Car Next Door + Google Calendar
Hello Car Next Door Owners! In this post, I’m going to run through the steps to get CND reservations syncing with your Google Calendar.
CND is cool. I really like it. I have two cars. One of those cars I don’t use very often. But apparently there are people in my neck of the woods who do need to use it. And they pay to do so.
Excess resources allocated to those who need them = my rego and servicing (and a night out a month) paid for.
As with all great ideas, there will always be ways to improve. That is not to say the CND team don’t do a magical job — they do. But in the spirit of the sharing economy, the maker movement, and automating to efficiency (I like this one), there are simple steps owners can take to level-up their CND experience. Of course, it’d be great if CND could implement every little thing that pops into our minds, but let’s face it: no company, in the history of forever, has done that. Nor should we expect it.
But with the right know-how, you don’t necessarily have to rely on the product owners to implement these ideas… So we’ll walk through implementing two time-savers on top of CND, all on our Pat Malone.
Our first task will be to start syncing up new CND reservations with our Google Calendar (sorry non-Gmail users, we can get to ya’ll another time). This is a no-brainer. It’s super handy to have all your life’s activities collected in to one spot. Our second task is going to be automagically sending SMS instructions to borrowers upon booking. I really like this one as it adds a degree of formality and autonomy to the booking process, leaving a great impression on your borrowers, encouraging them to borrow again!
SMS messages will be covered in Part 2 of this series.
Tools for the job
Zapier is a event/task -based automation service. There are others, like IFTTT, but we’ll use Zapier. In simple terms, their service tries to deliver on the functional logical construct: if a certain thing occurs (the event), go and complete this specific action (the task).
Aka: IF THIS, THEN THAT.
Twilio is a communications platform any one can use to automatically send text messages, make phone calls, and so on. You know those marketing text messages you get? Probably from a Twilio customer.
Disclaimer: these services are not free. It costs money to use Zapier, and it costs money to use Twilio. In Zapier, you will need a Basic Plan for Multi-Step Zaps, and in Twilio, you’ll need to add credit for SMS messages (but they’re cheap).
Syncing CND with Google Calendar
If you’re a CND Car Owner, you will have received an email like this:
Personally, I get a little excited each time I get one of these emails! The routine begins: if there’s enough time, I’ll do a vacuum, maybe a spray clean, but definitely a general tidy. I’ll also add an entry in my calendar marking the start and end date/times of the borrow. This last step is what we want The Computers to do for us. Here’s how:
After you’ve registered for a Zapier account (you can trial it for 14 days before paying any cash money), create a new Zap. Click Make a Zap!
That’ll land you at the Zap Dashboard. Give the Zap a name:
CND Calendar Sync
Step 1 — Gmail new email search
Then search for the Gmail App and select this as your Trigger App.
The Gmail Trigger you need is New Email Matching Search. As the name suggests, this Zap will run when you receive a new email that matches a Search Term (which we’ll set up shortly). Select it, then click Save + Continue.
Next up, you’ll need to connect Zapier to your Gmail account. Click the button Connect a New Account and follow along. You can see that I’ve already connected mine. This will allow Zapier to query your new emails for a given Search Term. When an email is found, your Zap will run.
Zapier does not retain or make record of your emails and their content. It is merely running a search on the Gmail service, and acting upon the results returned.
With your Gamil account connected, click Save + Continue.
At the next step, we’re going to set up a Search Term to use when querying Gmail for matching emails. This search term is:
from:email@example.com AND subject:A new reservation has been made on your vehicle
“Zapier, when you search my Gmail, please search for emails from firstname.lastname@example.org with the text A new reservation has been made on your vehicle in the email’s subject line. Thanks!”
Press Continue. At the next step, you can run a test of this search on Gmail. Go for it. You should see the test come back successful (meaning Zapier found at least one recent CND New Reservation email). Lastly, rename your step to something more meaningful (click the little pencil at the bottom of the Step). I chose Search Gmail for new reservations. You can do the same.
Hooray, Step 1 of our Zap is completed! Only two steps to go. The next one is a little bit fancy. Ever programmed software before? Cut code? Compiled an SDK?
WELL! There’s a first for everything! (Just kidding. This is copy + paste territory).
Step 2 — Code by Zapier (by me)
For Step 2 of your Zap, we’re going to add in a bit of code to extract some important details from the new reservation email. Start by searching for the App Code by Zapier.
First step: under the heading, Input Data, type subject in the first input field, and in the second dropdown box, pick the Gmail Subject field.
Your screen now looks like this:
Next, add another Input Data field (click the little + button to the right) called body, using the Gmail Body Plain field. Now you have this:
You can now run a test on this code. It will use the email previously found when you connected Zapier with Gmail. If I’m any good at what I do, you should see a screen like this one, indicating your test was successful:
My code should happily handle daylight savings differences. But I make no guarantees!
As with Step 1, you can give this step a nice name: I opted for Extract booking details.
And that concludes Step 2 of our Zap. Onward! Click the Add a step button.
Step 3 — Creating a Google Calendar entry
With the necessary details extracted from the email, it’s pretty obvious what we’re going to do with them! So let’s connect up your Google Calendar with Zapier. Follow the same process as when you connected Gmail.
Search for Google Calendar in the the Trigger App listing…
The Action to take is Create Detailed Event.
Select Connect a New Account and hook up your Google Calendar account.
The next screen is where we configure the calendar entry template. There’s lots of fields here, but only a few are relevant. We’ll focus on the fields Calendar, Summary, Description, Start Date & Time, End Date & Time. You can make modifications to the other fields as you wish (calendar entry colour, reminders, etc.).
In the Calendar dropdown, select your Google Calendar. You may have a separate Calendar for CND bookings. I do. If not, your default will do (this is usually just your email address).
I’d highly recommend creating a new Calendar for your CND bookings — if you do not, it’ll look like you have seriously long all day bookings. I use my calendar for work, so a 4 day CND reservation throws things out a little!
In the Summary field, pick the Calendar Summary field from the list of available fields as output by Step 2 (Code by Zapier).
Note: I’ve blanked out my borrower’s personal details with grey boxes. You won’t see those on your screen.
Do the same for the Description field of the calendar entry (there’s a corresponding Calendar Description field in the output from Step 2).
In the calendar entry Start Date & Time/End Date & Time fields, map the corresponding fields from our output called Calendar Start Date Time and Calendar End Date Time.
And with that, your Calendar Entry form should like pretty much like this one (ignoring grey privacy squares!):
You can give your step a nice name, as with Steps 1 and 2. Then scroll to the bottom, and hit the Continue button. The next step is to test your handy work. Click Create & Continue!
All going to plan, you should see the Zap step running, and then…
You’re done! You can click Finish and activate your Zap!
I’ve covered one scenario to help automate tasks off the back of CND reservations. There are other aspects to consider with reservations like updates and cancellations. I haven’t covered that logic here, but you’d be looking at doing much the same. If there’s interest, I can write up those two also.
In Part 2, I’m going to walk through sending text messages to Borrowers upon new reservation events. Follow me on Medium to stay tuned.
Too complicated? Would you like an easier solution?
I’m Hagen, and I’m a web consultant and business automation specialist. If you’d be willing to pay for this kind of service, let me know. Zapier is a half-way solution and I’d really like to begin building out automation tools with tight integration to CND. But without interested parties, it won’t get off the ground. Take this short survey and let me know your thoughts…