Why Scheduling Software?
The top performers in our review are Acuity Scheduling, the Gold Award winner; TimeTap, the Silver Award winner; and Setmore, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 scheduling solutions.
Busy offices are a healthy sign of productivity and business growth. It's also an indicator that you need a reliable system for keeping track of your clients, including scheduling and managing appointments. Scheduling software lets you, your secretary and your associates see and have access to the master calendar and efficiently schedule time to meet with your customers around other tasks, such as meetings and days off.
Besides traditional appointment setting, the scheduling solutions we reviewed create client portals you can link to from your business website that allows visitors to conveniently make an appointment online. Often these portals can be accessed with a mobile device and will match your in-office calendar with unavailable times blocked out.
After booking an appointment, these programs automatically notify staff of the appointment, usually through email, while also sending either an email or text message reminder to your client. The best scheduling programs also include convenient functions, such as creating wish lists and providing a client history. Several solutions we tested, such as BookedIN, allow you to include intake forms that clients complete when they book their appointment online, which helps reduce check-in time when they arrive at your office. Other programs, such as Appointy, let you invoice and collect payment at the time clients schedule their visits through the online portal.
Scheduling software is just one of a network of business solutions designed to work together to simplify your business's operation while providing tools to grow your company. Many of the appointment-booking programs we reviewed can integrate into other business solutions. For example, Appointlet integrates in some CRM solutions, while Acuity Scheduling connects with QuickBooks accounting software.
Which Scheduling Solution Is Best for You?
The tools needed to reserve, reschedule or cancel appointments are universal for any type of business, including realtor offices, spas and construction companies. Each of the solutions we tested easily meet these basic needs. However, some solutions are industry specific, such as NueMD, a patient-scheduling program designed for medical practices, which is currently on our top 10 list for medical practice management software. Typically, the scheduling functions in this type of program include additional office-management tools and comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Another type of common appointment-setting solution is online reservation systems. Net Check In, by ICA, is one such solution that allows patrons to check-in online and reserve an appointment at a salon or a table at their favorite restaurant. These solutions, like traditional scheduling software, create a simple client portal on your website that visitors can access and use.
Appointment-scheduling software is only one type of several scheduling solutions that are available. Workforce management programs let you manage a team of workers as they complete assigned tasks, while project management solutions track hours worked on projects, then bill clients for those hours worked.
If you don't work in a traditional office setting or you typically make appointments while on the go, you may benefit from an appointment or calendar app that helps you schedule meetings with clients and investors from your phone. You can visit our sister site, Tom's Guide, for a good list of appointment apps.
For more help in determining the right scheduling solution for your business, as well as information about other software you can use to expand your business, check out our articles on scheduling software and other business solutions.
What We Tested, What We Found
Client Experience: How User-Friendly is the Online Scheduler?
When we tested each of the scheduling applications on our lineup, we evaluated how intuitive and easy the self-service tools are for clients, since you will have customers with varying degrees of computer skills accessing the portal. Software solutions with simple calendars that didn't require a lot of steps to complete common tasks received a higher score than more complex calendars.
We determined whether wait lists are available and if clients are able to cancel or reschedule appointments through the online portal rather than having to call in for assistance. We also considered other appointment-setting tools, such as the ability to set recurring appointments or applications that provide an instant price quote. These tools help create a smooth and positive experience for your clients as they schedule their appointments online. As part of our evaluation of these tools, we assessed how clearly these tools are labeled, so clients can easily find them. Higher-ranked solutions also have both email and text reminders, plus, if your client lives in a different time zone, these applications can convert your time zone to the client's local time.
What Administrative Tools Does It Offer?
In addition to a client portal, the best meeting schedulers should make it easy for administrators and staff to set up and manage schedules from within the office. While testing these solutions, we evaluated how easy it is to set up the program. Programs that required too many steps and clicks to complete critical functions received a lower score, while software with a guide or wizard that aids you as you set up the online scheduler received higher scores.
We also looked at the quality of the administrative tools, such as if you can set up the program to accept payments through the client portal or schedule payments to be collected at a future date.
How Easy Is It to Embed the Integration?
Since the scheduling programs we tested include the ability to either embed a scheduler or link to the scheduler from your website, we tested this feature and took note of the different embedding options each application offers. We awarded higher scores to the programs that allow you to embed the scheduler on your website, link to it or share the scheduler to your different social media profiles.
Most of the schedulers were easy to use after we embedded them into the website. However, some applications were complex and unwieldy, so much so that it was cumbersome to read all of the instructions or complete basic tasks. Others simply placed a button link that redirected us to the free booking website provided by each of the scheduling software solutions. (These applications did not receive as high of a score as those that embedded the scheduler.)
Our Verdict & Recommendations
Scheduling software makes running your office more efficient. Client portals allow customers to schedule their own appointments online, streamlining the process with your in-office calendar. Our top rated services, Acuity Scheduling and Setmore, integrate with other important business solutions, such as time tracking and CRM software, creating a powerful business suite.
It is important that an online appointment-scheduling solution with an online self-service portal be easy for clients to navigate through. It should also give your clients or patients the option of receiving both email and text message reminders. Programs, like TimeTap, that include functions for generating instant quotes and allowing customers to fill out intake paperwork at the time they book their appointment save your staff and you time and money (plus they reduce wait times once clients check-in at your office).
Our highest-ranked scheduling software programs are the easiest to use, from both a client and administrative standpoint, and embed the scheduler into your website rather than creating a link to an external page.