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Beginner’s Guide to Online Booking, Online Scheduling and Appointment Systems

March 23, 2021

The internet has fundamentally altered every aspect of running a business, and that includes the way we make and take bookings. The days are gone in which customers would pick up the phone, you pull out our diary and pick a date which worked for both parties.

In 2020, over two billion people purchased goods or services online. Our calendars automatically update to reflect the bookings we make and we’re instantly emailed a reminder to keep us from missing them. Put simply, we’ve entered an age of overwhelming simplicity for the customer, but what about for the business?

If you’re interested in online booking systems but don’t know how booking works or any other detail around online booking, you’re in luck. In this guide, we’re going to break down everything you need to know in this beginners guide to online booking systems.


What is an online booking system?


Assuming you learnt how to make a website or already have an online presence, an online booking system is a piece of software which allows a potential customer to book and pay for an activity or service through your existing website. Advanced booking systems allow customers to book through social networks and even on their mobile phones, helping deliver bookings wherever your customers happen to be, at whatever time they desire.

Online bookings have grown rapidly to supersede traditional phone booking systems, which required members of staff to be on hand to take bookings and manage them manually.


How does an online booking system work?


An online reservation system exists entirely within your website and requires no installation from your customer to continue with their purchase.

A customer will land on your website and choose which activity or service they’d like to book, and then will click through to the booking page. At this stage, the customer will fill in a booking form. Custom forms can also be set, allowing you to harvest whatever information you require in order to complete the booking.

The customer will then pay through a secure payment gateway, and the payment will be transferred to you. This information is displayed in our secure Content Management System, which is only accessible via a login and password, offering greater security than competing booking methods.

Online booking systems, sit on a private server and allowing your customers to make reservations within your business. With BookingLive, your customers can visit your website or social media page and make a reservation, either paying online or paying in person once they arrive at your business.


Are online booking payments secure?


Computerised booking systems are, on the whole, extremely secure. Gone are the dark days of the Internet where every transaction felt like it might be a scam, replaced instead by a broadly secure framework which supports consumers.


Check out this blog on 4 simple ways to make your business more digitally secure


All transactions placed through BookingLive’s software are very secure. Every payment gateway that we use is chosen to help keep payments secure and customers safe from fraud. That means the use of HTTPS and proprietary security protocols which ensure trust in your business is never eroded by unscrupulous scammers.


How does BookingLive keep my data secure?


Data security has never been more crucial than it is right now. Hacks have become global news, so the prospect of having your customers’ data revealed to hackers is a real worry. That’s why at BookingLive we go the extra mile to ensure the safety of our customers’ data.


Our servers are PCI compliant and have regular data backups and SSL enabled technology to ensure absolute security for our clients. Coupled with mandatory and automatic HTTPS encryption on every website with BookingLive booking software and you’ll find that many online booking systems prioritise keeping data secure.

Finally, our servers are structured so that every customer has their own database. This means that in the extremely unlikely event of a hacker gaining access to our servers, they would only be able to access information for one site – something which most of our competitors don’t do.


What payment methods do online booking systems accept?


Online booking software enables payments through a variety of methods, accepting all Visa and Visa Debit cards, credit cards and trusted online payment providers like PayPal and Google Wallet. Check out our list of payment integrations HERE. 


Which types of businesses can benefit from an OBS?


If your business, company or organization takes bookings of any kinds, it too can benefit from an online booking and reservation system. The following are examples of businesses which we’ve helped implement successful online booking platforms:

  • Schools
  • Local government
  • Childcare providers
  • Activities companies
  • Cookery Classes
  • Courses
  • Events
  • Meeting Room Hire
  • SMEs
  • Training providers
  • Tour operators


So, if you’re wondering what impact an online booking system has on your business, the answer is a huge one. Put plainly, if you’ve got a business that takes bookings and a website, so keep up with the online booking trend, and more importantly – ahead of your competitors.


How much do online booking systems cost?


Online booking systems are cheaper than many imagine them to be, and are scalable for businesses, making them a compelling option for businesses of all sizes.

For our small businesses, we have a PAYG model that takes a percentage of each booking made through the booking system. If no transaction is made, then the booking is completely free.


Check out more information on our Small Business Platform HERE. 


Do online booking systems take a cut of my bookings?


Many free online booking software platforms make their money by taking a slice of your transaction in return for connecting you with your customer. However many online booking systems which you pay for on a monthly plan don’t usually charge per transaction, instead of working on a flat, fair rate that works for everybody. This is something which we do here at BookingLive.


Can customers book via their smart devices with online booking systems?


The simple answer to this is yes, of course, they can. Many online booking systems rely on old code, which offers a fantastic booking experience on desktops and laptops, but a poor one on mobile devices.

That’s not good enough, especially for a business which is interested in generating online bookings and reservations well into the future. That’s why we’ve built BookingLive to resize to fit perfectly on whatever device you’re using. Whether you’re on a computer at the office or using your phone on the train, BookingLive’s booking and reservation system are designed to be perfectly flexible.


Read more on the advantages and disadvantages of online booking systems HERE. 


Does my business need an online booking system?


By now, we’ve covered every aspect of online booking systems and answered many of the most commonly asked questions that are put to us on a near-daily basis. However, we haven’t touched on perhaps the most vital of all – does my business need an online booking system?

The simple answer is; if you have a business that takes bookings and you have a website, absolutely, yes. The big trends in e-commerce over the last 5 years has been a simplification. Research has revealed that the more steps between your customer and their purchase, the less likely they are to go through with it.

By forcing your customer to book over the phone, you’re severely limiting the number of bookings you can receive, and in tough economic times, that’s an ill-advised position to take.

Getting started with an online booking system couldn’t be easier. Simply request a free demo from our team and we’ll work with you to meet your businesses needs. A dedicated member of our staff will be with you every step of the way and before you know it, you’ll be taking orders and managing customers online with ease.


BookingLive: Find out more


Have more questions? Look at BookingLive’s frequently asked questions or contact us.