About Alex Lyons
Alex Lyons is Chief Information Officer for the Duck Store, which has served the University of Oregon students in Eugene for nearly a century. Alex has been with the Duck Store since 2001. She is responsible for managing Development & Data Analytics, Online Commerce Operations, Information Technology, and the Text Book/Academic Services teams.
When you’re planning how you’ll reach faculty, it’s essential to start with a question: What do faculty really need to know?
You know all the details about how adoption timing affects business and you know why that matters, but that’s not important to faculty. Instead, they need to know what the goals of your business have in common with their educational goals. The answer is students. All of us are concerned about students. This must be at the center of all communication between the store & faculty.
Avoid cluttering faculty emails down with operational details. It could convey the false impression that you care more about business than students. Of course, business has an impact on education, but that part is not their concern. Stick with your shared goal of increasing student equity. You want to help students save money and succeed. That’s exactly what they want to do, too.
In general, it’s critical to limit the amount of detail in your adoption emails. University teachers are incredibly busy. Plus, studies show you only have a few seconds to keep any reader’s attention. You’ve got to focus the message on what matters most to the person receiving it.
With faculty, that’s about helping students save money and succeed. Don’t waste precious time on extraneous detail and keep your language positive. Avoid anything that sounds like scolding. Even if adoptions are late, keep the focus upbeat: If you place your adoption now, we can still find course material options that lower student costs.
Once you have that message established, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for faculty to place adoptions. Remove as many barriers as you can that stand between them and submitting an order.
In your email messages, provide a simple set of instructions they can follow immediately. Place a call to action in the subject header. This could be something as simple as, “Help Students Save Money. Place Your Adoptions Now.”
The Duck Store’s Top 5 Faculty Communication Tips
- Center messaging on students
Concern for students is the common ground that all campus stakeholders share. Explain that early adoptions help students plan their budget for school, save money and prepare for success. Leave out the operational details.
- Reduce barriers to early adoptions
Wherever possible, cut down the number of steps it takes for faculty to submit adoptions. Make it easy.
- Use calls to action
Tell faculty exactly what you want them to do at the start of your message. Include clear information about how to complete that task. Example: An email subject that says, “Submit Your Adoptions Now to Save Students Money” and a link in the text that says, “Submit adoptions now.
- Keep messages concise and positive
Avoid negative language, even if adoptions are late. Center the message on the shared goal of helping students.
- Every contact is an opportunity to foster relationships
Stay in touch with key campus stakeholders. Consider hosting a faculty appreciation night. If faculty stop by or call, even with a complaint, turn that into a chance to start a conversation about why students need their adoption submissions as early as possible.
Any contact with faculty is an opportunity for the campus store
At the Duck Store, we have a tradition of taking steps to deepen our relationships with everyone involved in the adoption process. Part of that includes a formal faculty and staff appreciation night every year. We close the store early and invite all the faculty we know for food and conversation. We also invite anyone who helps us coordinate adoptions. That includes many department administrators. They are so important to us, too.
Beyond that, we ensure that everyone who works for the Duck Store understands our role in relation to the university. We see ourselves as supporters. We support faculty, we support programs and, most of all, we support students.
We keep templates on-hand that associates can share with any faculty member who makes contact. This way everyone participates in sharing the message: The Duck Store needs adoptions early because it helps students. It boosts student equity. Timely adoptions are essential to the support we provide.
Our unified message allows us to transform just about any conversation with faculty into an opportunity. Even if a teacher calls with a complaint about, say, receiving too many of our adoption emails, we can turn that into a chance to explain why it’s so important for us to stay in touch. In this way, every contact from faculty becomes an opportunity to educate them about the Duck Store’s role in student success.
Download this sample of one of the Duck Store’s email templates.
The rewards of formalized faculty outreach for campus stores
Our winter term on-time adoption rate was 76 percent, up from 44 percent the prior year! Plus, even more University of Oregon faculty are choosing to order books through our store. The increase we’ve seen in on-time adoptions alone demonstrates the effectiveness of our new communication strategy.
But the day-to-day rewards of better adoption timing for campus stores can’t be quantified. We’re far less stressed each quarter. We have established an amazing workflow. Where there used to be a whirlwind of chaos around adoptions and rush, we now have confidence and clarity. That all feeds back to the faculty and, of course, the University of Oregon’s students.
A campus store does not have hire an outreach coordinator to see these rewards.The most important thing we’ve learned is this: With every message, every contact, the goal always comes back to students — 100 percent.
Our Faculty Communication Guide series continues with Part 2: The Top Three Questions You Must Answer Before Emailing Faculty.