6 Ways to Streamline How You Take Reservation Requests
Want to boost the efficiency of your scheduling operation? Doing so can deliver everything from a reduced workload for your staff to greater customer satisfaction, so it’s hard to imagine any answer other than an enthusiastic, “Yes!” But that reply typically, and understandably, is followed by a question: “How do we do that?” Well, as is so often the case, the best place to start is at the beginning!
Tips for Optimizing the Online Reservation Request Process
Providing hosts with an online reservation request process that is fast, efficient, and user friendly creates a “positive trajectory” for the entire event. But that means more than putting a simple request form on your website and directing people to it. In order for the process to be effective, you have to 1) understand your requestors, and 2) be clear about what it is you need from them.
Whether you have been taking requests online for years or are just moving in that direction, here are a few proven strategies for optimizing your request process.
1. Make your request form easy to find
We’ve all been there… the one thing you need on a website is the one thing you can’t find! It’s frustrating and not a good way to get started in your interaction with an organization. If your events department is like most, you have a section of your website devoted to event and facility scheduling. You know it’s there, but do your users? Take steps to determine if website visitors are able to locate the form quickly. If they can’t, do whatever it takes to remedy that situation.
2. Make your request form mobile-friendly
How easy is your website to access from a phone? With over half of all web traffic originating from mobile devices, your site is now most likely being visited more from a smartphone than a desktop computer. This is especially true for students. So, making sure that your request form is optimized for mobile is critical for getting people to make requests online. You can even take this one step further by using a mobile app to handle requests. Mobile apps have several advantages over web pages that are simply modified to work on mobile devices. Apps generally are faster, have a more intuitive interface, and provide a better user experience.
3. Make the form easy to complete
It’s human nature that the harder it is to complete a task, the less likely it is someone will complete it or complete it correctly. Users should never struggle to fill out a request form. Your primary objective should be to make your request form as easy to complete as possible. This is relatively easy for basic requests that just require a room and no special setup. Large events requiring AV, catering, and complicated setups involve much more detail, but you can still simplify the way you ask for the information by using checklists and indicating the lead time required for different services.
4. Integrate your request form with your scheduling system
Allowing hosts to submit requests for rooms that are already booked, and having to communicate that fact to them, is frustrating for hosts and unproductive for your staff. A better approach is to have your request form integrated into your room booking system so that requests are only submitted for space that is available. There will, of course, be some types of events where it isn’t appropriate to check availability at the time of request. For example, summer conferences that require rooms in multiple venues – meeting and dining space and often overnight accommodations – are not good candidates for online requests that check room available. However, you can provide a second form that doesn’t check availability for use with more complex events.
Another benefit of having the request form integrated with your scheduling system is that it eliminates the need for staff to re-enter information from the form to the scheduling system. Not only does this save time, it prevents data entry errors.
5. Request the right amount of information
Ask for too much information on a request form and people either won’t use or will complete it with “best guess” information that isn’t helpful. Ask for too little information and it is hard for your team to begin preparing for the event. A best practice is to design your online request form to gather as much information as you need to hold the space (date, time, location, and the person’s contact information) and get a general idea about services needed (A/V, catering, etc.). With this framework in place, you are in good shape, and can work out the remaining details how and when it’s convenient.
6. Follow up on requests promptly and appropriately
The type of event for which space is requested determines the kind of follow-up that is needed. For simple events, sending a confirmation document is typically all that is required. For more involved events, additional conversations will be necessary. In either case, you should touch base with the requestor promptly. Ideally this will take place using a messaging app built into your scheduling system so the correspondence is recorded and available to other staff members. A timely response is important for a couple reasons. First, it sets the tone for your ongoing interactions with the host, and you want them to reply to your questions promptly! Second, if you fail to get back to them quickly, they may start looking at other options and the reserved room may go unused.
Get Your Events Off to a Flying Start!
As an events professional, your goal is to provide great experiences for your guests. And, that experience begins even before the event takes place. By implementing these best practices for online request forms, you help ensure that hosts and attendees are happy, that your staff is highly productive, and that you have a positive reputation with your campus community.
Do you need help making your request process more efficient? See our free online resource, The Ultimate Guide to Taking Online Room Scheduling Requests.