Microsoft is making its Bookings self-service, online scheduling platform available to all Office 365 Business Premium customers worldwide.
The web-based solution for small businesses offers customer-facing appointment setting functionality that syncs with the internal calendars of an organization's workers. Bookings made its debut in the United States and Canada last summer, and now Microsoft is rolling out the platform worldwide.
In addition to extending Bookings' reach, Microsoft is also adding new capabilities during the next few weeks. Among them is a new integration that helps workers avoid scheduling conflicts.
"One of the top pieces of feedback we've heard is that you want to be able to add events from your Office 365 calendar to Bookings," wrote the Microsoft Bookings team in a blog post. "So, we added integration between these calendars to help you avoid booking customer meetings during the time you've set aside for personal appointments, staff and partner meetings or other aspects of running your business."
A new option will appear in the Staff section of the Bookings interface, enabling meetings, events and other items on individual calendars to determine availability on the public-facing appointment scheduling tool. If a calendar item creates a conflict, Bookings automatically blocks busy times.
To help businesses better manage their schedules, Microsoft is also introducing buffer times. The new control allows businesses to carve out times for travel, setup and other activities that are required to deliver a service. Buffer times prevent customers from booking appointments during a user-selectable period of time before and after a service is rendered.
In addition, Microsoft has built native Booking apps for iOS and Android. The apps extend many of the web interface's appointment and staff management capabilities to mobile devices, including the ability to view the Bookings calendar and create and edit bookings. Users can also access customer lists, respond to customers and get directions to their next appointment.
Finally, Microsoft has added new customization options that help users create a Bookings page that aligns with their brand. Users can pick from a variety of color themes and decide whether or not to display their company's logo.
In recent months, Microsoft has embarked on a concerted effort to introduce smaller enterprises to its sprawling business software empire.
Last year, the company debuted an Outlook Customer Manager feature that helps keep important tasks from falling through the cracks. Outlook Customer Manager gathers customer emails, meetings, calls, Office files and other pertinent information into a timeline that appears as a pane in the Outlook interface. The tool automatically notifies users of impending deadlines and offers a Focus List, akin to the Focused Inbox, that helps users keep track of their VIP customers.
Earlier this month, Microsoft and GoDaddy announced a strategic partnership offering the latter's small business customers access to the former's Office 365 productivity solutions. The joint solution provides secure, domain-connected professional email, cloud storage and document collaboration services.