An IT Shop in the Cloud for Services Companies

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted September 18, 2013

Running a small business is tough enough without cobbling together and maintaining an IT infrastructure. A cloud-services provider based in New York City, Booker is out to lessen the IT burden with its cloud-based service management platform.

Booker creates software for services and hospitality companies such as spas, hotels, repair shops or practically any "business that has people with specialized skills" and a scheduling component, says Booker CEO Josh McCarter. Traditionally, their needs were typically met by a smorgasbord of business software suites, few of which integrated seamlessly.

McCarter's company was formed to challenge the status quo. Spun off from SpaFinder, Booker not only "transforms the way local businesses are managed by businesses—and consumed by consumers," says McCarter, it simplifies how service companies "run their business and automate their marketing."

As a Salesforce-for-small-business, of sorts, Booker's unified cloud-based service management platform provides point-of-sale, scheduling, employee management and customer-relationship management tools. In addition, it offers marketing, loyalty programs and a robust reporting component.

Booker essentially contains all of the components that businesses need to accept appointment bookings both online and on Facebook, to manage payments, to schedule workers and to drum up repeat business with email marketing and loyalty rewards.

It also integrates with QuickBooks, helping shop owners keep their books balanced. The company recently announced version 9.3, which adds a new inventory adjustment tool and the capability to re-classify customers without cancelling and re-booking.

To date, it has attracted over 60,000 service professionals, and small businesses are ringing up sales at a brisk clip on Booker. McCarter reports that the platform handles "$4 million in transactions a day," double the amount from a year ago. Booker processes more than one million appointments across 70 countries each month. Customers include Hilton and the AAA of Northwest Ohio.

Booker in the Real World

For Kevin Gatto, owner of the eco-friendly Verde Salon in Collingswood, NJ, Booker spared him and his company the ordeal and expense of piecing together an IT foundation that supports the way his company runs. The full-service salon has been in business for six years, and it employs 14 stylists.

Gatto admitted to using another software solution in the past, that while serviceable at first, it "didn't have all the features that we wanted." In addition to roughly $16,000 in computer equipment and software costs, Gatto faced a $10,000 bill to add online booking and other capabilities.

Now, Verde Salon pays "one monthly price," a bargain for a software platform that provides "an upgrade every six to eight weeks, automatically, without charging us more," says Gatto.

Costs savings aside, Booker also helps to drive business. The software-enabled Verde Salon, which is located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, is one of the first to offer online booking in the area, says Gatto. "Customers took to it insanely fast," he adds.

Gatto also raves about the software's intuitive interface, ease-of-use and overall user-friendliness. New stylists, even those that aren't computer savvy, are brought up to speed quickly on Booker's training website, he says.

And as an example of the impact that the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement has on businesses of all sizes, Gatto gushes over being able "to run my business from my iPad." At times, that includes logging in from 35,000 feet in the air on flights to Los Angeles.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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