Last semester, students received emails from their peers asking for the completion of surveys regarding AU Food Services and their effectiveness in reaching the student body. While these emails could have easily been mistaken as student groups trying to make a grade in their marketing class, the AU Food Services surveys served a slightly different purpose.
“Over the fall semester I partnered with faculty member Anna Stumpf to assign a marketing plan group assignment to two sections of the fall 2015 Principles of Marketing 2810 course to study two areas of the AU Food Services operation,” said Suahil Housholder, manager of the AU Food Services account.
“Fourteen groups of students were given the option to present a marketing plan regarding how to best communicate with students regarding the dining program or marketing the Marketplace To-Go boxes,” Housholder said. “Students conducted qualitative research by surveying the student population, which indicated a variety of concerns.”
Through the surveys, AUFS learned that students were aware of the to-go program boxes for the Marketplace. Correspondingly, AUFS also learned that “students were not willing to spend $7 out-of-pocket for the reusable to-go container, citing a preference towards bundling the box with a meal plan or allowing the use of Raven Dollars to purchase the box,” Housholder said.
Responding to this new information, AUFS decided to alter the original plan of the to-go box. “The Marketplace To-Go box is now being offered for free to students currently enrolled in a meal plan,” Housholder said. The efforts in increasing usage of the Marketplace To-Go box are a part of an ongoing plan by AUFS to better hear the voice of the student body, as well as implementing necessary changes that are called for by students.
The survey also gave insight into how the student body views on-campus dining options, as well as allowing for AUFS management to better focus how to improve communication with students.
“[AUFS learned that] the most effective way to communicate with students is via email, chapel announcements, Stall Talk, posters, flyers and social media,” Housholder said. “Surveyed students indicated that these formats of communication were not being used effectively to keep them informed about the dining program, including menus, specials or events.”
“Three student marketing interns have been hired to manage AUFS social media, DineOnCampus, chapel announcements, Stall Talk, planning and supporting theme meal events and student surveys, among other marketing responsibilities,” Housholder said, ensuring that up-to-date information is always delivered to students in a timely manner.
“[The Survey also indicated that] students were unaware of existing AUFS social media presence,” Housholder said. The hiring of a social media intern is a part of an ongoing effort by AUFS to increase their social media presence to provide “consistent and reliable information from AUFS, along with the ability [for students to] provide feedback.”
While dineoncampus.com/anderson has always offered the weekly menus and hours for dining locations at AU, Housholder feels that several new means of providing information will prove to be more effective. Among these new methods are weekly emails providing the information previously found only on dineoncampus.com, as well as releasing AppOnCampus, a smartphone app that provides daily menus, nutritional information and updates on special events.
The survey also showed AUFS that students wished to have the ability to supply active feedback to management. As a result, AppOnCampus features the functionality allowing students to send input directly to AUFS from their phone.
Concurrently, AUFS and SGA have planned several forums to allow for students to supply their input directly to several managers and members of SGA. Alongside these forums is a reorganized AUFS student senate committee.
“Traditionally, the committee is made up of Senate members and is chaired by the SGA to meet with university auxiliary management to address student questions and concerns over these operations,” Housholder said. “Representatives from auxiliary include myself, Kellie Short from AU Food Services and Dustin Martin from the AU Campus Store. Chris Confer also attends from time to time.” However, “SGA is allowing membership to be opened up to the greater student body community.”
While the new committee and changes to AUFS communications are steps in the right direction, Housholder recognizes that students must be active in voicing their thoughts, questions and concerns to AUFS and SGA. “Student participation is needed to make this a successful partnership,” she said.