I’ve been a fan of Doodle Scheduling for years. Their service is geared toward busy people who struggle to find times for meetings when everyone who needs (or wants) to attend is actually free and can make it. If you’re trying to organize the meeting, you can send out a “poll” of different possible dates and times to all the invitees. They’ll choose which times work for them, and you’ll get a response back showing the time that’s the most convenient for the highest number of attendees.
Since it’s really just a poll, I’ve also used for slightly off-label purposes, like “Where should we go for dinner?” or “Which book should the book club read?” Users can rank their preferences, so while everyone may not get their first choice, you can at least pick an option that nobody totally hates. That kind of diplomacy seems like it’s worth a lot, but Doodle doesn’t charge for their basic level of service. Though they do have a “pro” version of the service that will let users upgrade for a more complete feature set of scheduling tools.
They’ve also recently announced an online booking platform for service providers that’s $60 a month (after a month free trial to see if you like it). The idea is that if you’re a small business owner or employee, you probably don’t have a dedicated person to schedule your time – and you’re probably spending tons of time doing it yourself. It’s especially tough if your business is one where people are calling you at all times to schedule. The example Doodle gives is of a hair stylist: if you’re spending all your time booking appointments, how will you actually spend any time doing actual styling?
Doodle calls the service BookMe, and the idea is pretty simple: you set your availability online, as well as time slots others can book. Then your schedule can be filled up without you ever having to answer the phone (and disrupt whatever else you were doing). Doodle recommends BookMe for service providers, but it could also be handy for consultants or bloggers whose job involves a lot of pitch meetings. When you use the service, you do have to confirm the booking for the appointment to be official, so it’s not like you have to take every single appointment others want…though you could!