Laurie: Today I am speaking with Arash Asli, who is the Chief Executive Officer at Yocale. Arash and I met earlier this year at a Salesforce event. Arash’s company, Yocale, provides small local businesses with some very compelling marketing services. Arash, can you tell us about Yocale and the problems that you help small businesses solve?
Arash: Absolutely. Yocale’s story started with a basic search on a smart phone for a local service, a massage therapist actually, and in the frustration of not being able to reach any therapist or book an appointment in the evening. So it sparked the idea for a listing site that people could use to find info on local service providers, and then book them online—kind of like a combination of Yelp and OpenTable, but for appointment-based services. This of course helps customers easily find and book appointments. The YoCale platform becomes the place where the local consumers can discover, book, and review local service providers within their community. So you don’t have to drive 10 miles across two suburbs for a hair stylist when there’s a great right in your neighborhood—who may also be able to recommend a local massage therapist or a personal trainer nearby.
But our key mission is to support appointment-based local businesses by helping them to attract local customers, take the friction out of scheduling, and increase customer satisfaction. Just like the buy local movement, we’re like the book local movement basically with a mission of encouraging consumers to book local with service providers.
Laurie: This seems to be part of the trend towards more specific or individualized marketing services for different kinds of businesses, with Yocale targeting local small business service providers.
Arash: Exactly. In addition to marketing, we also help them automate operations, such as online booking, text and email reminders to reduce no-shows, email marketing, SEO optimized search, staff scheduling and more. Our software tackles two of the main challenges that these businesses face, which are marketing and data security and records management, which are two of the top SMB challenges that you covered in SMB Group’s 2016 Top Ten SMB Technology Trends. Once we help appointment-based businesses attract new clients, solution makes it easy for them to manage their entire business on securely in the cloud, from any device.
Laurie: Right, right, and this is for service providers, which are actually a bigger percentage of small local businesses than those selling physical products, and their needs are definitely different.
Arash: Absolutely. For these businesses, online marketing can be extremely difficult and it can be expensive to stand out and get the traffic online. With the Yocale marketplace, we group all the service providers in one community together, so we can funnel bigger stream of motivated local purchasers. This makes it easier for service providers to get discovered, and streamlines the booking process for appointments.
Another way we help is with the Yocale internal referral system. We have a community of local service providers, and we promote complementary services to the consumers or the members of Yocale that are booking services. So, when the client books an appointment with one service provider, we let them know that they can book their other services in the same area with the same account
Laurie: What areas is the Yocale service available in?
Arash: We initially launched Yocale in Vancouver, Canada, and we’re expanding to other areas. So, we have customers from various different cities throughout North America and overseas now. People are signing up because we help them to market more effectively, automate operations, such as invoicing and staff scheduling, and to manage clients. When they start using our software, they automatically become part of our marketplace.
Laurie: So, if you’re a small local service provider in an area and you haven’t really heard of Yocale or familiar with it, how would you start kind of taking advantage of it and using it in an area that you guys haven’t kind of officially entered yet? Is there a way to do that?
Arash: Yes. Those customers can still sign up, and we can help automate their operation, with the functions we discussed. So as long as they do business in an English-speaking country and in the appointment based business, we can help them.
Laurie: Okay, great, and do you have anyone, just to kind of maybe wrap up, do you have like your favorite example of a local services business where using this has really made a difference?
Arash: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll just use an example of a well-known hair salon in downtown Vancouver. Their clients are high net worth individuals, celebrities. They were doing a lot of things manually, working 10 – 12 hours a day to just to try to keep customers happy from a point of view of being able to schedule and reschedule them. And time is a precious commodity for a lot of small, local service providers.
With Yocale, people can book online and they can reduce their no shows. It’s saving the salon a lot of time and aggravation. It’s really taken off—about 85% of their customers now book online.
Laurie: Thanks, Arash, for the Yocale overview.