience.
18. Are their Account level controls for the appointment management?
A good scheduling software should provide different permissions and roles, which includes viewing and editing own or team appointments, and the system administrator.
19. Does it have an authentication mechanism for each of the staff?
Each of the staff should have an authentication mechanism where they can log in individually and access the dashboard so that the system can keep track of the activity of the individuals with custom layers of permission.
Concerns on general IT and security
20. What are the expected downtime and respective communication mode?
Every software needs some maintenance hours, to deal with technical glitch and minor issues. The reputable software, have measures in place to minimise the downtime. However, if a downtime can’t be avoided there should be a proper communication channel that needs to be in place, so that the customers are prepared beforehand.
21. What are the major security measures in place? What safeguards does the software ensure that your data will not be compromised or lost?
The software will save all the data online, security should be of utmost importance. The provider should have standard security practices in place, with periodic back-up procedures or any regulations, if applicable. All the communication between the computer and the software should be encrypted.
We at Karen use bank-grade encryption and certificates - Extended Validation certificates with 4096-bit keys and we conform to Perfect Forward Security guidelines. Your data is hosted in a secure hosting facility and regularly backed up.
22. How does one pay for the scheduling system?
The software should allow for an easy mechanism for its customers to pay, with automated payment processing.
23. How much of manual maintenance is required?
As a customer, you should know beforehand if there is any manual maintenance that you need to do. Ideally, the answer should be none. We at Karen, make it a breeze for you, all you need is a google account for yourself, and if you have that, you are pretty much safe to onboard. Post you login, you need to set up your availability hours, event types, create teams, and invite members, that should be more than enough.
24. Does the software work in realtime?
When a customer clicks on book appointment, how long does it take before an event is created in your calendar? The event should get created as soon as the request is received. With a manual request system, it usually has a time lag, but the software should avoid any such complications in the appointment booking process.
25. Who owns the data? Can you import/export the data? Which data formats are supported?
Ideally, the customer owns the data and he should be able to export the data, as and when he feels like. The most popular format is PDF and CSV.
The process of selecting an online appointment scheduling solution should be treated with the seriousness it deserves. It offers to be the backbone of your business since it is the first interface between your business and your customer. There will always be unknowns during any search, a little preparation can make a great difference while zeroing on the perfect solution for you. All of the items mentioned in the checklist should be addressed in the investigative process to ensure that the solution that is being chosen, is the best fit for your customer, staff, and business in general.
The bullet items mentioned in the article are thoroughly vetting and will help you carry out a full investigation and arrive at a well-informed decision on choosing a vendor. The amount of time and effort you invest in preparing for the review will pay off when you start leveraging the benefits of state-of-the-art scheduling software.
In addition to the above, ask all the questions you have in your mind, and ensure that you are satisfied with the answers you receive, it is all about making your business more successful than ever!