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Product Overview : Online Booking (OBS v1.5)

Introduction

Online Booking is one of the simplest and fastest ways to improve online conversion rates and give organisations a massive competitive advantage in sales and marketing.

How? By encouraging your clients to use the web to book their appointments you are changing the game by improving your visitors perception of your organisation and driving down the cost of acquisition. By letting your potential and returning clients book things themselves you benefit from:

  • 24 x 7 booking – opens the window of booking and reduces the cost.
  • Better information – vetting accurately the data online and getting the visitor to do all the data-entry work.
  • Cool image – the improved customer journey is what they want. It’s a market-leader’s tool.
  • Slicker diary management – let computing power and algorithms do the hard work.
  • First class sales proposition – why not put it at the core of your product or service offering, would it make you unique?.
  • Get online – moving your organisation further into the online world will increase it’s value.

More and more people expect to be able to book events and appointments online and implementing a simple system for the your web-site visitors will generate increased sales, fewer no-shows and higher quality clients. It is now the norm in many areas such as flight and hotel booking and in the years to come it will be viewed as a handicap if your organisation does not provide these basic services.

How does it work?

The OBS v1.5 provides an application that “pops-up” over your existing page (ala Facebook, Web 2.0 style) and gives the visitor a proven multi-stage process for booking events and appointments. The diary element of the OBS allows the visitor to see the next 6 weeks of available appointments in either calendar-style or list style. The visitor will be able to move forward or backward through weeks, months or available slots. Selecting a date causes the system to show the availability for that day and on selecting a slot they are taken to the next stage which asks for personal details.

Additional stages (both pre and post date and time selection) can be added for further refining of the available slots or providing qualification questions as either multiple choice or yes/no confirmation boxes. At every stage a “helper” is available that offloads the visitor into a “call-me-back” system to allow problematic situations to be dealt with.

On completion, OBS sends a customised confirmation email to the visitor and completes the booking with the back-end diary system. Should an error occur at this stage a custom page can be shown to offload the visitor into a different route for booking.

Additionally, should the OBS be unable to get live, get to Level 1 or level 2  ghost information, the system slips into a “fake” mode that looks like a real booking system but has an additional step at the end that advises the visitor that the booking is provisional and requires confirmation. Below you will find a typical step-by-step run-through of the process.

Data for the diary is typically held in a bespoke diary system (not provided) and three levels of diary synchronisation are available:

  • Live booking. A bespoke API will gather live booking information from the back-end diary system. It is key that the back-end system has the capacity to deal with, for example, a request to pull every available slot for the next 2 months.
  • Ghost Level 1. A periodic update from the back-end to the web-server is available to cache available slots and reduce the load on the back-end diary system. Typically this ghosting process will occur every 10-60 minutes depending on the number of slots available and the rate at which they are consumed.
  • Ghost Level 2. Provides a local cache of available appointments every time an appointment is booked. This ensures that the online system can stay 100% in step with itself but does run the risk of getting out of step with appointments booked directly into the back-end.

Technology

Three core modules plus a number of associated plugins form the basis of the OBS

  • Front-end interface; written in Javascript and XHTML using standard JQuery and Template Toolkit
  • Back-end API, bespoke tailored for each client supporting SQL and most common database standards and SOAP interfaces. Written in PERL.
  • Outbound communication API written in PERL supporting email senders such as CheetahMail, Communicator and SendMail plus a Call-me-Interface support Click to Call and most other commercial C2C systems.

The OBS application can be installed directly onto a LAMP server with some configuration or provided as a hosted service on Rackspace servers managed by Connected. Full reporting and alerting are available as plugin modules. Connected provide a range of services to help with the implementation of OBS from simple license-only deals to complete turnkey supply and management with consultancy.

OBS works on all major browser platforms including Internet Explorer 7/8, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera and Flock. Information on mobile application support is available on request for iOS4 (iPhone & iPad) and Android. In line with many other software developers we do not support Internet Explorer 6. Why?

Come and talk to the experts in this field, contact Nick, Liam or Martin in sales or call us on 0845 051 4228.

All current versions of VITES (2.1, 2.4 and 3.0) support OBS v1.5. Implementation cost starts from around £5k, a typical configuration costs £25k. including consulting, design, deployment and 3 months support. All prices are excluding VAT. E & OE. Prices subject change, accurate as of Jan 1st 2010. For an up to date quote please contact Sales.