Why Scheduling is More Social than You Think

Lunch dates, business meetings, and social gatherings sound like random events, but they all share two things in common: personal interactions and scheduling.

We interact with others throughout our day. Some exchanges are spontaneous while at work or on the go. Other meetings are scheduled in advance by saving the date and confirming an appointment. We schedule many things from doctor’s appointments to training courses and from vacations to video conferences.

Social dynamics include the behaviors, relationships and interactions of individuals and groups. Relationships play a role in every interaction, and individuals are influenced by one another’s behavior. Each get-together has a social implication for the organizer and the invitee.

If we take the time to book a date and come together with another person, there is an explicit understanding of shared time during the planned event. But there is also a time investment and social implication for planning. The act of scheduling is a process, and a rather inconvenient and time-consuming process at that. It can take upwards of seven phone calls or emails over several days for two people to find a mutually convenient meeting time and location. Getting a group of people together only compounds the effort required to secure a date.

It should come as no surprise that technology is running to the rescue to simplify this process. Google offers shared calendars and Doodle provides polls to vote on dates, but they have not alleviated the problem of unresponsiveness and inaction that plague the traditional scheduling process.

So what is the latest buzz term in the world of scheduling? Virtual personal assistants.

That is right. Virtual personal assistants (PA) supported by artificial intelligence (AI) have entered the scheduling arena. One company, x.ai, has introduced Amy Ingram (or her twin brother Andrew). Both are AIs that assume the role of a human administrative assistant. To set up an appointment, the organizer emails the invitee with details of a proposed get together and cc’s the virtual PA asking it to interact with the invitee to complete the scheduling process. From there, the invited party interacts primarily with the virtual assistant.

AI can reduce the time wasted by the original organizer. However, the virtual assistant does not eliminate the back and forth. Rather, the cumbersome ping-ping method of scheduling stays the same, and the burden of this process is placed on the person who is being invited.

Using a service like Amy is the same as directing your friends or associates to the email equivalent of an automated telephone system. It seems counter-intuitive to transfer people whose time you value to a system that mimics what is arguably the most irritating device in modern business. And like any automated telephone system, the AI is not flexible. If the initial instructions were not clear enough or not possible for the invitee then the organizer is also pulled back into the email ping-pong.

At some point in all our lives scheduling becomes a necessity. We have endured the hassle of scheduling out of respect because the person we are meeting is important to us. But saving time for ourselves while deferring a friend or associate to an automated service sends a different message.

Consider Lara O’Reilly’s test of x.ai for one week for Business Insider. When one of her contacts realized she had a “personal assistant” they replied, “Well if I would have known you had people I would have got my people to speak to your people.” Another colleague wrote, “Who is Amy?? Do you have a secret PA? Have you got dead senior and will forget all your friends and just hang out with really important people instead?”

These responses raise an interesting question: what does using a virtual personal assistant tell our contacts about our status and how valuable they are to us?

Sure, automated scheduling programs can make the user more organized by taking over for its “boss” and setting up meetings. But automated scheduling assistants also have unexpected implications for relationships. While scheduling carries the stigma of bureaucracy and boring administration, it is a rather personal activity. In most cases, you are planning to meet people you already know, are somewhat acquainted with, or who stand to benefit you in some way. As a result, there are a whole host of norms and expectations surrounding your interactions with that person, regardless of the length of your acquaintance.

We know the reason companies invest so much in automated systems is in an effort to save time and money. Is this the impression we want to give to our clients and colleagues?

O’Reilly ultimately decided that despite its advantages, she would not use x.ai. Her reason: the perceived “status” or sense of importance. In other words, outsourcing relationship management and appointment setting to a machine sets up an uncomfortable dynamic in which the sender implies that they are too busy or important to handle such arrangements themselves.

MeetVibe is a better alternative.

Our scheduling philosophy emphasizes the social and human element of coming together. MeetVibe integrates the latest technology to reduce the time required for the act of scheduling so that people can make the most of their time with the ones who are important to them.

The MeetVibe app syncs with your contacts and calendar to offer calendar availability viewing. No more emailing back and forth with or without a personal assistant. Neither person’s time is wasted suggesting dates that are already booked. With MeetVibe, people who are connected can easily scroll through times to choose an option when both people are free.

Giving equal control for 1:1 meetings, both the organizer and the invitee can update the meeting details. Since all parties are available for the suggested meeting time, all it takes is a simple click of “accept” and the date is saved to their calendar. MeetVibe invitations expire after 24 hours, which prompts users to take action, effectively finalizing the scheduling process quickly for everyone.

This emphasis on easing the cumbersome task of scheduling to focus on the human aspect of the interaction does not end after the invite has been accepted. MeetVibe’s Concierge adds a personal touch by taking the extra care to inform attendees that the organizer is arriving. This automation reduces the effort of the organizer while using technology to improve the experience of those attending.

Build meaningful connections and show them they are important to you. Reducing the time required for all parties to schedule cultivates a social dynamic that reflects value for the relationship and mutual respect. Whether you are booking that lunch date or arranging a business meeting, sign up today and schedule your next get together with MeetVibe.

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Also published on Medium.