Empowering student voices: NC State’s mobile feedback journey

Empowering student voices: NC State’s mobile feedback journey

Jennifer Gilmore, Director of Marketing/Communications, NC State University
Keith Smith, Director of Board Operations and Sustainability, NC State Dining
Paul Matney, Business Officer, and Operations Research Graduate Student, NC State Dining

NC State Dining

NC State Dining utilizes mobile tech to gather feedback, address concerns, and elevate customer satisfaction

NC State Dining identified the need to accurately measure KPIs for dining services in terms of experience; quality of food and service; cleanliness of the facility; and menu variety. Working hard to ensure student satisfaction, better data was needed to understand how best to enhance their customer experience.

To solve this problem, NC State turned to Touchwork, a leader in customer experience (CX) solutions and services. Touchwork’s real-time feedback and audit solutions empower businesses to improve their operations and customer experience. Touchwork not only helped to gather data to measure KPIs but also assisted in enhancing customer satisfaction, reducing response time to customers, and communicating with customers more effectively.

Measuring KPIs to meet customers’ unique wants and needs

TxtTapScan&Tell (previously TxtandTell) was implemented in April of 2023 at NC State’s 5 dining halls and 24 retail dining locations, which together serve up to 30 000 meals a day, primarily to students.

In the first three months after implementation, more than 700 responses were received from students. Most of the feedback was collected in the dining halls, which provide the best opportunity to connect with customers and have consistent menus. NC State Dining noticed that students were more likely to use TxtTapScan&Tell to share issues to seek improvement, especially if they are not staying to dine in.

Notably, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, reassuring NC State Dining that it was providing a quality service to students. Considering that there is always scope for improvement, the high percent positive rate from its many customers came as a pleasant surprise.

Engaging customers in the moment and garnering unique experiences, helps NC State to meet students’ wants and needs. Having this new solution allowed NC State to make needed changes that they would not have known about if they were just using benchmarking to understand performance. For example, NC State Dining can now accurately determine why students prefer some of its dining halls to others, and then take the necessary action to raise standards at facilities where satisfaction levels are lower.

Just as importantly, NC State Dining has empowered its primary customers to communicate directly with them on a continuous basis. Students know that they are being heard and that their opinions are valued. “Considering the ease at which they can now directly communicate with us, students are even proposing improvements that they previously thought were too insignificant and, therefore, not worth the effort of pointing out, “ says Jennifer Gilmore, Director of Marketing/Communications of NC State University, “we welcome all suggestions because even the smallest of these has the potential to change a good dining experience into a stellar one”.

NC State Dining

Quick and efficient communication addresses potential problems timeously

Previously, capturing feedback from students was largely informal. There was no way of ensuring that complaints were being dealt with in an appropriate and accountable manner. Keith Smith, NC State Dining’s Director of Board Operations and Sustainability, added “Unless given the opportunity to do so, it is difficult to recover from a bad CX. Our real-time CX measurement, service recovery and mobile marketing system provides us with such a chance, something that we did not have in the past, which left us vulnerable.”

The Touchwork platform allows students, parents, faculty, staff and administration to easily give feedback, even when they are unable or unwilling to speak to a manager. Using their mobile phones, students answer a quick survey, focusing on five key performance areas. These include overall experience; quality of the food and service; cleanliness of the facility; and the variety of the menu. Customers are also welcome to send more specific or personalized comments, questions, and even pictures to the NC State Dining team.

Eight months into implementation, NC Dining has received more than 2,000 SMS messages, 3,600 QR code surveys, and 1,300 photos across its 29 locations. During this period, there have also been notably fewer complaints from parents of students. This reduction is attributed to customers now having a means of communicating problems quickly and efficiently to NC State Dining. A representative of NC State Dining is always available to respond to their feedback, ensuring that issues can be resolved swiftly before they escalate or are posted on social media channels.

Collecting objective information for analysis

NC State Dining now collects objective information that it can refer to at the end of every month to identify market trends and to precisely measure the overall performance of its 29 dining operations on campus.

NC State Dining also shares this objective information on the performance of its facilities with students’ parents. Outstandingly, NC Dining’s halls and retail dining locations are consistently achieving an 80%+ favorability rate.  Parents have always been interested in the quality of dining that their children receive on campus. This was especially true during and immediately after COVID-19 when there was a lot of anxiety around the health and safety of children and a heightened awareness of the importance of compliance with safety measures.

Parents also pay close attention to school dining services because they feel that it is one aspect of their children’s campus life that they can control. Considering the cost of dining services due to labor; facility maintenance and repair requirements; and the provision of quality food, parents also want reassurance that their children are receiving the best value for money. This includes access to spaces where their children will find respite and can make friends on campus.

NC State Dining

Technology well received by staff and boosts morale

The system has been well received by frontline staff. Although initially concerned that it would increase their workload, their concerns gradually subsided. This is as they realized that the amount of feedback that they received from students was manageable and did not add to their already-busy schedules. They also found responding to students an enjoyable exercise.

All culinary staff, including NC State Dining’s two executive chefs, Joli Santiago and Chad Cliff, also participate in the program. Like other members of the NC State Dining team, they especially enjoy receiving positive feedback, which has deepened their connections with customers, and boosted staff morale. There have even been instances where students praise specific staff members who are then rewarded by NC State Dining.

NC State Dining

Improving CX with actionable insights

The dining team actively engages with students seeking menu improvements, addressing requests for special items. In cases where these items aren’t immediately added, students are informed of existing options, alternative locations on campus, or reasons for delayed implementation. NC State has also responded regularly to new demands for specialty and ethnic dishes in its dining halls and retail facilities.

NC Dining management actively addresses frequent customer complaints, leading to valuable insights and innovative improvements in service. This approach has fostered loyalty among customers who, impressed by the commitment to exceptional customer experience, become advocates for NC Dining and recommend its services to others.

A monthly report on the performance of the dining halls and retail dining locations is compiled on a monthly basis and submitted to the entire management team by Paul Matney, Business Officer, and Operations Research Graduate Student of NC State Dining. Paul pays attention to particular trends and also includes an overall performance score for each location along with a summary of the nature of feedback comments received. A more thorough analysis of student comments is done on a weekly basis. Through a platform like TxtTapScan&Tell, NC State Dining has been able to streamline feedback collection and foster transparent communication between students and management, resulting in valuable insights into customer preferences. This approach has not only boosted staff morale but also enhanced trust among parents and stakeholders, underscoring NC State’s commitment to continuous improvement in campus dining experiences.

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