9 Ways a Scheduling Software Will Change Your Life (and Business)
Level 3: Pro
Welcome Players! For other Trainers like me, there are lots of business-operation tasks to be completed that have nothing to do with science or sports medicine. One of the most important is scheduling. How you organize an appointment with your client can be a stressful, time-consuming process; or it can be a blissful no-contact experience. Here are all the reasons a scheduling software transformed my business for the better, and how it could help you too.
9 Reason’s to Never Schedule Manually Again
Considerations When Choosing a Solution
What I Use
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Scheduling is a pain in the ass.
I spent over 5 years of my career scheduling every session manually via either in-person conversation, phone call, or text message.
It was a time-consuming, painstaking process that made me feel glued to my phone and significantly hindered my ability to “turn off” when I got home from work.
It was inefficient as well, and no more fun for me as it was my clients. They had to deal with the same problems I did.
I knew there had to be a better solution that would allow an efficient, no-interaction process that my clients could use to schedule appointments with me in a fast, easy way.
That’s when I decided I would incorporate a scheduling software into my business.
I spent months researching available softwares and another month testing it out before finally rolling it out to existing clients and now, it’s the only interface new clients get from me.
It’s better for business, it helps me manage my lifestyle in a more balanced way, and it’s something I think every other trainer or coach that works in a service-based setting should think long and hard about.
8 Reasons to Never Schedule Manually Again
Without further ado, here are the 8 reasons you should incorporate a scheduling software into your service-based business:
No more texting back and forth with clients
Payment up front
No more unpaid cancellations/no-shows
Re-scheduling (is automated)
Confirmation e-mails and SMS messages
Never overbook (with seamless calendar integrations)
No more price negotiations from new/prospective clients
Set working hours
Let’s get into the details of each one and demonstrate why it could add tremendous value for your business.
1) No more texting back and forth with clients.
“Hey Trainer 01, can we schedule for 3p on Thursday?”
“No unfortunately I can’t do then… What about 5p?”
“Ah I can’t do that. How about Tuesday afternoon?
“No sorry I’m fully booked with other sessions then…”
“Attached is a link to my availability, you can schedule a day/time that is most convenient to you. Thanks!”
Being able to send a finite list of my available hours saves me the time and stress of going back and forth with a client to schedule a time.
When they click on a link they get to a page that looks like this:
If they see a time that works for them, they simply select it and can book it.
If there is a time they want that’s not on the list, well, I am not available for that time.
It’s pretty straight forward. Exactly how scheduling should be.
2) Payment up front.
In order to book a session, clients are required to put a credit card on file. Depending on the appointment type (and the history I have with the client), they are either charged at time of booking or I will wait until the session is completed to charge the card on file.
This gives me confidence and security that I’ll always be compensated for my time, and more importantly I don’t have to chase down clients for billing or have the awkward “Can you pay me now?” conversation.
It also removes all talk of pricing/money from the session because it’s all handled ahead of time, leaving our session to be spent to what matters most: the training and education.
No more unpaid sessions and brooding resentment.
3) No more unpaid cancellations/no-shows.
A very pleasant side-effect of taking payment up front is that I no longer have the stress of dealing with unpaid cancellations/no-shows.
Before a scheduling software, if a client would cancel last-minute or reschedule I’d have to try and have the conversation with them that they are still obliged to pay me for the original appointment time. Even when they’ve been told about the cancellation policy, clients were always reluctant to do this because they felt that if they didn’t make it to the session, they don’t have to pay.
That’s not how the service business works. If I schedule a client for an appointment, that means I can no longer schedule anyone else. Should someone cancel last minute, that’s money I’ve potentially lost from being able to schedule someone else in that time-slot.
With a scheduling software, it doesn’t matter.
Cancellation policy is up front and center, they have to agree to it in order to book the session.
If they cancel or reschedule within 12 hours (the time I set for late changes), the card on file gets charged.
No conversation. No discussion.
4) Re-scheduling (is automated).
Life gets busy, I get it. Stuff comes up with family or kids or doctors appointments or late work projects, etc.
If a client needs to move an appointment due to anything in their life, no need to text or call me and re-hash the “are you available at this time?” conversation.
Simply go to the confirmation email from your session and select re-schedule, where you’ll be taken to a new page to book the next appointment.
No need to communicate with me, we’ll both receive a cancellation notice of your old session and a confirmation notice of your new session.
5) Confirmation e-mails and SMS messages.
I’m often rather surprised how many high-performing clients live their life in disarray.
I once had a client book an appointment (on scheduling software), then no-show the appointment. When I reached out asking if everything was alright, they said “I forgot what time I booked it for!”
That is a real story unfortunately. Needless to say, that person is no longer a client of mine…
But for the rest of my clients that do respect our appointment time, they will receive an initial e-mail of their session confirmation at booking and then an e-mail & SMS message 24-hours before the scheduled appointment.
No more forgetting to put it in your calendar.
6) Never overbook (with seamless calendar integrations).
One of my favorite features is the integration my scheduling software has with my primary calendar app.
It syncs my schedule both ways in real-time so that any event on my personal calendar that overlaps with my work availability will be automatically removed from my scheduling software! This is awesome!
And likewise as soon as a client books a session, in addition to an email confirmation that I receive, it will automatically add the event to my personal calendar.
I never need to manually adjust my availability (unless doing so permanently).
If I’m playing golf or have an errand to run, I simply create an event in my calendar and poof! Those times are now unavailable.
Here’s an example of my schedule on a busy Thursday where I had a morning session, played golf, had an afternoon session, and then got my haircut.
No more fumbling around making sure I had enough time between clients and activities and definitely no more overbooking.
7) No more price negotiations from new/prospective clients.
“I know the value is worth it and I believe training will help me, but is there any chance you can do a lower rate?”
“If I buy a package of sessions can I get a discount?”
“If I want to commit to something long term can we work on the price a little”?
No, no, andddddd no.
The value of my time, and my service, does not decrease because you purchase more of it.
This has been my personal stance for many years. Now this is not to say that long-term clients and other circumstances deserve special considerations, but for the majority, my price is my price.
This can be a difficult conversation to have, especially when the client feels entitled to a discount because of *insert anything*.
But now that conversation is seldomly had, and when it is it’s had with all the information up front and out in the open.
When they go on the website to book an appointment, they see the price.
If they don’t like it, don’t book!
Either they accept the price (and the inherent value of my service) or they don’t.
Both scenarios are OK with me.
But I am no longer involved in the process of having to constantly negotiate the value of my time and the service I provide.
8) Pre-scheduled off-days.
Going on vacation? Maybe I just want to take a scheduled day off and go to the beach?
I do work for myself after all.
No more texts to clients, “hey uh I’m gonna go to the beach instead of train today so we’ll have to reschedule.”
(no I never actually sent a text like that).
I believe there needs to be boundaries between my personal life and my professional service. While I am close with all of my clients, and consider many of them true friends, no one is entitled to an explanation of where I am at any given time.
If the time is not available on the booking website, then it’s not available.
No more, “Well where will you be?”
or “Why can’t you train then?”
All I have to do is block off the days/times in the scheduling software (or even use the BLOCK event in my calendar like the previous example) and POOF, I now have an off-day. No conversation required.
9) Set working hours
Being in the service industry can feel a lot like being on-call all day. It’s a double-edged sword being able to work whenever you want.
On one hand, you can work any time you want.
On the other hand, you only get paid when you work.
This can lead to a restless feeling of always needing to “stay busy” or take sessions. Especially when clients request early morning times or late evening times, or request a time that you had originally planned for something in your personal life, it can be easy to say “Well this is an opportunity to make more $$, so I’l sacrifice my plans and work instead.”
After a few years this gets pretty tiresome though, always chasing the next appointment.
And for those that enjoy a structure in their life, it makes things impossible to plan and coordinate in advance especially when last-minute session requests have a way of making you feel bad for turning them down.
But with a scheduling software I’m able to set my hours independent of any clients requests. I set the hours I want to be available for work, and that’s it. It gives me a consistent week-to-week schedule that I can plan my life around and the security to know that I won’t need to accept a last-minute session outside of my planned hours.
This structure between my ‘professional’ hours and ‘personal’ hours has made a drastic difference with my ability to switch ‘on’ and ‘off’ work-mode.
No more taking sessions that I didn’t really want to take and then resenting the client for it.
Set working hours on the scheduling software, and forget it!
When I was a young trainer in the industry I had to hustle and grind and break many of the rules I now follow in order to establish a reputation and quality of work.
As I enter the more refined parts of my career, using systems like a scheduling software with clear boundaries allows me to focus on the parts of my job that matter most.
It makes me more effective in my craft and allows me to create a more balanced separation between my professional and personal life.
There are of course exceptions to every rule, and not every client of mine uses the scheduling software.
You’ll have to think about the application of a scheduling software and how it factors into your business, including current and future clients. I’ve been able to find a system and balance that works for me, allowing me greater freedom and an enhanced professional service.
If you’re a trainer in the health, wellness, and fitness space, I believe that using a scheduling software can have the same positive impact on your life and business that it had on mine.
Considerations When Choosing a Solution
There are plenty of scheduling softwares available to choose from on the market right now.
Two of the biggest players are:
Most POS platforms and other SaaS also offer their own native scheduling solution:
And then there are a ton of smaller, less-known solutions that round out pocket niche’s and benefits (far too many to list here).
If you want to do what I did, sign-up for the free accounts from Acuity and Calendly. That will give you an idea for what a scheduling software is, how it works, and once you start playing around with it you’ll figure out what features matter to you most.
The criteria I decided on as must-haves in my software were:
ability to book 1-on-1 sessions on location
integration with my payment processor and calendar app
being able to secure a card-on-file at time of booking
ability to book multiple/recurring sessions
having different appointment types with customized prices, availability, and billing options
ability to customize booking page with my business logo/brand
ability to send/customize e-mail/SMS messages relating to appointment
custom forms for waiver, cancellation policy, etc.
I tried a few different softwares before landing on the software that I currently use (which I’ll give you shortly).
But before you think the solution I picked is the “best” solution, you really need to take into account of what your needs are and what you’re willing to pay for it.
I found that different softwares had certain advantages dependent on the type of business and type of service being provided as well as the features that are essential to your business. For example, selling packages on my solution is not an easy process.
It’s annoying for me to set up a package sale, annoying for my client to purchase the package, and clunky when scheduling sessions off of a package in the system.
So I did away with it and created a custom appointment type for each client on a package so that they don’t have to worry about it, and we handle payment OTC. This is the exception to the rule and only applies to clients I’ve worked with for a long time and have never had payment issues from.
What I Use
I use Acuity Scheduling, which was purchased by SquareSpace not too long ago.
It integrates into my website seamlessly, has all the features I need (I pay for the Growth plan), and requires very little upkeep once set-up properly.
I have more than 10 different appointment types, specific to the type of session I’m servicing, the client, the price, and other details relating. Each one has a customized description and individualized set hours.
For example, I only perform assessments on certain days/times. When I work with a client who’s getting an assessment before they start training, I send them one link to the assessment session. They pay/book the appointment. Then after the assessment is completed I send them a different link to use for scheduling their training sessions.
This system has worked really well for me and more importantly saves me a huge amount of time.
I suggest you try out many of the top-rated scheduling solutions free-trial and do a needs analysis for what features will benefit your business the most. After that it’s test test test, you won’t know what you need until you start using it, and don’t expect the first few months of using the scheduling tool to be seamless.
You’ll need to work with your clients to teach them how to use it, explain the benefits of scheduling online versus in person (clients hate change), some might be reluctant but they will all adapt over time.
For the most reluctant clients, I will still schedule them manually (to start). Over time I keep nudging them towards the online scheduling link until they finally give-in and familiarize themselves with using it. When it’s all said and done, everyone prefers the online scheduling.
A final coaches note: be careful of setting your boundaries too rigid. Take into account where you are in your career and what kind of professional message you’re sending. If you’re a relatively less-experienced trainer, setting hard-limits on when you will and won’t work can come off as lazy and off-putting to some clients.
You should be willing to bend (not break) in order to provide elite customer satisfaction. Don’t be rude when dealing with clients that want to book outside of your set hours, or that complain about using the new technology. Understand that they like the way things were done before and will take some coercing in order to adapt to the new system.
The goal is not to make a transition from all-manual scheduling one week to all-automated scheduling the next. That’s far too quick a turnaround for a system change. You should think of this as a 6-month process where you transition clients at their own pace until eventually your whole business is operating this way. This will allow you to maintain excellent relationships will also improving the way you provide service.
If done well, you’ll have greater control over your time and will have improved the quality of your service to your clients.
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