University uses Riva to sync Salesforce and Exchange calendars for 250 student advisors


One of our higher-education customers, a university in the northeastern U.S., was looking for a way to simplify the process for students to book appointments with various advisors and other staff members across the university, and for advisors to inform students of their availability.

“Salesforce for Outlook didn’t have the functionality we needed. We tried using a custom solution, but we experienced issues with appointment synchronization,” said the CRM lead for the university. “The former tool would send hundreds of appointment cancellations and hundreds of emails without us wanting it to. We had to develop manual processes to keep us afloat until we could find a replacement.”

The Challenge

Here were a few of the university’s requirements:

  • Allow advisors to block off their availability in Outlook and have these meeting blocks sync up to Salesforce so that students could view availability and book their own appointments within the open blocks.
  • Enable advisors to define the number of time slots and length of each appointment during each meeting block. For example, a student advisor can block off availability for 90 minutes and define whether they wish to accept 10-minute meetings, 15-minute meetings, 30-minute meetings, etc.
  • The sync solution needed to have cross-platform support for Windows Outlook, Outlook Web App, Outlook 2011 for Mac, and mobile devices (iPad, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry smartphones and tablets).
  • The university needed to track and sync several different appointment types, including in-person appointments, phone calls, Skype video conferences, and others.
  • Advisors needed the ability to create a personalized profile that defined how the calendar would work for them and what messaging they wished the student to see, including an optional photo.
  • After a student successfully books an appointment, a confirmation email is sent with check-in procedures, phone meeting details, cancellation information, etc. Other notifications needs included 24-hour reminders, cancellation notices, no show notices, etc.
  • The advisors wanted the flexibility to choose how many weeks of their availability at a time could see (i.e. some wished to only share 3 weeks to encourage student to come see them sooner, while others needed the ability to share up to 10 weeks due to heavy demand).
  • Student advisors needed to be able to sync recurring appointments and track special color-coded appointments based on activity type (e.g., résumé workshops, student appointments, walk-ins, note-taking workshops, out-of-office blocks).
  • Student advisors wanted to be able to drag appointments to new appointment blocks in Outlook or in Salesforce and have 24-hour reminder notices and rescheduling notices get automatically sent to students, plus the ability to create ad hoc appointments for walk-in and drop-in visits.

The Solution

The university provided Riva’s professional services team with a detailed list of their requirements and use case scenario. A lengthy question and answer period followed.

Riva was customized to satisfy the university’s calendar integration requirements for Salesforce and Microsoft Exchange. By syncing Salesforce calendars directly to Exchange, Riva enables student advisors to use any Exchange email client to schedule their meeting availability, including Outlook 2010 for Windows, Outlook 2011 for Mac, iPad, iPhone, and BlackBerry smartphones and tablets.

Riva was customized to sync multiple Salesforce and Exchange appointment types, variable-length appointment blocks, and booked appointments.

In addition, the university used Visualforce to develop a “Day at a Glance” calendar that shows student advisors all their appointments for each day, complete with the associated student photos and contact details. Student advisors can quickly access and view their appointments and the students they’ll be meeting with on their iPad, iPhone, or BlackBerry – or print their daily calendar out if needed.

The Results

“Riva has been a great success at our university,” said the CRM lead. “Riva’s professional services team customized the product to meet our needs. Now every single advisor in the university, across all our colleges, uses Riva to sync their Salesforce and Exchange calendars. They love it!”

“With our old tool, only a small number of advisors were using it in the end. With Riva, the appointment calendar has become so popular, new groups of staff across campus are joining it all time. We’ve tripled in size!”

“We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in support tickets and phone calls. And our help desk team, in fact, now wants to use Riva to enable faculty and staff to book computer visits through the tool as well.”

“Our university is a good example of a Salesforce customer who truly uses Salesforce as a platform. We’ve customized Salesforce to go well beyond the standard CRM capabilities. And Riva plays a critical role in keeping our Salesforce Platform in sync with our Microsoft Exchange email and collaboration system.”

“We created a number of training videos to help advisors and students understand the process and it has been smooth sailing ever since.”

More Information

Contact us if your university or college has similar calendar integration requirements.