Office of Business and Financial Services seeking feedback

By Paolo Cisneros

Doug Beckman, senior associate vice president for the Office of Business and Financial Services, and his advisory council made “continually improving customer satisfaction” one of their organization’s strategic themes when they met last fall.

“That seemed like a logical choice because that’s really what we’re about,” Beckman said. “We’re a service organization.”

The office works to provide business and financial management services to the University community and support its research, teaching, public service and economic development.

The Customer Satisfaction Initiative was formulated as a way for the office to improve the way it serves its customers.

The multi-phase project is expected to take several years to complete and is under way as a series of customer focus groups taking place on all three campuses and at the UI College of Medicine in Peoria and Rockford. The focus groups, which aim to provide the office with detailed information regarding how it can improve its customer service, are scheduled to conclude by the end of next week after taking into account the feedback of approximately 200 individuals.

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The office teamed up with Research Survey Services, a Champaign-Urbana based research firm, for assistance in conducting the focus groups and formulating the questions that were asked.

Candidates were selected by the office departments with the help of customer groups like the Academic Fiscal Officers in Chicago and the Business Managers Groups in Urbana and Springfield with the goal of representing as many demographic groups as possible.

“(The focus groups) are important because only the customer can really measure whether or not we’re delivering.” Beckman said. The decision to change office policy, he said, will come as the result of their feedback.

“We feel our customers can really help us improve,” Beckman said.

While potential candidates from most demographic groups have been responsive to the office’s request for feedback, student participation in the initiative has been poor, Beckman said.

Two focus groups that were to consist entirely of students were canceled last week due to a lack of interest. As a result, the Customer Service Initiative Project team is working to develop new ways to gather student feedback.

After the focus groups end, the office will decide which topics should be covered in an online survey that will be e-mailed to its customers in December and January. The sample population size of the survey is expected to be 6,000 people.

Following that, the office plans to continue soliciting feedback and to begin adjusting its policies to reflect that information.

Beckman cites the initiatives as an important step to improving relations between the office and its customers.

“I don’t think we’ve necessarily done a great job of soliciting feedback in the past, so this is a way to change that,” he said.

While there is not a set deadline for the initiative to be completed, Beckman has a vision about the relationship the office will have with its customers when all is said and done.

“We’d like to be like a really good referee in a basketball game where the game’s going well, but you don’t really notice we’re there,” he said. “The rules are enforced, everyone’s taken care of, but we don’t need to be constantly blowing the whistle and drawing attention to ourselves.”