How to Use Microsoft Bookings to Streamline Admin Operations

Clients, customers, colleagues... Managing contact time with many people on a daily basis is hard work. But it doesn't have to be

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How to Use Microsoft Bookings to Streamline Admin Operations

If you work as a consultant, engineer or have another role that requires a lot of customer contact and scheduling of meetings you know the struggle of managing it all.

    • You spend a lot of time finding slots in your calendar to send time options to your customers.
    • Then you spend more time managing blocked out times or chasing clients to accept one of them.
    • Then you spend even more time on emails with “can we change the blocked time or can you invite more people”.
    • Rinse and repeat, giving you very little time for actual work.

If this sounds familiar, read on. This article will explain how Microsoft Bookings addresses all these concerns and more.

As part of my job, I needed to arrange calls with customers and I ended up spending up to 90 minutes per day just managing appointments. In addition to my always busy schedule, that was very inefficient. 

Thanks to a Microsoft Partner, I learned about the new Microsoft Office 365 Bookings and I thought, can’t I use Bookings to help me out with that? I decided to give it a try but I asked myself some questions first as I didn’t want to lose control of my calendar. Let’s look at those questions first.

        1. What are the meeting scenarios I need to cover?

        • Regular customer calls, where I speak with customers on project topics with no urgency and where customers can wait for one to two weeks for a call.
        • Emergency customer calls, where they’re blocked and need to talk to me to proceed forward with their project.
        • Special scoped sessions with a clear guideline, which can be delivered by myself or my team.
        • Microsoft Internal Calls with peers.
      • For these different types of calls, I prefer different days and timeslots. For example, I don’t like regular customer calls on Friday because they involve a lot of process work afterwards. I prefer Friday for emergencies or Microsoft Internal Calls.

         2. How much time for learning and free time do I need to keep?

      • My schedule during the day is pretty tight with family responsibilities, customer and Microsoft calls, as well as other types of meetings. Learning and work/life balance is important at Microsoft, I need to take some time out of my busy schedule to spend time on learning and recharging. To be honest, I like to spend my Thursday and Friday afternoons on those topics.

        3. When do I want to have different types of meetings and personal time?

      • Because of family commitments, I can only have calls between 9.30 am and 3 pm. Outside of those times I have to bring or pick up kids from Kindergarten or cannot have a meeting for other reasons. Then there are days where I want to avoid intense customer calls, like on Friday where I’m pretty much exhausted from the week. On Friday I prefer to learn new things, write blogs, sit a Microsoft exam or do internal Microsoft calls.

After this process, I went through the Bookings structure and checked if it can fulfil these requirements. The answer was YES, it can. Let me show you how I managed it.

How did I solve my meeting scenarios?

To cover my different meeting Scenarios, I created four different Booking Calendars, one for each scenario. So, I ended up with the following structure:

    • Regular Customer Meetings
    • Emergency Customer Meetings
    • Microsoft Internal
    • Special Scoped Sessions

That gave me the opportunity to individualize the Time Slots, Staff and Sessions I want to offer. To create Bookings calendars, simply follow the guide here: Get Access to Microsoft Bookings | Microsoft Docs

How I created the meeting times for every scenario and prevented meetings from booking into the wrong timeslots

For the next step, I needed to create the timeslots where I allow the different bookings, I had two options.

Organizational Setup: With the organizational Setup, you configure the meeting hours as business hours as shown in the screenshot below.

Configuring Business hours in Bookings

Configuring Business hours in Bookings

Personal Setup: Here you set the configuration per Staff Member. That’s the configuration I prefer for my bookings. With personal bookings, there is one very important setting, you need to check the option “Events in Office Calendar Effect Availability”. That setting will prevent Booking from booking into slots where manual appointments were created so you will still be able to block time for private appointments or manually created meetings.

Defining staff settings in Bookings

Defining staff settings in Bookings

I made such a personal configuration for my scenarios like in the screenshot below.

Define availability for a staff member

Define availability for a staff member

Those settings are enough to make this solution work but I wanted to add some more improvements to make it even better.

Optional: Allow only coworkers to request a call and block search engines from discovering your calendar

There are two options I wanted to enable. First, I do not want the calendars to be searchable via search engines. No one should be able to find the links if I’m not sending them. The second option I wanted to enable was to ensure that Bookings for the Microsoft Internal and the Special Scoped Session calendar could only be made by other Microsoft peers and not by external customers.

To configure these options, you need to change the default Booking Page options for

Booking Page Access Control.

To ensure that only coworkers can book a session, you need to enable Require a Microsoft 365 or Office 365 account from my organization to book. To disable the direct search, you need to enable the Disable direct search engine indexing of the booking page option.

That’s basically all you need to do.

Optional: Add topics to your calls and set time limits for a call

To make it a bit easier to identify topics for a call, I pre-created a few I normally talk about with my customers and coworkers. That helps me to prepare and organize myself. To do so, just create a list of services.

Define topics - services for meetings

Define topics – services for meetings

I also predefined some options for the session like:

    • Length.
    • Online meeting which means it will automatically send a Teams invite to the person booking the meeting.
    • In the future, I will add some buffer times too and maybe add some more notes and custom fields.
    • If you scroll down, you can set reminders to be sent to the attendees, which is pretty nice.

If you now book a session, it looks like in the screenshot below.

Bookings interface for the person booking a meeting

Bookings interface for the person booking a meeting

I personally really like this structured approach as it helps me stay organized.

Optional: Create a landing page

I ended up with one issue, every Booking Calendar has its own link. That means for my calendar structure I now have four links, but I don’t want to send single links or several

links to a customer. That is why I came up with the idea to create a landing page for Bookings.

I wanted to keep it as simple as possible and as cost-effective as possible. I decided to take two simple static HTML pages hosted on Azure Blob storage, one for Customers and one for Microsoft internal bookings.

To create the static pages, I used the following tutorial. Tutorial: Host a static website on Blob Storage.

Afterwards, I used a link shortener to add a bit of statistics and monitoring and to make the link look a bit nicer. You can use a shortener like bitly or you can also create a CNAME in your own DNS Domain.

In the end, this solution works very well for me.

Conclusion

As you may have noticed, I focused more on the why and not on the how in this article. If you want to learn more about how to set up Bookings, I would suggest you read the documentation below.

Microsoft Bookings | Microsoft Docs

Maybe you’ll find your own way to use it to add value to your daily business or event calendar coordination.

If you have any questions or other ideas on how to use it, please leave a comment.

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