A growing cleaning business can drive the manager crazy as they try to schedule all the staff into the available work across multiple clients and work sites. Fortunately there are inexpensive software solutions that can take your cleaning business to a whole new level of profitability and reduce scheduling hassles. The right system can ensure that every client gets a bill, automate collection via credit cards, and allow clients to book and cancel appointments directly online. The right system will also allow employees to help with scheduling while maintaining a level of confidentially around billing and client information.
Disadvantages of a Paper Scheduling System
A paper based scheduling system is only accessible to the person holding the paper and only accessible to that person if the paper is with them physically. Not so good when the business is run from an iPhone on the road. Everything on the schedule must be transcribed into emails or read off to the workers that need the information. This is time consuming for the scheduler and the cleaners both and can lead to expensive errors.
A paper system does not facilitate automated billing and it makes rearranging the schedule a real chore.
Stepping it Up to a Spreadsheet
The next logical place to go for scheduling a growing business is a spreadsheet. Many cleaning operators fire up excel and translate their paper schedule into an excel based schedule that looks and functions the same as the old paper system. Building a proper excel schedule requires getting all the dates and times into the system and than filling in the schedule for each employee and job.
A few advantages are gained including:
- this excel document can than be emailed to staff
- copy and paste and series fill reduces the need to write out the same info over and over again
- times when workers are not available can be blocked off on the spreadsheet
As an alternative, move the spreadsheet into Google Docs and share the Google Doc with your staff. This makes the information more accessible to everyone on the team, but it also means that ALL the information is accessible to everyone on the team. The management may not want the employees to see the whole picture including which employees are getting the most hours or nicest jobs.
Depending on the settings anyone can edit any of the information or no one except the creator can edit anything. Neither of these options is very good. Allowing cleaning employees to input which hours they are available (considering second jobs, baby sitters etc) is very beneficial, but allowing cleaners to change who does which job or edit client information is undesirable.
A spreadsheet based system should not be made accessible to clients for security reasons and it can not easily be used to generate invoices.
Advantages of a Cloud Based Scheduling System
Fortunately there is a better way. A cloud based software package can overcome all the shortcomings of spreadsheet and paper based systems. A good cloud based appointment scheduling system will allow:
Multiple Logins so that employees and customers can add information and schedule cleaning appointments
Multiple Login Levels so that customers and employees can get different levels of access than the business owner has
Accessable from Anywhere with internet access. Ideally the site can entered through a portal on the business website or integrated so that the scheduling software appears like it is part of the business website. It should also be easily used on mobile devices so that the business can be managed from the field.
Permit Restrictions on Bookings. Double booking employees is an obvious no no, but restricting bookings on statutory holidays may make sense to control costs. Restricting bookings outside of business hours is also advisable.
Transfer Responsibility to Employees. Allowing or better yet requiring employees to block off unavailable hours is better than building a schedule and than finding out that key staff can not work certain hours. If employees are made responsible for blocking off unavailable time at least a week in advance (or however long you need to operate effectively) than scheduling by management becomes a lot easier
Integrated Billing so that each appointment creates an invoice that is emailed to the client. Never miss billing again and have consistent billing information
Credit Card Integration so that the software can take care of collecting and running credit cards for services provided.
Expandable and Adaptable so that no outside consultant is required to set up and operate the system. Having to pay $100 an hour for setup is not fun, and bringing in an expert from afar is even less fun.
A Reasonable Cost for the Value Delivered because the point of going to a cloud hosted scheduling system is to make more money by freeing management from time-consuming tasks, not spend a lot of extra money on a new toy.
Which Scheduling System to Choose for a Cleaning Business?
There are quite a few appointment scheduling software applications on the market which may or may not be a good fit for a cleaning or other staff based service business. Some scheduling software requires a larger upfront investment while other scheduling systems are subscription based with a low monthly payment.
For most small businesses a subscription based cloud solution make a lot more sense than buying and maintaining software. In a subscription based system the software developer provides support, updates, and takes care of running the servers. The better software companies allow users to cancel anytime so they are not stuck paying for something that is no longer needed or wanted due to changed circumstances. Of course the biggest advantage with hosted software is the lack of upfront cash outlay for software and the hardware to run it on.
This author's research lead him to subscribe to Appointment Plus - software designed to schedule people, space or resources in all kinds of industries, Here is an example detailing how it can be used to schedule rooms in a church.
So far the system meets nearly all the criteria described. They even have a free 14 day trial for new users to allow businesses to test the system and see if it does everything they want it too. So check out this option and several others to find a good fit in scheduling software for a cleaning business.