Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University) is a four-year, comprehensive public university located in San Luis Obispo, California. With a ‘Learn by doing’ philosophy, the university offers its 20,000 plus students a hands-on educational experience and provides a large range of specialized resources for their use.
Danielle Veatch, Media Resource Center Technician in Customer Technology Support (CTS), spoke to Lorensbergs about their experience of using connect2 software for equipment reservations, scheduling, and reporting.
Equipment lending issues to resolve
The CTS department manages approximately 1500 items, including computers, projectors, PA systems, microphones and stands, cameras, go-pros and webcams, as well as adaptors, cables and other accessories. All students and staff on campus can borrow these resources for academic purposes. Danielle explains how the department used to manage the equipment loan service:
“Initially we used our own home-grown system, but when the creator of the software left it became difficult to develop and support it. So we bought a new specialist system for equipment checkout. However, over time we realised there were lots of ways in which we could work more efficiently that the new system didn’t support.
We had to do everything manually: people would come in; we would make a reservation for them or process a checkout. We would also need to sort out any issues with their order. We were often encountering problems due to miscommunication, such as failures to note issues with orders, returned items or users.
We unfortunately experienced system crashes, causing us to record everything down on paper. And reservations would disappear from the system; among other issues.”
Plans to introduce self-service reservations
Cal Poly’s Media Resource Center needed a system that was more reliable, and one that enabled them to better serve the needs of the campus.
“We could see that having a system that supported self-service reservations would be beneficial to students. Allowing students to reserve items themselves using an online system would save them a lot of time. By reserving it online, they would no longer need to make an initial visit to reserve an item, then go back again at the scheduled day or time to pick it up. And there would be no more wasted trips if the items they hope are available aren’t free when they drop by. They will always know exactly which equipment is available by looking online first.
It would also save time for our customers and student staff when at the checkout desk. Items are ready and waiting for them to be picked up as student staff would automatically have advance notice.”
Making late returns a problem of the past
“We had also been spending a lot of time chasing overdue equipment where customers had forgotten to return borrowed items on time. It wasn’t uncommon for customers to be a week late returning items. In some cases, this was preventing other customers from being able to borrow resources when needed.
We knew that if the system supported customers in remembering to bring back items promptly through automated messaging, it would also save our staff a lot of time on making phone calls and sending emails to get late equipment back.”
Finding connect2 – the ideal solution
Danielle was tasked with finding a new system that would resolve the many issues they were experiencing and would support self-service reservations. It was difficult finding software that would do everything that was needed, but then a meeting with a Lorensbergs manager at an industry conference drew their attention to the connect2 software. Connect2 was already in use in a large number of universities and had been developed specifically for the academic environment.
“We liked the look of the connect2 system from the start, and when we had a demo of what it could do, we were sold!” says Danielle. “Connect2 is so simple, so easy to use. To book an item of equipment in advance, the customer would simply need to add it to their basket, pick the required loan date and reserve their item. Then after that, everything is automated. It is so like Amazon, we knew customers would understand and use it right away.”
Getting started with connect2
“Connect2 is really flexible and we love its customisability. Lorensbergs were great in helping us set it up exactly to suit our way of working before launching it to campus. We had 18 tickets open and they all got resolved in a single month. So all the modifications we required were taken on board and put in place without any problems. Then the Lorensbergs engineer put in the time to make sure we were comfortable with all the functionalities in the system.
We have to hand it to Lorensbergs, your service and support is great. Our account manager is incredibly helpful. From the start, he was great at figuring out what we needed, squaring away any issues, and always checking in with us to maintain a great relationship.”
Cal Poly’s Media Resource Center organised their resources into easy to browse categories and included photos of each item which could be used to view and reserve what’s needed in the online booking interface. Items can be added to a booking until customers have everything they need for their projects and work. This also enables student staff to serve students more quickly at the checkout desk.
Great feedback and efficiencies with the new system
“Both our students and staff love connect2. It saves so much time when checking out equipment. It’s so easy to add more items to a reservation. For example, often a student will forget to reserve a tripod to go with a camera. But it can be added to a booking in seconds at the desk.
We encourage students to reserve their items online before coming to pick them up. From the start, they could see how easy it was. We would tell them about it either by phone or while at the desk. Now 60-70% of equipment loans are made in advance by students without any help from us.
Our staff like connect2 because the system is so simple and so fast when making checkouts. Checkout times have dropped from taking 5 to 10 minutes using the old system, to under a minute with connect2. Some items take as little as 20 seconds! It’s no exaggeration to say that checkouts typically take 90% less time than with the previous system.”
Better communication and fewer overdue resources
Cal Poly’s Media Resource Center has set up a series of automated emails in connect2 which remind each customer what they’ve borrowed, when it’s due back or if it’s late.
“The communications in connect2 have been of great benefit in alleviating the need to chase up on so many late returns. We have a series of three automated emails that remind users to return equipment. Everything can be borrowed for up to 5 days at a time, as configured in connect2. Both an hour and then 5 minutes before the due back time, the user receives an email reminder. If they haven’t returned it and the deadline has passed, they get a third email warning them that they are late and will be fined $15 per day. All this is automatic and easily managed within the system.
The communications have reduced the late items from approximately 30 items at any one time, to only about 3! It really has been very effective and saves us so much time. It also means customers are far less likely to be inconvenienced by others holding on to items that they now need.”
Data that really helps
Connect2 keeps a comprehensive record of all resource usage in a central online database. All data can be queried, viewed and exported to understand the usage level of each item or collection of resources. Danielle says:
“The reports in connect2 help us decide what we need to purchase more of. Once a year in late spring, we buy new equipment and it’s so easy in connect2 to choose parameters to filter the data and export usage statistics to inform our decision making. So, for example, we can see that PCs and cameras are used the most and so it’s worth investing in more.
I think we’ll be able to make better purchasing decisions based on being able to run reports more often and more accurately with connect2. The reporting is so simple to use. It’s great we can streamline our processes in relation to figuring out what resources to buy in the future, which items are late, who’s late and who owes us fees for overdue items.”
A firm recommendation
The CTS department’s staff and users are all very happy with the connect2 software. Danielle has no hesitation in giving it a firm thumbs up!
“We love the way connect2 is so streamlined and simple in its approach to equipment reservations and checkout. And it’s great how you can customize connect2 for how each institution needs it.
The system layout is more appealing to the eye than our previous system, and its logic really fits with how we like to work. We expect it to be used much more widely across campus in the future.
Connect2 is modern, it’s progressive, it’s cutting edge. Everyone here loves it! We recommend you buy connect2!”
With thanks to Danielle Veatch and the CTS team at Cal Poly.