At some point during the year, nearly every one of the 4,400 students at Ogeechee Technical College (Ga.) will have a reason to visit the college’s Student Affairs Center (SAC). This central administrative unit houses Admissions, Financial Aid, the Registrar, and Career Services. In 2011, 24,869 student appointments were made with as many as 320 students a day visiting during peak times; during quieter periods, between 80 and 100 students are seen.
The responsibility for helping students sort through admissions paperwork and financial aid offers, confirm registration for classes, and offer career counseling falls on the shoulders of 24 employees across the four departments. And with a sudden increase in enrollment in 2010, “it had gotten tough to serve the students,” admits Ryan Foley, vice president for student affairs.
In truth, it was often pandemonium inside the SAC. Students would sign in on a clipboard to see a counselor and then have no idea how long their wait would be. Employees would leave their desks to greet the next student in line and waste precious time simply traveling from the outer waiting area to their desk and back. Foley and his team knew there had to be a better way.
Their first step was to design a customer flow system to better manage the walk-in traffic. Ogeechee turned to Nemo-Q for a solution that matched the college’s business processes and could be integrated with existing digital signage. For about $15,000, the SAC purchased a touch screen kiosk and server.
Now, students sign in electronically to the department they wish to see, are automatically placed in a virtual line, and receive a printed ticket indicating the estimated wait time, which allows them to plan accordingly. At the same time as the student signs in, the appropriate employee is alerted at their desk. They can then use a control panel on their computer to call forward the next student in line without ever getting up. A TV monitor integrated with digital signage displays the current ticket numbers being assisted and an audible message is played to direct the next student to the appropriate office.
The use of the system has helped the SAC better plan for peak periods, says Foley, and also identify training opportunities. Being able to run reports on productivity, wait times, and customer flow helps the SAC plan for busy periods, such as during lunch, and rebalance staffing levels. “We can monitor work loads and adjust as indicated,” explains Foley.
The formalized work flow has delighted students and employees alike, with dramatically improved student satisfaction ratings as proof, he reports. An average of three minutes has been eliminated from the students’ typical wait time, or the equivalent of approximately 31 weeks of productivity returned to employees. The new system has already saved the college an estimated $18,000 to $20,000 in efficiency and productivity improvements in little more than a year, all without hiring additional staff members.
Although initially hesitant to implement an automated system, now “employees don’t know what they’d do without it,” says Foley.