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What To Look For In A Group Scheduling Software

Any business that offers group classes, courses, or services will need a group scheduling software. Companies can provide such group classes, appointments, or bookings, both online and offline.

So, what should you look for in a group scheduling software? Look for the CORE features as mandatory in any group scheduling software, and the GROWTH features will be necessary when you are ready to scale and grow your business.

CORE FEATURESGROWTH FEATURES
Online presence (website, storefront)Customer accounts and profiles
Create and share class schedules online and offlineCommunication suite
Create class-packs and membership optionsDiscounts/promos and gift vouchers
Add teacher/staff, and manage availabilityCustomer referrals and customer loyalty management
Class reservations, waitlist management, and swapsLead capture
Payment processingZoom video integration (for offering classes online)
Attendance trackingReview Management
Member management (CRM)Multi-location and advanced filters
ReportingUpsells & order bumps
Features For Group Scheduling Software

Group scheduling software is useful for any business where a person is teaching, demonstrating, or offering services to a group of people. The simplest examples of small companies providing group classes are yoga studios, fitness studios, dance studios, martial art classes, hobby classes, student coaching, etc. 

The primary requirement of group scheduling software arises from the complexity of managing a group of students, scheduling multiple classes, taking payments, managing waitlists, and finally marking attendance. 

In this guide, I will explore the essential features of modern group scheduling software. This guide will also give you insights into the key features you should look for when purchasing a group scheduling software for your business. 

I will also explore specific use-cases. So if you have a new business offering group sessions of any kind, and you have never used a scheduling software before, then you will find this guide invaluable.

Requirements from group scheduling software

Before we dive into specific features of group scheduling software, let us explore the essential tasks that happen in any business offering group classes. 

For our example, you can consider any yoga or fitness studio offering online and offline classes. 

  • They need a simple way to design a class schedule. The teacher can assign classes for the week, month, or year. 
  • Assign teachers & location to each class. Assignment happens based on the availability of the teachers/location without causing overlap.
  • Share the class schedule online. A way to share and distribute the class schedule online so students can find it.
  • Book classes. Students should be able to book classes online, see which classes are full and even join waitlists
  • Waitlist management. The teacher needs a simple way to manage waitlists. 
  • Document & consent management. The teacher needs a way to manage essential legal documents for the classes, e.g., waivers for fitness classes. 
  • Take payments. The students should also be able to pay for the classes using multiple payment options: credit/debit card, PayPal, cash.
  • Mark attendance. Once the student attends the class, the teacher must be able to mark the attendance or allow the student to self-check-in.
  • Data reports. The teacher needs a way to track basic metrics such as revenue, profits, etc. Basic reporting is essential to manage the business and also to pay taxes due.
  • Customer CRM. Now that the teacher has several students, they will need a way to manage their relationship with their clients. 
  • Teacher/trainer availability. A way to manage the availability of other teachers, take their preference into account and assign teachers to teach specific classes.

A group scheduling software performs all of the above tasks, automatically letting you focus on growing your business.

What To Look For In A Group Scheduling Software: CORE Features

If you are beginning your business, you can make a case to use excel to manage your entire business. However, most group scheduling software on the market is cloud-based and costs anywhere from $10 to $100’s a month

Most group scheduling software also offers different tiers of features. My suggestion would be to choose the most basic level and start with a group scheduling software, rather than managing your entire business on paper/excel. 

In this section, these are the CORE features of group scheduling software that we will explore:

  • Online presence (website, storefront)
  • Create and share class schedules online and offline
  • Create class-packs and membership options
  • Add teacher/staff, and manage availability
  • Class reservations, waitlist management, and swaps
  • Payment processions
  • Attendance tracking
  • Member management (CRM)
  • Reporting

Online Presence (website, storefront)

One of the critical things you should look for in a group scheduling software is the ability to create an online presence. Remember, we will soon be offering our students a way to book our classes online.

For this, we will need to have an online presence where we can send our students to book and manage their classes. The online presence can be in the form of a few web pages that are stand-alone or that integrate with your website (if you have it). 

Here are two crucial pages that your group scheduling software must provide to establish your online presence:

  1. Buy page. The buy page is where this business sells class-packs, memberships, and gift cards.
  2. Schedule page. The schedule page is where all the classes are listed and where students can reserve their spot into the classes.

In essence, a good group scheduling software should give you the ability to create such two pages (buy and schedule), branded to your specific company brand.

Branding

Giving you the ability to build a brand is what differentiates a top of the line group scheduling software from the rest. 

Most group scheduling software will allow minimal customization, allowing you to slap on your logo, a header, and choose primary colors when designing your online presence pages. The net effect of this is that people end up with online pages and stores that all look the same.

Make sure your group scheduling software meets the following criteria when it comes to branding:

  • It allows you the freedom and creativity to highlight your brand in the purchase journey of your customers.
  • It gives you the tools to design and build your online presence quickly without the need for technical help.
  • Build beautiful, mobile-optimized pages that can serve as your online presence without the need for an additional website.

NOTE: You should be able to operate your business without a website, if needed, by only using the online pages provided by your group scheduling software. 

This method is becoming very popular today. People share their booking pages in their Instagram bios and Youtube description boxes and do not need a traditional website for their online presence.

Create & Share Class Schedules Online & Offline

One of the most complex and time-consuming tasks of a business offering group sessions is to build their weekly, monthly, and yearly class schedules. 

Imagine building a day-by-day class schedule by hand on paper. You will need to identify the time for each class, the teacher who will conduct the class, the location of the session, all the while ensuring there is no overlap, and after each class, the teacher has sufficient time to prepare and rest before the next session.

As you can imagine, the complexity adds up exponentially, and doing this task daily or weekly can be a huge time suck. 

Due to this, one of the key functionality of any group scheduling software is giving you the ability to create classes quickly and schedule them out weekly, monthly, or till all eternity with a simple click. 

When evaluating a group scheduling software, make sure the interface where you create the class schedule is user-friendly and gives you the ability to replicate classes.

With this feature, you will only need to create your classes once and only manage changes to the classes (class canceled, time changed, etc.) occasionally. 

EXAMPLE: A yoga studio can create a series of classes for a beginner training module. Also, they can create regular drop-in classes for anyone. They can then have these classes occur every other day of the week. They can create one-time events, etc. A group scheduling software must offer versatile options for scheduling classes.

Share Class Schedule Online & Offline

After you have created the class schedule, you should be able to share the class schedule online with the click of a button. Your students should be able to find your class schedule on your online “Schedule page.”

You should also be able to print your class schedule. A lot of businesses still post their schedules on the wall for quick reference and offline sharing. 

Create Class-Packs & Membership Options

Once you can create and share class schedules, it is time to create your class-packs and membership options. Before you create your class-packs/punch passes or memberships, it is crucial to understand the buying patterns of your customers. 

For example, in the boutique fitness industry (yoga, pilates, HIIT), consumers today are moving away from memberships. Consumers tend to go to several fitness and yoga studios rather than purchasing long-term memberships to a single boutique studio.

Due to this, a studio owner should be able to create various class-packs and membership options. For example:

  • Single drop-in class pass
  • Three class-pack with one-month expiry
  • Five class-pack with one-month expiry
  • Ten class-pack with 3-month expiry
  • 6-month rolling membership
  • 1-year rolling membership

A group scheduling software should allow you to create class-packs and membership options easily and quickly. You should also be able to create passes to and sell: class series, online courses, live online classes (streaming), workshops, and retreats.

NOTE: Similar to class schedules, publishing your purchasing options online must incorporate your brand into the buying process of your customers. Your “buy/purchase” pages provided by your group scheduling software must be brandable and easy to create using a friendly interface.

Add Teachers/Staff, & Manage Availability

Ok, so now you have completed the core task of creating your class-packs/memberships and scheduling your classes. Now, it is time to assign your teachers to each scheduled class and match it to their availability and skills.

Doing this task without a group scheduling software is extremely cumbersome. You will most likely have to coordinate the availability of your teachers/trainers/consultants via Whatsapp, Facebook chat, or email. 

A group scheduling software also assists with simplifying the process of scheduling teachers. Choose a group scheduling software that allows you to add team members and give them different permission levels. 

You should be able to add:

  • Teachers/trainers/consultants (anyone offering their service to the group class)
  • Staff (people who manage back-office operations such as your accountant, cleaner, etc.)
  • Admin (person who has complete access to the group scheduling software. This person most likely will be you, the owner/operator)

Once you add the teachers and staff, they should be able to log into the group scheduling software and update their contact details. However, the most important task here is that they should be able to enter their availability and their skills so that you can assign them to teach classes appropriately. 

The software then allows you to manually assign (or automatically assign) teachers to scheduled classes based on availability/preference/skills. 

You will need to set-up the rules for assigning classes once, and the software will do the assignment on an ongoing basis. The teachers will only need to log-in and add/change their availability and skills as and when required. 

So, you can now see how a group scheduling software can make the complex task of managing availability, skills, and preferences simple and easy to manage even at scale.

Class Reservations, Waitlist Management & Swaps

One of the key functionality offered by group scheduling software is the ability to see which classes are available on the class schedule and reserve their spots. A group scheduling software should allow your students to:

  • See your class schedule online (mobile optimized)
  • See which classes are full and which are open to reservations
  • Be able to reserve their spot in the class that has availability (booking a place will use up a credit/pass from a class-pack)
  • Be able to join the waitlist for classes that are already full. 

Once a student reserves their spot in the class, they can now attend the session. The group scheduling software should also allow the ability to enforce cancelation policies. 

The software should allow you to manage a waitlist of students without manual work. For example, if a student cancels their spot from a class, 24 hours before the class starts, the place will be offered to the first person on the waitlist automatically.

The person who gets offered the class can now confirm their reservation or decline it. The spot is then offered to the next person in the waitlist and so on. 

As you can imagine, this automation removes a tremendous amount of manual work. The group scheduling software allows you to set the rules, policies, class size, and then the software takes over. Your students can book into classes and manage waitlists on their own without you getting involved.

Swapboards

To further reduce your work, a good group scheduling software will also provide your students with a swapboard. If you have been running a business for a while, you will know how often your students contact you regarding moving their classes around. This process can take up a significant portion of your time.

With a swap board, your students have a way to swap classes with other students. Consider a situation where a student cannot attend a class they have reserved. 

Now the student can cancel their spot. However, most likely, you have a cancellation policy, and cancellation might not be an option. Or the student can cancel, but finding a spot in another class might not be possible because the classes are all booked. 

In such a situation, which is more common than you might think, having a swapboard will enable your students to swap classes on their own without your involvement. 

Policy Enforcement

Having rigid cancellation and attendance policies is essential for any business offering group classes. You don’t want people booking their place in a class and not showing up!

Most businesses have a no-refund policy in place if a customer cancels a booking 24-48 hours before the appointment. Doing so keeps the customer accountable, and they are aware that they will not receive a refund. 

Your group scheduling software should allow you to create rules and enforce them. Some of the policy rules that your group scheduling software should manage:

  • Waitlist management
  • Cancellation management and enforcement
  • Consent and waivers

Employee Swaps

At times, your teachers/trainers/consultants (people who will be offering the service to a group of students) will need to swap their sessions with each other. 

Typically they do this using a phone call, messages, or email. An added feature some group scheduling software provides is that of employee swaps.

Now your trainers can simply put in a request for a swap in the system, and it can be picked up by another trainer who wants to make the swap. This workflow removes any dependency on you and frees up your time. 

This feature also comes handy when you need to find a “cover” for a class. We have all been in a situation where a teacher/trainer cancels at the last minute, and we are left scrambling for a cover. 

Grup scheduling software will also allow you to broadcast a message to all your available teachers informing them of the cover, and your teachers can pick up the cover position in a single click. 

Class reservations, waitlist management, and swapping are essential features that must be offered by a group scheduling software.

Payment Processing

One crucial factor you should take into account when looking for a group scheduling software is the payment options provided to your customers. 

Most group scheduling software will allow your customers to pay by cash (pay at the service location) or online debit/credit card payments. For most small businesses, these payment options are sufficient.

The majority of group scheduling software integrates with Stripe, a popular payment gateway, and processor. As part of your onboarding to the group scheduling software, you will need to create a Stripe account and connect it to the scheduling software. 

Other popular payment options include Square, PayPal, and direct debit (UK). 

When choosing a group scheduling software, make sure that you have the option to, at the very least, accept cash and credit/debit card payments.

With this option in place, you will be ready to take online payments and start your business!

Attendance Tracking

For any group class, you will need to know who attended the class and when. Knowing this information allows you to charge for your services and deduct class-pack credits.  

So before any group class (yoga, fitness, live streaming), you must be aware of which people who reserved their spots for the class ended up attending the session.

Group scheduling software provides two ways to manage and take attendance.

Self-Check-In: This option is ideal if the service will take place in a physical location. Usually, group scheduling software comes with an “attendance” interface. 

This interface is simple and displays the names of the members attending that particular class. The members can then “sign-in” as and when they arrive. 

Usually, businesses display the attendance interface on a tablet that is at the reception desk for easy access. 

Staff Check-In: The other option is to provide a staff member (usually someone at the reception) with the attendance interface. The staff member then checks-in members as and when they arrive at the location.

NOTE: For attendance tracking, you will need to invest a tablet device when you purchase a group scheduling software. 

Member Management

Member management or CRM is a crucial part of running your business. The CRM provides a centralized place to store all your customer contacts and their respective activity.

For example, you can quickly go into a member’s profile and see their history with your business. You can see which classes they have attended, the sessions they have canceled, etc. 

The member management module also allows you to communicate directly with your members. This communication can be “bulk communication,” where you send out an email or SMS to all your members.

Or it can be personal communication where you can email or SMS individual members.

Think of the member management module (CRM) as a central database of all your members (past, present, and future) where you can track their history with your business and communicate with them in bulk or individually.

Choose a group scheduling software that offers a member management (CRM) module as part of the core features. Without a CRM, you will end up tracking your members in an excel sheet or paper, something you don’t want to do if your business is growing. 

Reporting

To run your business effectively, you will need to track and measure metrics relevant to your business. Most group scheduling software also provides basic reporting so that you don’t have to export data and hire an analyst to do the reporting for you.

Look for some out-of-the-box reports such as:

  • Sales (revenues) broken down by day/week/month and custom timelines
  • Number of classes sold and breakdown (class packs v/s memberships)
  • Number of recurring members
  • Gross profit generated
  • Forecasted business growth
  • Student churn
  • Most popular classes/trainers

The above are necessary reports any small business will need. Make a list of metrics relevant to your company, and when purchasing a group scheduling software, make sure it comes with pre-built reporting modules. 

Usually, the reports display on the dashboard. Make sure the group scheduling software also allows you to export the data so that you can run your own reports if needed.

What To Look For In A Group Scheduling Software: GROWTH Features

We have already discussed the core features of any group scheduling software. If you are just starting your business and want a simple solution to sell your services and manage your customers, the core features will be sufficient.

However, if you are in a position to grow and expand your business, the features discussed in this section will be invaluable for your progress. The features discussed in this section include lead capture, email automation, and customer loyalty, among others.

Look for group scheduling software that offers these features as well so that when you do plan to expand, you can simply move up to a higher tier rather than purchasing a completely new scheduling system.

The key GROWTH features we will cover in this section are:

  • Customer accounts and profiles
  • Communication suite
  • Discounts/promos and gift vouchers
  • Customer referrals and customer loyalty management
  • Lead capture
  • Zoom video integration
  • Review Management
  • Multi-location and advanced filters

Customer Accounts & Profiles

You can allow your customers to purchase passes and class-packs as “guests.” Doing so means that your customers do not have to create a profile in your group scheduling software to make the purchase.

However, to make full use of the growth and marketing features offered, I recommend allowing your customers to create their accounts when they make their first purchase.

Doing so gives your customers a “profile” area where they can log-in and make bookings, manage cancelations, waitlists, and payment methods. In essence, their profile becomes their page where they manage all their interactions with you.

Providing your customers with individual accounts and profiles is essential if you want to make use of notifications, automated emails, referral marketing, and loyalty generation. 

Communication Suite (Email & SMS Module)

A crucial part of any advanced group scheduling software is the communication suite. The communication suite allows you to communicate with your customers and staff from within the group scheduling software.

The communication suite primarily consists of emailing capability and the ability to send SMS. With this module in place, you can communicate with your customers and staff in different ways.

Reminders & Notifications

Reminders and notifications are the most basic form of communication with your members. The scheduling software will remind your customers and staff of the following:

  • Upcoming classes and sessions
  • Expiry of class-packs and memberships
  • Class cancelations, waitlist updates
  • Request for class reviews
  • Birthday and important holiday wishes
  • Sending payment receipts

These are just some of the notifications that happen automatically. You can turn these notifications on/off at your discretion. 

Email Marketing & Auto-responders

Apart from notifications and reminders, advanced group scheduling software provides you with simple email marketing and auto-responders.

You will be able to email your customers directly from the scheduling software, both in bulk and individually. 

However, the real power of good group scheduling software is providing email auto-responders for specific use-cases such as:

  • Requesting reviews & feedback
  • New lead warm-up sequence
  • Asking for referrals

Together, the notifications and auto-responder series are all you need to communicate effectively with your customers and grow your business. 

Discount Codes & Gift Cards

Your scheduling software should also allow you to create unlimited discount/promo codes. Discount codes are handy as they enable you to reduce your pricing for individual customers or segments of customers by simply giving them a discount code.

Discount codes also enable you to run promotion campaigns. For example, you could run a Christmas campaign giving 30% off if your customers use the promo code: CHRISTMAS. In essence, you can create any number of promo/discount codes as you wish.

An extension of discount codes is gift cards. Gift cards are pre-paid vouchers for your service. If you run fitness and wellness businesses, then gift cards will form a good portion of your revenue. 

Look for group scheduling software that allows you to create unlimited discount codes and also allows you to sell gift cards, automatically emailed to the recipient with instructions on how to redeem them. 

Customer Referrals & Loyalty Management

Another vital growth feature is the customer referral and loyalty module. Only the most comprehensive group scheduling software provides this module. If your group scheduling software does not offer this, you can purchase it separately from another provider.

The customer referral module provides your customers with an ongoing offer. For example, for every person they refer to your business and who ends up purchasing your service, your customer gets one free class-pack/pass. 

The customer referral module manages the tracking of the referral link and redemption. 

An extension of the referral module is the customer loyalty module. The loyalty module rewards repeat customers for using your service. Think of a loyalty module like loyalty punchcards. 

For example, you can reward your customers with free credit for every ten classes they attend. The loyalty module will automatically track the attendance and automatically provide the credits once you set-up the rules.

The referral and loyalty modules play a significant role in helping you attract new customers and also retain and reward loyal customers. Make sure your group scheduling software provider offers these modules, although they most likely offer them at higher price tiers. 

Lead Capture

A good scheduling software should also provide you with marketing tools such as “new lead capture” widgets. The lead capture widget allows you to capture the contact details of people who are interested in your service but are not ready to buy yet.

The lead capture widget can be in the form of a pop-up on your schedule or purchase pages. Or it can be a simple email field in your purchase page that a person can fill in to receive a first-time-buyer discount emailed to them. 

On capturing the lead, the group scheduling software should automatically add that lead to an auto-responder sequence of 4-5 emails introducing that person to your business. 

Over time you will gradually see new customers purchasing your service due to the lead capture widget and the accompanying auto-responder sequence. 

Zoom Video Integration

Often it will be necessary for you to offer your classes online on live sessions. Most people tend to use Zoom Video to offer live-streaming classes. 

Your group scheduling software should have an integration with Zoom or some other live streaming platform (YouTube, Instagram Live, etc.) if you plan to offer online classes. 

Without this integration, you will have a hard time tracking the attendance, controlling access to your classes, and taking payments.

Review Management

I have written an in-depth guide on how to get more positive reviews for your business. In this guide, I describe a method using automated email sequences to increase the number of positive customer reviews that you receive radically. 

Make sure your group scheduling software comes with an in-built review collection and management module. Once you collect reviews from your customers, you should publish them on platforms such as Google and Yelp. This article covers how you will be able to add your business to Google and distribute your reviews.

Multi-Location & Filters

If you offer in-person services (yoga classes, fitness classes, etc.), you will require multi-location support as you expand. Each of your business locations will have their separate schedules and trainers. 

The group scheduling software should have the capability to distinguish between your locations and show your customers the right schedule and help them purchase the right passes.

Multi-location, in addition to other key features, is offered in the form of advanced filters. Make sure your group scheduling software has several filter options so that your customers can easily find the information they need. 

If you have several physical locations, but your scheduling software does not support multi-location capability, then it clearly will not work for you. Choose a scheduling software that is relevant to your needs but choose a provider that does have advanced options so that your business does not outgrow the software. 

Conclusion

So, when you are looking for a group scheduling software, make sure the software not only has features you need for your business now but also includes features that will meet the needs of your business in the future.

Look for the CORE features as mandatory in any group scheduling software you choose. The CORE features will help you run and operate your business daily.

The GROWTH features will be necessary when you are ready to scale and grow your business.

StudioGrowth offers all the features covered in this guide. If you are looking for an easy-to-use but powerful group scheduling software, then StudioGrowth is the right option for you. There is a FREE 14-day trial with a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

CORE FEATURES

  • Online presence (website, storefront)
  • Create and share class schedules online and offline
  • Create class-packs and membership options
  • Add teacher/staff, and manage availability
  • Class reservations, waitlist management, and swaps
  • Payment processions
  • Attendance tracking
  • Member management (CRM)
  • Reporting

GROWTH FEATURES

  • Customer accounts and profiles
  • Communication suite
  • Discounts/promos and gift vouchers
  • Customer referrals and customer loyalty management
  • Lead capture
  • Zoom video integration
  • Review Management
  • Multi-location and advanced filters


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About the author


Naz Ahm is the founder of StudioGrowth and has spent a decade growing start-ups and venture-backed companies. He writes about sales, marketing, and growth, especially in the yoga, fitness and wellness industry.

Naz has an MBA from IESE Business School and started his journey in the wellness industry when he set-up an on-demand wellness business. Naz currently resides in London, U.K.