Microsoft Bookings: let customers and suppliers make appointments directly in your calendar
Through Corona, merchants were required to receive their customers by appointment in the winter of 2021. Not interesting as a retailer on a busy shopping street, yet certain sectors have discovered the benefit of working by appointment. Barber stores, for example. The majority of business owners do seem to like having more control over their schedules.
I'll show you below that in both a B2C and B2B context, Microsoft Bookings is a handy tool to let colleagues, customers or suppliers schedule appointments in your calendar.
Part of Office 365
Microsoft Bookings is part of the Office 365 Suite from Microsoft. Which then today is part of Microsoft 365. A software package from Microsoft that most companies are familiar with.
Is Microsoft Bookings free?
As you may have suspected, Microsoft Bookings is not free. Bookings is included with the following Microsoft 365 subscriptions:
- Microsoft 365 Business Standard
- Microsoft 365 Business Premium
- Microsoft 365 E3
- Microsoft 365 E5
- Microsoft 365 F3
Microsoft 365 Business Basic
Are you a Microsoft 365 Business Basic customer? Then, unfortunately, you do not have access to Microsoft Bookings. You will then need to upgrade at least one license to, for example, a Microsoft 365 Business Standard subscription.
Access through your Office 365 portal
Not sure which license you have? The following steps will give you access to Microsoft Bookings - provided you have the right license:
- Surf to your Office 365 portal
- Go to 'All apps' (bottom left)
- Look for the Microsoft Bookings icon
Or use the direct link to the Microsoft Bookings app.
How does Microsoft Bookings work?
The interface of Microsoft Bookings is extremely user-friendly. You may be able to find your way around it. However, certain functionalities are well hidden.
When you open Bookings you will see the menu on the left. The menu consists of the following items:
In the menu, these terms are listed just the other way around. Below I describe the various components in detail and explain why I prefer to list them in this order.
The most important item in the menu. Here you need to enter some company information and you are going to determine who, what and when can make reservations. Again, you're going to notice that I - deliberately - don't follow the order of the menu:
The last item in the menu at 'Settings, but personally I think it is better to enter this info first. Here you need to enter the following info:
- Basic data: company name, address, website URL, e-mail address, etc.
- Company logo: your logo, which is also visible on the reservation page, in emails, etc.
- Opening hours: here you can enter your general opening hours. You can later enter customized opening hours per service and per employee.
Finally, the most important part. Here you are going to design the page where customers or suppliers can make appointments. The main items here are:
- Configure reservation page: who can view your page? Do you only give access to colleagues or do you share the link with everyone?
- Planning policy:
- Time interval: how much time do you want at least between appointments?
- Minimum lead time: how much time do you want at least between time of reservation and date of appointment
- Maximum turnaround time: how long in advance can customers book an appointment?
- Availability: should existing appointments in your calendar be taken into account?
- Customize your page: here you can set whether above chosen logo should be displayed on reservation page and you can choose some colors manually. Unfortunately, no further personalization is possible.
An important advantage of Microsoft Bookings is that you can determine which form fields should be requested per 'service' (see next topic). Should you need some additional form fields besides the standard ones, you can set them here.
At 'Services' you can define which services your contacts can reserve. You have the following options:
- Title & description
- Length of time & any buffer time between appointments
- Does it involve an online meeting?
- Form fields
- Email reminders & notifications
The last item not yet discussed under 'Settings' (but so in fact the first in the menu) is 'Employees'. Here you can:
- Giving employees access to the portal to view and/or manage appointments
- Add employees in order to link to certain services
Are you using a Microsoft Active Directory? Then you will notice that Bookings automatically recognizes your employees based on name or email address.
Note: Only if you use a Microsoft account can you set it so that existing appointments in your calendar affect the availability on your reservation page. I should also mention that shared calendars (e.g. marketing@ or info@) cannot be used here - depending on settings.
At 'Customers' you will find an overview of all customers who have already had or scheduled an appointment. If desired, you can also add or import contacts manually here (CSV file).
Fun fact: on a customer sheet you can - in the customer's name - schedule an appointment.
3. Agenda Bookings
Finally, in the menu you will also find the item "Calendar.
Here you get:
- In a calendar view, an overview of future appointments
- Ability to schedule new appointments or change existing ones
- via the 'Add leave' option the ability to block certain days or weeks for appointments
Confirmation via email
An important asset of Microsoft Bookings are the automatic confirmation emails you can set up. Would you like contacts to be automatically sent a calendar invitation? That is also possible. So with Microsoft Bookings, you give customers a very professional impression.
Does a customer still want to change or cancel an appointment? No problem! This too can be arranged online, after which custom calendar invites will be sent.
I would also like to share that - for those of you who are a bit more technically inclined - Microsoft Bookings has other Office 365 apps can be linked via Power Automate (formerly Microsoft Flow). A tool from Microsoft to create automated workflows.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Finally, I provide some answers to possible questions when using Microsoft Bookings:
1. Is there also a Microsoft Bookings app?
Yes! Since the interface of the web version looks rather plain, I think the app of Microsoft Bookings looks very modern. Moreover, you have the same functionalities there. So also here you can view or change appointments, manage customers, add employees and change settings.
2. Can I link my gmail account to Microsoft Bookings?
Yes and no. Yes you can use a gmail address to add an employee, for example. But in doing so you then have not the option to have Bookings take existing appointments into account.
3. How do I link my calendar to Microsoft Bookings?
This happens automatically when adding new employees. Only for e-mail addresses linked to Microsoft Exchange (with the exception of shared mailboxes) will existing appointments actually be taken into account.
4. Who is Microsoft Bookings interesting for?
Microsoft Bookings is interesting for organizations that want to let contacts make appointments through an online module. This, for example, for better staff scheduling. Especially for organizations that are already familiar with the applications of Office 365, Microsoft Bookings is a logical choice.
5. What are the alternatives to Microsoft Bookings?
Of course, there are still good reservation tools on the market. Perhaps the most well-known is Calendly. A package that will also be described in detail in a later blog.