The Community College of Rhode Island has four bookstore locations that make servicing students their number one priority. Using their years of expertise they field questions about all aspects of college life. Throughout the day staff members are helping students understand how to use their financial aid in the store or showing a student how to find their way through the campus. Like many college stores, they are more than a bookstore — they are the heartbeat of the campus.
As a community college, its student body doesn’t live on campus and 62% are first-generation students. Finding new and inventive ways to bring students into the store is a priority as is making sure all students know and understand the services the bookstores provide.
Special Events are a way the CCRI Bookstores bring students to them, and they have discovered one theory that proves true for each new wave of students: feed them and they will come.
“We try to do promotions through the year. It depends on time and creativity but usually during holidays. During Valentine’s Day, for example, we did ‘Guess the Kisses’ and had the students guess how many Hershey kisses were in the jar. The closest guess won a prize.” Jessica Lambert, Flanagan Bookstore textbook manager said. “Some of the other store locations have come up with various ideas. The Flanagan campus hosted a St. Patrick’s Day event where students had to find the leprechaun hidden throughout the store. As long as we advertise it around the campus, students will venture in especially if there is food involved or they are going to win a special prize.”
Most recently, CCRI celebrated its 52nd commencement with the Class of 2017. The CCRI bookstore found a way to make sure the students knew how proud they were of all their accomplishments.
“We had a tent outside for graduation. We had everything set up for the graduates like floral bouquets, snacks, a photo backdrop and CCRI gear,” Lauren Gorman, Knight Bookstore clerk said. “We also used our iPad® so we could do credit cards transactions, since not everyone carries cash. We used this opportunity to promote the store and most importantly show the students we’re proud of them, giving them a congratulatory send-off.”
“We set the photo backdrop up outside the bookstore tent so the students and their families can take as many pictures as they want,” Ann Charbonneau, Knight Bookstore textbook department manager, said. “I can tell you personally that we were out there just before 8 p.m. with students using that backdrop and graduation finished at 6 p.m. It was an additional presence and the opportunity for purchasing merchandise and celebrating with their friends.”
The Knight Bookstore uses MBS’ POS system and has sent employees to several of the MBS Systems Training Forums held in the spring and fall in Columbia, Missouri. This keeps the bookstore staff current on the changing industry and helps them to learn about what their store system can do. They have also started to take advantage of Guaranteed Buyback.
“Our sales representative Paul Breun, is excellent with trying to help us with ideas for new promotions letting us know what other stores do.” Charbonneau said. “One of the things he did was introduce us to the Guaranteed Buyback programs. We took advantage of it at the end of the semester to add buy back titles to our list and buy them back at a higher price than we normally could have.”
This year in preparation for buyback the Knight bookstore took part in its campus game day event. The staff hosted a table and handed out treats to the students with buyback information printed on them.
“We manned the popcorn station. We gave out bags of candy and water bottles. We made labels for the water bottles with the textbook buyback dates and we put flyers on the popcorn boxes,” Gorman said. “We were also there to interact with the students and answer any questions they had about buyback. The staff played games with the students and we all had a really great day. We served over 200 students a box of popcorn and everyone really loved it.”
Everything the stores do comes back to the students. Making sure they know the store is there to help them. Whether is it spending time on the phone to walk them through the course materials ordering process or guiding the students within the college, the CCRI Bookstores take student customer service to inspiring heights.