If your event scheduling operation is like most, there are many tasks that are handled when you “get around to them” as you struggle to keep up with an ever-growing volume of requests.
While that may be a workable short-term approach, Improving efficiency in your scheduling department requires taking a closer look at how you manage room and resource request timing.
Step 1: Assess and Document Your Current Process
In order to modify your process for handling reservation requests, you first need to understand what your process is. Now, you may be saying, “I know what our process is. We’ve been doing it this way for 20 years!” And we totally respect that. But what we’re talking about is establishing a very clear baseline regarding timing. Specifically, you need to know things like:
● How far into the future can requesters book space?
● What’s the minimum amount of lead time required to book space?
● How often do you review requests and put them into your scheduling system?
● At what point is a room request sufficiently detailed that you will hold the space?
● What milestones are used to track the progress of an event that’s being planned?
● How much in advance of an event must a requester have provided all necessary information?
“But we try not to be rigid about timing,” you say. “We just sort of wing it and things always seem to work out alright.” In our experience, you’re definitely not alone! Unfortunately, while it’s nice to be flexible about reservation requests and the use of your space, the fact is that that flexibility is probably hurting your efficiency and costing your department (and/or the organization) money.
As you consider the questions above, be sure to document your answers for use in Step 2.
Step 2: Improve Your Process
Next, you need to look at the data you recorded in Step 1 and think about where improvements can be made.
● You want to get plenty of prep time for events, but does allowing people to reserve space a year in advance lead to a large number of “phantom” bookings with events that never materialize? And a great deal of time wasted scheduling and following up on them? If so, maybe you have a six-month or nine-month cutoff.
● Is your willingness to accommodate same-day (or same-hour!) requests compromising your ability to provide attentive service to people who booked space days or weeks in advance? If that’s the case, maybe you should make a rule that rooms must be reserved at least 24 hours in advance.
● Is it more efficient to put requests into your scheduling software as you receive them? Or should you block time once a day or once a week to focus exclusively on that task?
● Does holding a room for a requester who only has a rough idea of the space and services they need cause more problems than it’s worth? If it does, maybe you require an agenda and a firm “Yes” or “No” on services like catering and AV before you will reserve a room.
● Looking at past events that have flowed smoothly, what milestones were achieved and at what point between first contact and event day? Try to find a pattern and make that the template for future events.
● If less than, say, two days of heads up on booking details leaves your team scrambling, consider making a rule that if information isn’t received 48 hours prior to the event, the service (or the event itself, if necessary) will be canceled.
Talk with everyone you feel should have input on your process changes. But once you’ve decided how to move forward, do your best to avoid making exceptions, as they can quickly turn a clear process into a muddy mess!
Step 3: Document and Communicate Your New Process
Finally, once you’ve crafted your new process, it’s critical that you communicate it as widely as possible. You want to be sure that your staff understands it, of course, and also that your campus and the surrounding community knows how to engage with your team and how requesters can help ensure their event is a success.
For other strategies to improve your scheduling efficiency check out The Ultimate Guide to Taking Online Room Scheduling Requests.