You have many customers who you see on a daily basis. Typically, these customers call your office, speak to the front desk person, and get an appointment scheduled. The front desk person has access to all of your employees’ calendars, and they go through the requested employee’s calendar to find an available slot. While that’s happening, there’s another person waiting in line (on hold) to get their appointment booked. Oh, and also, the appointments can only be booked between 8 AM and 4 PM- during office hours (while your human front desk person is available to take calls).
What if you could let your customers schedule their appointments themselves without having them to call the office? How convenient would it be for them (and you) to schedule an appointment any time of the day? It would be a relief too for people who don’t like talking on the phone. (like me!)
Picture the following scenarios:
- Dentist’s office: New and existing patients call all the time to book appointments.
- Auto body shop: Customers need an appointment to get work done on their cars.
- Educational institution: Students need to schedule a meeting with their teachers, professors, advisors.
- Not for profit organization: You work with victims of abuse. Your clients would like to meet with their case managers when they need help.
- Bike shop: Your current customers want to schedule an appointment for a tune-up. New customers want to come to the shop to look at bikes.
- Wealth Managers/ Tax Consultants: Your clients want advise on how to manage their wealth; need to meet with you so you could help them file their taxes.
You see what’s happening here? We are surrounded by businesses/establishments that require us to meet with them in person to get our work done. As an institution that caters to the needs of others, it is our responsibility to make things more comfortable and easier for our customers. For starters, we can let our customers schedule their own appointments!
Exit light. Enter Microsoft Bookings.
If you are an Office 365 customer, especially Business Premium, you may have seen a new product called Microsoft Bookings in your suite. You can use this product to easily set up self-scheduling for your customers. Here is what it does:
- Provides a web interface for your customers that they can use to schedule their appointments with either specific employees in your office or anyone (random selection). It finds available time on your employees’ calendars and lets customers schedule appointments in those slots.
- Lets you set work days & hours for the business and individual employees so that customers don’t schedule anything outside of those days and hours.
- Lets you setup all services you offer. Customers can pick the service they want to schedule an appointment for.
- Sends confirmation and reminder emails to both employee and customer.
- Allows cancellation and rescheduling of appointments.
- Provides a calendar view of how busy your employees are.
Who is it for?
- Definitely small and medium sized businesses. Businesses that may not have the resources to implement a full fledged scheduling portal. Microsoft Bookings is a straightforward solution for them to help their customers with self scheduling.
- Smaller groups/departments within larger companies that don’t have self scheduling on their portals yet. These groups can use Microsoft Bookings as an interim solution until their company moves to an enterprise-wide platform.
- Not for profits/ educational institutions. Anyone who wants to schedule meetings with their clients/students/parents.
What it doesn’t have (yet)
Currently, Microsoft Bookings operates as a standalone solution. However, since it is an Office 365 product, we should see it integrate with Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Flow in the near future. An appointment in Microsoft Bookings will most likely be able to sync to CRM for Dynamics 365 or have Microsoft Flow create a record in Dynamics 365. Having said that, you can
definitely use “Automatic Record Creation and Update Rules” now to create records in CRM based on notification emails you get from Microsoft Bookings. That would ensure that you could start a bunch of workflows that can perform several actions for you related to (pre/post) appointment.
This is one solution you should definitely try if you are seriously considering providing your customers with the ability to book their own appointments. It’s possible that in the future, as your requirements get more complex, Microsoft Bookings may not be the right solution for you anymore, and that’s when you can migrate to something else. (Or maybe Microsoft will keep adding more features to it!)
At the time of writing this article, Microsoft Bookings is available with the Business Premium edition of Office 365 and will roll out to other plans soon.
Check It Out!
Want to see how it works? I created a demo page that has self scheduling for a fake bike shop. Check it out!
If you are ready to get started, you can check out some tutorials here.