For many small businesses, specifically those that rely on shift workers or client appointments, overbooking or understaffing can pave the path to big trouble. And while some businesses do just fine with a No. 2 pencil and a scheduling book, many can benefit from more advanced systems.
There are dozens (that’s likely an understatement) of scheduling app options available for those who seek them out, and rooting through them can be as hard as scheduling your staff on a holiday weekend or pleasing clients during the busy season.
To help you get started, here are five scheduling apps you may want to consider.
Deputy comes highly acclaimed by several review sites, and if you’re looking for an app that’s predominantly focused on scheduling, then this may be for you. The brainchild of an Australian aviation service company with a need to streamline their ground crew scheduling, this app can meet the needs of business owners across a variety of industries.
In addition to the typical functions (including a mobile app) that you’d expect from a scheduling app, Deputy comes with some great perks that can increase your communication and workflow. A great example of how Deputy achieves this can be found in the news feed and task communication functionality, which empowers employers and managers to convey important company information or to leave feedback and directions to single or multiple staff members.
With an open application programming interface, or API, integration opportunities are plentiful, making it easy for you to transport, analyze, and make decisions based on information from HR, payroll, and even weather apps.
Price: Small business owners can choose between the Starter ($2 per user) or the Premium (as low as $3 per user) plans, and there is no minimum user requirement, which means it can be a great option for those who are just getting started but may need room to build out use as time goes by.
Humanity is a robust employee scheduling service that is perfect for restaurants, bars, and cafes. In addition to offering automated scheduling, this app provides users with an easy-to-use user interface, a mobile app, and a variety of forecasting and reporting capabilities.
Having emergency cash on hand can be your key to managing cash flow.
If you’re in the service industry, you’ll find the point-of-sale integration useful when making day-to-day staffing decisions. On the other hand, if your business requires employees to work in various locations, Humanity can provide accurate GPS check-ins, making it possible for you to keep track of job starts and completion times.
As an added bonus, the app integrates with a variety of HR and payroll suits like ADP and ADP Portal, which is a great way to simplify everyone’s favorite task – payroll.
Price: Humanity’s pricing is extremely similar to Deputy; their Starter plan is $2 per user, and their premium plan is $3/user. However, they do require a minimum spend of $40 per month regardless of what plan you enroll in.
3. When I Work
If you or your employees rely heavily on smartphones, When I Work may prove to be a great scheduling app for your small business. Perfect for restaurants and factories alike, this app offers a variety of ways to schedule employees from a highly intuitive mobile or desktop interface.
Employers will love features that allow for easy labor-cost estimates and attendance overviews, but in some ways, this app works to empower those who work for you as well. Employees can access the app to input their availability, claim open shifts or swap shifts with other employees; whether or not they need approval is at your discretion.
When I Work can integrate with a wide variety of apps including Intuit, QuickBooks, ADP and even Square, making this a really well-rounded scheduling app.
Price: When I work is one of the lower priced scheduling apps available on the market, and the Starter plan, which provides access to five users, is priced at $9 per month. The Basic plan, which provides access to 10 users, is priced at $19 per month. From there, the plans increase incrementally for an additional $10 per month for every 10 users (e.g., 30 users will run $39 a month).
4. Acuity Scheduling
Acuity scheduling creates a symbiotic relationship between the scheduling needs of both your staff and your clients. If your business is one in which the clients are the driving force behind your employees’ schedules, this user-friendly app is one you may want to consider.
Clients have access to real-time calendars and can schedule appointments based on both their availability as well as that of your staff. And while clients can take charge of their appointment time (alleviating your staff from that duty), business owners will find customizable communications (emails, texts, etc.) perfect for branding and marketing purposes. Employees will love the one-stop-shop information and payment collection functions.
Integration options are plentiful, with PayPal, MailChimp, WordPress, and Google Analytics topping the charts of the most-sought-after apps.
Price: If you’re a freelancer, single employee, or new business, you’ll be able to access one calendar at one location for $10 per month by signing up for the Emerging Entrepreneur plan. For up to six calendars and multiple staff members and locations, you can enroll in the Growing Business plan for $19 per month. Larger businesses can access a maximum of 36 calendars for $34 per month.
A lot of people know that Square is a great solution for point-of-sale transactions and payments, but it also has a solid client-scheduling feature. Perfect for salons, spas, and any other small business driven by customer appointments, Square lets customers book the service, staff-member, and appointment that they want.
In addition to simplifying client/staff scheduling, Square can issue automatic text and email reminders to mitigate the risk of missed appointments. Business owners also will find the fraud transaction and monthly chargeback protection to be a great feature in today’s cyber banking reality.
If you haven’t already assumed, Square scheduling integrates with the Square point-of-sale to accept payments and send invoices, and it also works directly with employee time cards and payroll. As an added bonus, Square also integrates with Google calendar to keep your staff organized and ready.
Pricing: Square scheduling isn’t a standalone service, but if you’re considering or already use Square, it’s definitely something to consider. With that said, a single user Square service runs $30 per month, and if you’d like to increase users, you can provide access for two to five users for $50 per month. If you’re expecting more than five users, you’ll need to upgrade to the $90 per month plan.
Before you dive into a scheduling app, be sure to do your homework. Many apps, including the ones above, offer free, limited-time trials, offering you the opportunity to try it out before committing.
While you’re doing your homework and reviewing scheduling apps, keep the following questions (and answers) in mind:
- What functionality do I need? If you are happy with your other service providers and apps (payroll, HR, etc), then you may find some of the single-focused, lower-priced apps to be not only better for your budget, but more efficient for your business.
- Do I want to/need to integrate my scheduling app with other platforms and apps I use? Most of the apps discussed above integrate with at least some of the more popular small business apps, but that’s not always true, nor is it always necessary. However, many users find that integration is a key component in their organizational and strategic efforts.
- How much am I willing to spend? As you can see, the prices vary, and most of the time that’s directly related to user access and functionality. When perusing apps, it’s helpful to consider the price for your immediate functionality/user needs, but don’t forget to forecast for the future. If you need to expand, you’ll have to be willing to either pay the price or migrate all your information to a new system.
Scheduling apps can really transform your business, by increasing not only employee and/or client scheduling efficiency, but by providing a direct link between your work force and your business plans. Have a scheduling app you love? Comment and let us know.