formats

Online booking breakdown

So things have changed since I last talked about online booking way back when.  I wanted to give you a quick breakdown of what I’ve found using all the different online booking sites.

First of all, I know a lot of Rolfers don’t even want to have a fixed expense every month, but let me tell you that it’s worth it. It’s WELL worth it to look professional and to have an easy to manage system of handling your appointments. It just is.  These solutions will run you between $18 and $30 a month. It’s worth it. Seriously.

Now that that’s out of the way, here are the options of the bazillions of online booking options out there that I think are worth using. I’ve chosen these with a priority on ease of use for the admin (YOU), client experience (YOUR client’s experience), and the set of features useful for you to manage your business. I’ve disqualified a huge number of booking sites because their admin side was too clunky and disorganized and/or their client side was too clunky or confusing.

Also, any booking solution that requires someone to create a login got automatically disqualified. Why? Because most people have enough logins and passwords to remember, and very few have any good tools for managing it (if you need one, check out lastpass.com). So when faced with this seemingly small hurdle, a lot of people will simply move along and not book online — which means they either call you or don’t contact you at all.  The whole point of online booking is to make things EASY, so don’t put some extra hurdle in place to slow your prospective clients down by forcing them to create a login (end rant).

The features I really looked for in booking solutions are listed below. If a booking system didn’t allow one of these, it was knocked off my list (with one exception!).

  • efficiency and convenience for both client and admin,
  • the ability to embed the booking into your website (i.e. book without ever leaving your site)
  • the ability to sync the online booking calendar with your mobile phone/google calendar/ical
  • the ability to customize confirmation and reminder emails with necessary information (e.g. driving instructions, what to wear/bring, intake forms)

So here’s the list (and I’ll tell you which one I use now and why)

1) Fullslate.com – I love this online scheduling solution. If I could marry it, I would. The interface for clients and for admins is spectacular. It looks clean, works really quickly, and works really well. Their calendar sync is awesome. Their customizable messages are great. You can create whatever kinds of custom messages you want.  I even created one for when I got sick and had to cancel multiple appointments. When I canceled an appointment, I could select “cancellation – sick” as the message to send and it’d autofill the client’s name and it’d all be done (take your vitamins). And it’s really easy to import and export customer information to a spreadsheet or to another contact manager format. Support was always speedy. A++ in my book.  The embedded booking widget for your website is spectacular. It looks good and simple and is very intuitive for new and returning clients.  I gushed so often and loudly about this system that Full Slate actually quoted me in some of their print ads and in press releases. I really like their system. Really.

Regular price is $29.95/month for a solo practitioner but with an ABMP membership (which I know many of us are on), it’s only $17.95 — which is an incredible price break and makes it a no-brainer. If you DON’T have an ABMP membership, but you still want a discount, don’t worry. You can still get a $5 discount per month for the first year  by using this link: Full Slate discount for Rolfers.  The guys at Full Slate know I love their system (though I’m not on it anymore…) and were gracious enough to supply a discount code for Rolfers who visit this site. If there is one site I would strongly recommend to 99% of Rolfers, it’s this one. And I get paid nothing to say it!

2) Bookfresh.com - I haven’t used bookfresh in over a year now so some things may have changed. I left it for Fullslate. Bookfresh’s google calendar sync was buggy for a while, then seemed to get much more stable, then was a little buggy. The admin side lagged a lot, which made it a little annoying to book someone standing right there. The load times were just insufferable some times. Their support was hit or miss and sometimes would take forever to respond. The ability to embed into the website was good, but not as good as Fullslate.com. The customizable messages were limited in number and format. While functional, it just wasn’t as customizable as Fullslate. Some people seem to like it (and it’s definitely a workable solution), so I list it here as it meets pretty much all criteria but doesn’t particularly excel in any one way. As of today it’s $19.95/month.

3) Spa-booker.com – The client side on spa-booker is not as good as fullslate or bookfresh, in my opinion. The layout is a bit confusing, and it limits admin choices in how you handle and arrange certain things like services or appointment times.  It doesn’t do google calendar sync (yet — it’s under development). It doesn’t even do an embedded widget for booking on your site. These are reasons to really dislike it and technically disqualify it.

HOWEVER, it does make it easier to do bookkeeping, as you can log payments through their integrated system, manage inventory (if you have inventory of things to manage and are willing to pay an extra $40/month), track referrals, sell gift cards, sell packages/series of sessions and can generate all kinds of reports to make your life easier (or more complicated). It is also scalable to handle multiple rooms and staff and lets you customize all kinds of things in fun ways (price goes up though!).

The admin side is not as quick as fullslate, and is considerably more complex in other ways, but to get the integrated bookkeeping and payment processing (Credit card processing can be integrated — which removes a lot of clicking to and fro to manage payments), this is the only solution worth looking at (their competitor, MindBodyOnline, is an absolute nightmare of buggy software mayhem). Their starter package is $25/month. The pro package is $65/month.

***Edit: If you decide to sign up for the pro package, let them know that you were referred by an existing spabooker customer (if you know someone else, use their name, otherwise, you can use mine!) and they will give you 20% off the initial setup fee.

Conclusion

So which one am I on now? I’m on Spa-booker for now. I’ve found ways around some of the issues I don’t like listed above, and I’m eagerly awaiting the google calendar sync. In the meantime, they do send you ical attachments that allow you to automatically add the event to a calendar, so it’s a tolerable situation for now (though the extra clicking does mean extra inefficiency).

Once google calendar sync gets added, I’ll probably be locked into spa booker forever.  It meets my business needs, so I don’t have a choice!  I do often find myself longing for the old days of Fullslate — when life was simpler and swifter!

If you’ve used any of these or have insights to share about other online booking solutions, post in the comment section below!

10 Responses

  1. Til

    Thanks for the rundown, Matt! The 3rd service I know about that does payment processing (like Spabooker and MindBody) is Acutity Scheduling http://www.acuityscheduling.com/

    Very simple, very affordable, pretty powerful too. Only drag is that it is hard to create custom appointment times. Not impossible, just takes some learning and clicking…

  2. Matt

    Thanks for adding that, Til. You brought up an interesting point about the credit card processing. It looks like Acuity can do paypal integration, and I left out that fullslate and bookfresh do that as well. It looks like Acuity also lets you do actual swiped credit card payments if you have an authorize.net account, which would certainly be nice.

    Their administrative interface (which anyone can go test at their website) just doesn’t do it for me for a number of reasons (including my graphic snobbishness). Chief of my concerns though is that the way you schedule appointments is not very intuitive. It makes it far too easy to block time and not easy enough to book time for an appointment!

  3. Thank you for sharing personal experience with us. This has made my decission less stressful. I’ve actually heard only good things about full slate and upstart business. You are greatly appreciated.

  4. Matt

    You’re very welcome!

  5. Matt

    Don’t forget to get the discount with the link in the post or with your ABMP membership!

  6. Andy

    Hey Matt – I’m switching from Mindbody (crap) to spabooker and hoping it will add the hours to my day that I had lost with mindbody. Wondering what your workaround with spabooker is so that a client does not have to log in. Any word on gmail integration? I’m signed up but impatiently waiting for my account to be created and login to be sent. Thanks for your time.

  7. Matt

    I got off spabooker a while ago, so I don’t remember whether there was a workaround or what it was to make it so you don’t have to login. I think there was a setting in there. I have another post about the google calendar sync. In short, it’s subpar. However, I’m pretty sure you’ll be happier with spabooker over mindbody. Spabooker is at least predictable, intuitive, and functional!

  8. Andy

    Ugh… not what I wanted to hear. I’ve been on the search for something that can do it all, but there is so much give and take. Mindbody could manage my client documents, had api partners that played nice and more. But after spending endless hours on numerous different support calls to be told, “sorry… the way you’re set up (2 locations that they set up without input) you can’t do that – IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I CAN HELP YOU WITH?” I just couldn’t take it anymore. I feel like I’ve gotten to the point in one day that it took 4-5 months to get with mindbody. But I am still dreading the lack of some features and don’t like that their booker can’t be embedded without a bunch of coding – and looking at their suggestions that are “planned” from 2011 is not promising that I will see the features I hope for. They HAVE, however, gone beta with a document management within customer files for… wait for it… $275 per location per month.

    Anyway… just curious what you are with now?

  9. Matt

    I’m using Full Slate now at fullslate.com. I doubt it will work well for your situation as it doesn’t do resource/room management or POS.

    Couple things you may want to look into, though I have no real experience with any of these systems:
    http://www.zenplanner.com/pricing
    https://frontdeskhq.com/#fd_apps
    http://www.fitquake.com/
    https://goteamup.com/en-us/pricing/us/

  10. I love FullSlate, but if I had heard of Appointlet I might have picked that instead. Only $10-18/month, and seems to have good features. Two friends-of-friends on Facebook say they love it.
    Otherwise Schedulicity and GenBook, each at $20/month, are the only other ones I’d consider.

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