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Workflow Automation with PHP and Laravel

One of the more abstract concepts you'll handle when building your business is what the workflow will look like.

At its core, setting up a standardized workflow is about enabling your service providers (agents, hosts, customer service reps, administrators, and the rest of the gang) to better serve your customers.

To illustrate a very real-world example, today we'll build a PHP and Laravel webapp for finding and booking vacation properties — tentatively called Airtng.

Here's how it'll work:

  1. A host creates a vacation property listing
  2. A guest requests a reservation for a property
  3. The host receives an SMS notifying them of the reservation request. The host can either Accept or Reject the reservation
  4. The guest is notified whether a request was rejected or accepted

Learn how Airbnb used Twilio SMS to streamline the rental experience for 60M+ travelers around the world.

Workflow Building Blocks

We'll be using the Twilio REST API to send our users messages at important junctures. Here's a bit more on our API:

        
        
        
        
        app/Http/routes.php

        Let's boldly go to the next step! Hit the button below to begin.

        Let's Work on Our Workflow

        User and Session Management

        Our workflow will require allowing users to create accounts and log-in in order to attempt to reserve properties.

        Each User will need to have a phone_number which will be required to send SMS notifications later.

              
              
              
              
              database/migrations/2014_10_12_000000_create_users_table.php

              User table migration

              database/migrations/2014_10_12_000000_create_users_table.php

              Next up, we will create a table that represents a Vacation Rental property.

              Next

              Vacation Property

              We're going to need a way to create the property listings for Airtng to be a success.

              The VacationProperty model belongs to a User who created it (we'll call this user the host moving forward) and contains only two properties: a description and an image_url.

              It has two associations: it has many reservations and many users through those reservations.

                    
                    
                    
                    
                    database/migrations/2015_10_23_193814_create_vacation_properties_table.php

                    VacationProperty table migration

                    database/migrations/2015_10_23_193814_create_vacation_properties_table.php

                    Next at the plate: how we will model a reservation.

                    Next

                    Our Reservation Model

                    The Reservation model is at the center of the workflow for this application. It is responsible for keeping track of:

                    • The guest who performed the reservation
                    • The vacation_property the guest is requesting (and associated host)
                    • The status of the reservation: pending, confirmed, or rejected

                    Since the reservation can only have one guest in this example, we simplified the model by assigning phone_number directly to the model (but you'll want to move it out).

                          
                          
                          
                          
                          database/migrations/2015_10_23_194614_create_reservations_table.php

                          Reservations table migration

                          database/migrations/2015_10_23_194614_create_reservations_table.php

                          Our tables are ready, now let's see how we would create a reservation.

                          Next

                          Reservation Creation

                          The reservation creation form holds only a single field: the message that will be sent to the host user when reserving one of her properties.

                          The rest of the information necessary to create a reservation is taken from the user that is logged into the system and the relationship between a property and its owner.

                          A reservation is created with a default status pending, so when the host replies with a confirm or reject response the system knows which reservation to update.

                                
                                
                                
                                
                                app/Http/Controllers/ReservationController.php

                                Create a new reservation

                                app/Http/Controllers/ReservationController.php

                                Let's take a look at how the SMS notification is sent to the host when the reservation is created.

                                Notify the Host

                                Notify the Host

                                When a reservation is created for a property, we want to notify the owner of that property that someone has requested a reservation.

                                This is where we use Twilio's Rest API to send an SMS message to the host, using our Twilio phone number. Sending SMS messages using Twilio takes just a few lines of code.

                                Now we just have to wait for the host to send an SMS response to 'accept' or 'reject', notify the guest, and update the reservation.

                                      
                                      
                                      
                                      
                                      app/Http/Controllers/ReservationController.php

                                      Notify the host of a new reservation request

                                      app/Http/Controllers/ReservationController.php

                                      Let's see how we would handle incoming messages from Twilio and accept or reject reservations.

                                      Next

                                      Handle Incoming Messages

                                      We're zoomed in for a closer look at the acceptReject method. This method handles our incoming Twilio request and does three things:

                                      1. Checks for a pending reservation from the incoming user
                                      2. Updates the status of the reservation
                                      3. Responds to the host and sends a notification to the guest
                                            
                                            
                                            
                                            
                                            app/Http/Controllers/ReservationController.php

                                            Accept or reject a reservation logic

                                            app/Http/Controllers/ReservationController.php

                                            In order to route an SMS messages to and from the host, we need to setup Twilio webhooks. The next pane will show you the way.

                                            Next

                                            Handle Incoming Twilio Requests

                                            This method handles the Twilio request triggered by the host's SMS and does three things:

                                            1. Checks for a pending reservation from a user
                                            2. Updates the status of the reservation
                                            3. Responds to the host and sends a notification to the user

                                            Setting Up Incoming Twilio Requests

                                            In the Twilio console, you should change the 'A Message Comes In' webhook to call your application's endpoint in the route /reservation/incoming:

                                            SMS Webhook

                                            One way to expose your machine to the world during development is to use ngrok. Your URL for the SMS web hook on your phone number should look something like this:

                                            http://<subdomain>.ngrok.io/reservation/incoming
                                            

                                            An incoming request from Twilio comes with some helpful parameters. These include the From phone number and the message Body.

                                            We'll use the From parameter to look up the host and check if he or she has any pending reservations. If she does, we'll use the message body to check for the message 'accepted' or 'rejected'. Finally, we update the reservation status and send an SMS to the guest telling them the host accepted or rejected their reservation request.

                                            TwiML Response

                                            In our response to Twilio, we'll use Twilio's TwiML to command Twilio to send an SMS notification message to the host.

                                                  
                                                  
                                                  
                                                  
                                                  app/Http/Controllers/ReservationController.php

                                                  Finding a reservation from an incoming Twilio request

                                                  app/Http/Controllers/ReservationController.php

                                                  In the last step, we'll respond to Twilio's request with some TwiML instructing it to send an SMS to both the host and guest.

                                                  Next

                                                  TwiML Response

                                                  After updating the reservation status, we must notify the host that he or she has successfully confirmed or rejected the reservation. If the host has no pending reservation, we'll instead return an error message.

                                                  If we're modifying a reservation, we'll also send a message to the user who requested the rental delivering the happy or sad news.

                                                  We use the Message verb from TwiML to instruct Twilio to send two SMS messages.

                                                        
                                                        
                                                        
                                                        
                                                        app/Http/Controllers/ReservationController.php

                                                        Respond to a user with reservation status

                                                        app/Http/Controllers/ReservationController.php

                                                        Congratulations! We've just automated a rental workflow with Twilio's Programmable SMS, and now you're ready to add it to your own application.

                                                        Next, let's take a look at some other easy to add features you might like to add.

                                                        Next

                                                        What to Next?

                                                        PHP + Twilio? Excellent choice! Here are a couple other tutorials for you to try:

                                                        Click To Call

                                                        Put a button on your web page that connects visitors to live support or salespeople via telephone.

                                                        Automated Survey

                                                        Instantly collect structured data from your users with a survey conducted over a voice call or SMS text messages.

                                                        Did this help?

                                                        Thanks for checking this tutorial out! If you have any feedback to share with us, please hit us up on Twitter and let us know what you're building!

                                                        Mario Celi Jose Oliveros Agustin Camino Kat King David Prothero Andrew Baker Paul Kamp

                                                        Need some help?

                                                        We all do sometimes; code is hard. Get help now from our support team, or lean on the wisdom of the crowd browsing the Twilio tag on Stack Overflow.