The phone calls were driving Ray Chang crazy. His seven-employee company, Motorsport Lab, was hours into its first Groupon deal--a one-hour supercar driving session priced at $89, a whopping 82 percent discount--and the number of calls flooding the Boston office was out of control.
"It was mayhem," recalls Chang, whose company sells driving experiences in exotic cars such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis to New England- and Arizona-area marketing campaigns and events. "We were keeping track of all our appointments in Google Docs. When we sold 1,500 Groupons that first day, I thought, How are we going to make this work?"
The answer came from a massage. Chang had booked one several weeks earlier using Genbook, a new cloud-based service that lets small businesses automate their client appointments. Merchants integrate Genbook's BookNow button into their website, Facebook page or blog; the button links to a customized, real-time reservations page that features the business's logo, contact information, consumer reviews and related information.
With 48 hours remaining on his Groupon offer, Chang migrated the scheduling chores to Genbook. "The phone calls stopped, because 99 percent of the people could figure out everything they needed to know online," he says. "It revolutionized everything we do. We don't have to take credit card numbers and answer the same questions over the phone anymore, and customers can book anytime they want."
Motorsport Lab is just one of more than 5,000 North American small businesses implementing the online booking service. "Scheduling is the most critical task a business does day in and day out," says Genbook founder and CEO Rody Moore, who started the San Francisco-based company in 2007. "Ten years ago, consumers felt put out if they had to book a flight or a restaurant reservation online. Now customers expect an online option."
In its startup incarnation, Genbook offered its platform to digital advertisers to help them manage media schedules across hundreds of websites. But in 2008 the company pivoted to its current, monthly subscription service and expanded its customer base. Chiropractors, massage therapists and other one-person operations made up the bulk of Genbook's early adopters, but a growing number of larger businesses, such as spas, have since joined the platform. And their customers have embraced the service, too: An average of 500,000 appointments are being scheduled every month.
The booking service offers packages that cater to outfits of all sizes. Genbook Solo schedules one person's clients for $19.95 per month; Genbook Standard manages an unlimited number of calendars for $39.95 per month. This year, the company--which has been bankrolled by $5.6 million from Neo Technology Ventures and Moore himself--launched an analytics dashboard to help merchants leverage "the massive amount of data generated through the act of making an appointment or reservation," Moore says, adding that key metrics include customer preferences among services offered, sales trends and individual employee performance.
Back at Motorsport Lab, Genbook has allowed Chang to fully automate the company's scheduling and, as a result, shed staff and save $50,000 per year.
"Genbook makes it so much easier to communicate accurate and up-to-date information about our business to people," Chang says. "We still get a few calls with questions we can't answer online, but Genbook handles just about everything else. To me, it's a no-brainer."