What do a yoga center, a mechanic's shop, a dentist's office, and a B&B all have in common? At first glance, not much. A closer look reveals that they are all examples of the many types of businesses that need an effective way to manage appointments and reservations.
These days, continuing to rely solely on a receptionist with a phone, a planner, and a lot of patience is simply anachronistic. Regardless of your business size, it has become more convenient to switch to an online reservation system. Now, let's find out why.
What is an Online Reservation System, and How Does it Work?
It may seem intuitive, but let's take a closer look. An online reservation system is simply a software that allows potential customers to reserve and pay for an activity or a service directly through your website or an app.
This means that when a user finds a service that interests them and they decide to make a reservation, they can make it online: they can check your current schedule to view available appointments, choose the date and time that best suits them, and complete the process by making the payment. In the best case scenario, everything works on a self-service basis, considerably reducing your staff's workload and automatically resolving some of the complications that can arise when processing these kinds of reservations.
Thanks to online reservation systems, users no longer need to call you: all they have to do is visit the website to find all the information they need and to book their desired appointment or reserve your services.
Why switch to online reservations?
Managing appointment schedules manually is just not efficient: it means you always need to have staff available, and that person needs to sit with pen and paper to line up availability and requests. In this scenario, if you increase your offerings, or - even better - your demand grows, the work becomes more complicated, this brings more risks, longer waiting times and more frequent errors.
Once you set up your online reservation software, however, your customers are free to make their reservations any time - even in the middle of the night, if they feel like it! It makes managing every aspect easy, and the risk of errors is significantly lowered.
It's clear why switching to an online reservation system is the most advantageous solution for any business, regardless of your sector or the size of your company.
Of course, switching to an online reservation system doesn't mean completely abandoning traditional methods of taking reservations: in fact, these two systems can be used together. For example, customers with special requirements may prefer talking to a staff member to resolve any questions or particular requests. And in the end, it's all about satisfied customers!
What are the Advantages of Online Reservation Systems?
As we explained, online reservation systems have clear advantages compared to the traditional method. Let's take a closer look at the main benefits:
They Save Time
Traditional reservation systems require a staff member to spend a good part of their time managing customer calls. An automated, online system means that the customer does it all by themselves: they check availability, choose the best options, and complete the transaction, then receive an automatic confirmation e-mail. There's no need for any human interaction, so your staff can spend their time on other tasks.
They Resolve Bottlenecks
Taking reservations by phone means you can only receive them during that staff member's work hours. What's more, if you only have a single phone line, only one person can make a reservation at a time. This bottleneck, which limits your opportunities, doesn't happen with an online reservation system that all customers can access at any time, anywhere, and with any device.
It Works 24/7, 7 Days a Week.
As with all automated systems, one great advantage is that once you set up your online reservation system it will work for you all day, every day, all the time. Even if you're out of the office or at home sleeping, you'll continue to receive reservations without a problem.
They Lead to More Purchases
These days, it's more likely that potential customers find you through an online search than through any other means of advertising. Don't make them exit their browser to make a call: they might not feel like it. If you make the process easier by displaying all the information they may need and also allow them to make reservations and pay online, you're more likely to succeed. In technical terms, you've built a very effective customer journey.
It Works on Mobile
New online reservation systems allow your customers to use a wide range of devices: they can place their orders through their smartphones, tablets, or computers, and always have a satisfying experience. What's more, mobile access is convenient for you, too: you can access your platform and view the status of your reservations any time, anywhere.
It Provides Valuable Information
When they make a reservation online, your customers give you a lot of information that usually stays saved and that you can decide to use for your business. First of all, they give you their e-mail address: this means you'll be able to contact them to ask for feedback, or to offer discounts or new services.
Of course, this data must be protected and used according to privacy regulations, but in general, these platforms provide all the necessary guarantees, and any information that lets you understand your customers is valuable for optimizing your upcoming marketing initiatives.
It Manages Reminders and Recurring Appointments
If you set it up properly, your online reservation system will let you maximize your opportunities. For example, by offering alternative solutions if there are no available time slots left, or allowing loyal customers to book recurring appointments. Plus, the system will send an automatic SMS or e-mail reminder for every appointment, to make sure the customer doesn't forget to show up. In other words, you can automate many operations that can help you earn more.
It Makes Syncing Calendars Easier
Finally, many online reservation systems allow you to sync external calendars: for example, you can synchronize it with the Google Calendar you use for your personal schedule. In this way, each time a reservation is made, the system checks your external calendars for you to avoid setting appointments you may need to re-schedule.
Choosing an Online Reservation System
You know what your customers want: a convenient way to see all the information they need, easily make a reservation, and pay using their preferred payment method without any obstacles. Now, all that's left for you to do is to determine your own needs and priorities, and to identify the best online reservation system for you, based on these criteria.
There are many platforms available. To guide your search, start by considering your budget and how easy to use a solution is, both for you as the manager and for the customers who will use it to book appointments. The system should guarantee certain core features: for example, it must work with the Cloud, accept several payment options (credit cards, bank transfers, PayPal, etc.), and allow customers to make appointments in real time. Make sure that the system can be easily integrated not only into your website, but also with any social media channels or other platforms you use (CRM, e-mail marketing, etc.). Finally, check what reporting tools it uses to allow you to monitor how your business is growing.
Reservio: Managing Appointments is Easy
Reservio is a good solution for any business that needs to manage appointments online.
Working with Reservio is easy and intuitive: all you need to do is sign up on the website, enter some information about your business, and add a button for reservations on your website.
Visitors can click this button to view your available time slots and make an appointment at the time that best suits them.
To see it in action, click on the button below: it's a little preview of what you can add to your website.
What's interesting is that in addition to displaying it on your website, you can also connect this tool to your Facebook page so that your fans can easily make online reservations.
If you run a business, your website should be more than a simple showcase or digital calling card: if you limit yourself, you miss an opportunity.
Your website should become one of your main work tools: the tool that allows you to make yourself known, promote your services, turn visitors into customers, and earn money.
In this sense, adding an online reservation button to your pages is essential. As we've seen, it's a small effort that pays off with significant advantages.
So what are you waiting for? If you haven't done this already, set aside your old planner and switch to an online reservation system that better supports your business!