One of the biggest causes of frustration for the timetabling team is not knowing if room bookings are actually taking place. In many institutions, anecdotal evidence would seem to suggest that a proportion of bookings never happen. However, unless the staff or student that made the booking (hereinafter referred to as ‘the user’) is detected as being in the room at the time of the booking, it’s a challenge to identify ’no-shows’.

My belief is that the main reason for ‘no-shows’ is because users of room booking software lack access to a simple mechanism for cancelling bookings.

That’s why CELCAT developed a simple way of enabling users of the Self-Service Room Portal mobile web app to cancel bookings.

And for users that book rooms speculatively and fail to cancel, we’ve even added a feature that prompts them to re-confirm the booking before it starts. If the user fails to re-confirm or cancel the booking, then the system can automatically cancel it and release the room.

Simple, but effective!

Of course, one could argue that last minute cancellations have a negative impact on space utilisation. For example, how likely is it that rooms from cancelled bookings are reassigned elsewhere? It would be interesting to see what evidence there is for reallocation of these rooms. If it’s last minute cancellations - likely very few.

From a utilisation perspective though, it’s better to have a ‘phantom’ event rather than no event at all, right? Actually, I’m being facetious as I don’t believe anyone in timetabling thinks this way, and they would rather see a true reflection of what’s happening with their space regardless of how good or bad the level of utilisation looks. It does make me wonder, though, whether cancellations, particularly last-minute ones, should be factored into planned levels of utilisation. Currently, they’re not in the CELCAT system because the event is deleted.

Perhaps the type of rooms best served by auto-cancellation is high-demand specialist space which is more likely to be booked as soon as it becomes available.

Anyway, at least for now, the institution has a way of identifying ‘no-shows’ as, although the event is deleted, the related cancelled booking can be retained and reported on.