Booking/Payment Management

Hi all,<div>
</div><div>I was wondering how you take care of bookings generated by your site. Do you make people call or email you or do you have some kind of online booking system? Although I highly value personal contact, I'm also the web/software type of guy and I'm considering implementing a system that not only shows the availability but enables the user to make an online booking as well. People will also have the ability to make a 'good old fashioned' phone call but I was wondering if anyone had any experience with this type of method.</div><div>
</div><div>I'm asking this cause I'm very aware of the fact that people (not all of them) are 'lazy' and an online booking system improves the ordering/booking process, opposed to having them to open their email, type an email and wait for a reply. Or having them to pick up a phone. Surely this doesn't apply to everyone but I believe giving them this option could be considered as customer service. The social types will make that phone call. Plus I think it will benefit me since I would not have to handle all those hundreds of phone calls or emails that will be coming in. Just kidding of course but you get the point. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.</div><div>
</div><div>p.s. Mike I didn't know in which category I had to post this so feel free to remove this.</div>


  • LorneChesal
    my two cents... for my market and experience to date, I wouldn't think an online booking system would be effective. I am assuming you are meaning a system where a client is able to book you without ever having actually interacted with you in any meaningful way. If they want you, and the date is available, they can book and make a payment. Do I have that right?

    95% of my inquiries come in via a online contact form, and the conversation is mostly via emails. Phone calls to me are very rare. I call some people who have trouble understanding what we provide and the various choices etc. This is mainly older clients who have questions that would take too many words to answer by email.

    IMO, managing and setting client expectations is one of the most important aspects of this business. At or during the event is not the time to be explaining the gap between what they thought they were getting and what you're providing.

    My fear would be that an online booking system would be become overly wordy in an effort to answer all possible questions. And you would still miss some and risk unclear expectations on the client's part.

    And personally, I wouldn't want to book a service this way. Buy a product completely automated, yes.

    But we don't sell a product really... we sell an experience that ends up providing a product.
  • studiokeko
    <div style="text-align: justify"><font face="Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif"><span style="line-height: 18px">Hi Lorne, thanks for your input.</span></font></div><span><i><font color="#999999"><div><span><i><font color="#999999">
    </font></i></span></div>"I am assuming you are meaning a system where a client is able to book you without ever having actually interacted with you in any meaningful way. If they want you, and the date is available, they can book and make a payment. Do I have that right?</font><font color="#bbbbbb">"</font></i></span><div style="font-family: Arial, Verdana;line-height: normal"><span><i><font color="#bbbbbb">
    </font></i></span></div><div style="text-align: justify"><font face="Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif"><span style="line-height: 18px">Correct. Though I don't quite understand what you mean by actually interacting with me as the booking form is intended for those who fully understand what my service is about thus have had some interaction with me or my booth in some way, whether it be online or in real life.</span></font></div><div style="text-align: justify">
    </div><div style="text-align: justify"><span><font color="#999999"><i>"My fear would be that an online booking system would be become overly wordy in an effort to answer all possible questions. And you would still miss some and risk unclear expectations on the client's part."</i></font></span></div><div style="text-align: justify"><span>
    </span></div><div style="text-align: justify"><span>Actually, I don't look at a booking system from this point of view. A booking system is intended for those who are very aware of my services so there is no need to answer any question during a booking process. If done correctly, all questions should be answered by all the other pages on the site, a FAQ page coming first to mind. So bookings are done by those who have passed the point of questions and who are ready to 'make the deal'.</span></div><div style="text-align: justify"><span>
    </span></div><div style="text-align: justify"><span>I value your input though I think we are looking at a booking form from two very different point of views. But as you said, your market could have something to do about this. Thanks again.</span></div>
  • scottishmovies
    <p>Just my 2 cents - got to agree in essence with Lorne, we sell an experience not a product.</p><p>But here's something to think about - a potential customer goes onto your site to see if their date is available. What your site might tell them is a) you're busy for their date so go and book someone else or b) the date is available or c) lots of dates are available as you're not really that busy! Not being busy might be viewed as being not very good as well. I'd rather they emailed me or phoned or anything rather than not make that first enquiry. I also wouldn't my competitors knowing if I was busy or not. I've seen this on a few sites and thought "WHY"??</p><p>Just my opinion of course....</p>
  • LorneChesal
    >>> <span style="font-family: Helvetica Neue,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif"><span style="line-height: 18px">intended for those who fully understand what my service is about <<<

    >>> </span></span><span>A

    booking system is intended for those who are very aware of my services

    so there is no need to answer any question during a booking process <<<

    This is where I see the gap... I don't believe you will find too many clients who fit this description. I feel they would be the minority. And if your services are that easy to grasp in your market, what is distinct about them? I would fear a client thinking.. "photo booths are all the same aren't they? Let's pick the cheapest"

    That's not a negative comment. Hope you don't take it that way.

    You absolutely will get clients who only need to know if you're available. They have been to an event or just "get it" easily. Again though, I think these will be the exception and not the rule.

    You're in the Netherlands correct? Perhaps you know your clients well enough.

    It's certainly something you can try and "fix" if the need arises. I'm also not seeing how this would be a better business model.

    Why do see a need for a full booking online workflow?

    >>> </span><span> So bookings are done by those who have passed the point of questions and who are ready to 'make the deal <<<

    How would you enforce that only these type of clients use the booking form? Would you "hide" it and only provide a link to those who are ready to commit? If so, I guess I do this too. I have a "next steps" page where they are told how to pay their retainer, what steps are involved in creating their print layout and so on. But nobody would ever find this page without having either spoken to me or having exchanged emails.

  • studiokeko
    Thanks Scottishmovies,<div>
    </div><div>I also fully agree about the experience part, I never said I disagreed. I also don't see a booth as a product. Maybe having a booking system could come across as if it we're, personally I don't think this is or could be the case. Personally I don't think a booking system could somehow take away the 'experience' concept behind a booth.</div><div>
    </div><div>As for clients going to someone else cause their date is already booked, I see your point, but wouldn't this be the case anyway? (Please note that I will only have one booth for the time being so double bookings are impossible in anyway.) If they emailed me, I would have to say no as well and it would take me one email which they would have to wait for first. Seeing right away their date is unavailable could be considered as customer service, open communication, no need to wait for my reply and they can look for someone else right away. If you look at it the other way, they email a competitor about availability, land on my site where they immediately see their date is available and book me. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.</div><div>
    </div><div>I see your point about competitors seeing my schedule. Note taken.</div><div>
    </div><div>Thanks for your input.</div>
  • studiokeko
    Oh no way Lorne, I don't take anything as a negative comment or personally even. I'm here to learn from you experienced people and take anything as constructive as possible. I don't have any experience in booth renting yet and I really feel like the noob inhere but of course I have a certain background and experience in some fields of which I believe can be applied to this adventure as well, or maybe not, that's for me to find out. My experience lies in communications and marketing, dealing with clients from all kinds of fields, optimizing websites when it comes to browsing experience, SEO, analyzing visitors and so on. Though very insightful, it was also very very boring. I was always into weddings, events, design and photography which made me decide to leave that job and do design and photography fulltime which then lead me to the world of booth rentals.<div>
    </div><div>Everything I say or ask is obviously based on my own experience or thoughts and I try to somehow make this work for me in the best way possible, taking with me the experience and lessons I've gained here or in the past. Before I completely let go or rethink of what I think might work, I always want to know as much as possible when someone tells me to go another route. I don't just take things for granted cause person A simply said so, I'm the type that likes to hear more opinions on the matter and that's why I ask as much as possible. Or I might make a counter statement on an opinion to get more out of the other person to get a better conclusion. This might come across as stubborn but it isn't, I simply want to see/hear where you or anyone else is coming from and see if it can be applied it to my own situation.</div>
  • scottishmovies
    <p>I think it would be great if the customer could input their details (so you capture them) and it can confirm their date is available or not by using some kind of look up to your calendar.</p><p>At least it doesn't show all your cards then but still provides that "I can book here NOW" feeling, ir not as the case might be!</p><p>I just don't like the idea of showing all to any visitors, maybe a bit of paranoia but you've got to be careful with that kind of data.</p><p>As a matter of interest, any other booth operators on here tried this? As in, my idea or an online calendar??</p><p>Let us all know what you decide to do - would be interested to see the final outcome.</p>
  • buzzkcphoto
    Probably 90% of our bookings come from phone calls and the rest are through our contact form that want us to contact via phone as their preference. We've found that we just have too many variables to cover for the various types of events. Even with the service agreement, my wife has to get clarifications that go back and forth several times before both parties sign the agreement. A good portion of contacts through the on-line form have been from competitors. Usually can tell who they are just by the questions they ask.

    Personally I don't mind the idea of a full booking system, but I've only

    had one client that we've ever dealt with that was entirely through

    emails. The only time my wife spoke with her was at the time of payment

    and my wife took the CC info over the phone as they didn't want to use

    the card on-line.

    One thing we've noted is that most local calls that go to voicemail never leave a message and never call back. We've had a much larger success rate with getting bookings if the call are answered, so we setup the business number to forward to both my wife and I as well has the home phone during daylight hours.
  • scottishmovies
    <p>Don't know if this is any good but I got an email from Coffee Cup who produce alot of web stuff and they have a special on their web calendar - <a href=""></a></p><p>Thought it might be useful if you want to explore that side of things....if not, no harm done.</p>
  • studiokeko
    Thanks for the heads up Scottishmovies, much appreciated. I'm already working with a script that involves a calendar and availability display. Coffee Cup's calendar shows too much information for what I'm looking for. My concept could be compared to what hotels are using as booking online goes; A simple calendar where different colors represent availability. I'm guessing you assumed my concept was to show ALL my cards as you stated (location, time, etc.), but this is not the case. The best way to describe it is to look at what hotels are doing, pretty simple actually. But thanks again for notifying, could be useful for other purposes.<div>
    </div><div>Thanks for sharing Buzz.</div><div>
    </div><div>Just to make things clear, I'm thinking of presenting my web visitors <span style="font-size: 10pt">several options: Online booking, email or telephone. So I let the potential client decide which works best for them. </span><span style="font-size: 10pt">But whatever option they pick, I will always make one or more phonecalls to confirm whatever needs to be confirmed but more important, to actually get into a relationship with that client.</span></div><div>
    </div><div>I just needed to get that clear, I guess my initial post made it sound as if my little business was a robot. This is absolutely not the case.</div><div>
    </div><div>I guess I also didn't ask my initial question clear enough, I was wondering how most of you manage your bookings and payments administrative wise? I know people swear by good old Excel I wanted to know if there are other options I'm not aware of.</div><div>
    </div><div>I also carry my agenda and bic pen everywhere I go so I got that covered :)</div>
  • buzzkcphoto
    Our service agreement is much like our pricing page as far as what options they want with check boxes (package & add-on items), then we provide an area for write in requests and notes. There is an area below that costs are totaled along with the sales tax so they know what they are agreeing to pay. Once the agreement is agreed upon by both parties and signed, the deposit is due. We accept that via cash, check, paypal, square, etc. I keep track of payments in quick books and print receipts for the client there. Online payments do send a receipt, so I typically print a final receipt for those and give to the client at the event or via email (as pdf). A booking system would be nice, but quick books keeps track of the whole business so we prefer to use it.

    My wife and I keep a shared google calendar updated and our phones both can see/update that calender as well from anywhere we can get on a computer.
  • Mike
    I use google calendar also to track bookings and leads. Works well as it is on all my devices and easy to share with those that help me out from time-to-time.<div> </div><div>I am working on integrating it more deeply into my website via Google's API. Hoping to make things more streamlined.</div>
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