As a business owner, you've probably heard that your most valuable asset is your time. The more time you have the more you can affect positive changes in your business. Yet often times as a business owner, you end up swimming in a sea of minutiae—from late night accounting to early morning emergencies to endless hours spent manipulating appointments—which is why it's more important than ever to automate and systematize what you do.
Generic software like Google Calendar, Outlook and others fall short when it comes to the nuances of online activity and rental businesses. On the flip-side of the coin, many other solutions concentrate so much on the customer experience that they lack the nuts-and-bolts features needed to create a smooth operation in the back office.
Sure you can have a streamlined booking experience for your customers, but what good is it if you don't have the tools to deliver a great experience once the customer booking experience is completed?
Here are six absolute must-haves in any online booking software you pick for your operation.
1. Activity, rental, or both?
Many online booking systems are built primarily for tour and activity merchants, leaving rental merchants (or even those who provide both activities and rentals) to handle the rental portion on their own.
When you pull up the calendar feature of your online booking software, it just makes sense to have the option to view all areas of your business so you can manage staff, inventory, and time accordingly. Even if you don't currently offer both, your business may evolve in the future, and your software should be able to handle potential changes you make in the direction of your business. For example, in the screenshot below activities, tours, and rentals are all brought together in one integrated solution.
Your online booking software should make expanding into activities, tours, or rentals a no-brainer.
2. Overall business visibility at a glance.
While your employees may rely heavily on the dashboard of your booking system (or on a calendar planner) to prepare for upcoming events, it's crucial to be able to see more than just appointments on your calendar. For example, in the screenshot below, the standard calendar incorporates a view of availability and capacity, along with bookings you've already made.
Your calendar shouldn't just tell you what events are happening (that's what free tools like Google Calendar are for); rather, it should give you an overview of everything you need to know so you can stay on top of things.
3. Ability to dig deep, organize, and filter quickly
While overall visibility at a glance is an extremely helpful calendar feature, it is also important that you're able to view tours and activities differently from rental equipment.
The calendar should have filtering capability that allows you to quickly and easily manage these two very different types of services in your business. This means the software should allow you to view activities and rentals separately, or eliminate one completely from view if one isn't needed (i.e. if you don't offer rental equipment, you should be able to avoid having that clutter up your visual area).
Note that in the case of rental equipment, the software should allow you to group similar equipment together for ease of booking and management.
4. Simple navigation and easy last-minute booking features
Activity and rental merchants are no strangers to call-ins and walk-ins. When taking that call, you should not only be able to glance at the calendar and dig into specifics as needed, but you should be able to book that slot the moment the customer says they're interested.
Your calendar should also have a quick and easy way to create new bookings on the fly. This way your employees can offer quick service and keep customers happy (and close quickly on new sales opportunities).
For example, if a customer calls in and asks if they can book something last minute, that particular time window may not be available. Any industry-specific booking solution should allow you to quickly and easily identify alternative times or durations at your fingertips to close the deal (like in the screenshot below).
5. Painless blackout capabilities
If you're no stranger to managing rental equipment, then you know equipment breaks down or may not be available due to a season change. A critical component to any solution for your rental business must have the ability to prevent equipment from being rented from time to time.
Taking equipment offline for periods of time is an absolute must. Any successful solution in this space must have three critical blackout capabilities:
- Blackout the business. For example, maybe you want to close business for a day or more due to an unplanned event (i.e. building damage, holiday, etc.)
- Blackout a tour or activity. For example, the t-shirt and shorts bike tour is closed for winter or no longer available.
- Black out a piece of equipment. For example, one of the bikes you have is no longer available to rent because someone in a t-shirt and shorts bent the rim while riding on ice.
6. Seamless customer experience
Of course this goes without saying, but all of this has to come together in one simple, intuitive booking experience for your customers.
Your online booking software is arguably the most important solution your business will use. Since your calendar is used during each booking, a calendar that does it all will make your life easier when booking bike tours, renting kayaks, or planning your next escape room schedule.
Remember that a business is something that runs when you're not there. To pull that off, you need software and supporting tools that are specific to the world of online tours, activities, and rentals. So before you get glassy-eyed with the customers' booking experience, make sure you're glassy eyed with your experience, too. Take the time for a much deeper look into the critical capabilities you'll need to successfully run your operation—from start to finish.
With ZOZI Advance, the only online booking system that guarantees new customers, you'll have access to all of the features described above - and much more. Not only will you get our award-winning platform, you'll get online training, 24/7 customer support, and access to millions of potential customers who are looking to book an experience like yours. Click here to learn more about ZOZI Advance and how it can fit your business.