Schedule and appointment management is a big part of running a business. Inefficient scheduling can largely impact business revenues, and various factors can cause this.
For example, a small spa business accommodates only a maximum of 10 clients a day. Clients call in to book their appointments, and the receptionist jots down all details on paper or a spreadsheet on her computer. With only one scheduler booking clients manually, a lot of things could go wrong, especially when days get hectic. A customer’s booked hour can get lost in the list; a sudden cancellation can disrupt the entire day’s routine, not the least, or an employee calling in sick can add to the chaos.
While troubles such as these can be considered “normal” by some businesses operating on manual scheduling schemes, these do not reflect good business practice and can lead to unhappy customers and, eventually, loss of clients. Instances such as these call for improvement and can be addressed using more advanced systems that can help a company run on schedule smoothly. In this article, let us take a look at a technology explicitly created for more efficient scheduling not only for businesses but also for their staff and customers.
What Is a Scheduling Software?
Scheduling software is a suite of applications used in managing employee and job schedules, as well as appointments and/or bookings for businesses and individual professionals. For companies, this type of software is useful not only to human resources, workforce, managers, and small business owners as it not only helps monitor the employee attendance and productive hours, it is also equipped with an automated calendar for setting up meetings, conferences, interviews, training, etc. For individual professionals, a scheduling software takes over appointment bookings, very much like a digital assistant that helps manage your time efficiently to boost productivity and avoid schedule overlaps and overbooking.
List of Best Scheduling Software
- 10to8: an online scheduling software that is simple and easy to use. Aside from sales teams, enterprise, and HR and recruitment, this scheduling solution also caters to higher education and healthcare providers. For healthcare, 10to8 functions as an online booking application with an intuitive feature that reminds patients of their appointments. This software has a free version and the paid plans offered start at $9.6 per month.
- Acuity Scheduling: a scheduling tool that provides an easy to use platform for booking appointments for private classes, events, workshops, etc. Its features include client self-scheduling, reminders via text notifications, automatic time conversion for clients, activity tracking, and more. This software also seamlessly integrates with CRM, payment, invoicing, accounting, and email applications. You can use Acuity Scheduling for free and also upgrade to paid plans which start at $15/month.
- Appointment Plus: a scheduling solution for a wide range of businesses, such as service-based, education, retail, logistics, banking, healthcare, and more. Appointment Plus offers standard and advanced tools for an optimized client appointment booking experience and engagement like email appointment notifications, SMS reminders, interactive appointment notifications, event schedule, and service schedule exception among others. The pricing for this software starts at $49/month.
- Calendly: an automated scheduling software that addresses the needs of freelancers and consultants, interviewers, sales and marketing, entrepreneurs, and more. With Calendly, you can schedule all types of meetings from one-on-one interviews to group training. You can also set the limit to the number of meetings that can be scheduled per day. When embedded on your website, potential clients can use Calendly to schedule meetings or product demo. You can start using Calendly for free but it also has paid versions, which start at $10/month for every user.
- Connecteam: an employee scheduling solution that allows you to manage your employees’ schedule, productivity, and training in a single platform. This software delivers a paperless and mobile-first technology, which gives more freedom and mobility to its users. Connecteam’s key features include time and GPS location tracking, geofence, kiosk app, job dispatch, shift planning, training courses, libraries, quizzes, and more. As the account administrator (manager, business operator, etc.), you can also customize the features, content, etc., in the employee app via the main dashboard. This scheduling tool is available for free and its paid plans start at $29/month for 200 users.
- Deputy: an employee scheduling software that helps you manage your team’s schedule and keep track of their productive hours. Other features include seamless communication and collaboration, leave management, task assigning, payroll correction, and more. Plan starts at $2.5/month for every user.
- Homebase: an employee scheduling tool that targets different types of businesses from restaurants, food and beverage, breweries, catering, health and beauty, to retail enterprises. Among its features are its user-friendly schedule builder, scheduling and hiring tools, timesheet, labor cost control and reporting, team communication, and more. Homebase has a free version available and its paid plans start at $16/month for every location.
- Humanity: a cloud-based employee scheduling solution that offers seamless integration with HCM tools, such as BambooHR, Workday, Square, etc. It also has a native mobile application where you can manage and track employee shifts, approve shift scheds, and more. The pricing for this software starts at $3.5/month.
- Paycor Scheduling: a scheduling solution that aims to optimize team organization, communication collaboration, and efficiency. This software is also available on mobile through which managers can manage employee schedules on the go. Employees will also be updated about their schedules on their mobile applications. For the cost and pricing plans, you can request for a quote via Paycor’s website.
- Mindbody: an appointment scheduling tool that caters to the needs of fitness, salon, spa, and other health and wellness enterprises. This application is an all-in-one solution as it also allows you to manage staff scheduling and payroll; staff members are also given the option to manage their own schedules which are shareable on social media platforms. Other features include marketing automation tools, advanced reporting, etc. The pricing starts at $129/month.
- SimplyBook.me: an online booking application for service-based businesses and is available on mobile devices. This software, which integrates with your business website and Facebook page, offers customizable booking portals and can also accept manual payments. It also syncs with your Google and Outlook calendars, which helps avoid conflicts in scheduling. Other features include rewards and promotions for your client and multiple service locations. SimplyBook.me has a free version and paid plans start at $9.90/month.
- TSheets: a time tracking solution by QuickBooks with features that revolve around employee and project monitoring. This software is also available on mobile where employees can capture and submit their productive hours for approval, which is useful to companies with staff working offsite. TSheets also has a time clock kiosk which is a more advanced alternative to traditional punch clocks. Other features include GPS time tracker, reporting, ADP integration, and more. The cost of this using this software starts at $10/month for every user.
- vCita: a scheduling tool dedicated to helping small businesses optimize their operations. Among its core features are online scheduling, client management, lead generation, and online payments and invoicing. On the backend operations, Vcita offers calendar management and marketing campaign assistance. The cost is $12/month if you are only getting the scheduling plan. For the complete package, pricing starts at $29/month.
- When I Work: an employee scheduling solution that not only allows you to build employee schedule, it also has time tracking, shift trading, time off request, and messaging features. This application has a free version and paid plans start at $2.50/month for every active user.
- ZoomShift: a time clock and work scheduler ideal for businesses with employees billed by the hour. Its features include timesheets and time clock, overtime warnings, shift rules, activity logs, and more. It also allows employees to track and calculate their own paid hours. ZoomShift’s paid plans start at $1.50 per month for every user after a free trial.
What Are the Types of Scheduling Software?
There are two known types of scheduling software, and while both are created for time and schedule management, they are designed to address different needs and cater to different users:
Appointment scheduling software
Also known as online booking software, this type of scheduling software comes in handy for professionals or businesses whose services are on an appointment basis (i.e., private clinics, salons and spas, house cleaning, house/office moving services, etc.) While the primary focus of this software is to schedule appointments, some applications are capable of payment processing and location tracking, depending on the needs of a professional or business.
Employee scheduling software
Unlike an appointment scheduling solution, which directly involves the participation of clients or customers, employee scheduling software focuses on the internal operations of creating an efficient workforce schedule. Instead of manually plotting schedules, overtimes, leaves, etc. on worksheets, this software helps companies save time in schedule management while maximizing their workforce resources.
How Do These Types of Scheduling Software Work?
Scheduling solutions work differently depending on the type of software your profession or business needs. If you are a professional or business that relies on client appointments, you can utilize appointment scheduling applications to assist your clients or customers in viewing available schedules and booking their preferred date and time for meetings, services, etc.
Appointment scheduling software would have self-service client portals (this can be embedded in your website or accessed via device apps) where your clients can choose the services they need for a particular schedule. Example: If you own a beauty salon, your clients can choose what services they need (hair color, hair cut, and more), the day and time they would go to your salon, and even their preferred stylist. Some appointment scheduling tools also have the option to pay for services beforehand. Furthermore, this type of software is also equipped with tools to manage staff hours, not only to optimize productivity but also to meet client demands.
Employee scheduling solutions, on the other hand, handle the complex scheduling process of company employees. Depending on the size and nature of your business and the number of your staff, employee scheduling tools work dynamically as they take care of managing rosters, shift schedules, attendance tracking, leave monitoring, and even payroll.
What Are the Key Features of Scheduling Software?
Appointment and employee scheduling applications have different key features, so that we will list them down separately as well.
Appointment scheduling software key features
Setting appointments is all done online, which can either be web-based or via supported devices. The same process also applies in following up on appointments, rescheduling, and even cancellation requests. Through online booking, the clients can also browse for products or services offered by a business or individual professional.
Once a client or customer books an appointment, it automatically reflects on the business end of the platform. Depending on staff or service availability, appointment requests can be confirmed, denied, or placed on a waiting list.
Another vital feature of a scheduling application is that it allows end-users to have their own individual calendars where they set and view their own appointments and share them with others. Scheduled appointments can also be accessed via Google calendar if the application supports this integration.
This feature gives customers access to staff calendars, which help in booking appointments with a specific employee.
Automated reminders and notifications
Never miss appointments with reminders that you can set up ahead of time. This feature also enables the application to send automated notifications to the clients via SMS, email, etc., to remind them of their upcoming appointments.
Online payment processing
Some appointment schedule tools are equipped with payment processing features, which is useful for products or services that require downpayment or if a client would like to pay for the service in advance.
Deals, rewards, promotions
Customers will also be able to see ongoing deals, rewards, and/or promos on staff calendars along with the terms and conditions for each.
Employee scheduling software key features
For companies with a more dynamic scheduling scheme, this feature gives a detailed view of each employee’s calendar. It allows businesses to monitor and manage their employees’ work hours and job schedules.
This feature tracks employees’ attendance and working hours, allowing you to find out whether they clock in and out on time, do they have overtime schedules; this also will enable employers to know if members of their staff are on paid time off.
Employers and/or managers have their own calendar where they can schedule meetings with employees, one-on-one coaching sessions, and more. These schedules are shareable with individual employee calendars or their Google Calendar if the scheduling software integrates with this application.
Automatic reminders and notifications
Send reminders to yourself and the employees about an upcoming meeting, interview, training, etc., ahead of time.
Field service management
This feature helps in monitoring the location and activities of an employee conducting fieldwork or working offsite.
This works hand in hand with calendar management as this feature checks the availability of resources, such as meeting rooms and equipment and make sure that they are available on the scheduled activity.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Scheduling Software?
Scheduling software offers a range of benefits and advantages not only for business operators, employees, and professionals but also for their clients or customers.
Employee scheduling software benefits:
Increase workforce efficiency
Scheduling software provides transparency for managers and employers to make sure that their staff or employees are productive during their work hours.
Easy shift schedule changes
Employees can request shift schedule changes directly from their end. Having a complete view of their staff schedule, managers and employers can decide whether to accept or deny the request according to the current workload and availability of the rest of the employees. Time off or vacation leave approvals
All information related to and affect employee schedules are organized in one location for easier and quicker access, especially when generating reports on a specific employee’s performance.
Accurate payroll calculation
With the payroll calculation based only on the approved work hours and paid time off, unauthorized overtime will be tracked and handled immediately.
Appointment scheduling software benefits:
Avoid overlaps, overbooking, and missed appointments.
Calendar visibility allows employers, managers, and staff to recognize if there are overlapping schedule for a service or staff member or if a certain day or week is completely booked. Notifications and reminders also help in minimizing client no-shows and/or unnecessary reschedule requests.
No more repetitive communication
With the end-to-end process of booking an appointment mainly if not fully automated, the usual back-and-forth communication between staff and clients will be avoided.
With staff schedules and appointments organized and easily accessible, your staff can shift their focus on their main priority, which is providing good client service, which then generates more revenue for the business.
Better customer experience
Appointment scheduling applications provide faster and more efficient booking experience to customers, especially busy clients who do not have much time booking and following-up on appointments via phone. No-show clients will also be reduced, especially for those who may forget about the appointments set.
What Are the Latest Trends in Scheduling Software Technology?
Below are the latest developments in scheduling software technology:
Artificial intelligence capability
Artificial intelligence (AI) is being integrated with various technologies, and AI scheduling algorithm is just among the concepts that are now being implemented. For starters, this technology is designed to automatically arrange schedules without the assistance of managers or employers.
Mobile capability is a feature that is becoming more vital among appointment scheduling solutions, as more and more clients are now relying on their mobile devices daily to accomplish different tasks, such as setting appointments.
Depending on the nature of business and services being provided, some scheduling applications are equipped with GPS capabilities. For employees and managers, this feature allows them to confirm whether an employee conducting fieldwork is at the actual site. For appointment scheduling software, this feature helps staff members locate a client’s location and vice versa.
Migration to cloud-hosted systems
Web-based scheduling applications have more to offer in terms of flexibility, accessibility, and affordability, which contribute to the growing preference for cloud-based solutions.
What Are the Potential Issues in Using Scheduling Software?
Choosing the right software
Scheduling applications come in different forms and can, at times, leave potential users confused and cause them to end up with a software that does not fit their scheduling needs.
Employee scheduling software allows employees to select their preferred shifts and time off. This, however, also requires a certain level of compromise to maintain the balance of available employees for each shift, especially on weekends and during holidays.
In an appointment-based business, last-minute requests for rescheduling or booking cancellations can disrupt productivity; this also applies to companies with employees requesting last-minute changes in their schedule due to emergencies and other reasons.
What Are the Factors to Consider When Browsing for and Comparing Scheduling Software?
Type of scheduling software
All software solutions are designed to be helpful, but not all of them can be helpful to your business or profession. To make sure that you are investing in the right software, it is highly recommended to test the product first on top of conducting thorough research on its features, functions, benefits, and evaluating if these factors fit with the nature of your profession or business.
A scheduling software solution that integrates with your existing software helps in further optimizing your business operations.
Cost and usability of features
Do not just check the prices of plans, also take into consideration if the features included and do not opt for a plan that has more features and functions your business does not really need.
Assess the vendor’s compliance with data security and if the software has strong protective measures in place against a data breach.
Top 5 Scheduling Software
This employee scheduling software is easy to use and packed with robust features to optimize team communication and collaboration. This also helps managers create tasks and designate them easily across team members of different departments. Disseminating information is also easier through its news feed feature, which keeps everyone up-to-date on company-related events and more. Plans start at $2.5 per user billed per month.
This appointment scheduling application is available on mobile devices and can be integrated not only on company websites but also on Facebook pages. Booking portals are also highly customizable, and the system also allows admins and employees to accept payments manually aside from credit card payments. This application can be used for free, and the paid plan starts at $9.90 per month.
When I Work
This is a straightforward software solution that focuses on attendance management. With this application, employees can clock in from their mobile devices or computers and also allows employers or managers to check the location of their staff via GeoCheckin. When I Work also has a free package with the paid scheduling plans starting at $1.50 per user every month.
This online booking software provides transparency in scheduling to avoid conflicts and miscommunication between clients and the business. This type of appointment scheduling solution is suited to clinics as it is equipped with features that help in managing client history. A free plan is also available, and the paid basic plan is priced at $9.6 per month.
This time clock and work scheduler is more employee-focused with easy to use features that enable employees to create and monitor their own schedules as well as calculate their payroll based on their recorded work hours. This application does not have a free version, but the paid plan starts at $2.50 per active user per month.