Booking Systems: Then, Now & Next

Given recent events, protecting the future of your club is likely to be at the top of your list. For many, that will mean making some pretty big changes. Gone are the days of disjointed processes and scattered customer data; activity clubs need reliable, fast and efficient measures to serve their customers and protect their business.

In truth, it’s always been this way, but it’s the businesses able to react the fastest who reap the benefits. A recent survey highlighted that when it came to readiness for reopening post-lockdown, 50% of businesses believed that technology has facilitated their reopening, while 73% believed technology enabled them to adapt to the changing environment.

Why is this? Can booking systems make a difference? And why should kids activity businesses take technology seriously? Let’s find out!

We know from experience that the majority of clubs (across every activity type) still dedicate endless hours to spreadsheets, emails and phone calls. But recent events have magnified our dependency on the web, mobile technology and cashless payments.

As more of us turn to mobile devices to get things done, a good booking system should play a vital role in making it simpler for your customers to book and pay for your products and classes, easier for your staff to access registers and customer data, while ensuring that data is secure and up-to-date.

For the first time in history, the UK Government is actively pushing clubs to use a system to eliminate cash payments, but there are other reasons why a booking system might be a timely investment.

The simplicity of being able to install ‘Track & Trace’ through class registers, quickly message the right parents and export all contact details is a new use-case that is making business owners sit up and take notice. We’re also seeing clubs update their T&Cs, policies, parent declarations, as well as adding new registration questions in a bid to conduct responsible practice.

Looming uncertainty with recent lockdowns in Leicester, Manchester and Aberdeen leaves many wondering where next? And what will it mean for business? Being able to communicate with customers quickly, easily pausing subscriptions or issuing refunds and transferring kids between classes were once ‘nice to have’ features that have become a necessity for clubs preparing for the next lockdown.

But it can’t all be coronavirus, right? Sooner or later, things will settle, and what then of the booking system? What value can it add to your business?

As consumer behaviour continues to change, mobile technology will play an increasingly important role. Our data shows that mobile phones are already the leading device for making bookings and payments. Of 200,000+ bookings made through our system in 2019, more than 70% came from mobile. And in 2020, that number increased to over 75%. Because parents prefer it, your booking system provider should continue to design user-friendly and secure experiences for mobile, helping you to never miss out on your next customer.

Technology should also bring enhanced security and simplicity for you and your staff. In a similar trend to that of parents, the majority of coaches now use mobile devices to take registers. By incorporating facial recognition, you will be able to control coach access to the correct medical details, child information and class registers from mobile devices.

Payment technology is also innovating fast. Our research shows parents prefer contactless payments and over half of them use apps that enable one-touch payments. Customers can currently use Apple/Google Pay to make payments using face-recognition technology in a single click. And with Apple recently announcing plans to turn iPhones into mobile payment terminals, it may not be long before customers can make contactless payments in classes.

Going forward, choosing the right technology partners is vital to staying relevant in today’s versatile environment. Booking systems save you hours in efficiency gains, are fundamental in future-proofing your business and help you to adapt faster to changes in the market. Installing a ‘Track and Trace’ system is just one adaptation from the recent pandemic, but what’s next? Consumer purchasing behaviour is ever-changing, and our dependency on technology is increasing. Security, cashless payments, accessibility, viable e-commerce solutions and efficient customer journeys now take priority. The ability to help you adapt and meet consumer needs is why the booking system is no longer desirable, it’s fundamental to your future success

Author: Rebecca Forsyth, ClassForKids

Rebecca is a Customer Analyst for ClassForKids which provides UK-based admin and management software for kids activity clubs. With first-class customer service, and powerful features that are simple to use.

By becoming a member of ICAP you’re joining a community of like-minded professionals and business owners in the children’s activity sector working towards excellence

Pip Wilkins

Pip Wilkins is the Chief Executive of the British Franchise Association (bfa). With 25 years’ experience in the franchise sector, Pip has worked her way up within the Association, gaining insight from all areas of the business and the franchise industry. She is well-known and highly regarded in franchising for her dedication and depth of knowledge. Pip regularly speaks at conferences and seminars both domestically and internationally, as well as writing on franchising matters for national, local and franchising trade press. Pip is also a regular judge for the annual bfa HSBC Franchise Awards, the Franchise Marketing Awards and Global Franchise Awards. Pip represents the UK at both the European Franchise Federation (EFF) and World Franchise Council (WFC). The bfa has grown to be one of the largest franchise associations in Europe, and one of the most successful associations in the world.

Theo Millward

Theo Millward is a graduate of Lancaster University with a BBA in Management. In 2016 Theo purchased UK swim school, Swimtime from the founders which teaches 20,000 children a week. Following a multi-award- winning digital transformation, during the global pandemic, Theo and his team founded Franscape, a saas that digitally transforms Franchise brands. FranScape won New Business of the Year at the UK Business Awards.

Andy Georgiou

Andy is the Founder of ICAP and a leading UK Franchise Business Consultant. He is fiercely committed to helping children’s activity providers build successful and profitable businesses. With qualifications in Business Management, Digital Media and Marketing, he has helped build, advise and grow leading 6 and 7 fiqure children’s education, sports and activity brands in the past 17 years.

Frank Sahlein

Frank has been active in the Children’s Activity Center industry as an athlete, coach, business owner, consultant and business broker. He is a native of San Mateo, California and graduated from San Jose State University in California (USA).
Frank was a pioneer of the Children’s Learning Opportunity Center concept from 1976 – 2016 at the Wings Center in Boise, Idaho (USA) – a blend of Sports Instruction, Arts, Education, Entertainment and Outreach programs.
As a business management innovator, Frank has delivered over 1,000 presentations for a variety of Children’s Activity Center industries such as gymnastics, swimming, cheerleading, dance, martial arts/ninja and child care/education.
3rd Level Consulting is a Business Development and Service Provider Partner for private industry companies, associations, and organizations in the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Panama.
Two-time recipient of the National Business Leader Award from USA Gymnastics, Frank is the author of “Building Your Business Potential” and “Designing Your Empowered Life”. He is the creator of the SmartEDGE™ Business Applications and Management Certification Courses. He is the co-founder of LEAP Learning and the MetaSpheres Corp, and is the founder and Executive Director of the International Association of Child Development Programs.
His passions include his beautiful wife Lourdes Gonzalez, family, friends, fitness training, transformational reading and travel.