Scheduling is one of the most important administrative parts of any small business.  It’s especially important for education businesses like martial arts studios, enrichment programs or tutors because the whole business is based around classes and appointments.  

That’s why finding the right system to manage scheduling and booking is one of the most important decisions you can make if you run a small education based business!  

For a lot of people, the decision is so important, they are hesitant to leverage technology, afraid that it might make things more difficult.  In some cases, owners have been burned by software that has been more expensive or more trouble than it was worth.  But we’re here to tell you that there should absolutely be a “right fit” software for you!  The right scheduling and booking platform can be a godsend if it’s the right system for your business.  

We wrote this article to help you make the smartest decision about scheduling & booking for your business. 

When to pick Calendly

If you’re looking for a simple way for someone to book a private appointment on your calendar, look no further than Calendly.  Calendly is a beautifully simple application.  You connect your existing Gmail or Outlook calendar and Calendly gives you a link that you can distribute to customers to book time on your calendar.  Anytime someone books time on your calendar, you and the booker receive an email confirmation, the slot is booked on your calendar and you have options to cancel or reschedule.  This is blissfully easy to manage and the best part is it’s free.  You can take a simple tutorial of Calendly here.

Calendly’s free plan however lacks a couple really important features for most education based businesses.  This includes the ability to setup group classes, the ability to have more than one selectable meeting duration (i.e., offering a ½ hour and 1 hour private lesson), link customization, or payment system customization.

The $12 paid options contain these features and it’s an affordable choice, but it’s worth checking out more robust “Customer Management Systems” like Finli that give you these features and also have tools to integrate your customer list and subscriptions.

Pros:

  • Super easy setup
  • Beautiful interface for you and your customers
  • Easy and intuitive use for you clients
  • Widely used (millions of users worldwide)
  • Since it’s link based, it can integrate into your existing emails & website

Cons

  • The free plan is mostly for single users versus businesses
  • No integrated support for your customers
  • No native payment option and paid plan needed for PayPal integration
  • Not specifically tailored for needs of education-based business
  • You’ll need to use other software to manage other parts of your business

When to use Zen Planner

Zen Planner is one of the most popular “Customer Management Systems” out there for gyms and studios.  It’s done such a nice job in the fitness niche that many educational based businesses have also started using the platform.  The scheduling tool is especially robust – it allows your customers to make class reservations, track workouts, and manage class attendance.  It covers not only scheduling and booking but also billing, integrated websites, and marketing services.

There’s a lot of capabilities Zen Planner can do and it can be a great way to set up pricing, a website, a POS system, inventory management, etc. (you can read the whole feature list here).  But as expected Zen Planner can be expensive, typically in the $100s of dollars a month.  So it’s important to be really sure that you’ll use Zen Planner to it’s full potential to recoup your investment.  

Zen Planner is specifically a “membership management” platform so there’s some great membership management tools but if you’re business is not based around memberships, there can be a lot of things that don’t get used or don’t fit just right.

Pros

  • Very good holistic “Membership Management” system
  • Integrated billing, calendaring, and customer management
  • Unique features like Skills & Belt Tracking
  • A host of sophisticated tools classes (including reservations and attendance tracking)

Cons

  • Typically $100+ a month and can get very expensive with additional features
  • No native payment solution with scheduling (must use a third party processor)
  • Some negative customer service reviews ever since their 2017 acquisition

When to Use Finli

Finli is built specifically for small businesses.  The booking feature is fully integrated with the robust payment/invoicing and customer management capabilities for a seamless “one-stop-system” for operators.  It was also designed with simplicity in mind for both businesses and their customers.

Bookings are made through class pages (some examples here) which businesses set up to give their customers an overview of what they’re signing up for.  Bookings can be setup for private appointments (in a very similar way to Calendly) or they can be set up for Group Classes (similar to Zen Planner).  In either case, the customer will register by inputting their information and, if applicable, paying for the class.

Like Zen Planner, Finli has a host of other Customer Management tools including the ability to manage subscriptions, keep a customer database, and some of its own unique ones like split payments and setting up parent/child relationships.  Finli also features your class on their growing Finli Classes page if you’re looking to expand your business to online classes. (www.finli.com/classes).  

Maybe best of all is Finli’s pricing.  It’s a minimum of $25/month. And there’s no feature tiers. You get all the features not matter how big or small you are.  You can create an unlimited number of classes and grow your business to your full potential.

Pros

  • Specifically designed for small businesses
  • Booking is natively integrated with payments, customer management, and classes
  • Class Pages to book new customers or market to new ones
  • Simple interface design for both businesses and their customers
  • Simple and affordable pricing for small businesses
  • Booking integrates with your existing calendars
  • Live agent support for businesses and their customers during the booking process

Cons

  • Not as many bells and whistles as bigger Customer Management Systems
  • No free tier (though there’s typically at least a free month offered) 
Zen Planner vs. Calendly vs. Finli

Try out Finli’s scheduling feature today! Book a demo with a member of our team >>>> Book demo here.