Want to schedule an appointment with a business? Pingup lets you “Book Now” in real-time. This is a lot different from the other more typical option of “Request an Appointment” you probably encounter elsewhere. In fact, it’s a huge difference and that’s why we decided very early on to focus like a laser on direct action vs an intermediary approach.
For example, here’s a scenario: It’s Saturday night and our protagonist has just been invited to an event on Tuesday evening. She would really like to be able to visit her Salon Tuesday morning. However, the salon is closed on Sundays and Mondays. What is she going to do?
In this situation, no “personal assistant app” or “virtual concierge” is going to be able to confirm that she can get an appointment until Tuesday morning at the earliest. By then, she may find out that they are booked and she’ll be left with no alternate plan. This is unfortunate for both our protagonist and the salon.
At Pingup, we figured out that it’s not simply enough to replace the phone call with some other potentially friction-laden process. The human bottlenecks and intermediary communication layers are no longer necessary – whether that be a phone call, an email, or a text message.
Our protagonist simply needs direct access to the real-time calendar data at the business. So, why not just let her see and interact with it? This concept isn’t exactly new, many businesses have been offering web booking for a while. The challenge is that businesses don’t all run on common software today. Providing a single service that lets customers schedule anything from a haircut, to a class, to a service appointment, to transportation is our primary goal. We’ve figured out how to connect to the various schedule software systems already being used at businesses all over the United States.
Our aim is to make it faster and easier to accomplish a task than it would be to open a to-do app and type out a reminder to take care of it at a later time. Take those few minutes to get something done, and kiss to-do goodbye. “Book Now” means real-time visibility into what time slots are available, and instant confirmation of your pending appointment. “Request an Appointment” means you’d be better off using Pingup instead
Our CEO, Mark Slater, is on Wired Innovation Insights talking about the evolution of mobile apps, and why action apps will ultimately win over the consumer.
“We live in a direct world, and technology is able to facilitate our obsession with immediate gratification. Just as apps have evolved from information-based to action-based, app development in the coming months and years will focus on providing direct and immediate interaction with consumers…”
Read the full article on the Wired Innovation Insights blog: The Mobile Revolution: Why Action-Based Apps Will Win With Consumers
Our business started with the simple assumption that mobile was going to “eat the world”. Many companies (many) have started here. No big deal right? easy to predict right? yes of course. The more tricky challenge is being able to predict the timing of your application’s adoption by this thundering herd of users who are running away from the desktop and on to mobile. This is the challenge that we and many others tackle every day.
I am a big fan of Benedict Evans. In one of his latest research pieces mobile is eating the world he makes the irrefutable case for the first assumption.
Finding UX Commonalities in Scheduling Flows
In our work at Pingup – to shorten the distance between businesses and their customers – we’ve tested various opportunities for consumer-to-business interaction. While some business – customer relationships can be streamlined or enhanced by text-based communications, this proved to solve for only a small slice of the pie.
After early user testing it became clear that users wanted the anytime/anywhere convenience that texting provided, but with the speed and efficiency that automation could provide. Texting for an appointment may be interesting, but what about when the business is closed? We had foreseen these kinds of limitations of course, and accelerated our pursuit of being able to give users seamless access directly into the myriad of scheduling software solutions being used at businesses throughout the US.
In looking at the challenge, we have been exploring how scheduling and transactional flows can be broken down into a series of similar high-level steps. While we realize that there will be nuances to the flows of different types of venues, our aim is to provide a consistent UX within our app for a variety of booking scenarios. Consistency doesn’t have to equal one-size-fits all, but the re-use of common UI patterns provides the benefit of familiarity. When our users open the Pingup app, scheduling a haircut, a dinner reservation or a mixed martial arts class should all have the same easy “feel”.
We are constantly refining our approach to helping users take immediate action, but here’s our current take. There are essentially 5 major steps as illustrated in this early App flow diagram.
Mobile scheduling takes on some of the best aspects of Calendar Apps and Shopping Carts. Upon ‘shopping’ for the exact service/class/timeslot you want, you essentially add it to your cart, find the right date and time, ‘check out’, and get instant confirmation.
Instant visibility into available times, paired with real-time scheduling confirmation has always been our goal for the user. Anything short of this isn’t “Live Booking” – users don’t want to Request an Appointment and find out hours or days later that it isn’t available. We are aiming to make “Book Now” as quick and easy as “Buy Now” has become. We look forward to continuing our work with users and software partners to make Pingup the universal remote control for business services.
We conducted a survey over the summer that was designed to validate or disqualify a certain set of assumptions that we have believed in from inception with the company.
It’s my experience and something I’ve heard from many other entrepreneurs and VCs alike that the problem you are solving needs to be in the “must-have” vs “nice-to-have” category. It’s death if you are in the “your solution is not my problem” mind-space. So if you subscribe to the Dave McClure approach, you’ll be constantly thinking about what your problem statement is. More importantly you’ll be testing that problem statement in the wild.
The really good stuff is found in the delta of these results. We as a company must be investing all our efforts in these deltas. This data might be representative of a sample of our user base, but I’ll bet that this relationship exists within any community of users that broadly meet our target audience.
It’s very early – but the signs are that all types of scheduling will naturally gravitate to your device where items on your to-do list simply get done through two taps – within one unified, abstracted application.