Introduction: The Rise of Digital Scheduling Solutions
If you're still using paper scheduling, this is your sign that it's time to move on. While it may be the tactic you've been using for years — and we know change is hard — it's holding your business back. Paper scheduling means your team must visit the office to check when and where they're assigned. Or, you have to send out notices every time something on the schedule changes. Is that not evidence enough that digital scheduling is the way forward?.
Maybe you have evolved from paper schedules and have moved into spreadsheets. They're certainly better than paper schedules, but they still come with a few speed bumps. Spreadsheets are incredibly manual, require the same level of communication as paper schedules, and don't have many of the features that modern scheduling apps can offer you.
Digital scheduling software is how modern field businesses run today. And chances are, you've already used one. Unfortunately, there are a lot of options out there, and you need to choose the best scheduling app for your business. Don't worry, we have you covered. Let's look at what features make a good scheduling software and some of the top options for the best scheduling apps around.
Let's look at what features make a good scheduling software and some of the top options for the best scheduling apps around.
What Makes a Great Scheduling App?
If you've been hesitant about transitioning from traditional paper scheduling or spreadsheets. Don't worry, it's an easy switch. While it's true that you won't get that feeling of writing something down on paper, the features and benefits of a good scheduling app are incredibly worthwhile. Let's look at some of the must-have features you need to look out for when you're searching for job scheduling software.
Employee Access 24/7
In addition to letting your customers request appointments and meetings with you, your chosen scheduling software should also have the ability for your employees to check their assignments and shifts whenever they need to. Whether done through a website, mobile app or even just an auto-updated published page, it’s important that the information is always available for your team. The best scheduling apps have push notifications or SMS that are automatically sent to your team when they're assigned to something, or when their assignments change. This way, your staff are always kept in the loop, no matter what happens.
Multiple Event Types
Not all meetings, appointments or even jobs are the same. Planning a new job and an on-site review require completely different setups, not to mention when you have customer appointments. For your business to run efficiently, your scheduling software must handle all types of events. The best scheduling apps let you set up templates to pre-define what each type of event involves, for easy setup later down the line. Whatever scheduling app you choose should let you easily distinguish the different types of appointments on your schedule. Tags, color coding and folders or lists can help you easily see what's going on with the team at a glance.
Self-Serve Customer Portal
Your customers need to be able to use the software themselves. Requesting appointments, supplying job information and rescheduling or canceling appointments, should all be something your scheduling software lets customers do themselves. Rather than having you be the bottleneck, self-serve customer portals eliminate the barrier to customers making appointments with you. Of course, your scheduling software still needs to let you have the final word. Whether you have to accept the appointment request or funnel it into a queue where the request gets sent to a sales rep. A good scheduling app should let you set up the best workflow for your business.
On top of keeping track of all your appointments and jobs, scheduling software can also help you keep track of everyone's workloads, as well as help you balance them. Depending on your employees' and contractors' proficiencies, available time, daily or weekly schedules and more, scheduling software can help you keep everything in line.
The best scheduling software will also keep track of each employee's or contractor's rates, as well as the job's billing rates, so you can match the right workers to the right jobs and ensure job profitability.
Dedicated Zones & Territories
On top of proximity recommendations and location tracking, the best scheduling apps, especially those to help with scheduling for field services, should let you designate specific zones and territories for your field staff and job sites. Then, when a job comes in, you can easily assign it to the correct zone or territory. This way, you can easily sort, filter and search job sites to easily match them to the appropriate technician.
Location Tracking & Job Routing
When managing multiple job sites, knowing where your field staff are offers several benefits, including cost savings and increased productivity. The best construction scheduling software will be able to save job site locations, and then recommend field staff based on their proximity to those sites.
Your scheduling software should come with or integrate with GPS tracking for up-to-date location tracking. This is especially helpful when requests come in that need immediate attention. Rather than calling up all your technicians to figure out who has availability and is closest, the best scheduling apps can do the legwork for you.
Various Views & Dashboards
When most people think of scheduling software, they likely think of a calendar. But for good project management and scheduling, you need to be able to switch views. This way, you can always see job and schedule data in a view that makes the most sense for you and your business. Here are just a few of the different views scheduling software offers:
A calendar view for a scheduling app should seem like a no-brainer. But we're not talking about a calendar like the big paper ones you used to keep on your desk. Scheduling apps now make calendars much more useful than they ever were before. First of all, your scheduling software should let you choose exactly how you want your calendar to look. Does it start on Sunday or Monday? Does it include weekends? On top of the basic features, your calendar views must also have sorting, filtering, color codes and time scales. You should be able to choose which field staff, jobs, regions and more within your calendar view, not just day, week or month.
If you're tracking a project and want to see all the stages and milestones at a glance, you need something like a Gantt chart. This lets you see everything about a project from a birds'-eye view: progress, stages, tasks, dates, dependencies and more. Gantt charts excel at showing the impact of changes to more complex projects' schedules: when one task gets delayed, the ramifications and subsequent delays are right on the screen, so it's easy to reschedule multiple tasks or even entire project phases.
Timesheet and run sheet
Timesheets and run sheets help you and your employees see necessary information in one convenient location, whether it's hours spent on a job for all your staff, or all the time spent on multiple jobs for one employee. Your scheduling software should allow you and your team members to create timesheets in just a few clicks. The best scheduling apps will also let you download, schedule and customize them to best suit your team's needs.
Keeping accurate logs of work completed is incredibly important for your business. This ensures your team regularly reports what was done on-site, as well as their time spent. The best scheduling apps will usually send automatic reminders before a scheduled block of time to help remind staff to clock in and out on time. With this information, you can use your scheduling software to create timesheets and reports — other features on our list — to always make sure your staff are spending time where they should and your jobs are profitable.
In addition to specific views and dashboards, the best scheduling apps also have a wide range of analytical and reporting features. Your scheduling software collects a lot of data about your jobs and employees. Reports like average productivity or effort vs. actual hours can help ensure your business performs as it should. From overall reports such as a job status report to more nuanced insights like activities scheduled vs. performed on jobs. Your scheduling software should be able to produce reports on a variety of topics. In addition to templated reports, the best scheduling software will let you create custom reports to get the information you need to make better business decisions.
Often, your scheduling software will not be the only piece of software you're running, and it should integrate with other parts of your workflow. Sometimes, this can be as simple as a Google Calendar integration, where job assignments are synced with an employee’s individual Google Calendar.
More advanced integrations (e.g. an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or field service management platform) can even sync things like customer, supplier/vendor and material inventory information.
The best scheduling apps will be smart. This means you can set up rules and workflows for automation, to take some of the more menial and time-consuming admin tasks off your plate. From automatic rescheduling of dependent tasks to sending invoices automatically when a job is marked as complete, automation can help streamline your scheduling processes and lead to greater efficiencies in your business.
The Top Scheduling Apps in 2023
Now that you know a few of the most important features to find the best scheduling app for your business, let's go over some of the leading options overall, for small businesses and those specific to the construction industry.
"We can update our technicians' schedule directly through Simpro, they’ll get that update immediately, and they can stop what they’re doing, pack up their stuff, and head over to deal with an emergency situation. I think that alone helps our clients feel like we are truly giving them that same-day service, and that we’re showing up when we can when they need us most." — Frank Bauer, CEO, Proguard Services
Want to see the full case study? Check it out here
Simpro: The all-rounder in scheduling software
Whether you run one-off service jobs, recurring maintenance, or multi-phase projects. Your business needs good resource management and the best scheduling apps to make it all happen. Simpro offers everything trades businesses need to work smarter and with efficiency, including job and shift scheduling. The platform can help you end-to-end, from streamlining scheduling to improving your cashflow and launching your business into a new stage of growth.
Simpro offers a ton of features to help you customize the experience to match your business needs. Want to just set it up and get going yesterday? Out-of-the-box features like templates and standardized workflows make it easy. Need to mold it to fit your unique processes and needs? We have you covered.
Simpro was built by tradies for the trades, so we know the challenges of running your business. That's why we have specific features you won't find in other, more general-business scheduling software.
- Whole Team Visibility: Keep your entire crew in the loop about job status, worker locations and more to keep jobs on track.
- Real-Time Schedules: Make it easy for your team to check their assignments whether they're in the office or not.
- Dedicated Service Areas: Set up specific areas or zones to categorize employees and jobs to make assignments a breeze.
- Preferred Technicians: Let your customers play favorites. Mark employees as a customer's preferred technician to streamline scheduling.
- Drag-and-Drop Rescheduling: Change is inevitable. Reschedule employees or work on the fly with a flick of the wrist. Plus, set up automation to easily reschedule any dependent work, too.
- Labor and Job Costs: See exactly how much you're spending on a job, from materials to labor and everything in between.
- Easy Reporting: Get custom timesheets, run sheets, work orders and many more reports in just a few clicks — or sent to you either daily, weekly or monthly.
- So Much More: Fix your scheduling processes and then transform your whole business with Simpro's end-to-end field service management platform.
Ready to get started? Request a demo here.
Best Scheduling Apps for Small Business
There are a lot of options for scheduling software, and the features that a small business needs aren't the same as larger ones. Most scheduling apps for small businesses rely on setting up meetings and video conferencing more than employee scheduling and location tracking.
Others focus on helping a small team simply keep their schedule straight day-to-day when working with customers. And most of the best scheduling apps for small businesses are perfect for a company with only a few employees and even fewer job sites.
The best part about these scheduling apps is that they're often inexpensive. You'll miss out on the features that can help you take your business to the next level, but your calendar will be clean and customers can schedule appointments with you.
Google Calendar & Forms
One of the most popular apps out there, Google Calendar, and its brethren within Google Workspace are fantastic apps for a business just getting started. Google Workspace's business plans start at just $6/user per month and include a whole host of apps — email, video conferencing, chat, forms and more — to streamline communication.
The downside to using Google Calendar as your scheduling software is manual. Sure, you can set up a Google Form for intake, but actually putting things on the calendar, inviting attendees, etc. are all manual processes.
If you've ever sent what feels like a million emails just to find a time to schedule a call or appointment, you're not alone. Calendly is one of the best scheduling apps for small businesses that make calls and have a lot of meetings and want to streamline that process.
While it's a bit more focused on the tech side of the business world, Calendly still crosses off a number of the features on our list. It’s great if you need to let customers make their own appointments based on when you're available. Plus, if it's just you in the business, they have a free plan that may suit you.
Built to serve businesses that offer services more than conducting meetings, Acuity Scheduling rounds out our list of the best scheduling apps for small businesses. While Google Workspace has more general-business features and Calendly excels at scheduling meetings, Acuity Scheduling lets customers schedule appointments and services or jobs with ease.
If your business runs off appointment creation, Acuity Scheduling may just have what you need to streamline that part of your business. That said, it is the most expensive of the three at $16 per month. However, since it's not a per-user fee, Acuity Scheduling may scale a bit better price-wise if you need appointment scheduling for a larger team.
Exploring the best construction scheduling software
Even if your business is small, certain industries face specific challenges. Construction, especially, needs more tailored features than what the best scheduling apps for small businesses usually offer.
For instance, construction projects often have multiple stages that are dependent on one finishing before another can begin. Let's say you're a house builder: you can't start designing the building before you survey the site. Or begin framing before you've laid the foundation. Construction projects are usually more unforgiving when it comes to scheduling, and you need more than what the simpler scheduling apps often provide. After all, a single delay can have a ripple effect and disrupt an entire timeline, causing major problems down the road.
Depending on what type of construction your business does, you'll need different features. Have a large team with lots of different job sites? You'll need something smart enough to handle rescheduling across the team and help you re-balance workloads.
If you're not quite ready for a fully-featured field service management platform, here are some of the best construction scheduling software options out there:
Built for homebuilders and remodelers alike, CoConstruct is a construction management tool that offers some great features for the construction industry. Invoicing, estimates, email marketing, document sharing, payment and, of course, scheduling are all included in CoConstruct's app. The software also offers more features specific to the housebuilding and remodeler industry, such as customer selection and project tracking portals.
As its name implies, Housecall Pro is an all-in-one software for home services businesses. It offers many of the same features as the other software on our list, including invoicing and estimates, payments, customer communication, scheduling, dispatching and more. Their scheduling features, specifically, are good for businesses with under a dozen employees. Who regularly perform the same types of jobs and need to inform customers and employees of appointment information.
At the other end of the complexity spectrum from Housecall Pro, ConstructionOnline is a construction management platform built to handle any size construction job, from single-house builds to industrial complexes. The platform can help with many of the challenges that construction companies face, including estimates and proposals, lead management, project management, customer communication, document handling, and of course, scheduling. However, be prepared to pay for the extra features. ConstructionOnline quickly gets expensive and is missing some of the features you'd typically find in a more robust field service management platform.
Unpacking the best shift scheduling software
If your business schedules your employees based on shifts, your scheduling needs differ slightly from the more generic meeting and appointment scheduling software. Not to mention, those that we covered for the construction industry. For instance, workload balancing is still a concern, but usually far easier given the more regular nature of work assignments. And while shift scheduling software does have a number of features, keep in mind it usually considers every employee as the same. Meaning, if you need to prioritize certain employees to certain jobs based on skills or proximity, most shift scheduling apps don't have that functionality. However, if you're looking for a simpler scheduling app with time tracking, timesheets and other basic scheduling features, these are some of the best shift scheduling apps around.
Buddy Punch is a scheduling app that can satisfy a wide range of needs for businesses in many industries. The app centralizes everything about employee scheduling into a single location, making it easy for you to assign work, and for your team to know when they have a shift. Buddy Punch also has time tracking features on top of job locations (with clock in and out geofencing via their mobile app), automatic timesheets, shift notifications and reporting to make employee time management much simpler.
Similar to Buddy Punch, Clockify is another shift scheduling app that offers a number of features for keeping track of your employees' time. Including schedule creation and time tracking. The app even includes a "kiosk" mode for clocking in and out at job sites, on top of web and mobile apps.
If your crew often has the same type of work at different job sites, Clockify has activity templates that can make tracking work super simple. Plus, the scheduling app has a bunch of other features that make it well-rounded, including calendar views, reporting, app integrations, project breakdowns, invoicing and even GPS tracking and job routes.
A time-tracking and shift scheduling app built for the construction and field service industries If all you need is time management capabilities, ClockShark may be the right option for you. The app can help your team more easily track their time and activity on-site and help you better manage all your staff and jobs.
With basic job status options and the ability to upload photos and docs, ClockShark can help you keep up with almost anything related to job and employee activity from one location. The app even integrates with some of the leading accounting software to streamline invoicing and payments.
Making the Right Choice for Your Scheduling Needs
As you can see, there are a lot of options available to help you improve your employee and job scheduling processes. From basic time-tracking and timesheet apps to fully-featured field service management platforms, the best scheduling app for your business is just waiting for you to find it.
The key is first understanding what your business needs. If you only have a few jobs and a few employees who work in shifts, a simpler shift scheduling app may work. But if you need to let customers request appointments, handle multiple job sites and complex multi-phase projects or simply want to scale your business, a more robust platform like Simpro will serve your needs better.
Simpro's field service management platform has everything you need to quickly and easily schedule both your jobs, and your employees and contractors. Plus, it can help you with every other part of your business too. So on top of scheduling, Simpro can help you win more jobs, improve your cashflow, track inventory and more.
See what Simpro could do for your business. Request a demo today.