The series of events that led the University of Vermont (UVM) to Salesforce, and a partnership with Cloud for Good, was both unexpected and unprecedented. UVM had begun a process of evaluating enterprise-level CRM systems to overhaul their technology, establishing the priority for a single, unified CRM featuring a comprehensive system of record. Right when the ball started rolling, the country came to a collective, screeching halt as COVID-19 hit the United States. A new priority had quickly established itself for the well-being of UVM’s students, staff, and faculty.
This shift led the university to Salesforce to meet the immediate needs of UVM’s COVID Service Center while also building a foundation for their enterprise CRM. “UVM historically has been an independent, very self-proficient university, choosing to implement new technologies on our own without dedicated implementation partners, but the success we found from our Marketing Cloud implementation led us to pursue Cloud for Good to implement Service Cloud. When we went to Salesforce for their recommendations, Cloud for Good was the immediate and unanimous recommendation,” said Rachel Seremeth, UVM Director of Enterprise Application Services & Database Administration.
Finding Safety Through Service Cloud
Across a multi-phased release, Cloud for Good helped facilitate UVM’s vision, beginning with the most immediate need to support case management functionality for the COVID Center. Within just a few short weeks, UVM went live with the first release granting them the ability to manage their incoming cases. A second release that prioritized and optimized functionality was built to prepare for the Fall 2020 semester. Ultimately, this approach provided, and will continue to provide, UVM with not just a case management solution, but also a stepping stone in which to further expand the Salesforce platform at UVM as needs arise.
Kevin Hytten was serving as the Senior Summer Housing Coordinator for UVM before abruptly shifting responsibilities as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Receiving a temporary special assignment, reporting directly to the VP of Operations and Public Safety, Kevin began his role as COVID-19 Information & Service Center Manager. “The primary focus of our center is twofold. First, we serve as a single point of contact in which all incoming communications related to COVID, from students, their families, faculty, and staff, could be addressed in one central location. Second, is the development and coordination of a testing center providing weekly COVID testing for everyone on campus,” expounded Hytten.
Moving ever quickly, UVM and Cloud for Good built out critical case management and email-to-case functionality in Service Cloud, enabling Hytten and his team to better keep track of COVID communications, build custom dashboards, and create knowledge articles to assist with the high traffic of responses. After only about three weeks, the new Center received over 1,200 incoming queries. Since UVM’s COVID testing started in early August, over 75K people had been tested, averaging around 10.4K a week.
“After our first COVID-related mass email went out to over 30K contacts, hundreds of responses came in over a 24-hour period. The amount of communication coming into the UVM Strong email system was far too great to accommodate without a true ticketing system; multiple people juggling correspondence through Microsoft Outlook simply wasn’t going to get the job done,” said Hytten on the importance of the enabling Service Cloud technology, “It allows us, in a very organized and structured environment, to be able to bring resources to bear on this pretty complex problem that demands more than just a shared email inbox. You need to see a bigger picture; you need to see who these people are and to understand the nature of their questions and needs; you need to know if you’re talking to someone for the first, second, or third time, and what the last person said to them. None of that was possible with the old system.”
Innovation, Connection, Protection
Consistency, shared access, and greater levels of visibility and scalability were UVM’s top priorities going into this rapid implementation, and all priorities have been met by Salesforce’s sprawling suite of technology solutions. In their agile migration to the Salesforce platform, UVM is able to ensure a safe return to campus to the best of their abilities and put the university in a better position to thrive past this historic point in time for years to come. Hytten explains by saying, “When we were first moving toward Salesforce, I told my team that I wanted to demonstrate to the University of Vermont what world-class customer service can look like with a powerful ticketing system.” They’ve done just that, in addition to so much more, to ensure the safety of their campus and the public at large.
Never one to slow down, Seremeth, Hytten, and the entire UVM team have all continued to partner with Cloud for Good in planning the next stops on their technology roadmap. “Really, the challenge isn’t in trying to figure out where to go next, but instead trying to figure out, of all the options available to us, what are the few that make the most sense to do next,” Seremeth summarized. One thing is for certain, at the pace at which UVM adapts and moves forward, this will be far from the last time we hear of their innovations and progressions in higher education. When the students, families, staff, and faculty needed them most, UVM stepped up and fast-tracked a solution to facilitate a crucially important need. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, as Dr. Deborah Brix, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, recently praised UVM’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19 by stating, “If they can do it here, it tells us that we can do it in our communities. You can see that there is a coalition of the willing to really ensure that students, staff, faculty, and communities remain safe.”
And that’s exactly the kind of leadership we should keep in mind as we continue to navigate the lingering effects of COVID-19 on our collective society.