When COVID-19 hit the headlines early in 2020, the sports facility industry changed forever. Up to that point, the majority of sports facilities around the world were booked either by phone or email. Industry practice was to send customers an “Invoice”and give them credit terms to pay it. Payment was mostly done via bank transfer.
Although online booking was on the horizon, the feeling within the industry was current practice = best practice. This feeling completely changed after COVID-19 struck. The sports facility industry was forced to do business online. Cash almost became a dirty word.
When the industry re-opened, people’s habits and perception of doing business online had changed forever. Customers were no longer asking “why?” but “when?” can we start doing online booking? We saw a massive shift away from invoicing to online booking. Most new customers only do online booking now. Here are the main reasons why online booking is replacing invoicing:
1. It saves time! Online booking simply saves everybody an enormous amount of time. Let’s look at the steps involved in sending an Invoice……
Time is spent getting the customers booking details either by phone or email.
The booking needs to be manually put into the calendar of the booking system.
An Invoice needs to be generated by the booking system or a third party finance package e.g. Xero, Sage, Quickbooks,, etc. and then sent to the customer.
Finally, somebody has to check the bank account regularly to see if and when the payment was made and then mark the Invoice off as “paid”.
2. The cost of “Cancellations” are dramatically reduced
I often ask customers, “When you send an Invoice to a customer and they cancel, how much does this cost you every year?”. Most people don’t know the answer to this problem. However, they do know it is a costly problem! The main problems when customers cancel Invoices are:
Somebody has to spend time going back and forth with the customer on what they want to cancel.
In many cases a “credit note” has to be raised against the Invoice.
It’s very difficult to resell the slot, which costs the venue money.
If I book a hotel room and I cancel at the last minute, I get charged. Why should booking sports facilities be any different? It shouldn’t! With online bookings, the venue can decide to charge the customer’s card, if the customer cancels outside the cancellation notice period. The cancelled slot automatically becomes available for someone else to book. Some systems have a “slot watch” feature, which notifies anyone watching when a slot becomes available. With online booking, venues have the opportunity to “double dip” i.e. make twice the amount of money for a cancelled slot!
3. No more debtors!
When chasing money, how many times do we hear “the cheque is in the post!”? Most venues that Invoice customers invariably end up chasing money. Their list of debtors or “aged receivables” can range anywhere from 30 days to over 120 days! Somebody has the job of chasing this money, which is both time consuming and a major hassle.
When customers book online, this problem goes away! Customers pay by debit or credit card either “upfront” or on a direct debit basis using features like “Pay-as-you-Go”.
4. You make more money
Venues that rely on invoicing struggle to “make money while they sleep” because they rely on their bookings coming in via email or phone. What happens when the venue is closed or someone is not at their desk to answer the phone or booking enquiry emails? Young people leaving school these days have grown up with the internet. They expect to be able to find and book a sports facility on their phone within seconds. Venues without this option are losing business everyday.
With online booking, you have a shop window that is open 24/7. You can promote your venue using social media and digital marketing. The bottom line is that venues make more money with online booking.
While invoicing is not dead, it’s certainly in decline. Some of our customers do both invoicing and online booking. I can see their reasons but where possible, I would recommend going “cold turkey” and moving everything online. Trust me, you won’t look back!
Yours in sport,