With MBS Systems Training 2017 Fall Forums fast approaching, we sat down with organizer and Customer Education Manager, Wayne Jones, to talk about de-stressing textbooks, fostering collegial connections and other reasons stores are getting registered now for the free training adventure here in Columbia, Missouri.
How do you come up with the agenda for MBS Systems Training Forums?
It’s based off of what I hear from customers, what feedback they give from previous forums and what I hear from the client services team. I use that input to come up with ideas for sessions. I also ask people, Hey, what are your clients facing?
Why do people attend Forums?
There’s three big reasons. First, it gives customers a refresher on the system they use every day. You fall into the same patterns, the same routines that you’re used to and you miss out on new features — what they can give you.
The second reason would be the networking — being able to be around other industry experts, being able to hear their feedback and questions and have them answer yours. It happens quite a bit while we’re in a session in Forums. Somebody asks a question about something and another customer pipes up with answers. It’s one thing when we tell customers how things should work. It’s another when a peer tells you how it does work.
The third reason for people to come is to learn about new enhancements — and really to gain more knowledge about what MBS is doing and what we provide.
Why does a college store need a unique retail system?
A college bookstore really is a retail area but it has so many different pieces involved with it. It works with the university system and it works with term-based inventory that recycles every four or five months.
With textbooks, there’s so many factors. You don’t get to say, Oh, man, I really like that book, I want to sell it! You can do that with a merchandise items. But with textbooks, you’re relying on what the professor wants. You can decide on how many to order, but you don’t make the decision on what book is being taught.
A lot of times you’re looking at your previous term history — either how that book has performed in the past, or how a book like the previous one has performed in the past. You’re looking at whatever inventory you have in stock, maybe making a decision not to return it then, because you need to sell it. Maybe you look at what was rented last term and what’s out there with students currently that they might be selling back to you for buyback. A lot of pieces that go into a buying decision for textbooks.
By contrast, merchandise is about Let’s look at this trend and see how we’ve been selling over the past few months. Let’s see what our sales ranking is. Let’s set up a minimum-maximum of what we want to keep in the store for this item. Whereas textbooks really rely on how those courses are managed. Is this a professor students like? Is this a professor students don’t like? There’s just so many factors.
What’s the biggest stressor you see college retailers face?
Textbooks. That’s one thing MBS does. We help reduce the stress with textbooks with the features we offer in our textbook program. We try to streamline as much as possible.
Do people learn how to streamline textbook ordering and sales at Forums?
Absolutely. We had somebody — most of her courses had multiple sessions with the same book being taught, and she was having to go into each individual course to make decisions on each individual book in that course. That process was taking her about two weeks to do. In the time that she was in my class —about 30 minutes — after I told her about this feature, she had narrowed down her courses from 1600 to about 500. That meant, instead of going into 1600 individual courses, she was going into 500 courses. She was so happy!
What do customers say about Forums?
Just about everyone thinks it’s very informative and it helped them innovate — even repeat visitors. Charlie Rutt from UCM, he comes to at least part of Forums every time. I think being involved in something like this with other peers in the industry, talking about what’s going on in your stores, talking about what you can do with the same software, about tips and tricks, it gets you thinking. You come out feeling more positive about what you’re doing.
Why is it important to connect with others in your industry?
I think everyone gets so stuck in what they’re doing day to day that sometimes you lose track of what you’re trying to do. Coming to this conference really helps you get back into that mindset of Here’s how I want to grow, here’s how I want to make things more efficient, here’s how I want to make things better.
Customers leave feeling more confident. They have more ideas to bring back with them. They have a lot to implement.
What do you like about Forums?
It’s always fun teaching people new things and seeing them understand — seeing that glow on their faces when they realize they can do something that will make their lives easier.