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.
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!