Robert Walker from UNCG discusses his innovative mail management program that saves his campus $65,000/year and his thoughts on auxiliary services as a hospitality industry. We also talk door access, delve into the importance of IT in auxiliary purchasing decisions and Robert gives some great advice to vendors on how best to approach working with higher ed institutions.
Robert is the 2013 recipient of the NACAS Inovative Use of Technology Award and recevied the April 2014 NACAS Regional Rising Star Award for providing excellent services, innovative technology, and exemplifying outstanding leadership in Auxiliary Services. He was also featured in University Business Magazine—University Business Models of Efficiency and was the 2014 Summer Honoree for Operational Efficiencies in an article entitled “Snail Mail 2.0”
Robert joined UNCG in 2007 as a Technical Design Specialist focused on departmental websites, applications and implementations on the business side of the house. Basically he was the “resident nerd”.
May 2011, he started managing the SpartanCard Center—their ID card program. The position came about because Robert was the most knowledgeable person about the ID card system at the time.
Without a business background, Robert grew the card pogram and was the foundation for completing his MBA at UNCG. He then undertook overseeing the mail department. Along with the ID card, transaction and door access systems, Robert now has parking and transportation under him as well.
In his new role overseeing the campus mail department Robert had to figure out a solution for a big problem at UNCG. A dining hall that contained the post office with about 6,000 student mailboxes was about to undergo renovation and close for a couple of years. The place they had to move to was ¼ the size of their post office. To make matters worse it was about half a mile from the original location—very inconvenient for students.
Robert and his staff hoped to avoid a “nightmare scenario” where they couldn’t do their jobs because the boxes no longer exist and they’d have to face endless lines of dissatisfied students who walked a mile only to find out there was no mail for them.
Robert started to think that maybe they were analyzing and diagnosing the wrong problem. Like many Universities, Robert’s department worked very hard to maintain what is essentially a flawed system—for example, assuming every student needed a box. The post office staff was spending dozens of hours putting stuffers and junk mail into boxes only to pull them all out at the end of the year. There was a lot of administrative labor waste going into maintaining mail.
Robert eventually built a modern mail program to meet his current and new students’ expectations winning him the 2013 NACAS Innovative Use of Technology Award.
Some of Robert’s tips for schools looking to create more efficiencies out of their mail program:
Look at your handling of junk mail. Decide are you going to deliver all of the junk mail to students, put it all in boxes, or are you going to put out a statement along the lines of: “As a premium service to you we’re going to filter out your junk mail. If you’d like to receive all of this mail let us know.” And look at other sustainability options like contacting bulk mail providers and request not to receive bulk mail to your zip code.
Robert’s Two Takeaways for Other Campus Card Offices
- Focus on process improvement. Usually within your own office there may be things you that aren’t the most efficient. You probably started doing them that way because of one or two occurrences when really sometimes we do things as a knee jerk reaction to solve a problem that we think is bigger than it will be. So there’s things like that, there’s things around the edges, the fringe where you may be doing something a certain way because you were dealing with Joe Smith in X department and maybe Joe Smith doesn’t work there anymore but you haven’t changed how you do that thing with that department. So there’s a lot of ways you can change your process and control the environment.
- One the biggest things you can do is when you have a good employee go out of your way to thank them, let them know what a good job they do. Support them. It’s a small office and it’s easy when you work together to become friends but not necessarily step back as a supervisor or a boss and say, “Hey, you’re doing a really great job. I appreciate what you do here.” I really do believe that have a good time is the most important thing to being successful.
Get in touch with Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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