Source: COLUMNS

UGA operations improve convenience

By Wendy Jones

New and returning University of Georgia students will have 24-hour access to food services and they can purchase books online when they register, due in part to Gov. Sonny Perdue's directive that all state agencies provide faster, friendlier, more efficient service. University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. extended the customer service challenge to Georgia's 35 public colleges and universities. UGA introduced several new initiatives in the past year and has more planned in fiscal year 2008.

Dine anytime In March, UGA introduced 24-hour food service Monday through Thursday for its dining hall customers, making it the only campus food services operation in the country to offer such expanded service to its 8,000 meal plan participants.

"Anytime dining is our answer to provide the ultimate flexibility in dining options for our customers and to provide for the social interaction that creates campus communities," said J. Michael Floyd, director of food services.

Food services gradually began extending its hours more than 10 years ago in response to customer comments—especially from off-campus students who wanted to come back to campus at night. Snelling Dining Commons was chosen for the extended schedule because of its customer appeal, central location and proximity to the South Campus parking deck.

After meeting with much success, food services decided to take the next step into unproven territory by serving participants around the clock.

On the inaugural night of March 19, more than 500 customers dined between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m., and the dinning commons saw as many as 700 students per night during finals. Participation in UGA's customer-service-driven meal plan is voluntary.

Online shopping The University of Georgia Bookstore and the Registrar's Office recently completed their first year offering the Follett Higher Education Group's booknow© program.

A registration integration program, booknow© ties the university's OASIS online registration system to www.ugabookstore.com and allows students to register for their courses and purchase textbooks in one online session.

Students' textbook purchases are either shipped to them or are specially packaged for pickup at the bookstore, thus alleviating long lines. Students also have the convenience of returning books locally rather than dealing with online returns.

The widely used booknow© program has received favorable feedback from student customers. According to a spring survey conducted by the bookstore, 58 percent of students accessed the booknow© Web site through OASIS while registering for classes. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being incredibly difficult and 10 being extremely easy, students ranked the ease of use at 9.2.

"We plan to continue to solicit customer satisfaction as well as find ways to make the overall bookstore experience more customer friendly," said Doug Ross, director of auxiliary and administrative services.

Continued improvement Further customer service improvements this year include an enrollment checklist for incoming students to ensure that all requirements are met for admissions, financial aid, housing, registration, etc.

Cooperative Extension will promote the use of a single toll-free number to connect statewide customers to their local county extension offices.

Human Resources will develop further courses aimed at improving front-line customer service.

Lastly, UGA will become the first institution in the University System to hire a process improvement manager to work with a high-level steering committee and special teams to review and make recommendations for continuous process improvement.