How Pluto Found an Off-the-Shelf Solution for Mobile Bookings & Payments
Pluto is a coworking space in London having a unique business concept. They do provide workspace for those who need it but not the way we normally imagine.
If you are easily distracted by people and noise around you, Pluto is an ideal space to do your best during the day. Here you can rent an ergonomically designed pod, close its door and deeply focus on your tasks.
Here’s what Claire Hughes, the Co-Founder of Pluto says about their unusual business concept:
Pluto is unique in that we rent private Pluto pods—basically tech-enabled work booths—to individuals. You could say we are the opposite of coworking! Customers can rent pods by the hour, whenever they need some quiet time to focus or for video calls.
Pluto pods are true technological wonders and deserve a better presentation here. The booths were designed and made in the UK using sustainable materials. They also include Pluto’s own patented Purifi air cleaning technology, which they developed in cooperation with scientists at Brunel University London after being awarded Innovate UK funding last year.
The Purifi technology destroys pathogens including Covid-19, which is a real breakthrough these days and removes any contaminants and pollutants from the air. So not only is the atmosphere always fresh and clean for whoever is inside the pod, but the air filtration system can help improve overall air quality outside the pods, too.
As Claire says such kind of pods is a win-win for any coworking space who:
- needs quiet, private space for users and
- wants ways to improve indoor air quality in their overall environment.
Pluto is a technology and innovation-driven company, so they started to think about using a workspace management platform even before the project launch.
We are a technology and innovation company, so technology is always front of mind. At the point of selecting andcards, we were looking for a solution for our MVP which would enable us to get off the ground quickly and validate our business model, before further developing the concept and taking it to market. — Claire Hughes, the Co-Founder of Pluto, here and below unless otherwise stated.
They required an all-inclusive, ready-to-use solution to quickly take the pilot project off the ground by automating management operations and bookings.
Because we were launching a 6-month high street workspace pilot and had signed the lease on a retail unit, we had to work quickly. Rather than developing our own software, we needed an off-the-shelf system we could use to manage operations and bookings during the pilot.
It’s not really difficult to find a system to manage a coworking space these days. There are plenty of options available in the market. However, from previous experience, Claire knew that an administration tool simplifying operations on the manager’s side is not enough for business success.
They required native mobile apps to provide a streamlined booking experience to customers, which is key to their business. No other solution except andcards provided a full set of administrative tools along with cool and intuitive member apps, so the choice was obvious.
We looked around at other solutions in the market, and the biggest issue was that they didn’t have a native mobile app. We knew from previous experience of operating work booths in managed public spaces that users expect a mobile booking app, and that this would be key.
- Fancy branded apps
Unlike many other coworking software providers, member apps is not a by-product for andcards. Just the opposite, since andcards is about providing great service to coworking space members, mobile apps for members are our primary focus. That’s why andcards’ apps for iOS and Android enable members to access pretty much any service at the coworking space via a smartphone while being both stylish and easy to use.
The apps are developed in compliance with the latest Google and Apple guidelines, which is the secret of their utmost usability. When a customer opens the app (be it on the web or mobile), they see a familiar interface and immediately start to navigate through it without any help or training.
Pluto apps developed by andcards are fully branded with unique colors and other brand-specific elements, such as logo which helps the workspace enhance its brand awareness and design a seamless customer journey by integrating mobile apps into the brand ecosystem.
andcards enabled us to have a branded app, which was important to us. It enabled us to get up and running, taking bookings and accepting payments quickly. This was critical for us. We didn’t have months to spend setting up a booking system, we needed to get off the ground quickly.
Pluto apps are available for download on Apple App Store and Google Play Store, which makes the coworking space easily accessible to new members. People just need to install an app on their smartphone and start to use all workspace services.
- The self-service time-saving pod booking process
By providing customers with self-service apps, Pluto fully automated the pod booking process. Today, booking a pod at the workspace is as easy as opening their app on a smartphone anywhere on Earth, selecting the pod, date and time, and paying for the reservation with any convenient method (banking card, Google Pay, Apple Pay, monthly bill, etc.)
The system will even remind a member about the upcoming booking with a push notification and a widget on the main screen of the app, which minimizes the chances of abandoned reservations.
In the beginning, we offered a concierge service because we wanted to learn as much as possible about our users. We wanted to have that personal interaction so we could find out what their questions and needs were, why they were using Pluto and what problems we were solving for them.
Since then, we have automated the sign-up and booking process so it is completely autonomous. That has saved us a lot of time and crucially, lowers our operating costs.
Such automation not only makes customers happy as they don’t have to call or message the manager every time they need to use a pod for an important telecon, online interview, or e-meeting, it also makes administrators’ lives way easier. They don’t have to actually manage anything, just supervise and control the process from a central location. Managers can do it on the go, right from their smartphones as mobile apps from andcards have exactly the same functionalities as their web analogs.
Although in the beginning Pluto mostly required a booking system and native self-service apps to quickstart the pilot project, Claire names a few more andcads solutions they already take advantage of.
- Improved customer service and safety with access control system integration
The safety and security of members is the number one consideration for Pluto managers. Thanks to the deep integration of the Kisi access control system with andcards, workspace managers always know who is in the space at any moment they need to check it.
We want people to be safe and have that reassurance that we know exactly who is in the space at any given time.
Next, Kisi / andcards integration allows Pluto to cater to flexible members’ schedules better. They extended their working hours without hiring additional staff. To come early in the morning or late at night, members don’t have to negotiate the possibility with the administrator. They just book a pod, open the door with a smartphone, and come in whenever they need. It goes without saying that longer working hours without expenses on extra personnel salary bring additional money to the business.
We became more responsive to customer needs. For example, once we implemented access control we were able to extend our opening hours, so Pluto is now available from 6 am to 10 pm.
As to the possibility to unlock the door within the same app members use for bookings, it simplifies access and gives additional comfort to Pluto customers.
The andcards in-app Kisi door unlock means that our members only need one app on their phone to access the Pluto workspace. It’s a lot easier than having two separate apps!
- In-app purchasing of credit bundles
Not so long ago Pluto discovered a service marketplace solution available inside andcards app. It allows for featuring various workspace offers in a nice catalog. This functionality literally puts coworking space products and services in front of customers. They can easily find the service they are interested in and purchase it straight away.
Pluto started to experiment with credit bundles and sell them inside the app. Credits work similarly to membership plans. Customers purchase those bundles to spend credits on ordering workspace services (pods booking) afterwards.
Selling credit bundles inside the workspace app proved to be a working tactic. Pluto reduced the number of steps a customer has to make to complete the purchase (residents don’t have to go to an external resource), which led to the conversion rate increase.
Being able to offer, and take payment for credit bundles within andcards has been great. It makes the user journey and experience much simpler than going to an external website, which is what we had to do previously. We have seen the conversion rate go up significantly as a result.
- Incredible customer support
On top of being a cost-effective way to offer members a simplified booking and payment solution, which allowed to get the pilot project of the coworking space up and running very quickly, Claire considers an impressive technical support to be a one more essential virtue of andcards.
Unlike other vendors, we don’t charge any additional money for customer support. Our customer happiness managers are always available to assist with all sorts of issues, be it onboarding and integration assistance, new feature requests, or just a quick question about andcards features.
andcards team is really responsive, both in terms of ongoing customer support and product development. For us that has been really critical, because we have been learning and developing fast ourselves throughout the pilot, and having a technology partner that mirrors that has been really helpful.
- 80% of administrators’ time saved with 100% automated bookings
Presently, all pod bookings are made and paid for by members through the app. This saves nearly 80% of administrators’ time that can be redirected to coworking space promotion and service improvement activities.
Due to the full automation of the sign-up and booking processes, our members feel completely autonomous. Besides, it saves a huge amount of time for our managers, which also reduces our operating costs.
- 50% increase of conversion rates
Thanks to the extended opening hours with Kisi-andcards integration and in-app selling of credit bundles, conversion rates at Pluto increased by half.
- 99,9% members’ happiness with self-service apps
The Pluto app was easily adopted by members. No training and help were required in most cases. Clients pointed out that the app is intuitive and easy to use.
Generally, members’ feedback for using the Pluto app has been great. People have found it easy to use.
Luckily, this success story doesn’t include any sad moments or before/after statistics. Pluto started using andcards from the day it first opened its doors to members, and the system continues to meet their expectations. The results eloquently demonstrate that even a small coworking space like Pluto can benefit from a coworking space management system if it implements it from day one.
We are really happy that we started with andcards from day one of our high street workspace pilot and used it as an integral part of our routine from the outset. I believe this was a key decision that helped us get off the ground quickly with acquiring customers and meeting their need for local workspace.