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Is it time to modernise your customer booking process?

Does your business still book customer appointments or reservations over the phone or by email? If so, it’s time to modernise your process! Consider all the hours wasted on a task that can be completed more efficiently using an automated online booking system.

Whether you’re running a travel company, hotel, restaurant, hair salon, beauty parlour, or maintenance and repairs service, maximising the number of bookings you take is key to growing your business.

Many businesses have modernised and streamlined the appointment booking process by allowing customers to self-book their appointments online via their website. This not only saves your business time but is also more convenient for customers, allowing them to manage their appointments in real-time, at their convenience.

At Create8, we’ve helped countless businesses successfully integrate online booking systems on their websites. If you want to know how a booking system would benefit your business or are curious about how online booking systems work, read on to have all your questions answered!

What is an online booking system?

First things first, let’s find out what an online booking system is and how online booking systems work.

Online booking systems allow customers to make a reservation or book an appointment with your business online via your website, in their own time, without speaking to a member of staff.

This is achieved using software, often an app, WordPress plug-in, or another third-party service, that is integrated with your business website.

A good online booking system will have many customisation options, allowing businesses to tailor it to their industry and booking requirements. At a minimum, customers should be able to view a calendar of available appointments, select an appointment, and book it online. 

Depending on the software solution you choose, an online booking system can offer both your business and its customers a range of useful tools and features to make managing appointments or reservations simple, convenient, and efficient.

woman at the hairdressersWhat are the benefits of adding an online booking system to my website?

Wondering whether the benefits of online booking systems outweigh the cost of adding one to your website? Let’s learn a little more about how online booking can benefit both you and your customers.

  • Increase revenue – Making it as easy as possible for customers to book an appointment or make a reservation with your business can potentially maximise its booking volume and increase revenue.
  • Reduce administrative burden – Without an online booking system, handling booking enquiries and managing appointments takes up valuable time and resources. Outsourcing this job to an automated online booking system can help to cut costs and free up you and your employees’ time to get on with more strategic tasks.
  • Enhance efficiency – Online booking systems are designed to streamline and simplify the process of managing customer bookings. Many systems can even be integrated with your business’s existing systems, like its internal calendar and CRM software, to automate the process further and improve operational efficiency.
  • Open for bookings 24/7 – Allowing customers to book appointments online, outside business hours, or whenever is convenient for them, improves the customer experience and boosts customer satisfaction. Research has found that 40% of appointments are booked after business hours, demonstrating the importance of offering a round-the-clock booking service.
  • Gain consumer insights – Online booking systems can help businesses gain valuable insights and data about customer booking habits, including peak times and popular appointment slots. This insight can help businesses make more informed and strategic decisions.
  • Take payment upfront – A good online booking system offers the functionality to take payment or a deposit for appointments or reservations upfront and securely online. This helps to minimise no-shows and streamline the payment process.
  • Reduce human error – When bookings are made manually over the phone, there is room for human error. Perhaps an appointment is jotted down on a piece of paper but never transferred to the calendar, or details of the booking are misheard. Digitising the process helps to minimise the risk of errors occurring.
  • Opportunities to upsell – Many online booking systems allow businesses to offer personalised booking experiences and recommendations, allowing you to upsell to customers during the booking process, thereby boosting customer value and business revenue.
  • Maintain competitive advantage – Enabling customers to book online, particularly when competitors are closed, can give you a distinct competitive advantage.
  • Increase customer loyalty – By offering a simple, streamlined, and convenient customer experience, businesses can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

What features should I look for in an online booking system?

If you’re sold on the benefits of integrating an online booking system, it’s time to start shopping around for the right software for your business. Whether your website is built on Shopify, WordPress, Magento, or Squarespace, there are customer booking apps and integrations available for all the major eCommerce platforms. The right one for your business depends on your requirements and budget. We’ve put together a list of key online booking system features to look out for and compare when shopping around for the right software for your business.

Ease of use – An online booking system is meant to offer customers a quick and convenient booking service, so the software must make the booking process intuitive and user-friendly. Customers should be able to book an appointment or make a reservation with your business quickly and in as few clicks as possible. Don’t forget to make sure the system is simple for you and your team to use, too!

Mobile responsiveness 69% of online purchases in the UK are made using mobile phones, so your online booking system must be mobile responsive to cater to this large portion of the market and ensure a seamless user experience.

Man booking an appointment on his phone

Robust security – Your online booking system should offer a very high level of security as it will be handling customer data and potentially processing payments. Poor security in online booking leaves your business vulnerable to security breaches that could damage its reputation and lead to customer and revenue loss. 

Payment processing – Not all businesses need to take payment at the point of booking. However, if this is a feature you require, take care to choose software that offers secure payment processing and supports multiple payment options.

Notifications and reminders – Many online booking systems offer the option to send notifications and reminders about appointments to both the business and customers via email or SMS, based on customer preference. This feature improves communication, helping to create a positive customer experience and reducing the number of no-shows and the resulting lost revenue.

Integration capabilities – One of the most important factors to consider when selecting an online booking system is whether it can integrate seamlessly with your website platform and other existing systems, like your internal calendar and CRM. When all your systems can integrate and work together, it helps automate and streamline processes to increase operational efficiency.

Time zones and daylight savings – It’s important that your booking system can handle different time zones and daylight savings effectively to prevent scheduling errors and improve customer experience.

Customer portal – A feature that allows customers to log in and manage their bookings online, such as cancelling or rescheduling, can significantly enhance customer experience and loyalty by making the process more convenient.

Customisation options – Most online booking software allows you to customise its interface to reflect your website’s design and brand identity. This could include adding your business logo and imagery, changing the font and colour scheme, and customising the text on forms or functionality of the booking system. Checking what customisation options are available is particularly important if you need your booking system to look or function in a particular way. 

Need help choosing the right software for your business? Here at Create8, our team of bespoke web designers and developers can help you identify which software meets both your requirements and budget.

What are the best practices for implementing an online booking system on a website?

Deciding to modernise your customer booking process by integrating an online booking system is an important first step. However, successful implementation is crucial to ensure your new system’s effectiveness. We’re going to let you in on a few best practices when implementing an online booking system to ensure it’s user-friendly and efficient to maximise your investment’s value.

First, it’s crucial to research which software best meets your requirements. It must be able to integrate seamlessly with your website platform and backend systems.

Next up, you need to carefully consider user experience, making sure you set up the booking system to be as quick, simple, and convenient to use as possible to enhance customer experience. The system must be fully responsive and adapt seamlessly to any screen size or device on which it is being viewed. It should also use robust security protocols and comply with relevant data protection regulations. Don’t forget to include clear instructions and information throughout the booking process. Include details about the service, pricing, duration, cancellation policies, and what customers should expect. Make sure that your business’s contact information is displayed clearly throughout the booking process so that customers can contact you if they have any problems or issues during the booking process. Once the customer completes a booking, the system should send them an immediate cooking confirmation to eliminate uncertainty about whether the booking was successful. Finally, the booking process should be as simple and intuitive as possible. Minimise the number of steps needed to complete a booking and make it easy for customers to input their information quickly.

When you add online booking to a website, don’t forget to test it on multiple different devices and browsers to ensure that everything is functioning as it should be. Once the system has been launched, display a clear and action-oriented call to action (CTA) above the fold on your website to encourage people to book online. Don’t forget to advertise and market your new booking system, highlighting the benefits of booking online.

empty tables in a restaurantWhat are the costs associated with adding an online booking system to my website?

The cost of implementing an online booking system on your website will depend on your business’s unique needs, the software you choose, and the complexity of the system you require.

  • Setup fee – You may need the help of a web developer to set up, customise, and integrate your new online booking system.
  • Subscription fee – Many online booking systems operate on a subscription model, where you pay a monthly or annual fee to use the software.
  • Transaction fees – If you plan to take payments using your booking system, this may incur transaction fees.
  • Maintenance and updates – You may require ongoing help from a developer to maintain and update your online booking system.
  • Integration costs – If you need to integrate your booking system with other tools, like CRM systems, email marketing platforms, or accounting software, this service may incur additional costs.
  • Marketing – Once your new booking system is up and running, you may need to spend a little money updating your website, promotional materials, and marketing to advertise it.

However, don’t be put off by the costs listed above. Remember, for most small businesses, a simple online booking system is quick and easy to set up, and a basic subscription plan is all that is required.

Partner with Create8 to add an online booking system to your website

Is your customer booking process stuck in the dark ages? If you’re ready to improve customer experience by revitalising the way customers book with your business, speak to our team here at Create8.

We have helped countless businesses in a variety of industries implement online booking systems that look great, function seamlessly, help business operations run smoother and keep customers returning time and time again.

Take, for example, the online booking system we created for the Portuguese restaurant Petisco using the reservation booking system ResDiary. The reservation booking tool integrates seamlessly with the restaurant’s elegant website design and provides helpful and detailed booking information and terms, allowing customers to pick an available day and time from the calendar for their party to dine. The form requires minimal customer details, and the booking can be completed in just a few clicks.

To discuss your requirements in more detail or for further help or support with choosing the right online booking system for your business, contact us today.