From the moment her daily deal with Groupon went live, Maria Camacho was flooded with calls at The Little Yoga Studio in San Diego, California. “People are like, ‘What do I do? When can I come? Do I just show up?” Busy phone lines didn’t just overburden her tiny front desk staff, they also caused frustration for longtime clients who couldn’t get through to schedule classes and ask basic questions.
Camacho’s experience is hardly unique. Local merchants that offer daily deals run the risk of alienating their current customers if they devote too much time and resources to managing their new clientele, especially in industries that require significant customer interaction. Fitness studios, salons, and other businesses in service-related fields tend to be the most effected by this phenomenon, since these merchants can expect hundreds — if not thousands — of calls and emails from new clients booking appointments and training sessions in the days after their deals have gone live.
In an effort to combat this problem and free up phone lines, a number of vendors have popped up recently offering online scheduling services and tools that reduce the heavy lifting for small business owners.
Here are eight popular scheduling systems being used by SMBs to properly manage the influx of daily deal customers.
1) Full Slate. Daily deal companies like TIPPR recommend that merchants who need help scheduling new clients use Full Slate, an online system that lets clients book their own appointments at any time, day or night. Full Slate’s self-service scheduling tools are especially useful to businesses with multiple providers that each offer their own services and prices – like salons and spas – since businesses can set-up mini-menus of services that are unique to each employee on staff.
2) Genbook. Genbook is a great solution for businesses that want a scheduling service with minimal set-up or maintenance required. By placing a “BookNow!” button on their websites, SMBs can direct customers to scheduling pages hosted by Genbook. The service currently offers a 25% discount to merchants running deals with LivingSocial.
3) Schedulicity. Small businesses that deal with frequent no-shows from coupon buyers will want to check out Schedulicity, a scheduling system that claims it can cut down on no-shows by up to 70 percent. The online appointment-booking program is great for SMBs that need an easy way to send automated text and email reminders to first-time clients.
4) Groupon Scheduler. Merchants who’ve chosen to work with Groupon can get complimentary access to the company’s scheduling software. While not as robust as competing platforms, Groupon Scheduler does have all the necessary tools for accepting appointments, sending automated reminders, and managing staff schedules online.
5) GoBook. GoBook is the scheduling component of GramercyOne‘s GoSuite, the recently announced cloud-based platform for businesses. GoBook was built for businesses that want seamless integration between their current websites and their online appointment books. GoBook operates on a “freemium” model, which makes it ideally suited for companies with small marketing budgets.
6) StyleSeat. Developed specifically for merchants in the beauty and wellness industries, StyleSeat is a comprehensive platform that can be used for online booking, as well as marketing and CRM. In addition to offering free online scheduling and sending automated appointment confirmations, reminders, and thank you messages, StyleSeat helps salons send targeted marketing emails to customers once they’ve been entered into the system.
7) Appointy. Sole proprietors that currently use Google Calendar to manage appointments will appreciate the tools offered by Appointy. The online scheduling system is linked to Google Apps and syncs with Google Calendar in real-time. Any personal events that a business owner enters into his Google Calendar will be automatically blocked out on the Appointy scheduling book.
8) Appointment-Plus. Businesses that use QuickBooks for accounting will want to check out Appointment-Plus, an online self-scheduling tool that manages payment processing, as well as client reservations and bookings. Of the systems listed here, Appointment-Plus is perhaps the best suited for larger businesses and organizations.