Background

Blue Ninja was approached to assess how to move a large education programme from a paper-based system to an online structure. The goal was as the programme grew the team could speed up their delivery as it had become quite time-consuming to schedule and send all the emails out to the education schools and also the trainers delivering the programme.

The team were technically savvy and could cope with a structure that required some development. Upon the first call, a booking system for fitness / yoga studios came to mind. A lot of the steps of delivery were quite similar and the client already had a CRM in place so it just needed to automate the notifications and provide class information at the right time.

Upon some research, it became clear that simplybook.me could be a good system. The platform was reputable, and for this Dutch client they wanted to be able to have a system in Dutch if possible. There were multiple languages platforms available for simplybook.me so the development was able to be done in Dutch. Blue Ninja had an english version for testing so the team didn’t need to be approached for any language questions.

Development

An assessment showed that the system had all the elements required for what the client needed to deliver their programme digitally. We had an indepth session together on exploring the user process, and evaluating the user journey for both the team and the end users.

Some of the questions we asked were:

  • How would education schools interact with the system? Would they need to at all?
  • How many trainers could be accommodated?
  • How could we customise the emails so they were styled and branded?
  • How could we schedule tentative events then confirm them at a separate time?
  • How could the system be passed on so new administrators could take over?

We expected to need to do some HTML coding in the system to customise, and used simplybook.me’s helpful chat function to check on our understanding and questions.

We also were looking at a way to cut down on questions for when trainers were available for scheduling classes, so a portal for trainers to log into was of interest.

A timeframe was developed with the team and the client worked closely with Blue Ninja to implement the plan. Where possible, the client worked in the system so they could get used to it. Often Blue Ninja built the first part of the element and handed it over for the client to finish then document.

Issues

The issues we faced were around the restrictions in the system’s operations, such as being able to change when the reminders were sent out. We wanted to email out 7 days in advance to the education schools but the system only allowed us a maximum 3 day notice period.

We had some trouble with SMTP but this was from the security from Office365, moreso than the system. But, we did uncover that the system was not compatible with sending out notifications to hotmail for the trainers (as users) so we had to adapt.

We also had some issues with pulling through descriptions about the trainers as shortcode as although we had added the text into the right place in the system, when it appeared in the emails from a shortcode it did not have any HTML styling. We had to redevelop those profiles in another part of the system with full HTML coding – this was not clear from the instructions how to do that but we were provided guidance and successfully produced the information in our emails.

We did not want the education schools to interact with the system portal (i.e. they would not be scheduling any classes themselves) so we had to work out how to turn off the bookings portal. We were able to redirect it to the client’s website, so the bookings portal became hidden.

Testing

We were able to test emails and allocate template styles to the appropriate emails. It was not as intuitive as initially hoped, but we were able to adapt what was needed to make the programme work well.

The team had a final assessment call to check in on the final testing and make sure the final questions were answered. We brought in some trainers to test the system and give feedback on it’s use. Process documents were written and checked against internal and trainer requirements.

Conclusion

Overall, the project was developed as planned and on-time. We discovered some system issues that we were able to find solutions for, and with the set up and structure we have saved the team around 6 hours a month of management time sending out the 60 or so emails to the education schools, as well as making sure the trainers were keeping track of their own schedule.

The trainers now have a portal they can log into and observe their schedules (as well as log availability) and the education schools receive a confirmation email and a reminder email with the details of the training they will have taking place.

About Simplybook.me

This system was reviewed and favoured because of its system features. We later found these were not as easy to use as anticipated, but we were able to work around their functionality.

The back end structure required some technical understanding, and happily the customer service was very helpful to be able to work through some of the function issues. The external view of emails came through well, and the portal was user-friendly. They also have an app and that would make it even easier for the team to manage bookings together.

The system documentation did not have as much guidance as we needed, but we were able to find workarounds to what we required. There are many customisable elements, to which we were able to action a number of them according to the subscription purchased.

Whilst the system was not specifically developed for what we wanted to use it for, we were able to successfully adapt it to the needs of the client.