Appointment Scheduling is one of those chores that most people just want to avoid.
Playing email tag with a prospect or client is not fun, which is why this year you need an appointment scheduler. Play email tag for too long and you risk losing the relationship full stop if you keep having to go back and telling the prospect that you are not available.
So why do it?
There are more than 20 exceptional appointment scheduler tools out there that can meet your every need. They integrate with just about every tool out there too which is great. Today we are looking at GrowthVine’s top 5 appointment scheduler tools for booking appointments in 2019.
What makes a great meeting and appointment scheduler?
To me, a great appointment scheduler consists of a few things:
- It needs to connect to my work diary (Google Calendar) but it must also connect to my iPhone calendar. I want to see exactly when I have time blocked out for my personal life.
Work life balance is really important
, especially in this industry where we are often giving away a lot of ourselves. We need tools that can understand when we have things like the school run, gym or even just coffee with a friend already booked in. Family time is important.
- It should be able to gather data from the person booking the appointment and deliver certain information to them. For example, their email, business name and skype ID. Plus, tell them where we will be having the meeting. For us, we ask anyone booking a call to agree to show up to the call by confirming their intention. It might sound stupid but believe me, the amount of people who want to book a call in your diary but do not intend to show up will amaze you.
- A good scheduler tool will be able to take payment by my chosen payment gateway. No one wants to have to waste time issuing an invoice just for the sake of it. A scheduler to do as much of the heavy lifting for me as possible.
- Lastly, the scheduler should reach out to the person I had a meeting with and ask them to give me feedback. This generates important testimonials and opportunities to learn more about the thoughts and opinions of the client.
Not a bad wish list huh?!
Well, the good news is that there are several schedulers on the market that can deliver on these features.
And, if you really want to get into my top 5 list as a scheduler tool, you need to be able to connect to the rest of my tool kit. Integrating with everything from CRM to email marketing tools is vital, so a new appointment can trigger a drip automation where it is relevant.
We use Bookafy at GrowthVine daily and actively switched over to it from Calendly. As Bookafy is relatively unknown appointment scheduler compared to the other names on the list we will be spending a bit more time looking at how it works.
We moved to Bookafy because of their Appsumo deal. Our rule here at GrowthVine is to keep our business lean and to avoid monthly recurring costs where possible. We are in the business of making money, not spending it on software!
Bookafy ran a lifetime deal offer which is certainly worth keeping an eye out for if they repeat it again, which made them a no-brainer to choose over Calendly.
An appointment scheduler that is easy to use
Using Bookafy is a doddle, I was excited when we first logged in because of the clean, professional look. Bookafy actually walks you through the initial setup in term of basic customization and helps you get the basic information in place. One of our pet peeves here at GrowthVine is how long tools can take to get up and running out of the box and Bookafy was incredibly quick to get going.
Always being updated
Even since we have been using it, there have been several updates to make the internal layout a bit simpler. I’d like to say that is because Bookafy read my emails for things like when we couldn’t find things like the reviews section anywhere in the settings. However, the reality is they actually have a really clear roadmap in terms of development and it had obviously been planned for a while.
Bookafy does include some nice features for their price point as well. We love the text notifications/reminders of upcoming meetings for the person who scheduled with you. The more a client or prospect is reminded about their call, the more likely they are to turn up. Bookafy also offers support for webinar or class registrations and the ability to group your meeting types by new or existing clients.
We really love how Bookafy allows you to customise the client landing page with your own layout, blurb and testimonials. This makes everything feel just that bit more on brand than I found with other tools.
It’s in the roadmap
One of the few things you can’t do, but I’ve been promised that’s been added to the development roadmap, is to create an appointment type that is unique for a client and keep that appointment hidden from the main page and category. There’s a slider button that suggests you can do this, but it just doesn’t work how we’d expect. But, like I said they are fixing this!
As with most scheduler software, while you can add custom fields to your booking form but they will just be free text fields. You don’t have the ability to add a checkbox, yes/no, or other types of fields as you would be with other solutions. We always ask prospects to commit to picking up their scheduled call and actually don’t mind this limitation as we ask them to simply type ‘YES’.
It automatically follows up for reviews and testimonials
One of the other good things about Bookafy is that it can automatically collect reviews and feedback for you. I really like the notification email that tells me I’ve got a new review and appreciate having the ability to mark it as approved, trash or spam. It saves having an automation happening elsewhere, plus keeping reviews inside the tool means, you don’t have to hunt around folders, emails or other random places looking for that glowing client review.
Bookafy works with Stripe and Authorize.net to take payments, so you can list pay at the time of booking appointments in your scheduler too.
Plus, the pricing and plans are perfect. Bookafy doesn’t exclude vital items and functionality from lower tiers or have huge price hikes that you need to pay in order to get the functionality you want.
There is a free plan which actually has a decent level of functionality, Pro at $7 and Enterprise at $11. All paid plans are priced per user.
We used to obsess over Calendly scheduling appointments with our clients before moving to Bookafy. It provides a clean, simple way to let people schedule meetings with you when you’re available.
You get to set your availability for various meeting types and set a custom buffer time both in front and behind the booking so that you don’t rush between calls. Once set up, you simply send sales leads, clients, or coworkers a link that will show them your availability. A couple of clicks on their end, and voila your meeting is set!
Calendly is pretty simple and easy-to-use, yet a very powerful appointment scheduler.
It has certainly been designed to save time and improve service quality, which we all know is a great way to boost sales.
One feature that does stand out is its ability to do a round robin. You can connect up several team members calendars, such as your sales team and the calendar will provide slots for say a ‘sales call’ based on the pooled availability of the team members associated to that appointment type.
Plus, Calendly has a native integration with Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook, and Office 365. It automatically syncs scheduled appointments with your calendar of choice, as well as your invitee’s calendar. We like the fact that, like Bookafy, you can also send invitees custom reminders, to make sure they don’t forget or to prime them with any information you may need them to have to hand before the call.
In fact, both Calendly and Bookafy allows you to schedule a minimum amount of time in advance that a client can schedule a call. This is on top of before and after each appointment, which is a basic feature of any appointment scheduler. Both have time zone detection which is perfect for those of us who work across multiple countries.
Calendly Pricing: Free; from $10 per month when paying monthly for Premium features like integrations and customized branding and reminders
We often recommended Acuity Scheduling to clients whose needs fit their feature list. It is a user-friendly scheduling solution where clients can quickly view real-time availability.
Acuity is great for being able to upsell products at the checkout if you don’t have a checkout tool such as ClickFunnels or Thrive Cart. It can also be super helpful if you want to be able to sell products directly without having a website functionality such as Shopify or WooCommerce.
More payment gateways than any other scheduler tool we frequently recommend
Like with Calendly and Bookafy, you can accept online payments with Acuity. However, they work with more payment gateways than others on the list including PayPal, Stripe, Square, Authorize.net and Braintree.
If you need to manage physical locations such as having actual offices or meeting venues in two cities or countries, then Acuity Scheduling is for you. The only downside is that you need to be on one of the higher plans in order to activate this feature.
While Acuity Scheduling offers a free plan, it’s functionality is very limited. I don’t know anyone who has actually stuck with it, most people tend to upgrade to Emerging at $15 as a minimum.
Overall, Acuity Scheduling has changed a lot over the years. Typically we recommend it as the best tool for those with multiple locations, memberships (physical type only) and those with multiple staff to manage. The all-inclusive price at $25 for 6 calendars/staff is great for this level of business and certainly makes it worth swapping to. However, we find that for those using the lower packages, other tools can be just as good.
The Growing and Powerhouse tiers with their additional functionality are really the best part of Acuity Scheduling and well worth a look if you need that type of functionality.
If you are using Gsuite for businesses then it is well worth considering using Google apps as well and in particular Google Calendar.
If you’re using Google Calendar, just schedule a meeting with someone and add them as an invitee. This will trigger an automated invite to the meeting.
Best for internal meetings
The only downside can be not knowing when the person your meeting is free. If it is an internal meeting, then you can use the ‘Find a Time’ tab in the ‘Edit Event’ screen which will show the availability. The problem is, however, that most users do not publicly share their calendars. Meaning Google Calendar is a great option for internal meetings but avoid using it with prospect leads. If you solely use Google Calendar with prospects, prepare yourself for a game of email tennis while you choose a time.
Often, teams use Google Calendar for internal meetings and then tools like those listed in this article for client-based meetings. Most tools connect to Google anyway and push bookings through onto the calendar. Plus, they can read what is already booked out in Google calendar.
If you’re a Google Calendar user as we talked about above then YouCanBook.me is a seamless way to schedule meetings or appointments with clients.
Youcanbookme (YCBM) is easy to use, simply connect your Google account and tell YCBM a bit about yourself. This creates a personalized web page where you can accept meetings based on your calendar.
Not great for if you need to co-ordinate staff or book out multiple team members.
YCBM works with basic functionality like a lot of the tools we are talking about in this article but does struggle (read: you can’t do it!) with coordinating groups to find agreeable times, round-robin appointments and sending outbound invitations to clients.
One of the downsides to YCBM is just how long its name is, as, for us, we find that it creates a really long URL to give to clients.
Other than that YCBM works just like any of the other tools we are covering in this article. One thing to think about is that YCBM will add VAT to their pricing for certain territories and if you do not enter a VAT number at signup this increases the cost of the $10 per calendar.
Overall, there is not a huge amount of difference between the scheduler tools.
The biggest highlight for us at GrowthVine is still Bookafy’s review feature, while we use Google Calendar for all internal meetings.
For the others, well it depends on your needs and budget. The subtle differences being round robins, collective appointments and customisation. Of course looking at the appointment scheduling tools and seeing if they integrate with your other software natively or if they will require a Zapier or IFTTT connection is another thing to consider as well.
We would if we were making a recommendation tend to lean more towards Bookafy than other tools.
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