A business thrives when customers can connect with your staff easily. For a service shop, consultancy, accounting firm or any business that relies on set meetings with customers, it can drive up revenue if you schedule wisely — and it can hurt profits if you are running a three-ring circus. Customers want an easy way to schedule time with a consultant, technician or other expert because they are also busy and overloaded most of the time.
Since we're all inundated with email and social media, not to mention meeting requests at work, Microsoft created an app that helps customers schedule meetings directly with your employees. Microsoft Bookings is a smart app because it cuts through the noise, but you might not know all of the benefits and how it can help your company the most, especially since there are a few other options for scheduling.Credit: Microsoft
It's not a good sign (although it is for Microsoft, since the market is so ripe) when the main competition for any app is a whiteboard in an office. Microsoft reps told Business News Daily that many small and midsize companies use a whiteboard in an office to communicate about schedules, mostly because it tends to work. A few other tools are available (see below), but smaller companies sometimes use Microsoft Excel for scheduling as well.
The biggest benefit is speed. Customers see a simple website that allows them to book the meeting, reschedule the appointment and receive email reminders. Internally, every employee has one place to look to see which appointments are on the docket. In fact, you might find it is easier to schedule the Bookings appointments on behalf of customers because the main benefit is how employees can all check the same calendar.
You can run Bookings as a stand-alone site or embed the app in your own company website, making it look as though you coded the scheduler yourself. Microsoft lets you add custom branding to create a consistent look and feel. You can add custom fields, such as an alternate email for the customer or whether a down payment is required. Everyone from a CPA to a carpet installer can rely on the app, and it's simple and fast to use.
The biggest decision you have to make when it comes to Bookings is whether you want to stop using an existing spreadsheet or whiteboard. Some companies have a hard time embracing anything new if the current system works, so that's part of your evaluation process.
Here's the good news: If you are already using Microsoft 365 Business or Office 365 Business Premium, you already have access to Bookings. If you are not using one of those plans, basic pricing plans start at around $12.50 per month per user for a la carte access.
Another decision to make is whether to consider a more elaborate tool. Bookings doesn't provide many extras – just the custom fields you can add to the scheduler. A far more advanced tool, such as Square Appointments, costs $30 per month for one user, but if you add more seats, it can increase to $50 per user or more per month. MindBody is another more advanced option, but pricing tends to be even higher as the feature set increases.
With Bookings, there is an app for iOS and Android, and the interface is clear and user-friendly, but it's not a high-end app. Square Appointments and MindBody, for example, both let you add an e-commerce component to sell products as part of the scheduling process.
However, Bookings might be a great fit for a company that needs simple scheduling without the fuss, and customers won't have to figure out advanced features.