Friday, 9 February 2018

Shedul: Appointment Scheduling Software

I tend to do all my scheduling using my iCal calendar. I have one for personal stuff, one for family, one for work and one for admin. It's reasonably efficient and my wife gets to see what's going into my work diary as well as our home and family calendars. It does some weird things, but generally it works okay.

When it comes to handling clients though it does lack the automation that is offered by a propriety piece of software that sends out confirmations and reminders automatically and even allows online bookings. I'm not overly keen on allowing folk to be able to book online without some form of communication first, but that's because of the range of things in which I'm involved. It would be tedious to have to book everything in one diary just to avoid people booking a therapy session when I've already booked a tennis lesson or I"m making a personal visit to see someone. My working hours are quite flexible, so having direct control over bookings is important. I've also had some shall we say "strange" conversations with prospective clients, who in the end I've turned down.

The other thing that is a constant annoyance is the "No-Show". I've had one just the other day. A new client was very keen to arrange an appointment so I made room for therm only to find myself sitting around waiting for them to not arrive.

So when a fellow tennis coach mentioned a system he was trying I thought it might be worth a look. It's called "Shedul" and you can find it here. At the time of writing it's free, and promises to stay that way for those users who sign up now. It offers options for different staff, shifts, opening hours etc.

You can send reminders and confirmations by text and/or email. In short it does more or less everything you'd expect this sort of application to do. I'm currently playing with it a bit before starting to use on clients.

There are some things that make it a little cumbersome and time consuming to use. Some might be resolved as the product develops. The biggest drawback is that it doesn't integrate with my iCal calendars. That means I have to spend time putting appointments into both diary systems and that is tedious and open to error. It would be helpful simply to have my iCal calendars populate shedul, but I can see some challenges with that. For example, if I put a visit to a family for a funeral in my diary I don't really want shedul to pick that up and send them a reminder. All I'd want it to do is block out the time, but then how much time? Also, in the same context, the actual funeral would only need to show up as an event. Obviously the software isn't primarily designed for funeral celebrants, and I understand that. I guess the point is that if you work irregular hours that are very flexible, then time management is always going to be tricky.

On that basis I can see myself using it for therapy clients and maybe for tennis clients. Again there are issues, but that's because I might be trying to make it do something it wasn't designed to do. For instance, if you run a group session and need to cancel it you need to be able to send a group text. Because the software is designed for salons and spas I don't think it can do groups. There might be a way, or a hack that could work. Again it will need a bit of experimentation.

The thing is, the world is an imperfect place. We're never going to get the perfect solution to an imperfect problem. But anything that can do the simpler stuff well and reduce the frustration of having forgetful clients missing appointments can only be a good thing.

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