Microsoft's Outlook team has built a new self-service appointment booking service that the company will roll out to all Office 365 Business Premium users "over the coming months".
The service, Bookings, will allow customers to book appointments directly online using a variety of devices that can be viewed in a centralized calendar. The service will provide email confirmations, rescheduling and cancellation options, and the ability for a company to reassign appointments to other staff members and add customers to centralized customer lists. Customers don't need to be Office 365 subscribers to book an appointment through Bookings.
With the announcement of Bookings on July 20, Microsoft officials said the service would only be available to Office 365 Business Premium users. I asked whether Bookings ultimately might be available to other Office 365 plan customers and was told there were "no plans to share at this time".
Business Premium is Microsoft's most comprehensive Office 356 subscription plan for small businesses. It costs $15 per user per month if paid monthly, or $12.50 per user per month if paid annually. It includes the full set of locally-installable Office applications for up to five PCs and/or Macs per user, as well as Exchange Online, Skype for Business Online, SharePoint Online, Yammer enterprise social-networking, and 1 TB of free OneDrive for Business cloud storage.
Business Premium customers don't need to use Exchange or Outlook to use Bookings, even though Exchange is part of what Business Premium users pay for. When I asked why, a spokesperson said Microsoft's goal is "to make it as easy as possible for people to experience the breadth of capabilities offered in Office 365".
Bookings is starting to roll out Wednesday to Office 365 Business Premium customers who are part of the First Release program. It will come to all Business Premium subscribers worldwide "in the coming months", officials said.