Students laughing and eating in Cyber Cafe

Customer Satisfaction Initiative Committee Helps Shape Food Services Direction

Monday, December 5, 2022

This spring, Penn State food service changed how it asked for feedback. Instead of offering a system that primarily collected complaints and negative comments, it changed the focus to incentify students across all campuses to offer productive feedback that could improve food quality, customer service, and operations. The initiative has resulted in a 48 percent increase in ‘good’ and ‘great’ ratings.  

“Housing and Food Services is constantly seeking to improve student experiences,” said Cheryl Fabrizi, assistant vice president for Housing and Food Services. “This Customer Satisfaction Initiative is a key way to solicit daily feedback and gather data to make improvements.” 

The initiative was spearheaded by a committee of staff from University Park and Commonwealth Campuses’ residential dining, retail dining, and managing chefs. The committee had a common goal of building a feedback system that could provide data to managers to improve operations, and how to, in real time, market the feedback from the students.  

“We worked hard to innovate [the initiative] with marketing and prizes to get additional responses from our guests,” said Katy Petrosky, corporate registered dietitian and Customer Satisfaction Initiative Committee co-chair. “With more people responding to the survey, especially due to the possibility of winning a prize, we get more responses that aren’t simply just complaints.” 

Petrosky said that before the marketing initiative, most students only responded to a survey to give negative feedback. But that has changed. “Now, we’re getting a more balanced and realistic picture of customer experience,” she said. “We also implemented a way for students to get near immediate feedback from managers when they have a negative experience, so we’re starting to rebuild and repair relationships with guests right away after an unfavorable experience.” 

The new, sophisticated survey includes skip logic, which provides specific feedback. It can hone in on specific eateries at a certain campus and collect data from in-person and online orders. A Power BI dashboard, created with the help of IT, gives operators an easy way to access historical survey data, compare locations, and create goals to strive for consistent improvement. 

The initiative was initially promoted with an incentive survey that offered LionCash prizes, and continues to be promoted via stickers, flyers, digital boards and QR codes on dining receipts. It has collected 700% more responses than its previous iteration, averaging 54 responses per day.  

But more importantly than that, it is gathering highly specific actionable feedback — and that is creating change.  

“Managers at different levels are using survey data to baseline their data, benchmark against other units and set goals,” said Petrosky. “They can also monitor trends and specific customer feedback and can react to that feedback as needed.” 

The initiative has also maximized the “You Said It. We Changed It.” program created at the Commonwealth Campuses that showcases how student feedback directly impacts progress. 

One recent example was a request to bring back buffalo chicken dip. Today, buffalo chicken bread bowls are available every three weeks at select eateries.  

The committee is learning from best practices at the Commonwealth Campuses and implementing them in spring 2023 at University Park. “The initiative creates a culture where customer service is at the forefront of campus dining,” said Petrosky.