Built on Burner: Hostbot, a Case Study

Built on Burner: Hostbot, a Case Study

This week we launched an exciting new addition to our virtual number platform for consumers: an API with the ability to authenticate using OAuth 2.0. Now it’s easier than ever to build an app on top of Burner, or integrate Burner’s contacts management, auto-reply, do-not-disturb, and texting functionality into an app of your own devising.

To accompany the launch, and give product managers and potential partners ideas about how the new platform can be used, we once again partnered with Voxable—the team that built Ghostbot.

This article is a case study of that project—how we found our audience, identified their needs, and built an app on Burner to help them run their businesses more efficiently. Follow along to learn how we did it, and how you can emulate this process to build apps of your own.

The Burner team working with Voxable on Hostbot, a Burner Line for Vacation Rental Hosts

Finding Our Audience: Airbnb Hosts

When we first were developing Burner’s API with OAuth, we saw it as a way to enable developers and partners to build features and apps that we might not be able to build ourselves.

We wanted to build an app to demonstrate the capabilities, something that had a real impact on a real-world market. We had lots of possible directions. People use Burner for Craigslist, Airbnb, Tinder, Etsy, and much more. But we didn’t know exactly what the app would be.

After some discussion, we settled on an interesting fact: many Airbnb hosts are already using our numbers to manage their properties. They rely on Burner to help protect their privacy while still giving them reliable calling and texting with their guests across multiple properties.

We went forward from there, confident that we would be providing additional value to an active group of our customers.

Identifying the Pain Point: Wasted Time

Next, we needed to find out what kind of value a third party Airbnb app could add to a phone number already being used in the wild.

Through a series of interviews with Airbnb hosts using Burner, Voxable discovered that Airbnb hosts experience a high amount of call and text volume just to answer common questions from guests during their stay. Answering questions from one group of guests in a single property doesn’t take much time. But multiply that by several properties, and the time needed goes up by an order of magnitude.

Voxable landed on the idea of a simple auto-responder bot that could answer basic questions about a property, so the host didn't have to.

Minimum Viable Product: FAQ with NLP

Digging through the interview transcriptions, as well as Airbnb host data available in online forums, Voxable identified sixteen key questions that hosts get asked the most.

Once we had the questions worked out, our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) became clear: Voxable would create a simple online form that would allow hosts to answer those questions once, and then create a “smart agent” (bot) on Burner that auto-responds to common questions on the host’s behalf.

Hostbot's form for FAQs and common answers for Airbnb guests

Enter HostBot

The result of this project was HostBot. It uses a Natural Language Processing (NLP) service called API.ai to help the bot identify multiple permutations of our sixteen common questions from guests.

Once it was ready, we sent it around to our Airbnb users for some testing. Our early beta tests found that while the bot handled many basic things well—and saved time for hosts—there were certain kinds of questions that needed direct human intervention.

Based on this feedback, we added a model where the agent auto-replies to questions it knows, but still passes the conversation through to the host so that they can listen in and intervene if they need to.

Hostbot's auto-responder in action

In subsequent builds, we plan on adding the ability for the agent to directly contact the host when it encounters a question it cannot answer or deems to be highly important. This kind of human monitoring is something only available because the app is sitting on Burner, which has a user interface through which to pass the message.

You can try HostBot out right now! (Make sure you sign up for Burner and create a number first.) Go to hostbot.burnerapp.com to get started.

Build Your App on Burner!

Anyone can create an app on Burner like this. Our new API has built-in text messaging, auto-reply, DND mode, and contacts management.

Connect your Burner line to Hostbot for free

Using Burner, you get to the fun stuff faster than if you went with an API like Twilio or Broadband, where you would be required to build basic telephony functions from scratch first.

Burner is a natural fit for companies who want to help their users maintain control of their privacy while ensuring their own security quality. We can provide both peace of mind to you (with two factor authentication) and to your audience by allowing them to use the Burner app.

Read more about Burner’s API in the docs, about OAuth 2.0 specifically, or about the other OAuth examples and webhook examples we’ve put together on the platform.

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