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Usually, word of mouth is the way people decide what software product to use. This is a strong voice of reason. If one of my trusted colleagues or friends recommends a software product, I am a lot more likely to take their advice and at least give it a try. If you don’t have a trusted referral, then the guide below will potentially get you thinking about the ins and outs of a fairly important decision for your business.
It takes time to set up and learn how to use a new software package, time you don’t want to waste on the wrong product. Most businesses need software that is easy to use, saves time and increases their bottom line. There are many things to consider in a software product such as features, price, usability, support and interoperability to name a few. In this guide, various questions and topic areas are raised for your consideration.
A growing business will need software that has the ability to support you now and when you expand. Think about what your dance studio currently does. Are you running your dance studio out of one or multiple sites? Do you sell products on site? The software you choose needs to at least accommodate your current requirements and support future growth. Your minimum needs may consist of class scheduling, enrolment, waiting lists, automated invoicing, customer management and communication. Consider how you want to grow your business and how the software solution will support you in this area.
The software company should listen to its customers and many of their updates and should be customer driven. To find evidence of this, search for testimonials on a company’s website that mention their responsiveness to their customers’ needs and willingness to incorporate these ideas into their software updates. Provision of regular free software updates is another area to look out for. No one wants to get stuck using software that is out of date and not moving forward with their customers.
A few questions to consider are… Is the program intuitive and easy to navigate? Does it make sense to you? Will your staff be able to use it? It is advisable to take a tour of a potential product. Entering into a trial is certainly one way to fully test drive a software package and most companies providing dance studio software offer a trial period with no catches. Another less robust method is a software demonstration provided by the company’s sales staff. A demo will provide you with some understanding of the software’s features and what it can do for your business.
Does your business have a lot of staff? Staff management may not be an aspect that a software provider mentions in their promotional material. If you employ a lot of staff and want to keep track of their skills, qualifications, work hours and performance then look for a package which covers these areas. The package you choose needs to make your job easier or at least less cumbersome.
Also, get your staff involved with the process by asking them to suggest functions they would like to see from the software. Involving staff in this process will lead to a more positive outcome, whether you are moving from using Excel spreadsheets or another software program. Staff involvement can also help you find a software solution that will potentially satisfy everyone’s expectations.
Customers are your livelihood. Without these magical beings, no business can survive. Is the software easy to use, visually pleasing and intuitive for your customers? Make sure you check out the areas in the software that your customers will be accessing such as online registration and payments.
Communication with your customers is another important area, and your software should make it super easy to communicate with customers. Texting and email functionality must be available, and the software should allow forwarding of individual and group communications to your customers.
Most business owners are in it for the love and the money. Well most of us need to make a living. Ensure that the software package you choose is going to support your business’ financial needs. As a baseline, the software package should include the following features:
⦁ Automated invoicing
⦁ Income reporting
⦁ Accounting package integration
⦁ Customer statements
⦁ Customer credit/refunds
⦁ Marketing and sales
⦁ Point of sale
There are various companies vying for your investment. All of these companies offer support, but the catch is whether it is via email, chat or phone, which can often mean a 12 to 24-hour response turn around depending on the location of the support team. Long response times aren’t ideal if you have a burning question requiring immediate action. If you can find a company that offers telephone support, then they should move up a position on your selection list.
Another area of support that needs a mention is set-up. Whoever you choose needs to support you from the get-go. A software company that will fully assist you in the set-up phase is going to place you in the best possible position to gain the most out of your software and reduce any potential teething problems with staff and customers using it.
Price is very important when purchasing software, particularly one you are using daily. The important consideration is, are you getting enough value for the money that you will be spending? Consider how much time and money using this software will save you, compare hours per week spent on admin vs the cost of the software and its automated processes.
Research if software providers charge customers for updates. Also, check if you are required to enter into a contract with restrictions. Always ask about these often-hidden areas.
Owning a business means that you need to work at all kinds of hours. Many dance studio owners work at crazy hours trying to catch up on financials and planning for the next week or month. The package you choose should enable you to access it from your phone, laptop, desktop or tablet and be accessible by multiple users at the same time. If it doesn’t have these features, then it isn’t worth your time.
There are now online tools to help you decide about which software product is right for your business. The largest software comparison tool is currently Capterra run by Gartner Digital Markets. This company also offers GetApp and Software Advice as other comparison tools for software programs. Just keep in mind that software companies with the highest position are not always the best software option as it may be that they are just paying the highest fee to Gartner Digital Markets for their position. Therefore, use these tools to assist with narrowing your decision, but don’t forget to do your own research.
Remember that your software must satisfy all of your business’ needs and be at a competitive price. The business partner you choose should present themselves as an organisation you can trust, from handling all your administration needs to assisting you with a strong support team. Sometimes you can do all the homework you like, but in the end, it can boil down to the impression they leave you with after you have experienced their service.
By finding the right business software, you have given your business a new beginning.
Marketing & Sales – ThinkSmart Software