Has your appointment system run amok?
Anyone with a bustling business will know the importance of having a good appointment system. Those with the budget can hire a receptionist to take calls and make appointments, but if you don’t have the big bucks to do that, then an online solution may be your best bet.
Thankfully, several websites have got you covered.
What Is an Appointment Slot?
First, I should briefly describe what an appointment slot is. It is a period of time in the calendar when a person is free to meet with you. This can either be a personal meeting (coffee and cake with the parents), or a professional meeting (an accountant meeting a client). Maintaining appointment slots benefits both parties, as it maintains order in the workday, with the person coming for the meeting assured that they will definitely meet the other person.
For the person giving the appointments, it ensures that a wild stampede of people don’t demand the same time as everyone else. In short, it is a quick way to resolve calendar conflicts before they happen.
It’s no surprise that Google has an appointments feature built right into Google Calendar. And it’s actually really good. The downside is that it is only available for Google Apps users, not for regular Gmail accounts. Plus the person wanting to make the appointment with you needs to have their own Google Calendar.
So click on either the “Day” view or “Week” view on Google Calendar, and you will see a link for “Appointment slots”. Click on that.
Then you will see the boxes you need to fill in. You need to specify the name of the event, the times you are available, and how you want that time split up. You will also be given the link to your appointment page, which you can give out to whoever wants it.
Now when a person clicks one of the vacant slots on your calendar (while logged into their Google Calendar as well), they will be able to take one of your appointment slots.
In the interest of fairness and balance, here are 4 other possibilities for you to consider, if you find Google’s offering a bit too restrictive.
Doodle is easy to sign up and customize. A lot of the good stuff is Premium only, but if you are determined to stay cash-free, then there is a nice basic service which will more than amply cover your needs.
You get your own personalized Doodle page with a calendar where your clients can snap up your time. You can also add links to any other external pages. So this would be good for perhaps your website, your Facebook page, Twitter page, etc. You can also install the iOS app or Android app, so you can keep track of your appointments while on the go.
- Personalized calendar page
- Add links to external pages
- Install the smartphone app
- Premium plan includes a personalized banner image, and SSL encryption.
Calendly takes a bit of a different approach by asking the client to choose the length of the meeting. They can choose between 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and 60 minutes. The next screen shows the the number of available appointment slots. The client can take the one they want.
The premium option, which starts at $8 a month, gives you several more features like personalized notifications and automated reminders.
- Initiative shifts back to appointee, asking them to choose the length of the meeting.
- Time periods are 15, 30, and 60 minutes.
- Premium option includes personalized notifications.
“You Can Book Me” takes the prize for being the best of the lot. The site absolutely blew me away with the amount of customizations possible with the free plan. You can use multiple themes, upload your logo on the appointment page, create a booking form, set your hourly rate on that booking form, and then share it online.
The premium level (starting at $16 a month) allows you to tweak the page even more. Add support for teams, the use of voucher codes and more. Since it is so expensive though, most people will find the free plan more than sufficient.
- A huge amount of customization available under the free plan.
- Choose from multiple themes, and upload your logo.
- Set your hourly rate.
- Premium plan includes voucher codes.
ScheduleOnce is also a great service, but it suffers slightly due to the fact that there is no free plan. You get the first 14 days free of charge to test the service, but after that, it’s time to break out the bucks.
It isn’t that expensive though. The first plan is $5 per user, per month, and works alongside your Google Calendar. You also get reminders and follow-ups, as well as the option to pay separately for your customers to receive SMS alerts.
- No free plan, unlike the others profiled here.
- 14 days free, to test the service.
- Plugs into your Google calendar.
- Pay extra for customer SMS alerts.
Any More Options?
There are lots more options on the web, but obviously it’s a case of separating the wheat from the chaff. Plus some services are more expensive than others. But we have found a further couple which may interest you. Price may be an issue for some of you though, which is why we have given it its own little section. Consider this the “good, but pricey” section.
SquareUp (First 30 Days Free, Plans Start at $30 per Month)
Square is a point-of-sale system which you can use on your tablet, and I am a big fan, having covered it in the past. They also have an appointment system which, if you can afford it, ticks all the right boxes for anyone looking for a virtual receptionist.
Customers can access your appointment list online and choose a time for themselves. They are reminded nearer the time with SMS and email reminders, and everything syncs with Google Calendar.
If anyone has used Square for their appointment schedules, I would love to hear in the comments how your experience with it was.
Scouring through the very extensive MUO archive, here are some more options, which we have covered in the past. Let us know what you think of them.
Do You Reserve Appointment Slots?
Every service has got something different to appeal to different people. I like “You Can Book Me” but you might think that Google Calendar or Doodle is much better. So let us know in the comments what your preference is.
Do you create and reserve appointment slots? Could one of these services replace a flesh and blood human secretary?