Last January, Tim Doreck got a message on his voice mail saying that a dozen people wanted to charter his dive boat for that afternoon. But by the time he called back, the group had booked another boat. "I lost about $1,000 right there," says Doreck, co-owner of Monterey Express Diving Charters, in Monterey, Calif.
But these days Monterey Express isn't missing such opportunities. Doreck has started using a Web-based reservation system called TimeTrade, which allows his customers to book charters themselves. Now his clients can simply log on and check what's available and make a reservation. Customers get an instant confirmation online, followed by another by E-mail.
Doreck says he's cut his long-distance and cellular phone bills, and he spends up to 70% less time writing E-mail to customers who want reservations. What's more, he's experienced a 25% to 30% increase in business among his regular clients. "They're more inclined to book trips further ahead," says Doreck. "And they're more inclined to book when they just think of it."
TimeTrade Systems Inc., based in Waltham, Mass., operates Doreck's new reservation system. Among those using TimeTrade are health clubs, photo studios, auto-service centers, and chiropractors, not to mention corporations scheduling internal activities such as training classes. For sole proprietors, the service costs $49.95 a month. Businesses that want to schedule a variety of activities -- such as reserved time on racquetball courts, personal-training sessions, and massage therapy -- can get a more elaborate version of the service starting at $99.95 a month.
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