First of all, we would like to welcome Microsoft to the online appointment scheduling world. Having spent the last 5 years helping more than 100,000 small business owners schedule online, we feel like the bigger (older is probably more accurate) brother, though these guys are the ‘big boys’ of the IT world. So how do these new players compare with the established bunch? We thought it was time to take a closer look.
Microsoft bookings is a part of Office 365 (premium plan only, all others including Enterprise (E1, E2 … E5) wait in queue please!!) While you may eventually get access, you will need to get the complete Office 365 package. It is designed to work with Microsoft products after all. Need access now? Like Google calendar or Gmail better? Probably looking at other online scheduling software is a better option. On the other hand, if you love Microsoft products, and are an existing Office 365 (premium) customer, you should definitely check them out. One thing that you should keep in mind is that upgrading your Office 365 plan might get you to lose access. But we are sure Microsoft will plug this discrepancy shortly.
Many of the other details are sketchy right now, but we would love to see what payment platforms (Stripe, PayPal etc.) they integrate with as well as third party social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The reality today is that most customer like the flexibility to be able to choose from a competing set of products, and Microsoft bookings focus on their own products may prove to be a long term hurdle. We may well be wrong on this, and time will tell. However, the overall direction seems pretty evident from the initial blogs and announcements coming out Redmond, WA (Microsoft global headquarters for the uninitiated :))
If there is one thing that we have learnt over the last 4 years, it is that no single formula works for all. Every customer is unique, and requires tremendous configuration ability in the software for it to truly eliminate the receptionist. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft keeps this as a niche product, or truly goes after the masses with a high level of customization. Initial observations point at the former, but we will reserve our judgement till next year once the product matures and rolls out for everyone. Microsoft, a word of advice (if you guys are reading this): Consider resource scheduling, gift certificates, multi-language support, deals & discount, reviews, conditional opening of time slots and intelligent allocation of staff (We could go on, but it might get a bit boring!).
Only time will tell how Microsoft Bookings evolves and we wish them good luck. We feel it is great that the larger players are focusing on online scheduling as an industry segment.
In the meanwhile, if you are interested in a free online scheduling software that has been in the business and trusted by hundreds of thousands of business owners, do try out Appointy. We promise you won’t regret your choice!