Updated: Aug 26, 2022
There are many things we need to schedule in our life as business owners. The type of schedule you have differs depending on the type of business you have. For us, it is the scheduling of coaching sessions and free consultations. Our clients in the service industry tell us that scheduling appointments is time-consuming. For this reason, I will share some thoughts about our tools and how they have helped us.
Why I Looked For a Scheduling Tool
For our business, I do the majority of upfront or free consultations with the client. I found that booking appointments, whether an initial conversation, our free consultation or an actual coaching session, became an onerous and time-consuming task. Since it is tough to talk to someone live with their calendar open, I would send the first email and suggest three dates and times. I would then get back an email saying Tues was great, but 10:00 versus 9:00 would be better. I then would let them know I was not available at 9:00 but at 9:30. This exercise could take almost an hour of the day with one or two people just trying to schedule an appointment.
I am a technology user, so I wanted an online product. My business partner is also, but I have not been able to get him to relinquish control of his calendar. I decided I wasn't going to wait to convince him. I would at least look for something for myself and talked to other peers using software for scheduling to get their take - so I went off to do my research.
Scheduling Tool Requirements
I am that person when looking for a tool; I sign up for 3-4 trials and try each before deciding on a product. For me, this decision was relatively easy, as the criteria I looked for were the following:
Must integrate into Outlook 365 as we have invested in Microsoft 365 for business
Must integrate with Zoom as we use it for Business Coaching or Advisory Services.
Must have a friendly user interface that does not look like a desktop product ported to the web
Must be easy for clients to use and book appointments
Must have the ability for clients to fill in a questionnaire, so we know something about the business before the consultation.
Must end up saving me time versus jumping through hula hoops because of deficiencies in the product
Must have a return on investment for using it
Must have technical support that is easy to access and has a reasonable turnaround.
After a few weeks of trying different products, I went with vCita. Many of its competitors had similar functionality, but this product won hands down when I gave each a score based on my rating chart. Here are the reasons I chose it and how it has helped our business.
It was easy to set up and was easy to add branding to your business, so the interface that the client sees is entirely branded for your business.
My Outlook Calendar syncs with the online calendar, so my schedule is always up to date.
I can also choose times that I want to receive certain types of appointments and add more time before and after each appointment so I can prepare if needed.
I can block out times when we are busy and when I do not want to receive appointments.
Prospects can go online and book a time to meet with me automatically and schedule an appointment, and it will book it in my calendar. They also can reschedule if need be. All I have to do is accept the meeting.
A payment system is built into the product, so we have started offering to coach for those who want ad-hoc coaching, which is not structured. They pay for the time in advance and book the appointment. This option has provided another source of revenue for us.
In addition to being integrated into our website, it has integrations into Facebook. Now when someone fills in a form on our website and wants to have contact, I can send them a link in an email that goes to VCita so they can book a convenient time.
We now have another mini CRM online. Everyone that signs up for an appointment has to fill in the information they want to know about the business. This information is very helpful as it lets you find out about the company before the conversation, giving the client more time to talk about what they want versus providing you with all the background on their business.
You have your custom page, which you can design for your business - our page.
Their support is amicable, and there is a quick turnaround. I am okay with chat and email support as long as I hear back from someone promptly.
Since I signed up, because it is a SaaS model, there have been quite a few improvements in a short period, from which I have benefited. Because it is a SaaS model, we are paying monthly, which also helps with cash flow.
There is an invoicing engine within the product, but we have not utilized it, as we use QuickBooks for this function.
There are several levels of the product so you can choose the one right for you.
Return on Investment
There has been a significant productivity improvement. I used to spend 30 minutes back and forth with every scheduling of an appointment to now spending 5 seconds to accept a meeting that can only be scheduled when I am available.
There have been increased appointments for free consultations and self-booking of appointments. This is due to the ability of the client able to self-serve. In turn, having this has increased our number of sales and reduced our time to close.
We could start to create paid services that the client can pay for and book online. We recently launched this service, so we only have had a few at this point, but we are looking to offer additional self-service offerings.
Our coaching clients can book their appointments up to a month in advance.
We better understand the prospects and their needs ahead of time, so we are better prepared for the conversation, and the call is more productive for both parties.
There are many tools on the market that fall into the scheduling category. Before choosing a product, you want to define the requirements and what issue in your business you are looking for the product to solve. Primarily for us, I was looking to improve my productivity but found other benefits, making purchasing the subscription service for our business a no-brainer. The features far exceeded just reducing scheduling time and have also made me more efficient in this area.
If you are looking for a scheduling tool, my advice based on this recent experience is to make a list of the essential features and benefits — select 2 or 3 products to try and see how they rate against each other for your requirements. I advocate for any product with a subscription license / monthly option for businesses, as this is always a benefit for your cash flow, and you still get the most up-to-date solution.
If you are a small business in Canada and are looking for tools to help you with your business, we would be happy to discuss this with you through a free consultation. See how easy it is to book an appointment.