If you run a business you will know how precious office hours are. So you don’t want to waste much time doing things that can be automated. If you need to polish up your business operations, you will need the right software.

There are two main options here. You can have someone do the programming for your office and install it, or you can buy a ready-made program. In this article, we discuss Google calendar and online appointment scheduling software.

In terms of efficiency, software will help every aspect of your operations. It can help you monitor your employees’ time records, the development of projects, the number of hours put into them and the amount of time needed for completion.

Of course, there are several types of office software for any application you want, including online bookings, customer appointments, bookkeeping and accounting. There’s always a way of doing the book keeping more efficiently or handling your inventory effectively, for example.

Google calendar – managing office hours

Many businesses today use Google calendar to keep track of customer appointments and availability. Not only is Google calendar a great tool for managing appointments from your end, customers can also make online bookings directly during office hours. It is great software to save time at your office.

There are two ways for your customers to make bookings into a calendar. The first way to use the ‘appointment slots’ feature built into Google calendar. This feature allows you to define available appointment slots and publish your calendar so customers can fill the slots themselves.

Customers have to have a Google account to do this, and it can be time consuming for you to setup as you have to define each slot manually.

An easier method to get your customers to book appointments into your Google calendar is to use an online booking system that integrates directly with Google calendar. Online booking systems are easier and faster to setup, are easier for your customers to use and don’t need your customers to create Google accounts.

Online reservation software works by linking a database directly into your calendar. Your customers will book through the interface provided by the booking software, and the software will automatically create events into your calendar.

You can control how your booking form looks, what information you want to collect from your customers, and the dates and times available. You don’t need to download or install any software to use an online booking system, as they generally work entirely over the web.

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Whether you run a beauty parlor or a tennis court hire business, online booking systems are powerful enough to have full control over customer bookings. Being able to set ‘availability’ and custom working days prevents double bookings, as well as incorrect bookings.

Some of the more recent online booking systems will work seamlessly on your existing website, so customers don’t need to visit a separate website.

To start using an online booking system you simply need to create an account, do the setup, then copy and paste some HTML code into your website. Your customers can start booking immediately and pay on your website. The booking will automatically synchronize with your Google calendar.

If you prefer to manage your bookings directly from within Google calendar then choose an online reservation system that features full two-way integration. This will allow you to move around events  within Google. Any changes you make will be updated in the online booking software to prevent double bookings.

If your business already has a website then think about online appointment bookings. It’s easy to do, inexpensive, and a great way to attract new customers and increase bookings. It will also mean you don’t waste valuable office hours doing the whole thing manually.

Online appointment scheduling – saving time

Online appointment scheduling is what’s typically known as Software as a Service (SaaS). This is an online program users access through the internet or a secure online portal. It is geared primarily for large and small businesses that need an efficient appointment and reservation system.

SaaS scheduling providers charge a fee for using the software, which uses can set up and manage by logging into their account. Think of email, online banking or shopping. It’s the same principle.

Generally, online scheduling systems pinpoint the specific needs of its clientele. Most providers offer functionality relevant to scheduling, managing appointments as well as customer, patient and student data. This includes:

Online self-scheduling

Clients, customers, patients and students can book and manage their own appointments online. This can significantly reduce office hours wasted on phone calls and emails.

Automated email and text message reminders

‘No-shows’ can have a negative impact on business operations. Surveys have shown that appointment reminders can help reduce these by 50%. However, many operators do not have the time or resources to call or email clients, patients or students with reminders. Automatic email and text message reminders do this without any effort from anyone.

Customizable templates

Some scheduling software lets users use specific color schemes, images, logos and other objects that fit your brand and focus.

Record-keeping and report generation

Businesses and organizations depend on accurate, easy-to-create reports to examine the overall productivity of their operations. Managing multiple files and folders can be tedious. Some online schedulers give users the ability to manage and easily access this information from one central location.

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• E-marketing capabilities

Some online appointment-scheduling software also provides scope for e-marketing, as your current and past client information emails are readily available. It’s a great way to quickly communicate specials, events and other information with them.

These two types of software can be used in your business every day and will help you reduce the office hours you spend doing them manually.

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