If you are using WordPress to promote or offer a service, being able to accept and manage appointments through your website can make your life and those of your staff, clients and customers a whole lot easier.
With so many excellent WordPress themes out there catering specifically to dentists, restaurants and hotels as well as other services where appointments and reservations are involved, being able to accept and manage them through your WordPress powered website is the next logical step.
Thankfully there are some great plugins out there designed with just these tasks in mind and by the end of this guide you should know which is the best WordPress appointment management plugin for your needs, and those of your customers.
This is the free version of the Appointment Calendar plugin for WordPress and it allows you to manage and accept appointment bookings through your website. With this tool you can either choose to manage the appointments yourself, by keeping your calendar private and entering the details yourself once you’ve been in contact with a customer; or you can publish the calendar on your site and allow clients to see your availability and schedule appointments themselves.
With the Appointment Calendar plugin it is possible to create a range of service categories, and then within those categories you can add the services offered. This is ideal for people who offer multiple services or for a WordPress site that promotes the services of a group of people. Clients can then book a specific service when making an appointment.
You can easily set periods of unavailability using the ‘time off’ feature and the plugin also sends out email notifications to the client when a new booking is made.
There was a spelling mistake spotted when using this this plugin so despite its ease of use and good set of basic features, it might not be the best choice for presenting a professional image to your clients.
If you want a way of managing your appointments within WordPress, rather than offering a self-service facility then this free plugin is very easy to use and requires very little input to get up and running. For those looking for a self-service facility without the rough edges then another choice might be more suitable.
While this plugin doesn’t allow you to manage and accept bookings, it does allow you to display your availability. While this might not seem that useful, it would be well suited to displaying the days of service for an attraction or a facility which is only open on certain days.
WP Simple Booking Calendar seems to have been designed with displaying the availability of a holiday rental home in mind and it would work perfectly for that task. However, this plugin could still be useful for those offering a service such as hairdressing as this plugin would allow you to display your days of service on your website to customers, giving them an idea of your availability before they contact you to discuss an appointment.
Once this free plugin is installed, simply create a new calendar and then select the days when you or your service is either free, booked or a changeover (of guests) day. Once that is done, the calendar can be displayed on your WordPress site using a shortcode pasted into a post of page or by using the drag and drop sidebar widget.
If you only want to show availability on your WordPress site and do so in the easiest way possible then this free plugin is a good choice and while the size of the calendar cannot be changed (with the free version), and is rather on the small size, it should fit nicely into most theme sidebars.
There is a premium version of this free plugin which allows you to create multiple calendars as well as a few other features.
This is a premium appointments plugin from the WPMU DEV team that covers pretty much everything involved in the process of booking appointments including taking payments.
With Appointments +, you can display a number of service providers and the services each of them offer. For example, this could be hair dressers and their offerings, allowing your clients to specify what they are after at the time of booking and choose the right member of staff for their requirements.
During the booking process, clients can select from the available service providers, select the service, view the days with available time slots and then view the available timeslots before choosing one that fits their schedule.
From the management perspective, this plugin makes it easy to see all the appointments scheduled for individual service providers as well as the team as a whole. The calendar manager can also make changes to the times and dates of the appointments as well as the details of the customers. The calendar can also be integrated with the Google calendar service to allow schedules to be viewed and managed outside of the WordPress admin area. Clients and the team can receive email notifications of bookings to ensure there are no missed appointments.
Payments can even be collected using PayPal to prevent appointments being made irresponsibly and Appointments+ can be integrated with the WPMU DEV MarketPress plugin for increasing the number of methods of payment accepted. Appointments+ can also be integrated with the WPMU DEV membership plugin allowing discounts to be offered to those who are members of the site.
The list of things this plugin can do is really impressive and it comes highly recommended for those who want to offer an easy to use and attractive way of allowing clients to book appointments via a WordPress site, not to mention the ease of which the schedules can be managed by the admin. When you consider the low price of this plugin then it’s a hard one to turn down, even for those that don’t need the advanced features.
However, for those who are looking for the ability to manage multiple day bookings such as holiday homes or vehicles then this isn’t the plugin for them.
BirchPress Scheduler is available in both free and premium versions and handles appointment bookings and online scheduling.
Once installed, the details for the types of appointments that can be booked need to be entered such as the locations they are offered at, the details of the staff and the list of services on offer.
Details can be provided for each location such as the address and telephone number. Profile pages can be created for each staff member allowing your clients to make an informed choice when booking an appointment.
With the premium version of the BirchPress Scheduler, members of staff can login to the calendar and see a restricted view allowing them to view their schedule and manage their own appointments
When booking appointments, clients can easily select from the locations on offer, the service providers and then the services they offer before selecting an available timeslot. They are also able to make multiple choices in order of preference to ensure they get an appointment should a double-booking or clash occur.
For the management staff charged with overseeing the services offered and the schedules as they are booked, there are a number of settings that can be configured to suit the type of business that is using the BirchPress Scheduler plugin.
The admin users can set the length of appointments and specify padding times and prices and the booking form or calendar can be easily inserted into WordPress posts and pages making it available to staff and clients alike. Time can also be block booked to cover holidays and other periods of unavailability. This plugin also supports PayPal integration for accepting prepayments on bookings.
This is a detailed plugin that looks like it has everything that is needed for a business that has multiple staff members offering multiple services at multiple locations.
There are four pricing options for this plugin including the free version. While the free version does contain many great features, it is lacking email notification to staff and clients as well as a number of other features likely to important to businesses. The next price point is $99 which is considerably more than the Appointments + plugin which does cover a range of similar features.
For those considering this plugin, while using it is straightforward to use and it does have some powerful functionality, the pricing options and features on offer for each price point need to be carefully examined before determining exactly how much the features your business requires access to will cost.
There are many reasons why you might want to be able to manage and accept appointment bookings through your WordPress site. Most of the plugins featured in this guide, with the exception of WP Simple Booking Calendar, are best suited to those wishing to schedule time in chunks in hours rather than days. This makes them ideal for services such as hairdressers, personal trainers, doctors and tutors.
As most of these plugins can support multiple service providers and services they are well suited to larger business and not just single person operations.
What these appointment plugins aren’t recommended for however, is taking and managing longer term bookings like accommodation or vehicles and multiple reservations at the same time such as those taken at restaurants.
While some of these plugins could perhaps be tweaked to meet those needs, keep an eye out for future guides covering the other types of bookings and reservations that can be made with a WordPress site.