Meridian University is a mid-sized university located in a major urban city. Text Services is an incorporated university entity that operates two bookstores, one on campus and another at a nearby shopping area. The on campus store sells school supplies, textbooks and school licensed apparel and gifts as well it has a large computer department. The off campus store sells textbooks, school supplies and licensed apparel and gifts, and it has a large trade book department. The on campus store has limited parking, but is within easy walking distance of the downtown area, all dormitories and the football stadium and hockey arena. The off campus store has plenty of parking, but it is not within walking distance of the campus, although it is on the town bus line. Both stores compete with several other independent and national chain bookstores in the city, plus several school supply stores, apparel stores, computer stores and trade bookstores.
The city and the university have been growing steadily over the past decade and the football team has been ranked and gone to the national championship finals for two straight seasons.
Text Services bookstores have a long-standing policy of selling textbooks with a very small markup (just above costs) which causes competing stores to follow suit. However, because textbooks are so expensive anyway, most students believe that Text Services bookstores “gouge” them on textbook prices. To offset the lack of profit on textbooks the Text Services bookstores, sell all other products at a relatively high price. All “profits” from the stores are used to fund student-related projects, such as new athletic fields and student centre enhancements.
Text Services has a board of directors made up of faculty, administrators and students. The Executive Director, Samuel Graham, reports to the Board of Directors and oversees the operation of the bookstores (plus all on-campus vending and athletic event vending). His office is in the on campus store.
Both bookstores have a store manger and an assistant store manager. There is one textbook manager for both stores, a trade book manager, a single school supplies and apparel manager and a computer department manager, as well as a number of staff people, including computer director and staff, a marketing director, a finance staff, a personnel director, a warehouse manager, and administrative assistants. Almost all of the bookstore employees, including cash register operators, sales clerks, stock people, delivery truck drivers and warehouse workers are part-time university students. Hiring Meridian University students has been a long-standing university policy to provide students with employment opportunities. As would be expected, the bookstores have a high rate of turnover among the student employees.
Several incidents occurred at the off campus store that have caused the Board of Directors of Text Services some concern. In one incident, a student employee was arrested for drug possession. In another incident, a faculty customer and student employee got into a shouting match when the employee could not find a well-known book on the bookstore computer system and the faculty member got frustrated over the time it was taking. In a third incident, an alumnus who had visited the store after a football game sent a letter the university president indicating that a student employee had been rude to him when he asked a question about the return policy for an apparel item he had purchased on the bookstore’s website. Wen the student did not know the return policy, he told the customer in a condescending manner to come back later. The last incident was an offhand remark made by a local resident to a board member at a party about the difficulty she had completing a purchase at the off campus store because the registers were unstaffed, although she could see several employees talking together in the store.
Although sales and profits at the bookstores have been satisfactory and steady over the past few years, the Board of Directors is extremely sensitive to criticism about anything that might have the potential to embarrass the university. The Board of Directors suggested to Mr. Graham that he might consider some type of assessment of the service at the bookstores to see if there was a problem. Mr. Graham initially attempted to make random, surprise visits to the bookstores to see if he could detect any problems, however there seemed to be a “jungle telegraph” system that alerted his employees whenever he entered a store, so he abandoned that idea. Next, he decided to try two other things –
1. He conducted a customer survey during a two-week period in the middle of the semester at both stores. He had asked employees to ask the customer to respond to a brief questionnaire
2. He hired several graduate studies students to pose as customers and make purchases and ask specific questions of sales clerks, and report on their experiences.
Selected results from the survey are shown in the chart below:
The only consistent responses from the graduate students posing as customers were the student employees were sometimes not that familiar with store policies, how to operate the bookstore computer systems, what products were available and where products were located in the stores. When they did not know something, they sometimes got defensive. A few also said that the students sometimes appeared lackadaisical and bored.
With this information, Mr. Graham needs to formulate a plan and report to the Board of Directors on his findings and his recommendations.
Please provide the followings:
Recommendations to improve quality management (Services)