BirchPress Scheduler Pro is an appointment booking and management plugin for WordPress. By adding this plugin to a website, clients or customers can book appointments at pre-defined locations or branches of a business. They can also select from the different services on offer, and then select one of the members of staff who offers that service.
Customers and clients can also view the calendar to check availability, and staff members can login to the website and check their own schedules. Payments can even be taken when the booking is being made, and as the plugin integrates with WooCommerce many other payment options can be enabled.
There are many potential businesses and service providers who can make use of a plugin like BirchPress Scheduler Pro, including spas, salons, doctors, clinics, lawyers, coaches, tutors, and many more. If appointments are being booked, then there is a good chance this plugin can simplify the process for all parties.
To find out how this plugin works, what features it contains, and how easy it is to use, here is the WP Mayor review of BirchPress Scheduler Pro for WordPress.
Features and Usage
BirchPress Scheduler Pro has all the features you might need for managing an online schedule and appointment booking system. To give you an idea of how this plugin can benefit you or your business, here are some of the key features:
Online Appointment Bookings
Display booking forms on your site’s posts and pages and give visitors the ability to view your schedule and then book an appointment or make a reservation.
Work with Multiple Locations, Services, and Staff
If you are offering multiple services, by a range of staff, from a number of locations, then you can make great use of this scheduling plugin for WordPress.
Through the admin interface you can create multiple variations for each entity, in order to match the type of business you are running. Visitors can then select form the various options that you have made available to them when booking an appointment.
Whatever calendaring system you are using, there is a good chance it will sync with BirchPress to ensure your schedule is up to date and vice versa. Compatible calendars include Google, iCal, iPhone, Android, and Outlook.
Email Notifications and Reminders
Configurable email notifications and reminders can keep you and your staff informed of the schedule, and also remind customers or clients when their upcoming appointments are approaching.
Personalized Booking Forms
BirchPress includes the ability for customizing your booking forms to ensure they match the service you are offering. The forms can be personalized by using the built-in form editor.
Accept Online Payments
With BirchPress Scheduler Pro, you can also take payments when customers make an appointment or booking. The plugin includes the facility to take payment with PayPal, while other payment gateways can be used through the integration with the free WooCommerce plugin and the many payment gateway extensions that are available for it.
As the plugin can be integrated with WooCommerce, this allows you to create WooCommerce ‘products’ for each service offered, which when purchased, allow the customer to schedule an appointment as well as pay for it in advance.
You can also enable customer credit which allows clients or customers to purchase a package of services at one time, and then book the individual appointments separately over time. This is ideal for promotional packages, such as offering two services which when purchased together are available at a discounted rate.
As you can see BirchPress Scheduler Pro has some very useful features and gives you lots of control over how you allow customers and clients to book your services online.
Using BirchPress Scheduler Pro
So while this booking and reservation plugin has all the features you will need when offering an online self-service appointment management system to your clients, let’s take a look at how easy is to use from an admin or client perspective.
Installation and Setup
Once the BirchPress Scheduler Pro plugin has been installed and activated, a scheduler menu item is added to the WordPress admin side menu. From here you can access the scheduler itself, as well as the settings and other components of the plugin.
As you can see the developers have wisely chosen to use the native WordPress UI for the admin pages of this plugin. This makes the settings pages blend in seamlessly with the rest of the admin dashboard, helping to create a more user friendly experience.
Through the settings pages you can configure and customize the plugin the following ways:
- Localize the plugin by setting the time zone, date and time formats, currency etc.
- Set the default calendar view: day, week, month
- Define the booking preferences and policies
- Enable the individual email notifications for staff and clients
- Enable PayPal integration and enter a PayPal email address
- Enable WooCommerce integration
- Add custom CSS and PHP code
Once you’ve worked your way through the settings and options you can begin using the plugin and start managing appointments and bookings.
Setting Locations, Staff, and Services
Before you start adding appointments to your new calendar and allowing customers to do the same, it’s a good idea to enter some information about your service.
With this plugin you can allow those booking an appointment to choose a location, a service, and staff member, when making their reservation. For that reason, it’s recommended to set those options up first.
Thanks to the easy to use interface, adding new locations, services, and staff, is all very straightforward and the procedure will be familiar to anyone who has used WordPress before.
When adding staff to your site, you get the opportunity to set their days off in order to prevent them from being booked when they aren’t working.
However, you needn’t worry about setting regular days off such as weekends. This is because you can also set a schedule for each member of staff, including their regular working hours, and days that they don’t work. You can also set an optional start and end date for non-permanent staff. Each member of staff can have a different schedule for each location you’ve created, to cover those that work at multiple branches of your business with different availabilities.
You can also assign individual services that you’ve created to individual members of staff performs. This ensures clients or customers can’t book a service with a member of staff who doesn’t provide that service.
Through the staff profile page you can also setup the calendar integration for that staff member, and also set their individual work schedule for each location you’ve previously created.
It seems that the developers of this plugin have thought of everything to make sure clients and customers can book the exact type of appointment they want, without being able to book something that isn’t on offer.
When it comes to creating and managing the services on offer, the same attention to detail has been implemented by the developers.
From the Add/Edit Services screen, you can set the following details:
- Location: selection which of the locations you’ve created the service is available at
- Staff: define the staff that can perform the service
- Length: in minutes or hours
- Padding: additional minutes padding before, after, or before and after an appointment
- Price: fixed or variable
- Capacity: how many clients can book the same timeslot
- Enable flexible start time
- Enable prepayment: either booking fee or percentage of service value
As you can see you get plenty of flexibility for defining the services and how they can be booked.
Creating and Managing Client Profiles
You can also add clients to your site through the admin interface, or wait for them to self-register when making an appointment though the frontend of your website.
Once some client profiles have been created, they can all be managed from the admin side of your site.
Adding the Frontend Forms and Calendar
After you’ve defined your locations, services and staff, you can begin adding the forms and calendars to the frontend of your site so that clients can start making appointments.
The plugin includes a form builder which allows you to customize the form that customers and clients can use to book an appointment.
The plugin comes with a default form, which you can either use as is or edit to make your own version which matches the services you have on offer. The form is divided into two sections: appointment info, such as what is on offer; and customer info, such as the client details.
Once you are happy with your form, you can display it on your site by entering a shortcode into a post or page. The standard shortcode for the booking form can be appended with a number of attributes. These allow you to display a form for a particular location, or for specific staff or services.
The forms are easy to use and are well-designed, which should hopefully make them blend in with any WordPress theme you are using. When a customer books an appointment for the first time, they can create an account on the site, otherwise they can login with their existing details.
To display the calendar on your site, it’s again simply a case of entering a shortcode into a post or page. Customers and clients can then view the available slots and make an appointment.
By adding attributes to the calendar shortcode, you can filter the options by location, service, and staff member in order to show a targeted calendar on a specific page of your site. However, if you don’t filter the calendar by modifying the shortcode, your visitors can do so using the dropdown menus.
You can also create a page that allows clients to cancel an appointment, as well as one which allows them to reschedule an appointment.
Managing Your Schedule
Through the backend of your WordPress site, you can view the schedule and manage any existing appointments and add new entries.
You get a choice of three options for viewing the calendar: day, week, or month. This is great for getting a quick overview for the month, as well a getting more details for each day.
Business Manager and Staff Access
So now that we’ve covered how to setup the locations, services, and staff that make up the business, and also how to display the forms and calendars to potential clients, it’s time to take a look at how the staff can view their schedules.
The plugin creates two new user roles on your WordPress site: Staff Member and Business Manager. You will need to create new accounts on your site for each user that falls into those two categories.
Then they will be able to login to the admin area of your site and get a restricted view. For users with the staff member role, this restricted access allows them to view their own schedule, including appointments that have been booked with them.
Those with the business manager role can use all the features of the plugin, such as creating locations, services, and staff, as well as adding and managing all appointments. Users with the business manager role can also publish posts and pages on the website. If you would like to modify the level of access the business manager role has then the free User Role Editor plugin can help you out.
This premium plugin is available on four different pricing plans:
- Pro Personal Edition: $75 one site
- Pro Business Edition: $150 one site
- Pro Business Plus Edition: $200 one site
- Developer Edition: $300 up to 10 sites
Each pricing plan includes one year of support and updates. After the year is up, you can continue using the plugin unsupported. Alternatively you can renew your license for another year of support and updates. If this is done before the first year is over, you will get a 30% discount off the price of your chosen plan.
For this review we’ve been looking at the Pro Business Plus Edition which along with the Developer Edition, includes all the available features.
You can view the full list of features for each pricing option to see how they compare on the plugin’s pricing page.
While this is more than you might pay on average for a premium WordPress plugin, when you take into consideration the features on offer, and the fact it will allow you to run your business more smoothly, with less human interaction when taking bookings, it’s fair to say it actually represents good value for money.
Support and Documentation
The online user documentation is accessible to all and contains a quick start guide which walks you through the setup process. The features of the plugin are covered in more detail in the individual sections of the documentation to help you make the most of this tool.
There is also an FAQ page with a few entries, answering common questions from users.
Also there is a support forum which can be viewed in read only mode by non-customers. Once you become a customer, and your support license is valid, you can post to the forums, and open a support ticket to contact the help desk staff.
Final Conclusion and Recommendations
The Pro Business Plus Edition of BirchPress Scheduler Pro, which we have covered in this review, is a feature packed appointment booking and solution for WordPress.
The developers really have thought of everything that might be needed by a business that allows clients to book appointments online. Even for a business that doesn’t allow customers to book their own appointments, this would still be a really useful internal online calendaring and scheduling system for use on a WordPress site.
As the plugin includes two new WordPress user roles, the business manager can easily oversee the calendar and manage bookings, while the staff members can login in and view their own individual schedules.
Using the plugin from the both backend admin and the frontend customer perspectives is very straightforward. The design of the interface is clean and easy to understand, making adding a service appointment booking facility to any WordPress site a simple task.
If you are looking for a WordPress appointment booking plugin that can handle multiple locations, services, and members of staff, while also offering a great set of features, combined with ease of use then BirchPress Scheduler Pro comes highly recommended.
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