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UC Davis Stores Get Students Off to a Smart Start with Personal Shoppers

Posted by Stephanie Kubas on 9/23/12 11:00 PM
Topics: college store customer service, college retail, college store stories

UC-Davis Stores is taking an entirely new approach to textbook rush this semester. In an effort to make incoming students’ first experience a positive one, the store is going the extra mile to offer customized service through a new personal shopper program.

MBS Foreword Online - UC Davis Stores - Smart Start Event

The event, promoted as Smart Start, will take place during move-in weekend and focus on welcoming students and their families to UC-Davis Stores while educating them on the ins-and-outs of buying and renting textbooks.

Although they had considered the idea for several years, the store’s staff decided the time was right when they realized that their textbook reservation program had grown to “monstrous proportions," according to Kato Meley, course materials sales supervisor.

“The program is so large that it now requires a tremendous amount of time and consumes valuable resources right before rush,” Meley explained. “With so many orders, there’s a significant margin for error and, as a result, we found that some students’ first encounter with us involved a mistake; that’s not the perception of the store we want them to walk away with.”

To turn the trend around, Kato and staff decided it was time to implement a strategy that allowed them to “extend a warm welcome and make the textbook buying experience a more interactive one, rather than just handing students a box and sending them on their way.”

MBS Foreword Online - UC Davis Stores - Smart Start Event

So, this year, students and their families will be greeted by a group of employees, creating an inviting atmosphere from the moment they walk through the door. Any interested customer will then be escorted by a student employee to help them locate the correct books quickly, show them what’s available in the store, and answer any questions they may have.

To get the word out about the big event, the store sent a postcard and email blast to incoming freshmen, posted to their social media pages, as well as created a variety of in-store and on-campus advertisements.

“The immediate response from the incoming class has been very positive and I think parents, in particular, will appreciate the effort,” Meley added. “Our staff is very excited, too; we anticipate that it will be a positive experience for all.”

In preparation, the store has ensured they are well-staffed to accommodate a crowd.

“We plan to have a slew of student employees ready and waiting to help,” she described. “In fact, we’ll have three times as many working on move-in weekend as we normally do, plus career staff available for assistance on the text floor as well as in other departments.”

Despite increased competition in the industry, Meley stresses that the Smart Start event goes far beyond simply wanting to gain more sales.

“We want to provide the best customer service possible to everyone who walks through the door; that’s what we’re all about,” she said. “We know our prices are competitive, so we want to focus on developing a four-year relationship with our students and this event is one way to facilitate that from day one.”

Meley’s hope is that, by creating a personalized shopping experience, students will see the store as a resource in the future.

“Our employees will have a chance to talk to new students, get to know them and show them that we’re here to help,” she added. “It’s a new way to prove that we’re dedicated to providing them with the products and services they need at the best price; I can’t wait to see the results!”

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