Monday, February 8, 2010

Are Our Students Our Customers?

Customer Service Survey
Ninety percent of EDM310 students have purchased a textbook which was never used in class. Eighty-nine percent say this has happened at least once at the University of South Alabama. Forty-two percent report that this has happened three or more times at the University of South Alabama.

The cost to students? Fifty-two percent said the total costs to them for buying unnecessary textbooks was over $ 300 and almost half of those (25% of all students) reckoned that the total cost was $500 or more. Eighty-two percent of the students consider this a serious, very serious, or extremely serious problem.

Students (72%) also complained that they were often not able to return books or to resell them. Eighty-three percent were told the book would no longer be used and 76% were denied a buy back because the book had been replaced by "a new edition". Eighty-three percent of the students consider this a serious, very serious, or extremely serious problem.

I asked our bookstore about their return policy. Students have 2 weeks after classes start to return unopened books. They must have a receipt and the plastic wrapping on books must not have been removed. For books purchased in the next three weeks, the student has 2 days to return an unopened book. Returns are not accepted under any other conditions.

For approximately three weeks after finals the bookstore will buyback books for "up to 50% of their face value" as long as the book will be used the next semester and an order has been placed by the professor for that same edition of the book. If the book is damaged or if a "book comes with a computer diskette" (even if the diskette is returned) or if it is a "workbook with pages missing" or if it is an "old edition" it will not be bought back. The book store limits their used purchases to the number they estimate they will sell. Eighty-six percent of EDM310 students this semester consider the inability to return or sell textbooks a serious, very serious, or extremely serious problem.

Students tell me they prefer to use free information from the internet where that is possible such as in EDM310; e-books, either rented or much less expensive versions than the books they are currently forced to buy; or reasonably priced text books that can be returned or resold like other goods they purchase.

So maybe students aren't customers after all. If they were, these attitudes, policies and practices of the bookstore and the faculty would have changed long ago.


  1. I have been thinking about students in a slightly different way. When I consider who I work for, I ultimately come to the decision it is my students. This isn't about customer service from some business model, it is more like an educational agreement where we (educators) take the role of servant to support our master's goals.

  2. Thanks for this Dr. Strange. I have to say it would make it so much easier to be able to ask a question and get an answer without having to make an appointment or leave a message and maybe someone gets back to you and maybe they don't. I think the way you have it set up where there is always someone available to answer any question that we may have is GREAT! This is the first class I have taken that I have found myself with questions and was able to have an almost immediate answer to them (mostly through SKYPE). I'm not sure how much time it takes you to deal with each individual student's question but I know mine have only taken a minute or two so I don't see how that could interrupt a teacher's life SO MUCH. Although I don't ever see this happening with many teachers at south, mostly because many of them have stated they are "dumb" when it comes to computers, it would be nice to see an effort being made to communicate better with students and make sure they actually GET the information you are giving them instead of just memorizing words. Because after all isn't that why you are here in the first place TO TEACH?

  3. I'm on the University Bookstore committee. I'll definately bring this up at the next meeting. I'm a student too and would love to get my texts on my Kindle or at least on my PC. I HAVE used all of the books I've purchased in the grad program, but I want e-texts!