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26 October 2020 / by Gareth Hill

The thinkBooker Guide to Choosing Your Next Booking System 

You’re considering a change or modernisation of your booking system and processes.

Excellent.

That’s a good thing.

But have you really considered what a booking system; a proper, feature-rich system can actually do for your business?

How they can truly open up new opportunities and deliver real, value-adding benefit?

Selecting a booking system is not just about adding a ‘nice to have’ feature to the business. Let’s explore why choosing the right software can be so important for the growth and efficiency of your organisation. 

A booking system is an investment in your business

How much does a booking system cost?

A better question to ask may be:

How much should I invest to get the right system with the right features for my business?

Choosing your booking system

As with any piece of equipment, software or technology, your booking system is an investment, from which you’ll be looking to gain some tangible value, return and benefit.

Within our initial conversations with clients we always look to understand their business, seeking to find the areas in which we’re able to provide solutions and improvements. Invariably this means not only looking at what the booking system needs to do for them, but also exploring the ways in which the system could work to further enhance the business.

Too many times do we encounter those who view a booking system as a ‘nice to have’ feature, rather than embracing it as the chance to implement software of strategic importance. 

Implemented correctly, with thought (and expert consultation) into the features and functionality that your system should have, will impact positively on the performance of your business, helping:

  • Increase conversions
  • Reduce admin costs
  • Enhance communication and engagement with your clients
  • More accurately capture data to improve decision-making and personalised marketing

Mobile online booking systems

The Better the Booking Experience, The Better it is For Your Business

High-speed and always accessible mobile internet has made consumers a little less patient when it comes to delivery of services.

They expect near instant results, at any time. And, if they don’t get it in one place, they’ll look for it somewhere else.

What’s more, if the process is confusing or makes you jump through too many hoops, then the risk that they’ll lose interest and abandon goes up.

When as many as 81% of consumers have admitted to abandoning a booking online because of a slow, confusing or poor booking experience, then the cost to a business from lost sales and lost future custom, can be staggeringly high.

By creating a booking journey that minimises friction and gets from search to confirm in as few steps as possible, your chances of conversion increase. So too, the likelihood that the customer will return in the future and even become an advocate for your brand.

There are enough bad booking journeys out there to ensure that the really good ones stand out from the crowd.

Online booking mobile stats

Source: https://www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-experience-statistics/

A booking system should work across all your sales channels

Yes, we’re talking about an online booking solution in this article.

While the vast majority of modern consumers would utilise the online journey, on the assumption that it meets the expectations and offers a good, simple experience, it’s important that you don’t then ignore those instances when sales come from other channels.

thinkbooker bespoke booking system

People may still occasionally pick up the phone to enquire about a place on a course, or the availability of a room – particularly those short-notice, last-minute enquiries. Similarly, you may have a team of salespeople taking bookings from clients in person at a meeting, or maybe an exhibition or conference.

Do you work with third-party agents? Do they take bookings for your products and services, for which they are later invoiced, minus commission?

Consider all the different channels that you’re likely to take bookings from, and work with your booking system provider to find a solution that accurately captures and efficiently manages every instance within the same platform.

A booking system is not about adding yet another piece of software to an already crowded infrastructure, but a way of helping you consolidate your processes and ensure all your booking data is captured in a single place.

Speaking of which…

Your booking software should work seamlessly with your other digital products

Businesses will use different software packages for different reasons: a CRM system for managing sales pipelines, a digital marketing tool for campaigns and engagement activities, accounting software, membership databases or perhaps a learning management system or similar.

You select each package because of the specialist functionality and value that it adds. And your selection of a booking system is no different.

Which means, to ensure you have a consistent and efficient workflow, the more your booking software can integrate with your other platforms, the better it will be for your operations.

Doing so helps create a supercharged business hub that shares information and processes across various platforms, all designed to make your operations run more efficiently, saving time and effort and improving your customer’s brand experience, through faster delivery of service and better decision-making.

online bookings and data collection

Choose a booking system that improves your operational productivity

Of course, it’s hugely important to get your booking journey right on the front-end.

But it’s also imperative to have in place a system that effectively and efficiently manages these bookings, as well.

Traditional booking processes can all too often be burdened by admin tasks that can eat into time, causing inefficiency and potential inaccuracies, resulting in unproductive work and the risk of stifled growth opportunities.

Excessive admin is a common drain on time and productivity in organisations across all sectors, with SMEs in the UK spending an average 71 days per year on admin tasks, at a cost of more than £35,000 to the business.

In our personal lives the majority of us have adopted some form of technology solution and automation to help us save time and add some convenience. Yet there remains a reluctancy within many organisations to deviate away from the ‘way things have always been done’ and invest in a proper digital platform that offers a way to alleviate the clog caused by all that paperwork.

Or, selecting the first system they find on Google that’s cheap and ill equipped to address the issues that exist in the business.

Does it:

  • Automatically process the booking for the client?
  • Apply discounts and promo codes
  • Capture all details in the system in real-time?
  • Take payments online or send information to your accounting software that an invoice needs to be generated?
  • Automatically send out emails and / or SMS confirmations and reminders of upcoming bookings?
  • Log a client’s details and booking history in a client management database?
  • Populate course or event registers (or remove cancelled delegates)?
  • Handle cancellations, refunds and notifications?
  • Compile reports on booking numbers or revenue generation?

Your booking system should be removing the bulk of the admin tasks from day to day activity within your staff. This is not just about saving time, but about freeing up that time, to deploy it more productively in activities that help the business grow.

Online booking and productivity improvements

Of course, all businesses have their own idiosyncrasies and some quirky operations that need to be accounted for. Trying to force a fixed system to manage these processes can be a challenge and a headache in itself.

Working with a provider who not only offers some flexibility in the functions of its system, but will also take the time to understand these specific practices and offer a way to manage them most efficiently, will call for an initial investment in time and money.

But, the value of getting this right at the outset can be huge for the long-haul.

If you don’t value your brand enough to reflect it in your booking journey, why should your customers?

We’ve spoken on these pages before about the importance of brand consistency in your booking journey, but it bears further mention here.

We’ve just seen too many examples from companies who send clients away from their site to booking platforms that look nothing like the rest of their online profile.

Your brand is the hallmark of your business, the sign that should symbolise the trust and goodwill between your company and your clientele.

Why devalue that identity right at the moment you are asking them to make a transaction with you?

mobile booking experiences

Does your business operate across multiple venues, different regions or perhaps numerous countries?

Is there not value from having a booking platform that allows each part of the business, or each venue or region to have access to the data that’s relevant to them?

A siloed view of their own data, to enable them to make decisions that impact directly on the customers within that region, while retaining a universal view for those at Head Office who need to report on the bigger picture?

You don’t need us to tell you how crucial it is to have the right data at your fingertips.

But did you consider the role that your booking system can play in delivering that for you?

customer experience and booking system

Giving your customers control of their bookings

Fundamentally, the booking system should be a tool that makes life easier for your staff and, vitally, your customers.

An online booking system allows your customers to have control over when and how they make a booking. It’s providing a 24/7 service. Meaning they don’t have to email or phone and wait for a response in office hours.

Convenient and round the clock.

More than that though, your booking software can extend this feeling of convenient control for your customers by providing them easy access to their own profiles. A secure account that will let them view their personal details as well as upcoming and past bookings.

To easily login and make a new booking.

If you’re running a course or an activity that requires some pre-attendance information (emergency number, health and safety info or dietary requirements, for example) then it might be inconvenient to the customer to provide it at the point of booking.

So why not take the booking anyway, get the commitment and then make it easy for them to pop back into the system later and add the details in?

And if they forget, well, wouldn’t it be good if the system knew that too, and automatically sent them a reminder?

After all, you still want to ensure admin is kept to a minimum.

Self-service and client-controlled processes are more and more the accepted norm in commercial and personal services, with two-thirds of modern customers expecting a level of control over their bookings and transactions.

It comes back around to customer experience once again.

Provide a system that offers convenience and makes things as easy for the customer as possible, and your chances of increased bookings and ongoing customer loyalty grow stronger and stronger.

Your booking software should increase revenue, save time and improve profitable sales

As we said at the outset, when you are selecting new software for your booking processes then you should be understanding that this is a key investment in your business for the long-term.

A booking system is no longer the added extra item that businesses would like but can do without. They are vital tools in meeting client expectation; essential to maximising your sales, revenue opportunities and profitability.

The right booking system will keep customers returning, enhance your brand and remove admin headaches from your staff’s day to day activities.

Find the solution that offers the flexibility to work, and indeed expand, in line with the nuances of your business or industry, offering the tools that will deliver new efficiencies and productivity improvements at an operational level and provides the data that is the rocket-fuel for client insight and commercial decision-making.  

If you’d like to learn more about how thinkBooker can help deliver the perfect booking and sales solution for your organisation, then please do get in touch.

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