MADRID -- If you want to go to the premiere of the new Almodóvar, you get your tickets online. If you want to spend the upcoming October 12 "puente" long weekend in Lisbon, you visit Rumbo, Atrapalo and MuchoViaje to compare prices and book flights and hotels. But if you need to get your braces fixed or hair dyed, you need still need to call and leave a voicemail, wait to be called back, and then hope they have the availability you wanted.
Another young start-up from Telefonica's Wayra project is working to evolve a technologically-untouched Spanish industry. Bucmi (pronounced "book me" in espanglish) is an in-the-moment online booking center that assures both businesses and customers get the reservation, without the wait. Bucmi aims to, in the words of founder and CEO Pablo, "bring the power of e-commerce to sectors where it doesn't exist yet." Their first focus is on the health and beauty markets.
Bucmi is an integrated, online calendar that both the businesses and the customers can see. Red sections of the timetable are full or nearly full, orange have low availability -- better book now! --, and green means open availability, giving the customer more leeway with his or her own schedule. "The customers can book online without calling or emailing," Pablo says.
According to the Bucmi team, there are other websites, like "Booking" that have tried similar models, but with one important difference: these sites give businesses the option to "approve or disapprove" the appointment, meaning that customers don't have their appointments confirmed in the moment. With Bucmi, the appointment is booked then and there, and the company sets up its own calendar, so the availability is guaranteed.
Health and beauty is what the Bucmi team refers to as "an emerging e-market." Of course, our inboxes are bogged down with offers from Groupon, Groupalia, LetsBonus, and the like, but pre-purchasing these deals doesn't guarantee you'll get that full-body laser hair removal or when those tiny fish will be scheduled to munch on your calluses. "For now, what you have to do to book your appointment with your hairdresser, physical therapist or dentist can take hours or days," Pablo says. "You have to call and call."
While consumer purchasing in general is at a low, the Spanish health and beauty industries are feeling a particular pain, as crisis-confronting customers are putting off these seemingly-unnecessary services. These are not, in general, big chains, but rather family-owned and small businesses. According to EuroMonitor, 90 percent of this Spanish marketplace, which includes dentists, massage and physical therapists, pharmacies and beauty consultants, is independently-owned. The first job to cut -- if they had one in the first place -- is the receptionist. More often than not, the answering machine is where you are booking your appointments. In Spain, even the hair care giant Marco Aldany doesn't employ receptionists, but rather it's dependent on if a stylist is free, if the phone is answered or not.
Not only is this a pain for customers, but it's risky for business when impatient customers can go to another, usually larger business that answers their phone calls and questions. While the first purpose of Bucmi isn't this, since the service listing is so detailed, with time, price and location, clients can also use it to compare businesses. In Spain, the average "siesta" or lunch break can last two hours, which is perfect to get your teeth whitened or hair dyed and blown out.
Bucmi customers are also less likely to cancel their appointments. The customers are buying the service ahead of time, which, of course, as Pablo says, "makes the clients more committed to show." Plus, these penny-pinching people can still use their Groupon, etcetera, coupons with Bucmi.
The Bucmi website is 20 euros a month (after a 45-day trial period) for businesses to use as a calendar and appointment management system. The start-up only takes a three-percent commission on any reservations booked and invoiced through the site.
Bucmi is also a simple way for the small business owner -- who is probably the one busy covering granny's grays, while juggling the cash drawer and phone -- to finally create that website they were always meaning to make. Bucmi has a simple fill-in-the-blank database where clients can choose from and compare not only prices, but the time needed to allot for each kind of service. Once ready to book, customers have a blank description form to add any information. To use hair as an example, a woman can put a link to Penelope Cruz's new haircut or the specific hair dye color combination, to make sure she gets exactly what she wants. Then, the hairdresser has the client history in a searchable database to pull up the next time that customer comes in.
The business can also integrate their Bucmi calendar onto their current website, as Bucmi must be the main calendar they use. This means that they go online to book the other appointments still made over the phone and in person. The public calendar immediately updates.
While online marketing is still reserved for the high-tech fields in Spain, Bucmi also is a way for businesses to have their client contact info, which they can then use to email out promotions or tips, to build a more multifaceted relationship.
Bucmi is in its beta stage right now, with about twenty businesses using their website in the first two months. Now, as Spanish businesses and especially services are reluctant to change, only about five of these beta businesses are using it fully, but even this few has resulted in 150 online bookings in those first sixty days, which included the impossibly-slow Madrid month of August.