Free Scheduling Software and the Hidden Costs

Five Hidden Costs of Free Scheduling Software

Pamella Shaw owns a sewing school in Alexandria, VA, and her offering will sound familiar to nearly any sports or instruction-based business: lessons, classes and equipment. When she started planning for her new business, she immediately began looking for free scheduling software.

“I was not going to start a business without it,” she said. “I wanted to be able to focus as much as I could on the sewing side of the business. You would think that the product and service side would always take precedence, and it should. But unfortunately it tends to get sideswiped by marketing and accounting.”

Pamella was entering small business ownership with valuable knowledge. Many small business owners have to learn the hard way that a passion for instruction and a great clientele base are never enough to keep a business running. Without a doubt, if there isn’t a plan to facilitate administrative and marketing tasks, you may be forced to close your doors.

Research the Competition

Determined to avoid that fate, Pamella did extensive research on how other sewing schools scheduled classes and accepted payment. As soon as she came across the web sites of some of eSoft Planner’s clients, she knew she had found her software solution.

“It’s amazing how many are using really simple e-commerce systems. Honestly I don’t know how they keep track of anything,” she said. “Some were using Google Docs where people pay and it gets added into a spreadsheet. I would imagine the administrative hours spent maintaining that ends up costing a lot more than an intuitive solution like eSoft Planner.”

Most facility and instruction business owners come to this same conclusion eventually, but only after they’ve spent hours trying to make the free tools work. When you need to track both instructor time and facility space — along with accepting payments for those services — the missing features from the free software systems become apparent.

Here are just a few things you’ll lose by relying on free scheduling software:

Time for Building from Scratch

It isn’t easy to set up a spreadsheet that tracks all your scheduling and/or payments in a clear, concise way. Eventually, even if you’re starting out with what you think is a good system, you’ll begin to realize that it needs to be restructured to be effective.

Maybe you initially overlooked some details that you’d like to track. Maybe the way you organized the spreadsheet makes it too complicated to calculate totals. Consequently, it requires a lot of time to reorganize your tracking system. Working with an experienced software developer or an existing software solution can save you that time.

Facility Reports

Maybe you’ve already figured out how to use a simple spreadsheet for scheduling and payment. What happens when you need to analyze your business operations? What if you need data on individual instructor hours, total lessons scheduled, or you want to compare the profitability of different factors such as student age, lesson type or class size?

Professional software can put this type of information at your fingertips. Reports give you visibility to what’s happening in your business. That way you can make improvements and decisions to become more profitable.

Customer Data

One of the most important features that is missing from free software is access to a sophisticated customer profile. With professional software, you can check customer scheduling and contact history, goals and interests. All of which are extremely valuable pieces of information to recommend the most valuable products and services to your customers.

Your customer relationships are your greatest asset. And the more you know – and can readily access – about your customers the more you can leverage that information. You’ll be able to offer the right programs to them in the future and even design your programming around your customers’ interests.

Reliable and Fool-proof Customer Transactions

Speaking of service: your customers certainly do not appreciate when their payments get lost, their instructor gets double-booked or their time slot gets overlooked. Each of these mistakes are much more likely to happen when you’re using a basic spreadsheet to track scheduling and payment.

For every person who has access to your primary scheduling document, the risk of mistakes and confusion grows exponentially. Just one scheduling mishap can result in hours of scrambling to remedy the situation. Or worse — hundreds of dollars in lost revenue from customers leaving your facility.

Software designed to provide self-service in real-time eliminates a lot of hassle and headaches and reduces the risk of unhappy customers.

Consultative Knowledge

This is where eSoft Planner is a little different from other scheduling programs. You’re not the first person to open a facility like yours. Our staff has taken many, many businesses through this process. And we have plenty of insights into what works to manage a sports facility or other instruction-based business.

We don’t just show you how to use the software. We’re showing you why we built the software the way we did. Based on the feedback of dozens of businesses just like yours.

When you go it alone, you’re losing hours by making the same mistakes that others have already made.

Don’t lose sight of the big picture by trying to cut corners on your scheduling and payment system. If you want to see how eSoft Planner can help your business remain organized, click here and fill out the form to request a free demo.