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A waitlist has been the most highly requested service since switching exclusively to online booking 10 years ago. The answer to this request was always "there's no waitlist", and for very well-considered reasons. That said, COVID changed things here too. The need and requests for a waitlist increased substantially. A decision was made to give it a go, despite my previous hesitations.
So far, we've tried 2 different methods of offering a waitlist. Both have had significant issues and largely failed. Most, if not all of these issues are directly related to the overwhelming backlog from lockdown here in Melbourne. The first waitlist attempt was a simple email sign up. That initially worked great, but the list quickly swelled to well over 100 names in just over 1 week. This meant getting a waitlist spot was akin to winning the lottery and many were notably frustrated. Some even sent multiple angry emails. Too, my email server was warned about sending spam as 100+ emails a couple of times a week is considered highly suspicious activity. This risked the integrity of the entire online booking system.
The second attempt was an integrated booking system waitlist. Once turned on, this attempt lasted a little over 48 hours. This waitlist method saw more than half of the people who used it having significant troubles with the interface. This prompted the need for detailed instructions, which is always an immediate indication a system still needs work. Too, people starting creating waitlists with multiple emails thinking it would help their chances. Others entered faulty or invalid contact information. This created a massive nightmare here as it upended a pedantically maintained client database. Overall, the integrated system was more challenging for clients and an instant source of stress and frustration on this end. All of that for only the potential of a waitlist opening.
So where does that leave things now? For our final attempt we are going to utilise a long-held but never used Twitter account. This was considered earlier but I've been fairly adamant about not using a social media platform. That said, this feels like I am hijacking one instead of engaging with it. The reason for using it is that their platform provides the means of very easily sending out 'push notifications' to mobile device users who want to receive them. This is key as push notifications are far more effective than either email or SMS when it comes to reaching out to people. Also, since this Twitter method requires downloading an app, fewer people will probably choose to get involved. In theory, this should keep the overall waitlist numbers low and thus, those who are most savvy and keen will have a better chance when there's an actual opening.
Ultimately, this latest attempt seems it might actually work this time. Also, I like that we're using Twitter it in a manner it wasn't intended for. This will save me having to develop my own iOS and Android apps which would effectively offer the exact same push notification functionality but would result in far more people using them. Sincere apologies for dragging everyone through this tedious waitlist 'beta' period. All of these issues are exactly why a waitlist was never previously offered. If anything, perhaps everyone now knows why there was such hesitation. Thank you for reading and more importantly, for your ongoing patience. We'll get there eventually.