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U. of Florida uses secret shoppers to hone campus services

The University of Florida is leveraging student volunteers in a secret shopper program to help evaluate and hone in its student-facing campus services. The program has been operation for some time now and is designed for secret shoppers to report feedback on their experiences in various university-run businesses.

According to a report from The Independent Florida Alligator, the secret shopper program at Florida is run through UF Business Services and has more than 100 student volunteers currently participating. UF Business Services hosts the program to ensure its operations on campus are continuously providing positive experiences.

The secret shopper program covers the four main operations under the UF Business Services umbrella: dining, bookstores, vending, and UF’s card services operation, Gator 1 Central. The secret shoppers evaluate each operation based on core experience factors, including customer service, speed of service, cleanliness and overall satisfaction.

The program runs for one full semester, and carries a different time commitment depending on which business operation the secret shopper is assigned. Each of the secret shopper programs requires the student volunteers to fill out surveys designed to help campus administrators make adjustments where needed.

For the dining program, secret shoppers complete a survey after each meal at two university dining halls and a retail location. Each time the shopper completes one survey from each of the three dining locations, a phase is completed. Shoppers then repeat the process three more times over the course of the semester.

For the UF Bookstore program, the secret shopper survey has two phases. One survey asks questions about the student shopping experience, while the second survey asks about employee knowledge pertaining to textbooks and general apparel.

The secret shopper programs for vending and card services through Gator 1 Central are much shorter. The vending survey asks students about the purchasing experience, cleanliness of the area, and quality of the purchased product.

For the Gator 1 Central survey, shoppers request a new Gator 1 Card and describe their experience receiving a new student ID card. The same rubric applies again: customer service, speed of service, cleanliness and overall satisfaction.

While the secret shopper program is volunteer only, there is a payoff for participants. In Gator Dining that includes 12 free meals; eight from university-run dining locations and four from retail dining locations on campus. For the UF Bookstores program, participants receive a $20 gift card for the bookstore. And shoppers in the vending survey receive $40 to use in the campus vending machines.

Students participating in the Gator 1 Central survey receive a new Gator 1 Card for free along with a free meal of their choice from a campus dining location.

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