Small businesses must make important decisions for their operations to be successful. Rent your office space or buy it? Buy new or used office furniture? Hire a receptionist or use an answering system?
Another decision small businesses may have to make is whether to implement a traditional or cloud-based appointment scheduling system. With many differences between the two technologies, it is important for small business owners to analyze their specific needs and do extensive research on which software packages would work best for them.
AN OVERVIEW OF APPOINTMENT SCHEDULING SYSTEMS
Appointment scheduling systems are software programs that allow small business owners and organizations, along with their staff, to more easily book and manage their scheduled appointments. Without scheduling software, most owners rely on the more traditional way of scheduling their appointments: a paper appointment book, a pen, and a receptionist or staff member who takes appointments by phone or email. Some may also use basic computer software, such as a database, to keep track of your scheduled appointments. In addition to taking appointments, some businesses and organizations also notify their clients, students, and patients of their scheduled appointments with some type of reminder, such as a phone call, email, or card sent in the mail. In most cases, this process is inefficient and requires a lot of staff time to properly manage.
Also, a company’s office hours often dictate when a person can schedule an appointment. Considering the number of people who do personal business online, the above appointment process is inflexible and does not allow a person to schedule their appointments when it is most convenient, such as after hours.
With the right appointment scheduling software, these essential but often time-consuming tasks are handled automatically and with little effort on the part of the user. However, like many software platforms, there can be many differences between providers. Case in point: cloud-based appointment scheduling software offers features not found in traditional appointment scheduling software packages.
Before discussing the differences between the two, let us first describe the general characteristics of each. Cloud-based programs are a type of software as a service (SaaS) whereby users access software online as an on-demand service. As with most SaaS programs, online scheduling services are usually hosted online on a secure server. In addition, many do not require the installation or download of programs. All you require is an Internet connection to access the software.
Most traditional appointment scheduling software programs are just that: sales packages available in stores and online that require installation on every computer staff will access. Think of a word processor or accounting program for your home computer that you buy and install. They can also be software purchased and downloaded online, but without direct access to online databases, functions and services. It is basically the software package purchased over the Internet rather than from a retail store.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO
Although both varieties of dating software may offer similar scheduling capabilities, it is important to note the differences found in each. It could have a dramatic impact not only on your business operations, but also on your expectations of the product.
• Accessibility. This is probably the most important difference between the two. An online appointment scheduling system gives you the ability to access your account anywhere, anytime. All you need is an Internet connection. Traditional software that you install on an individual computer is usually restricted to that device. While you may have a program that allows you to access from outside the office, it creates extra steps and is not an efficient way to manage your appointments.
• Self-programming. More and more companies and organizations allow their clients, patients and students to schedule their appointments online at their convenience. In fact, those who don’t offer this service may be missing the boat, as some people simply won’t choose a service provider that doesn’t allow online transactions. Many cloud-based companies offer this feature, which is a natural fit for a SaaS program. People simply schedule their appointments the same way other online services do, like buying travel or managing a bank account. It’s efficient, it’s easy, and people can schedule their appointments outside of normal business hours. Traditional programming software can offer this, but is likely to be an expensive alternative to Web-based technology, given the extensive programming and configuration procedures required to enable this functionality on existing computer systems and networks.
• Cost. Since budget constraints are a major factor in most business decisions, the cost of a new online appointment scheduling system is another consideration. Prices vary widely, from free to tens of thousands of dollars (for custom programming). Web-based software is generally the most affordable option and provides the most “value for money.” Additionally, some SaaS programming providers offer month-to-month service contracts without requiring a long-term commitment. This can often be the best option, especially for businesses and organizations with limited budgets or changing future needs.
In the world of online dating scheduling systems, it usually comes down to two options: web-based or non-web-based. Make sure your business or organization looks at your specific needs before deciding.