Having an appointment scheduler on your website is a pretty common function these days. It is used to book coaching calls, “discovery calls” and a number of other things. I myself use one for members and clients to book strategy calls.
There are many popular third-party applications for this. Calendly is perhaps the most popular. There’s also options such as Acuity Scheduling, Picktime and others. AppSumo also offers one called TidyCal that does the job for many.
The problem with many of these hosted applications is that:
- Integrations with the rest of your tech stack can be spotty.
- It often means you’re paying for yet another hosted, third-party app.
These apps can work really well. I used Calendly for awhile and it was easy to use and it worked well. But, I wanted something more.
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Here’s What I Wanted In An Appointment Scheduler…
My tech stack is highly Wordpress-focused and I like it that way. I love having the entire site function as one, self-contained application that doesn’t rely on external services. I love being able to back it all up at once. I like the independence of it. I view it as an aspect of the digital sovereignty of my business.
So, I wanted…
- Direct integration with my Wordpress tech stack (deeper than just putting an iFrame on there)
- Ability to easily extend all the emails sent to people via FluentCRM (see my original FluentCRM review)
- No artificial limitations on capability, number of appointment types, or anything else. These limits are typical of hosted calendars (unless you pay more, of course)
If you search for Wordpress plugins that can do appointment scheduling, you’ll find many options. But, one day I was looking through the list of plugins that WP Fusion integrates with and I found a real gem.
That gem was Simply Schedule Appointments.
The tight integration with WP Fusion was the meal ticket for me. That one integration makes this plugin an extremely powerful scheduler.
What Can Simply Schedule Appointments Do?
The short version is that it will do all the standard functions you would expect of a calendar.
- Multiple appointment types
- Control of your availability
- Custom fields during the booking process
- Styling flexibility
- Reminder emails and SMS reminders
- Google Calendar sync
- Integration with Zoom and Webex
- Ability to take payments for appointments
All fairly standard stuff for a well-developed calendar solution.
But, this one integrates deeply into Wordpress. And that presents a lot more options that are just much tougher to do (if not impossible) with a remotely hosted calendar.
For instance, while the plugin can take payments to sell consultations, you also have the flexibility of using options such as WooCommerce.
While remotely hosted apps will “integrate” with your site using embed code or a shortcode (powered by a plugin), Simply Schedule Appointments has direct integrations with popular page builders like Elementor, Divi, and Beaver Builder. You can literally just drag and drop your calendar into your page and set your options without screwing with shortcodes. And yes, there’s a Gutenburg block, too, so you can work with the standard block editor if you want.
Want a really customized booking process? SSA integrates directly with Gravity Forms and Formidable Forms so you can literally build scheduling right into your form as a drag-and-drop form element.
I also really like how SSA has the ability to show upcoming appointments right on the site. For instance, when one of my members comes to the scheduler, if they already have an appointment scheduled they will see it. I can also easily display upcoming appointments on the member dashboard.
But, here’s the real integration that for my attention…
WP Fusion + Simply Schedule Appointments
When it comes to CRM and sending emails, there’s usually limits.
SSA works directly with Mailchimp, for instance. But, I hate Mailchimp and wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.
SSA can also work with Zapier and supports webhooks. Technically, that allows integration with a large number of CRMs. It is rather geeky, though. And I try to avoid using Zapier when I can because it is just another appendage to your tech stack.
But, SSA works with WP Fusion. Which means you can work with any CRM that WP Fusion works with (and that’s a lot). Not only that, but this isn’t some simplistic operation of merely adding a person to a list when they schedule. This is a robust integration. And, coupled with a real marketing automation platform, the possibilities are truly endless.
With WP Fusion, you can add tags whenever a person books, reschedules or cancels. The “Sync Guests” function allows you to capture lead info from the scheduler and add them to your CRM if they’re not already logged in.
With a marketing automation platform, you can use these tags to trigger any automation you would like.
Want to customize those emails using data specific to that customer or appointment? No problem because WP Fusion will sync that data with custom fields in your CRM.
Once those fields are synced to their CRM profile, you can use merge fields of your CRM to customize emails all you want.
You can still use the built-in email reminder capability of SSA if you like. But, using these tags and fields, you can set up additional easy followups. For instance:
- Automatically follow up with your customer the next day after an appointment to see if they have any questions or seek a testimonial
- Automatically add them to an upsell sequence
- Modify your actual website so they see different content (using WP Fusion’s ability to show/hide content based on tags)
How I Use It On This Site
Here at the Blog Marketing Academy, I have a service credit system for technical services and calls. For people to be able to book a call with me, they need to have at least 1 credit on their account.
As I covered in my writeup of how my credit system works, their credit balance is stored in a custom field. And, of course, that balance is synced with FluentCRM using WP Fusion.
The scheduler page is built with Elementor. So, I created a section and dragged the scheduler element into that section. I use a plugin called Dynamic Conditions to allow me the option to show/hide sections using the value of a custom field.
In the above example, I am making use of a custom shortcode I created to check to see if a user has a balance for credits (this post shows the code for that). Dynamic Conditions is set to check the shortcode, see if it has a value greater than 0 and if it does, it will show the section.
Another option without a shortcode would be to use the user_meta field and check that specific custom field.
I do the exact opposite check to display a notice to them if they have a zero balance. In that case, the scheduler is hidden and instead they are directed to purchase credits to access the scheduler.
This is how I do it because I happen to use a credit system on my site. And even then, there are alternative methods. For instance, if you were to sell an appointment in WooCommerce, you just add a tag to their profile. Then, using WP Fusion, you only show the scheduler to people with that tag. Once the appointment is done or they have completed scheduling, you could use an automation to remove that tag so they cannot access the scheduler anymore.
As always, there are multiple ways to do things.
Getting Access To Simply Schedule Appointments
SSA is a pretty robust option for appointment bookings on Wordpress all by itself. It does all of what most people will need. The WP Fusion integration is rather understated on their site, but is one of the most valuable integrations on their list in my opinion.
You can get the basic functionality of SSA for free. For many, the free version may be plenty. The free version supports WP Fusion, too, so you’ve got a pretty powerful combo there.
If you want more power, you can get a Plus license for $99. They offer even more functionality on the higher tiers, but I really don’t think most people will need them. By coupling SSA with a marketing automation tool (using WP Fusion) you have alternative methods of doing that stuff.
If you want to use it on a bunch of sites, they’ve got options for that, too. You could even acquire a Plus license for up to 1,000 sites for $199/year and offer schedulers for clients if that’s a business you’re in.
Keep in mind, too, that you don’t necessarily have to renew these plans. The plugin will keep on working for you. You just wouldn’t have access to updates and support. For some, that’s not a big deal.
My Wishlist For Simply Schedule Appointments
So far, I’ve been singing the praises of this plugin. And to be clear, I really do like it. I use it myself now. 🙂 But, nothing is perfect. So, here’s a few things I wish they would change…
More native admin panel. I wish the control panel area of the plugin didn’t use it’s own custom styled panel which totally overrides Wordpress. I wish it were better integrated into the Wordpress admin panel.
Ditch The Ads. I also wish the backend didn’t have ads to upgrade my license. Basically, the whole sidebar in there is…. advertising. When I PAY for the plugin already, I shouldn’t see that.
Dashboard Widget. I think it would be a nice touch to have a dashboard widget to display upcoming appointments right on the main admin dashboard.
Self-schedule appointments at any time I wish. I wish that I had the ability to book appointments in the backend that override my own usual availability. As the admin, I feel I should be able to do that. Right now, the scheduler even inside the admin panel uses the same availability as the public. There are situations where you want to override it privately, however.
Blackout times, not just dates. I wish you could have blackout time and not just dates. As it is, there is a blackout date option where you can mark off days they will not be able to schedule (like vacations). However, the option is only for entire dates. There is no option (that I can find, anyway) to block out just a few hours of one specific day but otherwise leave your day open. That’s a pretty big missing feature and they really need to fix that.
For now, the only alternative to blackout times is to use the Google Calendar integration. You can have SSA monitor your calendar and if you book something that interferes with a usually available time slot, it will ensure nobody can book. That works fine, but I do feel as if there should be an independent way to do that without relying on Google.
More calendar integrations. Speaking of calendars, I also think they need to have other options besides just Google for calendar integrations. Some of us would prefer not to use Google for such things.
Personally, I will never use a remotely hosted calendar like Calendly again. At least I don’t think so. 🙂 Simply Schedule Appointments integrates so nicely into my tech stack that I don’t see why I would use anything else.