University Queue Management System: A Case Study
San Diego State University Adopts Qtrac® for Virtual Queue Management and Wait Time Transparency
Every semester during the open enrollment period, San Diego State University (SDSU) had the same problem: huge crowds of students would gather outside the Office of Evaluations and Office of Registration waiting to be helped by staff members. Without an efficient university queue management system, the students were frustrated and wasting time. What’s more, in the administration’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the crowds posed a potential health risk.
With just three weeks before Fall 2021 open enrollment began, SDSU partnered with Lavi Industries to install and train the offices’ staff in the University’s queue management system. With signage, kiosks and Single Sign-On (SSO) implementation, SDSU’s student body and staff rapidly adopted the new system – replacing crowds and long physical waits with ease and transparency.
SDSU has a student body of more than 35,000. During each semester’s open enrollment period, about 2,000 students seek services from the Office of the Registrar and the Office of Evaluations to resolve issues ranging from payment and course registration, transcript requests, major declarations, resetting web portal passwords, grades and academic standing, and dozens of other critical administrative tasks. Depending on the workload, daily staffing in these offices varies from 10 to 20 employees – many of them students, too. With so many students seeking assistance from a small number of employees in a short window of time, crowd management was a major pain point.
The COVID pandemic accelerated plans to institute a more effective line management solution. Keen to avoid crowds of students, many of whom would have just moved back to campus for in-person classes, SDSU sought a queue management solution that would let students stand on line virtually, and eliminate the physical crowds in front of and outside the offices.
4 Factors for Measuring Success
In selecting a solution, SDSU identified four key areas that would need to be resolved.
Campus crowd control
With students spilling out of the office building and onto the quad, crowds were always a source of frustration for students and a brand image issue for the school administration. The disorganized mass of students was not in line with the culture of a leading public research university. The 2020 pandemic, however, turned what was a persistent issue into a potential health hazard. Eliminating crowds suddenly became imperative for SDSU.
Student wait time transparency
Both offices are walk-in only – first come, first served. The wait times, and the uncertainty surrounding them, were damaging student-staff relations. Students had to find time between classes and work to come to the office, but had no idea how long they would have to wait – or even if they would be seen at all. To regain student confidence, the solution needed to provide transparency about wait times so students could choose to wait on site if they were high up on the queue or, if there were many students ahead of them, go about the campus and monitor when they should return.
Staff workflow transparency
Employees in both offices had no way to track student wait times, give estimates on how long students would have to wait for services, or gain insight into which services were most in-demand at any given time. SDSU needed a cloud-based, data-driven solution that could provide insights into the times when demand for service ebbed and flowed, as well as the reasons for student visits, to more efficiently staff these offices.
SDSU approached Qtrac just three weeks before students would begin open enrollment. With equipment that needed to be installed and staff that needed software training, every minute counted. SDSU required a provider with proven assurance that the virtual queueing solution could be implemented: 1) before the massive wave of students came onto campus during the open enrollment period, and 2) staff and students could readily adopt.
What Qtrac Did:
The Virtual Queue—A Better Waiting Experience
In just 3 weeks, Lavi’s team installed the Qtrac software, a kiosk with digital tablet, and QR code signage, and also trained 20 staff members. SDSU began the Fall 2021 semester with a fully-operational virtual queue management system that was rapidly adopted by both staff and students.
The student body, so-called “digital natives,” took to the technology naturally and intuitively, and were enthusiastic in their embrace of a modern solution.
Three major elements contributed to the successful launch and adoption of the University’s queue management system:
Efficient and comprehensive training
Qtrac training experts provided remote video lessons to all staff in the Office of the Registrar and the Office of Evaluations. And to make staff adoption even more attractive and easy, Qtrac worked with SDSU to implement Single Sign-On (SSO) capability. With SSO, SDSU staff can use one username and password across all their online systems– not just for Qtrac. This feature simplifies the process with “one less thing” for staff to remember.
Virtual Queuing Software = Real-time transparency
Office services are still provided on a first-come, first-served basis. However, by scanning the QR code on the signage at the front of the offices, students can now hold their place in line. Using Qtrac’s mobile queuing wait screen on their smartphones, they also see exactly how many other students are in front of them. With real-time updates on their place in line, the students are free to wait in the library, at the cafe or anywhere else they want, and then return to the offices as their place on line approaches.
SDSU wants to accommodate students wherever they are in their use of technology, and wherever they are on campus, so it’s important to them to provide options. While most students opt to scan the QR on the aforementioned signage, the Lavi team also installed a Qtrac registration kiosk with a digital pad at the entry to each office so that students had the option to type in their information there. As a third option, students can also enter the virtual line from anywhere by simply texting a phone number that’s prominently displayed on the Qtrac signage. Some students report using this feature to get on virtual lines while they’re still in class – and appreciate this flexibility given their busy schedules.
When open enrollment began, the crowds of hundreds spilling onto the quad never materialized. Students came to the offices; saw the signage with instructions about using the QR code, kiosk, or texting; and immediately began using the new virtual queue solution.
Resistance to adopting the new system was one of SDSU’s biggest worries before implementation, but it turned out virtual queue management was not only something the students wanted to use, but, in their digital-first world, was something they were already accustomed to. As digital natives, Qtrac’s functionality and user interface was as intuitive to the students as writing their name. And since many of the employees in the offices are themselves students, they quickly understood training and were able to help other employees get up to speed.
In addition to solving the crowding issues, SDSU uses the data collected by Qtrac to inform staffing decisions at both offices. Whereas prior to implementing Qtrac, both students and staff were in the dark about wait times and service availability, now the offices can see service patterns for any given day and time for any given service, and staff appropriately.
Qtrac was brought in to solve a major crowd problem at SDSU, but its insights improved operational efficiency. Students report feeling less frustrated by their experiences in the offices since they no longer have to waste time being physically present on lines and staff schedules better match the demand for services. Employees, both in the office and within SDSU administration, see noticeable improvement in staff-student relations since introducing Qtrac.
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