There are many advantages to online booking software no matter what your business is. People can pay in advance, you’ll know exactly how many people are coming, you can gather more information about your customers and it’ll likely result in a lot less time spent on the phone or scrolling through emails. But which service do you choose?
That was the topic covered during NAFDMA’s “Online Booking Software” virtual session, led by farmers using two different options. Scott Skelly of Skelly’s Farm Market in Janesville, WI, talked about his experience using Bookeo, and Kerrie Ward of Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, MA, talked about AgPro Book-It.
First, Skelly asked, does it make sense for you to have a system instead of just a pen and paper? “We used to have a big blue binder for field trips and party rental spaces, which worked, but sometimes my mom would take it home with her at night when planning and nobody at the farm would be able to look up reservations,” he said. “Now we can look up everything from any device.”
He said teachers appreciate that they can book field trips at any time, and the same has been true of space rentals. He said it’s also made booking a lot easier on staff. “A lot of people were surprised a farm had a system like this, but they like it. I think we got more bookings [last year] because of that,” Skelly said.
Bookeo can sync with Google Calendar, and Skelly said it has lots of different features, including flexible payment agreements and flexible models for pricing (which offer add-ons). He said it’s also good for tracking repeat customers. It has a bilingual option and can handle wait lists. He appreciates Bookeo’s support system too, as they usually respond to issues within a couple hours.
He also said the software’s pricing is competitive. They offer three different products (standard, large and extra large – standard is $40/month and allows 1,000 bookings per month and 20 staff logins). They also have a winter suspend or off-season suspend mode, during which users only pay 30% of their normal fee.
“It does have some drawbacks. No system is going to be perfect,” Skelly said. “Bookeo doesn’t give you an option to book by business or school name – you have to have a customer first name and last name.” He said it could also be used like a ticketing platform, but it doesn’t allow you to scan tickets like some other systems. “They’re minor drawbacks, but they’re doable, they’re workable.”
Ultimately, his farm enjoys using the system. He said farmers are free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, or he recommended signing up for a free trial of Bookeo.
Ward’s farm is a U-pick operation, and in 2020, part of their COVID planning included utilizing a booking system. They opted for AgPro Book-It.
“It was a great way to spread visitors out throughout the day – and our busiest day had over 5,000 people,” she said. “They had fewer questions at check-in with all our information on the site. Getting the word out that we were doing reservations was a great way for us to handle our apple season.”
Tougas Family Farm booked visitors in 15-minute increments for a continuous flow of people. They found it was easier to offer time slots by group instead of by headcount. The system allows them to set a price per head or per group. She said it also made it really easy to copy past events, which makes it easier to plan for the future.
“We didn’t take any payments through the program, even though it has the option to do so,” Ward said. “It was easier for us to collect payment on-site – and it also made it easier to upsell. We really just stuck to the reservations only through the program.”
AgPro is based in California, and Ward said they were quick in getting back to her when she had issues. Like the other service, AgPro Book-It isn’t perfect; when creating an event, they do require a base price, which caused issues when the farm had different prices for adults and kids, Ward said. “We just set the base price at $0, but we’re looking for a drop down menu instead of one basic price.”
Ward said she could be reached at email@example.com for those who want to know more about AgPro Book-It.