Please note: this review and comparison has proved so popular that I often get questions and comments about it. But as time moves on, software changes … so I have updated this for 2021 with a fresh review, some new contenders, and a couple of Apps that also caught my attention.
2021 updated comparison here: blog/booking-software-comparison-2021
Or read to the original article below.
One question I hear most frequently from massage therapists is:
What booking software should I use?
It’s a great question.
Taking and organising bookings efficiently is integral to any massage business and needs to be streamlined and straightforward.
Significant time and money is often invested into the choice you make, and it can be hard to change down the track. So it’s important to get it right from the beginning.
I have investigated booking software for massage therapists and found 6 of the most common. Some of these I’ve used myself in the past, or do currently, and others I subscribed to in order to test them out.
Read my booking software reviews below, or skip to the end for a quick comparison chart showing how the most important factors stack up.
Power Diary is an Australian based online diary and practice management system. We’ve helped our clients safely and securely manage over 4.5M appointments worth in excess of $500M.
Power Diary is clear, easy to use and makes sense. It has online bookings, SMS reminders, emails through MailChimp and hooks in with Xero to make accounting easier.
Your team can use and access diaries and you can control the amount of information you allow the team to see. You can also set up unlimited logins for receptionists to place bookings.
In Power Diary there seems to be at least two ways to do anything, which makes finding your way to certain tasks easier.
User support is also great. I have used Power Diary for several years in my clinic and have found the support staff very helpful when we’ve needed advice.
This is a robust and organised system so there’s not much to say that’s negative. One downfall we find with Power Diary is the rostering system. You can only have one active roster, so although creating and using it is fine the difficulty comes when you want to change your roster in the future or for a time – like over Christmas. You have to change every individual person’s day and time that they are rostered on for. This takes forever!
One diary is $46 per month. Up to 3 is $66 and up to 9 is $102. Power Diary offers a 14 day free trial.
Cliniko is a complete practice management application used by thousands of healthcare practitioners in more than 55 countries worldwide. Manage schedules, treatment notes, invoices, payments and lots more. It works great for solo practitioners, large teams and anything in between.
Cliniko is BIG. It’s used worldwide by over 10,000 people. This means it is generally a mature, robust system with good support.
It can be good for anyone from larger clinics to a solo operator, does online bookings, SMS reminders, and hooks in to MailChimp and Xero. You can attach a PDF of scanned client history. About the only thing it doesn’t do that Power Diary does, is sync effectively with Google Calendars.
I haven’t used Cliniko at work before but I did trail it for this review. It’s quite easy to use, with and intuitive dashboard and lots of big buttons that tell you what to do next. I didn’t need a video tutorial to understand it.
From most of the feedback I have read, people who use it like it.
It seems that Cliniko is large enough to have the major features sorted out, so again there isn’t much to say that’s negative. Some of the people I’ve talked to said they couldn’t import some of their data from previous systems, this is a pain the neck but is a problem not restricted to Cliniko.
1 Practitioner $45 per month. Up to 5 is $95 and 8 is $145.
Shortcuts is a complete clinic practice management software system, designed to help you work smarter across every aspect of your business. With a stylish appointment book, integrated point of sale, visual treatment records, and automated marketing Shortcuts will help you effortlessly grow your business.
Shortcuts is designed for Spas and Salons.
It is very smart at handling bookings across multiple rooms and therapists that have different skill sets. It also tracks products and sales very well.
Shortcuts is a very mature player in the market so many people are familiar with it and there are a lot of features available to add functionality and marketing. However, these often add to the price and not part of your standard fee.
Shortcuts is computer based, not cloud based, meaning that the software needs to run on a computer on your premises. This is frustrating if you have hardware issues and it means you need to be aware of backing up regularly.
However, the largest downside to Shortcuts is the expense.
The Shortcuts business model requires you to have a licence to use it, which is around $2000 – plus a monthly fee for support if you want that. They offer a pay-by-the-month plan or a smaller version of the software called “My Booker”.
The My Booker version is $50 per month but you can’t record payment details and it limits the reports you can run. Addons still cost more, for example if you want online bookings with My Booker, they charge $5 per booking.
Massage business software makes it easy to organise your day, spot trends in your business, and unify your efforts.
Mindbody is a good, solid system that is used across the health professional sector from Personal Trainers to Spas and Salons. It’s great for memberships and collecting client data, and allows the client to pay for the service before they arrive. The online bookings integrate with your website and Facebook, and you can also do more sophisticated campaigns like creating promo codes for special offers.
It appears that once Mindbody is set up (and it is strongly recommend taking the time to get it right form the reviews) it works really well.
There’s also the Mindbody Connect app, which your clients can use to rebook and see their transaction history etc, which seems like an interesting retention tool.
This is one system I couldn’t test as they don’t offer free trials – instead you must request a demo. There are videos available which look good but I missed being able to actually try it for myself. I also think that lots of body workers are kinaesthetic so we want to experience before we buy, or not.
However, from all accounts this is a great system with a lot of features. The main negative appears to be price.
Pricing starts at $40 per month for one therapist and it’s a sliding scale up to $205 (plus a $6 per month statement fee) for all the extra features like automated retention and win-back client emails.
Timely is Smart Booking Software system for service businesses, trusted with millions of bookings around the world.
Timely looks and feels a bit like Cliniko, but smaller.
It has online bookings and offers a free mini website for you if you need it. It hooks in with Xero but you can write client history notes. I like the dashboard feature which lets you see all your reports and appointments at a glance.
Timely offers a lot of support for small business, with a page of resources to help you along, and google analytics, booking widgets etc made quite easy.
Timeley makes you do your account set up as soon as your trial starts, including all the clinic info and your diary times staff and rosters. There is an option to select what staff can perform what treatments, which is useful – separating Bowen or Craniosacral etc.
For one therapist the cost is $19, then $9 per extra therapist.
If you’re sending SMS reminders you buy them as a pack of 100 for 13 cents per message, and the more you by the cheaper they are.
The Easiest Way To Accept And Manage Your Bookings Online, Send SMS Reminders And Finally Get Rid Of The Paper Diary.
Booking run is a very simple system that works fine, it looks good and has a neat set of core features. But the main reason I’m putting it here is because it’s free.
This system was created by an Osteopathic clinic in Melbourne to meet their own needs, and they now make it available to others to use. For nothing! Good on you guys.
Development of this software is not the main business of the people that created it – they have their own clinic to run. So although it seems to work pretty well, any support you need might take a little longer that you’d expect from a paid system. This is also software that has a very thin set of features, but if it does what you need it to you might want to give it a try.
When I was first looking at booking software to use in my own clinic, I considered a number of different options and even thought of customising it ourselves.
In the end I wrote a list of what we wanted and how important each feature was, and then set off to research all the options I could find. For us, a few years ago now, Power Diary ticked all the boxes which is why we chose it and have been using it ever since.
However, your needs and priorities might be different to mine, so you will need to make your own decision. To help, though, I’ve prepared this handy table that looks at each of the options above with some of the most common criteria:
Note, for a spreadsheet version of this table that you can add to yourself, fill in your email here:
Now for the comparison chart:
Booking software is important, and I’ve done a lot of research around this for the “Get Organised” section of my Fully Booked Without Burnout program.
No software is going to be perfect, there are always going to be strengths and weaknesses and updates that we want to see.
The examples above are just the handful that I have selected to look at, there are many more available. If you have used one or more of these and you think there is something I’ve missed, I’d love to hear from you, leave your comments below.
What software do you use? What do you love about it?
Elicia Crook - Business Coaching for Massage Therapists
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