No one ever hopes for a crisis, and the current COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe negative impact across society and companies alike. But crises also drive creativity. Like many companies, scheduling startup Skedulo has been adapting since March 2020. But it has also found a highly innovative way to make its product both helpful and necessary. In this brief article, you’ll learn how the company helped out its clients in trying times by quickly creating a new product with a wide range of go-to-market possibilities.
The meeting in late February was not supposed to be a game changer. Like many startups, Skedulo, had been reaching out to its clients and prospects since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. And to everyone, they said the same thing: how can we help?
“We see ourselves as a very helpful company,” says Miles Kelly, executive vice president of marketing at Skedulo. “Helpfulness is useful as a business strategy for the simple reason that it’s helpful.”
Some of the clients had requested delays in payments, which Skedulo allowed. But this meeting was different. It was with BioReference, a lab and diagnostics company that was trying to ramp up coronavirus testing across New York and New Jersey. Even before broad testing was available, hundreds of symptomatic people often showed up at testing sites unannounced in the same place at the same time, endangering facility staff and one another.
BioReference explained that it needed a solution that would handle an extremely high volume of appointment requests in a contactless manner, while maintaining social distancing and helping flatten the coronavirus curve. Could Skedulo help?
The answer was yes. Up until that time, Skedulo had focused on mobile workforce management. Its customers included healthcare and solar companies with mobile clinicians, caregivers, and technicians who visited clients out in the field, often in their homes. It specialized in scheduling for highly skilled and highly paid workforces. An autistic behavioral therapist, for example, can cost hundreds of dollars an hour. If a company experiences cancellations or problems in scheduling with such a specialist, it can quickly become costly.
By focusing on booking critical appointments Skedulo helped customers ensure that their employees and contractors were productive and efficiently serving as many of their own customers and patients as possible. But with the pandemic raging, many of its customers found their workforces grounded.
It was time for Skedulo to think creatively about a way to help. They quickly realized that other large healthcare organizations like BioReference also needed a high-capacity scheduling solution. If Skedulo could quickly adapt their product to scale from hundreds of appointments to hundreds of thousands of appointments – a new product and GTM opportunity would be theirs.
“We’re all familiar with calendaring,” says Kelly. “But if you simultaneously offer ten very desirable appointment slots for 100,000 residents, there are many technical considerations that you have to solve for in order to ensure a great experience.”
Skedulo went to work. Over the next two months, its engineering team created a simple, effective solution that could massively scale for large public health deployments. If you need a test, you can now visit a website, where you answer a few questions about who you are and how you’re feeling. Next, you see an appointment grid that reflects exact testing capacity in real-time. After you select a time and your ZIP Code, Skedulo powers the system presenting you with available times at the nearest testing locations.
Once your slot is selected and confirmed, you receive a QR code. When you show up to your appointment, you spend six-minutes onsite and are able to move through the process without exchanging any paper. The solution has been used to administer over 100,000 tests across the Northeast, helping reopen the region and get cities back to work.
Skedulo stayed true to its belief in being helpful and is making the software available free of charge all summer to any company that needs it. After that, they’ll be looking for ways to roll the system out to other industries.
“Pivots are rarely planned for businesses,” says Kelly. “Like a lot of companies, our core business, which deals with in-person visits, has been heavily impacted by the coronavirus. But high-capacity scheduling is something that everyone from sports and entertainment companies to hospitals and even the travel industry might find useful.”
So what started as an attempt to be helpful and relevant in a changed world now may have a big impact on Skedulo’s post-Covid future. While no one is certain the exact shape the world will take, things will certainly not be the same. Any solution that can ease social distancing and improve the efficiency of businesses trying to maintain public safety could prove very helpful.
“We developed the solution under duress,” says Kelly, “but we’ve ended up with a high-capacity solution that is able to schedule appointments for entire states in a useful and elegant way.”
The story is a great example of how despite the constraints the world feels with COVID, the creativity it drives can have many positive effects. How might you do things differently in a way that helps your customers?