Are Scheduling Links Rude? (Hint: Not if You Follow This Advice)

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Introduction

With technological innovations, COVID-inspired distancing policies and work from home orders, have the pillars of business etiquette begun to crumble? This is a question rumbling throughout the Internet and creeping into the minds of virtual calendar users. With dozens upon dozens of scheduling link tools on the market (and more coming), it is vital users recognize the potential implications of using such tools and implement best practices when leveraging them to avoid offending clients, customers, peers, and superiors.

On one side of the issue, there are individuals who work in the media and tech industries, such as analyst and consultant Benedict Evans, who notes “There’s always a delicate set of implicit assumptions around meetings. Where do you meet? Who travels? Coffee shop or meeting room? This is one reason why attempts to make automated calendar agents have never worked well.” On the other side are advocates for scheduling links, such as Andy Brown, who writes “I’m a big fan of process. Which makes it easy for me to be a big fan of automation. Using technology to automate processes or parts of processes seems to be logical and obvious to me. And many people agree with me.”

Below we examine the popularity of scheduling links, the pros and cons of utilizing them, and the best practices when using them in order to avoid ending up like this twitter user:

Tweet

 

What is a scheduling link?

A scheduling link is a link to a website that is connected to your calendar and presents your availability so others can schedule time to meet with you. Here is what a CalendarBridge scheduling page looks like:

CalendarBridge scheduling page

The idea is to make the scheduling of meetings and appointments both faster and easier. In fact, in a recent Forbes article, senior contributor John Hall claims, “using scheduling software is almost guaranteed to improve your time management.”

 

What is driving the increase of scheduling tools and links?

The scheduling and appointment software industry is predicted to reach $546.31 million by the year 2026, according to Allied Market Research. For perspective, in 2018, the industry was valued at $205.85 million. So far, North America has led the scheduling software boom, with early adoption by health and wellness services leading the charge. Key factors playing into the increasing popularity of scheduling tools include:

  • The rise of smartphones and the resulting proliferation of digital calendars. Most professionals in developed nations now have multiple digital calendars.
  • A generational shift. Millennials, in general, are not phone talkers and prefer to take ownership of their booking experience via technology. This reality is supported by a recent American Express study.
  • The ability to reduce administrative work. Scheduling software and links empower businesses to reduce some administrative work and overhead; for appointments the put the onus on the customer when it comes to confirming appointments, canceling, or no-showing.
  • Distributed workforces and flexible work schedules. With more teams being spread across multiple time zones, and often working varying hours even within the same time zone, there are fewer opportunities to coordinate meetings synchronously. The result is endless email threads often with available timeslots passing like ships in the night. Scheduling tools are a way to allow for asynchronous coordination without having to shoot at a moving target.
  • Shortcomings of Outlook, Teams, and Google Calendar. The Outlook/Teams Scheduling Assistant and Google Calendar Find a Time are supposed to allow you to view others’ availability for finding a time to meet. There are two ways these tools fail:
  • The Outlook/Teams Scheduling Assistant and Google Find a Time only account for internal team members. Thus, for meetings with people who don’t have email addresses at your organization, these tools are not helpful without a third-party calendar-syncing tool such as CalendarBridge.
  • The Outlook/Teams Scheduling Assistant and Google Find a Time only account for users’ primary calendars. Thus, for people with multiple calendars, these tools are not helpful without a third-party calendar-syncing tool such as CalendarBridge.

Outlook scheduling assistant

Who is using scheduling links?

For appointments (think salon appointments, gym classes, reservations…even consulting timeslots), scheduling links have become more of the norm than the exception. Anyone still requiring users to call or go back and forth over email to schedule an appointment are likely losing out on business. An additional benefit of using a scheduling tool for appointments is that many now directly integrate with payment processors to allow for booking and payment all in one user-friendly interaction.

As for meetings, although use of scheduling links is skyrocketing (see Calendly’s recent $3B valuation as proof), it is still somewhat niche. The niche tends to be those who are focused on booking as many meetings as possible (think sales, recruiting, etc..).  But, as discussed above, as more people move to remote, hybrid, and flexible work schedules, and the line between “internal” and “external” blurs with more consultants and freelancers, more people are turning to scheduling links and other dedicated scheduling tools to break the cycle of endless email threads to coordinate meetings.

What are the best practices when utilizing a scheduling link?

This distinction between appointments and meetings is important because the controversy surrounding rudeness and workplace etiquette generally only arises with meetings. When it comes to appointments, scheduling links are welcomed for their convenience; customers do not find this use “rude” because the roles of the user and service provider are clear and less personal. When it comes to scheduling a business meeting, however, sending a link can come across as “my time is more valuable than yours” because the recipient has to visit the booking page and do the “work” of selecting a time. More advanced scheduling link providers are reducing this concern by making it easier to find a suitable time slot (e.g., by only showing times that also work for both link owner and recipient), but this is not yet the norm and thus many still feel that receiving a scheduling link is akin to be asked to act as the link owners personal assistant.

When scheduling meetings, the framing and messaging surrounding the link are paramount to avoiding accusations of rudeness or impersonal communication. Some common tips include:

  • Avoid sending scheduling links in “cold” sales emails. If you are trying to establish a new relationship, you certainly want to avoid anything that could potentially be seen as too bold or taboo.
  • When working with superiors, consider employing a more personal touch and take care of the scheduling yourself (e.g., by coordinating directly with her assistant).
  • Politely play up the convenience factor of utilizing the scheduling link. For example, “Feel free to pick a time that works best for you, if you are ready to meet: {insert link];” or “I’ve found scheduling can become much easier using calendar links; if you’re comfortable with this approach, here is my link.”

These tips are all good, but I have a slight twist on them that I have found to work basically 100% of the time:

“If you would like to meet, please suggest a few times (or send your scheduling link), or you can put something on my calendar here: {insert link}.”

I think this works because: (1) it is deferential – the other person gets total control of how to proceed; (2) it makes explicit that you are not “above” using their scheduling link (if they have one); and (3) the mention of suggesting times reminds them that they are going to have to check their calendars anyways, so better to use the link and only have to check once!

Ultimate Takeaways

As the saying goes, people do business with people they like and trust. How you communicate, even via email, is critical. A positive balance between efficiency and convenience and etiquette and interpersonal relationships can be achieved with some thoughtfulness. Leveraging scheduling software and scheduling links in a considerate and proper manner can enhance your way of doing business, as well as increase your productivity.