Sending SMS Reminders From Google Calendar or Apple iCal

This article will show you how to sending SMS reminders to your Google Calendar events and appointments using directSMS’ Zappier app.

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SMS Message

If you’ve used Zapier before, this should be a very easy process. If not, we’ve included some screen grabs to make your life a whole lot easier for when you need to sending SMS invites.

Zapier detects changes to your Google Calenar account by polling and looking for changes every 15 minutes or so. This article will show you how to use this mechanism to have Zapier trigger the sending SMS reminder messages before the different events in your Google Calendar.

And thanks to being able to sync Google Calendar with Apple’s and other iCal based calendars, we can create events using iCal and have them synced to Google Calendar where Zapier will then pick them up and trigger SMS reminders for them.

To get started, you will need to follow the steps outlined in the directSMS’ Zappier app article in order to create a Zapier account and to add the directSMS app to your Zapier account.

If you have already done this, you can safely skip steps 1 through to 3 of this how to send SMS invitations guide .

Step 1 – Sign up for a directSMS account

You will need to have your very own directSMS account. If you do not have one already, you’re welcome to register for our no obligation 30 day free trial by completing the registration form here.

Step 2 – Sign up for a Zapier account

You will need to sign up for an account with Zapier. Again, there is an excellent free trial you can utilise in order to see how things work.

Step 3 – Add the directSMS app to your Zapier account

The directSMS app is not yet public. It is currently available by invite only. To add it to your Zapier account, go to the following URL: https://zapier.com/developer/invite/14778/8f809e0143bd670a93b4503d4b4b211e/ and accept the invite to use the directSMS Zapier app

Once this is done, we can get on with the Google Calendar integration.

Step 4 – Select trigger and action for sending SMS invites

Once you’re logged onto your Zapier account, the first step is to click on the button marked “Make Zap“. From there, you need to search for the trigger application. In this case, we’re looking for “Google Calendar“. Once that is found, you want to pick one of the events that this piece of integration will trigger on.

In this case, we’re going to trigger on “Event Start“. In this case, we will configure Zapier to trigger an SMS 24 hours before the event is scheduled to start. This is completely configurable of course so you can do whatever you see fit from a business process point of view for when to send SMS invites.

Likewise, we need to search for the action application. In this case, we’re looking for “directSMS“. Once this is found, we want to pick the “Send SMS” action.

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Select trigger and action

We now have the beginning of a zap (integration) that will run whenever an Event starts in Google Calendar. When Zapier detects this happening, it will trigger the command to send SMS invites as a result.

Step 5 – Add Google Calendar account

Here we add the Google Calendar account credentials and grant Zapier platform the required permissions to interact with your Zapier account. Click Test Account to ensure the configuration works.

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Add Google Calendar account

Step 6 – Add directSMS account

Here we select our directSMS account. If you haven’t added one before, the system will require your directSMS username and password.

These are the same credentials you use to log onto directSMS’ customer portal.

Please note, you need to have API access enabled on your directSMS account. Please see the instructions in this article  if you have any errors when you click “Test Account“.

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Add directSMS account

Step 7 – Filter for the events to trigger on

At this step, we will tell Zapier which events to trigger on and when. Google Calendar allows us to create multiple calendars so we will select the calendar to use and say trigger off all events a full 24 hours before each event.

If we wanted to, we can even search for events with specific search terms so as not to waste time fetching every event in the calendar going forward.

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Filter Google Calendar events

Step 8 – Configure the outgoing SMS

Now… We need to map the fields from the Google Calendar event into a legible outgoing SMS message. The fields on this screen are very similar to the Send SMS screen on our Web 2 SMS portal.

Before we start… We need some conventions

In order for us to store the reminder message as well as the phone number(s) we need to send it to inside of Google Calendar, we need to define some conventions.

The easiest solution here involves:

1. Storing the client’s name and appointment time

The main information we want to store here are the client’s name and their appointment time.

We can start by storing the reminder message (containing the client’s name and appointment time) in the event’s “Summary” field. This is the field that is displayed in your Calendar view and should give you enough details to be able to differentiate between your different clients or patients.

For the simplest form of integration we would type something like “Physio XTRA appointment for Jane Smith at 10:30AM tomorrow. Please call us on 02 9348 2380 if you can’t make it.

The above will do the job, but it involves a LOT of duplication. We can do better… For starters, we can store the important components of the message in the Summary field, and leave the repeated components in the Zapier message later on.

We can shorten the above message to “Janes Smith at 10:30AM“. This way, the calendar view is not cluttered with all the details that will be repeated in every single message.

We can then add this repeated information into the Zapier message template. For this example, our template message in Zapier becomes “Physio XTRA appoingment for (Summary) tomorrow. Please call us on 02 9348 2380 if you can’t make it.“.

And so Zapier will take the contents of what you type in the event’s Summary field add the above message text around it before sending out as a coherent, consistent reminder each time.

2. Storing the client’s phone numbers

Once we’ve stored the name and time, we need to store the phone number(s) of the clients we want to send each reminder to. We can utilise the event’s “Description” field for this. This field is typically not be displayed in a lot of places so we should be safe enough to use it.

If we want to send this reminder to multiple people, we will need to add the phone numbers separated by commas.

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Create Google Calendar event

Once we’ve standardised where we’re going to store the patient’s name and appointment time and their phone numbers in the different Google Calendar events, we can merge the fields from the event record in Google Caledar into a standard template message, and send this

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Set SMS message parameters

Remember… All this depends on the data stored in your Google Calendar being accurate and well formatted.

Step 9 – Test your new zap and save it

Do some testing. Zapier will pull back some test data from Google Calendar (if it finds data matching your filter settings). Pick a test case and give it a try… Or not. Remember, someone will be getting an SMS if it works so perhaps ensure you add a couple of test events with your number to do some testing.

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Test Zap

Give the zap a name and activate it. That’s it. You are done.

Considerations

Please see Zapier’s documentation for the best way to debug any issues. The vast majority of issues boil down to bad data.You have to remember that all this integration is relying on the data in your Goog account being present, correct and well formatted. The old saying of garbage in, garbage out applies.

One small gotcha… Zapier checks Google Calendar for changes every 15-20 minutes, so last minute changes to calendar appointments may not be picked up. Also, messages may not go out exactly 24 hours before each event as a side effect of this.

Appointment Reminders In Bulk

If all this integration is too much, and you want a simpler way (all be it more manual way) of doing things, please check our SMS Appointment Reminders – A Step By Step Guide for how you can utilise our Web 2 SMS service to send your reminders in bulk.