Online booking has become a necessity for companies competing in today’s marketplace, which relies increasingly on technology, even in brick-and-mortar industries like dining. In fact, analysts expect the annual growth rate of the global online software industry to increase to 15.1% by the year 2024, with its total market value reaching $360 million.
With such immense growth, online reservation systems must be paying off, so the question is, what exactly are the benefits online reservation systems bring to a business?
Before delving into the benefits, let’s look at what an online reservation system is.
An online reservation system is a software solution that allows customers to book their reservations or appointments online via a company’s website or app instead of over the phone or in person. Depending on the sophistication of the platform, an online reservation system might also permit customers to pay for their appointment or reservation services ahead of time.
Lastly, these services give customers flexibility and autonomy by giving them the ability to also manage their reservations — modifying or canceling as needed without the fuss of calling to make a change manually.
Online reservation systems, including the Ombori Grid Appointment Booking solution, help companies become more “customer centric by letting the customer decide on when and how to meet.” Additionally, these systems make it easy for businesses to house all of their appointment information under one digital roof, including traditionally made appointments: “[Ombori Grid] manages a mix of pre-booked appointments and walk-in tickets, and handles delays with ease.”
Benefits of an Online Reservation System
The utilization of online reservation systems has increased dramatically in the retail, healthcare, and hospitality industries. Partially as a result of the pandemic, industries and businesses that had never relied on online reservation systems before had to adopt them, and now that they have, customers and businesses have experienced the way online reservation systems streamline their work, save money, improve customers satisfaction, and help them become more customer-centric. Let’s get into the details.
Offers 24/7 Booking
Businesses have limited hours and only so many employees to watch the phones. This limitation creates barriers when trying to maximize reservations. Online booking services, however, help businesses overcome this barrier by permitting around-the-clock reservation capabilities. One study found that as much as 35% of customers prefer to schedule appointments after working hours! By making it easy for customers to book an appointment the very moment it occurs to them, online reservation systems allow these businesses to lock in profits and customers even during the off hours rather than waiting for business hours when the sense of urgency may have faded.
Provides Businesses a Competitive Advantage
You would assume that in today’s market, all businesses would offer online booking. However, while major chains can boast high rates of usage, research suggests that only 23% of “local service businesses have an online booking system in place to capture the leads generated from local searches.”
If a prospective customer does an online search and finds a dozen options, chances are pretty high that they will book with the company that offers online reservation services. Having made that first connection thanks to the convenience and accessibility of the online system, those businesses are likely to capture repeat business and become the go-to for those new customers.
Streamline Operations with Payment Features
By implementing an appropriate online reservation system – specifically one with payment features – businesses can digitally collect payments, saving time and money and removing one more task from the employees’ workload. This streamlined process improves overall cash flow and reduces lost revenue from missed payments.Reduced Staffing Requirement
As with any kind of good automation or technology, online reservations allow businesses to do more with less. A sophisticated system that lets customers book, manage, and pay for their appointments entirely online removes the need for a business to hire a staff member to operate the checkout, answer the phones, and manage appointments. Pretty quickly, that kind of saving can add up.Improved Efficiency of Calendar Management
Most online reservation systems integrate with a business calendar. So, when a customer books their appointment or reservation online, the booking is immediately added to the business calendar. This additional feature helps businesses avoid double bookings and manage waitlists. Overall, it increases the businesses’ efficiency. Plus, smart systems offer integration with the customers’ calendar as well, prompting the customer to add their reservation or appointment to their calendar once the booking is complete.
Stay Connected via Emails
Keeping customers updated is essential, and online reservation systems generally offer automated email updates that help businesses stay connected. This allows customers to receive email confirmations, including payment confirmation, upon completing their reservation.
Furthermore, innovative softwares offer ongoing email capabilities, providing customers with email updates on their bookings and reservations. This has more than a minor impact: Research found that no-shows were reduced by 29% as a result of automated reminders! Such a significant reduction in lost business helps improve a business’ bottom line.
Businesses can use the collected client information to target them with email campaigns. They can customize the campaigns based on the demographics or search criteria, increasing the opportunity to gain further business in the future and keep themselves on the radar of their regular clients.
- Increased Revenue
Booking appointments online increases revenue. As mentioned above, it reduces the staff required to manage customers, maximizes efficiency by offering after-hours booking and calendar integration, reduces the number of canceled or missed appointments, and increases prospective business via email campaigns. Together, these factors stack up to some serious increases in revenue: on average, companies that integrate an online reservation system increase sales and leads by 37%, and globally, industries save around $3.2 billion.Reporting and Analytics
Without good data, businesses have a hard time improving. Online reservation systems provide a glimpse into the company’s business operations via reporting and analytics. These solutions include:
- Access to real time data, offering business the ability to track growth from a daily, weekly, and annual perspective.
- Display payment details and highlight outstanding payments.
- Generate sales forecasts, optimal pricing, and profit margins.
- Monitor performance of marketing campaigns.
- Analyze conversation rates.
- Capture customer profiles.
By leveraging this data and modifying operations accordingly, companies can further increase revenue and improve the customer experience.
Creates a Better Guest Experience
The fewer barriers that exist between a customer and a business, the more likely the customer is to patronize that business. Manually calling to make and manage appointments, dealing with clunky payment systems, and keeping track of dates and times are all factors that might alienate some customers. With online reservation systems that include automatic reminders, synced calendars, and built-in payments, the guest experience could hardly be smoother or more convenient.
Implementing a Successful Online Booking
Many companies do not have the resources or capital to develop an online reservation system – especially one that includes features that help them maximize on the aforementioned benefits. And why should they reinvent the wheel? Instead, businesses across all industries – including retail, hospitality, and healthcare – can leverage third party solutions, such as Ombori Grid Appointment Booking, for their operations.
Ombori Grid Appointment Booking allows customers to book an appointment from anywhere, anytime. Furthermore, the software offers additional benefits to users – many of which are not available in the programs offered by competitors. For example, Ombori Grid booking:
- Is highly configurable. The platform allows users to configure every aspect of the booking process. Users can easily figure out how long appointments last, what hours are available, and how many concurrent slots there are. It also allows users to adjust for weekends or holidays.
- Offers notification capability for increased revenues. Instead of limiting customer notification to emails, Ombori sends reminders via messaging directly to customers’ phones. If a customer needs to manage or modify their appointment, they can let the user know immediately with a text message reply.
- Reduces customer frustration. Ombori Grid makes it easy for customers to contact a business's customer service and get an appointment to speak to someone who can address their needs. While the online system makes most things automatic, sometimes, a personal connection is necessary, and you can’t replace that!
A Better Way of Doing Business
Online reservation systems are no longer an exclusive feature of big companies with the resources to build their own software. Today, companies like Ombori are democratizing the marketplace, giving smaller and local businesses the tools they need to compete, to better serve their customers, reduce costs, and improve the all-around guest experience.
The constraints of the pandemic accelerated innovation in the hospitality, healthcare, and retail sectors, and the proliferation of online reservation systems is here to stay. As the percentage of businesses that offer this service continues to grow, it will be a necessity for a growing number of industries.
Rui is COO of Ombori Grid. Before joining Ombori in 2017, he worked in Beijing, Tokyo, Silicon Valley and Zagreb before ending up in Stockholm. He previously spent nine years in R&D at Ericsson as Operative Product Owner, and is a highly skilled leader in IT and communications with a successful track record of working closely with both stakeholders and management.