Scheduling meetings and appointments often consists of several back-and-forth email exchanges or phone calls until each party’s schedule syncs up just right, wasting time in the process. There are now several online services to help entrepreneurs of all types organize their schedules more effectively, and make it easy for clients and customers to set up appointments with them. By providing a platform to share available meeting times, one can simply share this information and let the other find a time that works. These systems are especially valuable to any industry that fills the working day with appointments, such as hair stylists and masseuses, to catering, cleaning, or consulting. Instead of paying a receptionist to take calls only during regular business hours, online scheduling services allow customers to book appointments 24/7, and give you very specific control over the whole process.
There are many online scheduling sites, each offering slightly different features and interfaces. We are going to review four individual services: Schedulicity, ScheduleOnce, Bookeo, and Agendize. Each of these sync up with the most popular calendars (Google, iCal, and Outlook), easily integrate into your own website, and are mobile-phone friendly—since they are built for customers to use on the go. Most offer a free trial of some length, with month-to-month billing after that, and different packages for the number of users your business needs.
Schedulicity offers a clean interface for consumers to book appointments, by city, with large clickable graphics representing each category of business. The good looking site proves a popular choice for health and beauty businesses, breaking down into several smaller categories of each, while also making sense for many other models such as consulting, tutoring, or even auto mechanics.
After searching a particular city, the available services (those that use Schedulicity) appear tiled below with the stock images of each category. If a city does not have many Schedulicity using businesses, it will not show many images. Once you click the category image, the available options are shown as links to their individual Schedulicity page, where you can find more information and then book an appointment.
On the business side of things, the cleanness continues. A ’60 Second Intro’ depicts a few brief examples of customers booking appointments and classes on the go, showing just how easy and convenient the process is for everyone involved. While you work with a calendar similar to that of Google’s, inputting your own schedule and setting your available times to meet, the client-side shows only your available times—and not your personal reasons for unavailability. Clients simply click on a date and see specific time slots still available, then choose from there. Variations within your services or classes, or available staff, can be included in the choices too, like different types of yoga led by different instructors. You can choose between automatically accepting appointments or manually approving. Schedulicity does not accept any payments from the customers, so payment must be done at the actual appointment—no down-payments/deposits can be taken through the site to avoid PCI compliance complications, according to their FAQ.
A 30 day free trial includes all features, giving you time to choose between a 1 user package for $19.95/month, or $39.95/month for 2-20 users (apparently as one lump, not $40 per user). The packages include appointment reminders, other marketing tools and analytics, and a listing for your business on the Schedulicity site. The listing is important for attracting new clients, but you can also transition current clients to using the online scheduling by implementing a widget on your website, social media, or by emailing a link. All the data is stored on a “RAID-enabled Storage Area Network (SAN)” and backed up on a “consistent schedule.”
The homepage of ScheduleOnce and the remaining services is not the main landing page/search page for the businesses it helps, and therefore has a much different approach. These homepages are geared toward the actual purchaser of the service, with all of the appropriate information and features up front and on display. Aside from the search platform and looks of Schedulicity, many of the actual features and mechanics overlap. ScheduleOnce seems to be a service for more variable types of meetings, less consistent than salon appointments. For instance, a typical event invite on Google calendar, etc., assigns one specific time, whereas ScheduleOnce allows each invitee to share their availability and see exactly what times work for everyone, in a single glance. Also, you can manage scheduling for others, even booking rooms and resources, too.
ScheduleOnce also emphasizes their “MeetMe” pages, which act as the landing pages for your clients. On your MeetMe page, a calendar color-codes the days with availability, with the specific times available for clients to choose from when they click on each day. Your MeetMe page can offer different locations to meet, types of meeting—phone, video, or in person, and options for services or classes. Packages come with either one or three MeetMe pages, with more available for purchase. Live demos of the product are setup as several different examples for different applications and uses.
There are six tiers of packages, ranging from free to $49/month per user. The three lowest packages have significantly fewer features, with the bulk of them kicking in at the $19.95 Professional package. The two packages above the Pro are built for multi-user operations, with the price applying to each user. To pay for these services, they only accept PayPal, no credit cards. And, like Schedulicity, they do not take deposits or payments from your own customers.
Bookeo starts you off with three different sites for three different uses: tours and activities, classes and courses, or appointments. Like ScheduleOnce, there are live demos for a variety of applications with perspectives from both customer and manager side. Bookeo is a niched down version of ScheduleOnce, offering similar mechanics for customers to book appointments, but no extra scheduling software to find common available time for meetings, or other interactive features like that. However, Bookeo surpasses the other services on one large point: Bookeo can take online payments from your customers, increasing the effectiveness of the system by reducing ‘no-shows.’ This feature also allows your business to sell gift vouchers and prepaid packages online.
The three different sites offer slightly different pricing packages, but in general they seem to be less expensive than the others, especially for multi-user groups. After a 30 day free trial, you have an additional 30 day money back guarantee on whichever package you choose. The appointment site is the only one that offers individual packages, free or for $14.95, then 29.95 allows 3 users, and $39.95 allows up to 20 users—not paying per user.
The website is not quite as sleek as the others, and their last “Latest News” update is from September 20, 2013 (as of January 29, 2014).
While Bookeo is a slimmed down version of online scheduling, Agendize is the opposite, a full on “customer relations manager software.” Online scheduling is just one of several services they offer to convert website visits to sales, including analytics, ‘click-to-call’ buttons, and ‘live-chat’ pop-ups for you to connect with customers. Agendize does not have a live demo for you to experience using it, but they do have an eight-minute video to show you how to set it up and get a good idea of how the interface works and feels.
The full suite of services costs $50/month, and comes with 2 user accounts, but it also breaks down to more individual services. The online scheduling by itself costs $20/month per user, add another $20 for each additional user account.
All of these online scheduling services provide similar features, like integrating with your current calendar, sending appointment reminders, customizable appointment options, mobile-friendly, etc. Differences in interface and a few small but important features are what make each better suited for different applications.
Schedulicity is super sleek and geared toward the consumer, offering searches for appointment-services by city and type of service, especially popular with businesses in health and beauty.
ScheduleOnce provides the most information about their services and the most options for packages. Their scheduling system has many ways to share availability, making it great for setting up multi-person meetings, not just specified appointments.
Bookeo takes appointments and payments, so ‘no-shows’ are less likely and/or less costly, since they’ve already paid for it. Not many bells and whistles, but offers basically 60 days of free trial.
Agendize includes full customer relations software, better for companies with customizable products or whose customers might have more questions, though the scheduling service is available on its own as well.