However, there are also some critical scheduling features that aren’t so ubiquitous. Maybe these haven’t been listed as features on a vendor’s web site, and so they haven’t appeared on your radar yet. But if you’re seriously considering a scheduling software solution, they should be.
So, without further ado, here are the top four online scheduling software features you can’t do without.
1. SCHEDULE EXCEPTIONS
Most people have regular schedules. We start and end our work days at specific times. The beginning and ending times may vary from day to day, but most of us are on a consistent schedule.
However, there are always exceptions to a schedule. You may need to come in early or stay late during a holiday. Maybe you have to work late on a particular day to accommodate a client or support a one-day promotion.
When this happens, we don’t need to change our regular schedule; we just want to make an adjustment to a specific date. That’s where the scheduling exceptions feature comes into play. It allows you to temporarily override your schedule when necessary. If your scheduling software doesn’t have this feature and forces you to rework your entire schedule for one inadvertent change, consider the headaches and productivity issues you could be avoiding.
2. CUSTOMIZABLE REGISTRATION FORMS
In order for customers to book online, they first have to register on your scheduling site. This is where they enter their name, email address, login, password, etc. But, not all organizations need to gather the same information about their customers. Some only need first name, last name, and email address, while others require much more data than that.
You should be able to control what information you’d like your customers to enter on your registration form, including what fields are required and which are optional. Unfortunately, lots of scheduling systems don’t offer this capability, instead forcing administrators to use their default set-up.
What’s more, the information you ask for when customers self-register online may be different than what you’d like to collect when you or your staff registers a customer by phone or in person. For example, staff may want to denote that a customer is a repeat client, or add an alert to his account. So, having dual versions of the registration form, one for direct customer entry and another for staff entry, can be very useful.
3. DISALLOWING CANCELLATIONS WITHIN A CERTAIN TIME FRAME
Cancellations are unfortunately part of the game in appointment scheduling. If you offer appointments at your organization, chances are that customers will need to cancel them sometimes. It happens and you deal with it.,
However, when a customer cancels at the last minute, it can cause a time slot to go unused. Since for most organizations, the optimal utilization of resources — namely people and time — is of utmost importance, this is a serious problem.
If you allow your customers to book their appointments online, chances are you also let them cancel online. That’s where this next can’t-do-without feature comes in. Some schedulers allow you to set a time frame in which a customer can self-cancel. For example, you may disallow same-day cancellations. In that case, you would configure your scheduling system to forbid this. But you’ll also want to have the ability to cancel appointments via the administrative interface at any time.
For optimum utilization and efficiency in your cancellation process, this is unquestionably a feature you can’t do without.
4. DIFFERENT ACCESS TYPES
In some organizations, controlling what users can and can’t do within a software system isn’t that important. Maybe that’s because it’s a small business, or a simple, shared application that one or two people use. But, when an organization is subject to regulation or includes system users with distinct roles, governing administrative access becomes critical.
Take, for example, a business that books appointments for multiple service providers. There may be no need for one provider to access the calendar of another. In fact, there may be important business reasons why you wouldn’t want providers looking at each other’s appointments, such as confidentiality of their customer bases. Yet, some appointment scheduling systems allow every staff member to see and access every other staff member’s calendar. For some organizations, that’s a nonstarter. And unfortunately, you may not realize that a scheduling system is designed like this until you’ve started begun using it.
So, administrative access types are yet another very important feature you can’t do without.
The bottom line is this: if you’re considering an online scheduling software implementation, you first want to make sure that the application is outfitted with the basics. It needs to be able to send reminders to customers, allow for multiple calendars, and be able accessible through the internet.
But, don’t stop there when comparing systems, because there are a number of critical scheduling features that aren’t so obvious. Make sure the system allows you to override your schedule when warranted, that you can capture the data you need from customers, that you have the ability to control when your customers can cancel, and that you can limit users’ system access levels. You’ll be glad you did.