Free appointment schedulers are either:
- 1. Completely free without any paid plans, like the recently discontinued MeetingBird
- 2. Freemium versions of paid apps, like Calendly or Zoho Bookings
If you're using a completely free app, you don't have to worry about limits or restrictions, which is the case with freemium versions. Here are a few free appointment scheduling apps:
- MeetingBird: This was very good, but it's closed down. The descendent, Front, is not free.
- when2meet: This app is developed and maintained by an individual and has an aging user interface.
- Rallly: This is suitable for public voting, but not booking appointments.
- Easy!Appointments: It's open-source and self-hosted, which can make deployment and maintenance a struggle for business owners who are less tech-savvy.
- Picktime: A free app, which will introduce a paid plan soon.
Free apps can keep costs down, but what are the risks?
Free apps are usually side projects of individuals or a lead-generation tool for other apps of the parent company. Then, there are free apps that show advertisements on the UI to generate revenue. In all cases, the free app is not the main business of the app's owner which leads to a lack of accountability. This affects the users in terms of:
- User experience (UX)
Feature updates: Paid apps have teams of developers to keep their app relevant and competitive in the market. Free apps are often updated at odd or infrequent intervals, if they're updated at all. If you're using a free app when your competitors are using a paid app, you're intentionally giving them an edge over you. The paid app, with frequent feature updates, will help them progress faster.
User experience: UX is a rapidly evolving field. With the advent of AI and machine learning, we want our apps to know us, and act on our behalf (with our consent, of course). One of the free appointment scheduling apps I evaluated had a UX that was languishing in the 90's. Yes, it can schedule appointments. However, do you want to give that user experience to your customers when they're interacting with your business?
Bug fixes: Bugs are annoying, and they increase in number over time. You might be willing to ignore some bugs with a free scheduler. However, a new bug can show up suddenly and stop you from getting appointments. In 2017, American Airlines had a software bug in their system that allowed too many pilots to go on vacation, leading to grounded flights and angry customers.
Hackers will exploit bugs which are a vulnerability in the software. Apps, free or paid, require a great QA team to keep these issues and bugs away.
Security: If there are no security audits or updates, the free app is an easy target for cyber-attacks. Threats grow and evolve. Software companies need to watch them and fix the vulnerabilities in their software. Aside from viruses, malware, and other attacks, there are also cyber criminals. A free app may not have the resources to build the security infrastructure to defend themselves from these threats.
Privacy: Some free apps have an advertisement-based revenue model. Advertisers bid for UI space in the app to display their ads.
When you authenticate a free app to access your calendar or mailbox, the app can access your contacts also. During cyber attacks, it's likely that attackers will steal personal information from the free app.
Free appointment schedulers might appear to be the best way to go—if you don't think about the high costs. That leaves us with the question...
What is a balanced way to automate your scheduling for free, and without risks?
Our suggestion is to go with freemium plans of popular appointment scheduling software. The freemium plans have essential features to get you started and reach your growth phase. Since apps like Zoho Bookings and Calendly have paid plans, they invest in security, privacy, legal compliance, bug fixes, and a great UX. You get the same security and privacy checks on their free plans. Also, the help documentation, email support, and community are usually open to freemium plans.
What can you do next?
Try out the freemium versions of popular appointment scheduling tools and find an option that works for you. We've compared freemium plans of Zoho Bookings and six other apps. Check the comparison
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