Managing your business's appointments is more than just keeping your staff's calendar up to date and allowing clients, customers, and patients to book online.
In reality, you have to accommodate emergency bookings, reschedule someone on short notice, rearrange calendars to manage no-shows, and more. Appointment scheduling apps remove the manual, repetitive work associated with managing schedules and let you focus on growing your business.
Once you pick your appointment scheduler, make the most of it by automating your scheduling. Here are 4 scheduling automation workflows to make booking easy, including things getting all new clients into your CRM or automatically sending follow-up emails after an appointment.
The best appointment scheduling and booking software
Acuity Scheduling for customization
Appointlet for scheduling appointments for free
Setmore for native apps and integrations
SimplyBook.me for international businesses
vcita for managing customer relationships
Genbook for optimizing your schedule
What is an appointment scheduling app?
Appointment schedulers are business tools that allow clients to book, reschedule, and cancel appointments through a web interface. When clients want to make an appointment, they go to your business's website, Facebook page, or anywhere else the booking software is supported, and choose an available date and time.
On the backend, you enter parameters about when people can book certain services, based on business hours you set as well as the times and dates that your staff or other resources are available. The app also prevents double booking and over-booking, and gives you the flexibility to block off times when certain services may be unavailable. Say you run a pet grooming business and your poodle cutting specialist takes a two-week vacation. You can enter her days off in the appointment scheduling app ahead of time so that your clients won't be able to book any poodle grooming time during the days that she's gone.
What makes a great appointment or booking app?
Booking apps do more than simply give clients a list of available times when they can come in for a meeting, treatment, or service. They also let your clientele cancel and reschedule appointments without having to contact you. Additionally, they make it easy for business owners and managers to do their jobs, allowing you to streamline communication, centralize payments, and manage your staff. Here's what you should expect from the very best appointment scheduling apps:
Flexibility. Your business is one of a kind. The best appointment scheduling apps know that different kinds of organizations have different needs. Therefore, they let you deeply customize how your bookings work. A small gym offering one-on-one training sessions should have a different booking experience than a community workshop that rents gardening equipment. Do you want your clients to be able to choose from a menu of services? Should they be able to specify the location for their appointment, such as for services offered at their home? The best appointment scheduling apps let you customize these aspects.
Calendar syncing. Nearly all appointment scheduling apps let you sync with a calendar. Some even require it. That way, you can see your business's scheduled appointments alongside other important information, such as when you'll be closed for holidays or renovations.
Payment processing. The best appointment scheduling apps let you collect a payment at the time of booking. That way, you can take a deposit for an appointment or have clients pay for their services upfront. If a client doesn't show up, your business isn't at a total loss.
Multiple points of access. Once you set up an appointment scheduling service, how will your clients access it? The best apps give you options. Likely you'll want to embed some code into your website to display the appointment scheduler, but you might also prefer a custom URL with all the booking tools in one place. Maybe you have a Facebook business page but no other website. In that case, you'll want to be able to integrate the booking tools on Facebook. Whatever your situation, the more options the better.
One final consideration in choosing the best appointment schedulers was to avoid confusing them with meeting scheduling apps. Meeting schedulers share some similarities with appointment software. The key difference is that meeting apps are specifically for meetings, whereas appointment scheduling apps are for a variety of appointment types that may or may not include a menu of services but almost always require payment at the end.
Best appointment scheduling app for customization
Acuity Scheduling (Android, iOS, Web)
Acuity Scheduling is the appointment scheduling app to choose when you need to customize your booking process to a fine degree. When you design your booking page, you can allow your clients to choose recurring appointments, if it's applicable, complete an intake form, and pay in advance for services. You can also offer coupons and give clients the ability to add on services when they book, such as adding a 15-minute foot massage to a pedicure.
On the backend, the level of detail for customization continues. You can choose to let clients reschedule or cancel their appointments or not. You can change the interval for start times of appointments, which is by default every 15 minutes. You can put a limit on how far in advance or with how much short notice clients can book an appointment. And you can even enable an option called "Make me look busy," which automatically hides some available times so you don't seem desperate.
When you're ready to make your booking page live, you can share it via a direct link, embed it into your website using a few different options, or create a booking button, booking bar, or QR code. Acuity also has mobile apps to access your account from the business side, letting you update your availability from an Android or iOS device.
In addition to offering so much customization, Acuity Scheduling is easy to use. It goes a long way toward making your business run smoother. You can even integrate Acuity Scheduling with Zapier, which lets you connect Acuity to other business tools you use. Here are some examples of how you can automate your scheduling-related tasks.
Supported Payment Systems: PayPal, Square, or Stripe; with additional options to use two services: Stripe and PayPal or Square and PayPal
Supported Calendars: Google Calendar, iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com
Acuity Scheduling Pricing: Free with limited features; paid plans from $15/month
Best free appointment scheduling app
While several appointment scheduling apps offer a free tier of service, Appointlet's is among the most generous, making it the app to choose if you're not quite ready to invest in a service. With Appointlet, you can create a simple booking page with your availability that you can then share directly with clients, patients, or customers.
Convenient options, such as the ability to add a buffer time around bookings, help keep you in control of your appointments. In the same screen that you set up different types of appointments, you also can customize reminder messages that will be sent to customers before the appointed time.
Appointlet lets you create more than one booking page if you need, where you can customize details such as location, price, appointment duration, and cancellation policy. Each service can also have its own intake form for your clients.
With the free version of the app, you get as many appointments, meeting types, and form fields as you need. You can add your business's logo, but you can't get rid of Appointlet's branding or customize confirmation or reminder messages. Paying members do get those features, plus several others, including an integration between Appointlet and Zapier, which lets you do things like connect Appointlet to Google Sheets or send a text for new appointments.
Supported Payment Systems: Stripe
Supported Calendars: Google Calendar, Office 365
Appointlet Pricing: Free; paid plans from $8/month per person when billed annually
Best appointment scheduling app for native apps and integrations
Setmore (Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Web)
Setmore supports integrations with more than 35 apps, including Mailchimp, QuickBooks, Salesforce, Zendesk, and Zoho CRM. It also supports a comfortable list of website builders, and it gives you the right code to copy and paste into each one wherever you want to display self-service booking options to your clients. It has copy-and-paste-ready code for Adobe Muse, Weebly, Wix, WordPress, plus sites running on Joomla, Jimdo, and Drupal. There are Facebook and Instagram plugins as well. On top of all this, Setmore also integrates with Teleport for video meetings, letting you generate a video link directly in the app.
Setmore's appointment booking features are intuitive and easy to use. You can send reminders before an appointment to not only your clients, but also your staff. You can also create subpages on your booking page for dedicated areas where customers can book a class, see an individual service provider's calendar, read reviews, and more. The dashboard is especially useful, displaying weekly appointments, confirmed revenue, projected revenue, and total estimated revenue at a glance. You also get an activity widget that provides an overview for all actions taken within Setmore.
Setmore has a generous free tier of service that includes support for one to four staff logins and calendars, automated email reminders, a booking page, and the ability to get paid via Square. You'll need a paid account to take payments via Stripe, use SMS reminders, get two-way calendar sync, and offer recurring appointments. For $89/month for 90 minutes of call time, you can hire Setmore to take live bookings for you over the phone.
To learn more about what you can do with this app, see how Setmore integrates with Zapier. Here are some examples of how you can extend Setmore's functionality with automation.
Supported Payment Systems: Stripe, Square
Supported Calendars: Google Calendar, Office 365
Setmore Pricing: Free; paid plans from $5/user/month
Best appointment scheduling app for international businesses
SimplyBook.me (Android, iOS, Web)
Because of how many languages and international payment options it supports, SimplyBook.me is the best appointment booking app for international businesses. SimplyBook.me's booking pages are available in 32 different languages, from Arabic to Greek to Icelandic to Ukrainian. It also offers integration with more than two dozen payment processing services so that you can offer a system that works for your customers.
The setup process couldn't be any more lovely, as clear instructions walk you through your options for creating appointment types and add-on services. You can choose a color theme and background for your booking page website, and specify how many service providers and services your business offers. As an added bonus, SimplyBook.me automatically identifies the features most relevant to you based on the information you added about your business category (for example, if you select "Gym," SimplyBook.me highlights selling memberships, offering classes, and including multiple locations).
And because SimplyBook.me is so conscious of the global business community, it only makes sense that it offers Facebook and Instagram integrations, too, for people who do most of their business through the social network.
SimplyBook.me also offers a dashboard and reports so you can monitor your business. You can see how many bookings have been canceled, workload per employee, online reviews of your business, as well as all the text message reminders that have gone out from your account.
You can learn how other people use SimplyBook.me in conjunction with other business apps by exploring SimplyBook.me's Zapier integrations. Automate and customize your booking confirmations, add appointments to all your calendars, and more.
Supported Payment Systems: 2Checkout, Adyen, Alipay, Asiapay, Authorize.net, Blockchain, Borgun, Braintree, CCAvenue, Dwolla, ECPay, Gocoin, Korta.is, Liqpay, Mollie, NewebPay, Pagar.Me, Payfast, Payfort, PayGate, Paymentwall, PayPal, paysafecard, PayTabs, PayU Latin America, Pin Payments, Robokassa, Skrill, Square, Stripe, Swish, TapPay, Worldpay, and Zozo.
Supported Calendars: Google Calendar, Outlook
SimplyBook.me Pricing: Free; paid plans from $9.90/month
Best appointment scheduling app for managing customer relationships
vcita (Web, iOS, Android)
vcita is a whole suite of cloud-based tools for businesses, and it includes two that are for booking and managing appointments: Client Portal and Scheduling. It's very easy to get started with vcita, though slightly more difficult to customize the app deeply to your needs. In addition, it offers billing and invoicing, lead generation, and marketing campaign tools for email and SMS.
One of the selling points of using vcita for appointment scheduling is that it helps you develop relationships with customers. Some of the tools aren't strictly unique to vcita, as other appointment scheduling apps allow you to keep notes on your customers. But vcita lets you upload attachments, view your history with the client, and even import your client list from another app. vcita also gives you an inbox where you can interact with customers about rescheduling appointments, cancellations, and other details. You can write emails and text messages to go out as a campaign to your client list to promote new services, offer existing special deals, or simply nudge them to schedule their next appointment.
After an appointment takes place, you receive an email from vcita asking if you'd like to take any of the following actions next: set a new appointment with the client, send a thank-you message, or log it as a missed appointment. These prompts help keep you engaged with customers and active in running your business efficiently.
You also have the option to create a secure client portal where your regulars can log in to manage their information and appointments. The app works with QuickBooks, Weebly, Wix, WordPress, Zoom, and other tools. Additionally, if there are other business tools you'd like to integrate, you can do that by connecting vcita to Zapier. Here are a couple examples.
Supported Payment Systems: PayPal, Stripe, Square
Supported Calendars: Google, iCloud, Outlook, Outlook.com
vcita Pricing: $19/month when billed annually for scheduling only; full-featured plans from $45/month when billed annually
Best appointment scheduling app for optimizing your schedule
Genbook (Web, iOS, Android)
Appointment booking app Genbook sets itself apart from other apps in its class in one major way: it's the only service listed here that offers a "Last Minute Bookings" feature, designed to help you optimize your schedule. When you enable this feature, Genbook automatically fills your empty and expiring appointment slots with paying customers by offering last-minute discounts. You have full control over the discount amount and can specify whether the discount is valid "today only" or over the next 24, 48, or 72 hours. Genbook will then promote and highlight this last-minute availability in the Genbook booking app and your booking webpage.
Genbook also offers a handful of small but unique features. For example, you can block your calendar or indicate that you're offline or away by hovering over the appropriate day and time on your calendar and clicking your status (block, offline, or away). This is in stark contrast to other apps that typically make you manually create a "blocked" appointment or click into the details of each day. You can also enable a waitlist and create a priority reservation window for waitlist customers, so they can book an appointment before you open up your schedule to everyone.
Customers can schedule an appointment via your online booking page, the Genbook app, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also embed a "Book now" button on your website. Once the appointments start rolling in, the Analytics tab gives you a high-level overview of revenue and appointments by service or staff as well as a more granular view of revenue by daily averages, appointment averages, and more.
Supported Payment Systems: Stripe, Square
Supported Calendars: Google, iCloud, Outlook
Genbook Pricing: Starts at $25/month when billed annually for the Solo plan
Whether you run a client-based business on your own or with the help of many staff members, you can find the right app to help you manage your client appointments. Using a full-featured appointment booking tool can also cut down on the number of no-shows and late cancellations, and it can help you recoup cancellation fees easily by securing a credit card hold at the time of booking.
Originally written by Emily Irish and published in 2017, this article was updated in 2019 by Jill Duffy and most recently in August 2020.