Booking test participant slots, was the worst part of my job

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Executive Summary

Stop chasing test particpants up by email, and on the phone. 
Get an online bookings/scheduling system to book test participants into test slots. 🙂

Summary

The biggest pain point when setting up research, is recruiting and booking appointments with participants. 

You try to get a list of willing participants, and then spend weeks trying to juggle calendars and available slots, to get the test sessions set up. 

In an ideal world you would just test every Tuesday, (Just because “Testing Tuesday”alliterates), and ask people to turn up. 

It turns out that you can:

  • Get a booking system and put your available slots in it. 
  • Invite lots of people (around 10 times the number of slots)
  • Turn up on the day to do the testing

I ran a pilot of this approach and it was a revelation. 

I got a 10% response rate on invites, and all booking/rescheduling was done by the system. 

I also got a 100% positive rating from users, with all of them saying that they never even noticed the booking system, as it was so unobtrusive. 

The hypothesis

We believed that by using an online booking system we could:

  • Cut down our time commitment and stress levels 
  • Improve the experience for customers
  • Get more test slots filled

We would know that this had worked when: 

  • Spent less than 20 hours on a test round to get slots booked
  • Subjectively measured lower stress levels in the team
  • Subjectively measured higher satisfaction levels with customers
  • Get bookings from over 5% of invites.

What I did

I used an online booking system called YouCanBook.Me(https://youcanbook.me). This allowed us to set up a test session and ask customers to book on it. It involved: 

  • I set up a day of test sessions at 30 minute intervals. 
  • I set up a workflow on youcanbook.me.
  • I created relevant email & SMS messaging to be used by the workflow.
  • I chose a friendly URL to send to customers. This testing was Brexit related , and we use “SE” a lot. I went with: https://brexitse.youcanbook.me
  • Set up the actual booking form asking for minimal information, (Name, Tel, Email)
  • Chose a template
  • Send the invites by email

This all took about 4 hours as this was the first time I had used this system. I dry ran it with the team and when I was ready I sent it out to 40 members of our customer panel. 

We got 4 bookings, which at 10%, is a massively higher response than we usually get from the panel. 

All the bookings happened through the system. Two people even rescheduled through the system. 
Some highlights were: 

  • All email’s and SMS’s were automated
  • My calendar was updated automatically
  • Their calendar was updated automatically
  • They got reminder emails and SMS messages
  • I got reminder emails and SMS messages
  • I had a dashboard for the test day that showed me all sessions and who was booked on them 
  • It all went rather well. 
  • I was not stressed at all during the process 🙂

The Learning Card

This is what we learned in response to our original Hypothesis

We believed that by using an online booking system we could:

  • Cut down our time commitment and stress levels 
  • Improve the experience for customers
  • Get more test slots filled

We found that: 

  • Total time spent was @6 hours. This will drop with familiarity and commoditisation of email templates etc… Hypothesis Supported
  • The stress level within the team was massively lower than usual. Hypothesis Supported
  • Customers were 100% satisfied with the booking experience. Hypothesis Supported
    It was great to hear them say that they hadn’t really noticed it. That is the sign of a really good interface/system.
  • We got 4 test slots filled, (10%). Hypothesis Supported

We learned that: 

  • The Hypothesis is supported
  • it is important to dry run the system as it is really hard to see your own typos in emails that you have rewritten 10 times. 
  • Draw it out on a piece of paper before setting up the workflow in the system. 
  • Use a Team Calendar for scheduling as personal calendars have a lot of noise in them, such as meeting requests on test days, that can block out session availability in you booking system.

What we will do next 

We really wanted to use Microsoft Bookings (Bookings) to test this concept, BUT, as we have Enterprise Office 365 and Bookings is not on this plan, there is a bit of procurement needed. Procurement means time and so we went with a standalone off the shelf package for the pilot. 

Hopefully we will run a 2nd pilot soon using Microsoft Bookings

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