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Auxiliary Services award winner Linda Van Cleave at the cash register in the cafeteria at the West Bank Office Building.

Auxiliary Services award winner Linda Van Cleave works in the cafeteria at the West Bank Office Building.

Secret shoppers reward great service

Auxiliary Services celebrate employees' customer service

By Sarah Kolasa

From Brief, December 8, 2004

Linda Van Cleave noticed the customer with a quizzical expression, lingering before checkout. From the cash register, she asked if she could help him find anything. The customer explained that his vision was limited because his eyes had been dilated at an appointment that morning, and he asked if she could help him locate specific food items. As he named types of chips, she described where they were on the display rack and coached until he found them.

Later that day, the man returned. He revealed that he had been a secret shopper and was excited to reward her for great service.

Van Cleave, a 14-and-a-half-year University Dining Services (UDS) veteran, was "excited but a little embarrassed" when rewarded by a secret shopper. She says she "tries to be a good ambassador to the University every day" through her frontline service efforts.

"Each One of Us Counts"

Secret shoppers were part of Each 1 of Us Counts week in early November for Auxiliary Services units on the Twin Cities campus. The week was designed to recognize employees and to encourage continuous improvement in the great customer service they provide.

What are Auxiliary Services?

Auxiliary Services include business units at the University's Twin Cities campus that are self-supporting and receive no U or state funding. Customer service and repeat business are vital to their continued success because customers can choose to do business elsewhere.

Addressing & Mailing
Campus Mail
Concerts & Lectures
Fleet Services
Housing & Residential Life
Office Equipment Services
Parking & Transportation
Printing Services
U Card Office
University Bindery
University Dining Services
University Stores

Each of the Auxiliary Services units participated in some way, customizing the week to fit the needs of their employees. Some held department recognition events and some provided gifts for employee appreciation.

Secret shoppers canvassed the Twin Cities campuses, looking for and rewarding great service on the spot. From managers to parking attendants, chefs to printing delivery staff, employees in many areas were "secret shopped" and received certificates and gifts in recognition.

"Receiving a certificate was great," said Pat Connors, delivery services driver for Printing Services. "[It's] recognizing that every employee brings different things to the table when serving the University community."

One UDS employee, rewarded for the way he greeted customers and bussed tables with an ear-to-ear smile, insisted that he "couldn't accept the award in good faith" because two other team members did the same job that he did, also with pride and excellence. Supported by management, all three employees were able to share the reward.

"[I was] met with great excitement and pleasure at being recognized," said secret shopper Allen Barclay. "Each employee appreciated management's support of their efforts and commitment to their development."

Many secret shoppers noticed the spread of enthusiasm and energy when they were able to reward great service, witnessed by customers and other employees. After each successful service interaction, the great service continued.

"All employees in the service areas are committed to giving great service--whether we're on the front lines or behind the scenes," said Van Cleave. "We are all in it together to serve the customer."

Although employees have been recognized over the years, Van Cleave said this was the first such unified recognition effort in Auxiliary Services.

"It was a very positive experience for our employees," said Leslie Bowman, director of UDS contract administration and coordinator of the week's planning committee. "I believe the enthusiasm generated by the secret shoppers garnered even better employee-customer interaction, building on the great service that is already provided in so many areas."

The week was "overwhelmingly positive," according to Auxiliary Services associate vice president Laurie Scheich. "Employees and managers both seemed to enjoy the week.... We met our goals of recognizing employees for the contributions that they each make to great customer service and highlighting the overall importance of customer service, especially in business units at the University."

Ideas for rewarding great service

Looking for creative ways to recognize and reward employees' great service? Visit the Training Services Web site for ideas. Many of them cost very little.

Read more about the Great Service Initiative.

Also during Each 1 of Us Counts week, Training Services held 14 team service training sessions customized for Auxiliary Services employees. The training gave employees an opportunity to develop team skills, learn more about functions within Auxiliary Services, and find out how their individual jobs and areas of concentration contribute to the success of the University and to a culture of great customer service.

The Auxiliary Services staff recognizes that their customer service appreciation week was only the beginning of continually improving a customer-centered culture, one that promotes and provides exceptional customer service throughout the year.

Great service for the whole U

Over the past two years, the University of Minnesota has emphasized customer service through the Great Service Initiative. Supported by President Bruininks, the entire U system has been encouraged to promote customer service in creative ways, with every employee and every unit motivated to create a customer-centered environment.

Every area of the University can celebrate areas of service that they do well, look for relationships that they can build and strengthen in the community, and together build a culture of exceptional customer service.

Sarah Kolasa is a training coordinator for Training Services in the Center for Human Resources Development, Office of Human Resources, Twin Cities campus.

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