It might sound counterintuitive to suggest a campus rec center devote less time and resources to engaging only students. However, there is likely a whole community of faculty and staff members on your college campus who would benefit greatly from using your facilities, and could help improve your rec center’s culture.
North Carolina State University (NC State) has taken this principle a step further. After receiving a visit from any non-student user, particularly faculty and staff on campus, the NC State rec department sends that person a personalized thank-you note.
“I’m regularly thinking about ways to make personal connections with the NC State community,” said Eric Hawkes, the director of university recreation at NC State. “It’s easy to take our faculty, staff, alumni and other non-student members for granted, but we rely heavily on their membership revenue to support our operation.”
To Hawkes, it seems appropriate to thank faculty members for staying on campus for their fitness needs. “We recognize these folks have lots of options to work out and stay active, and I simply want to thank them for choosing us,” he said.
But a simple “thank-you” isn’t the only reason for the note. In addition to thanking the new user for their visit, Hawkes and his team use these opportunities to get feedback from fresh perspectives.
“In my thank-you notes, I explicitly ask members to ‘let me or any of our wellness and recreation team know how we can enhance their experience,’” said Hawkes. “This supports our organizational culture to seek feedback constantly — good, bad and ugly.”
Using this feedback is important for Hawkes and his team to constantly improve the NC State rec center, as well as learn how they can best attract more non-student users to the gym.
And getting additional non-student users into the rec center has helped NC State produce more revenue for the department.
“Generating non-student fee revenues is important for us if we want to continue to provide quality programs, services and facilities without relying on increasing mandatory student fees,” said Hawkes.
Whether to generate more revenue for the department or provide a better workout environment for non-student users, thanking faculty and staff members for their visits has been one of NC State’s most impactful initiatives. “We have nearly 3,000 non-student members, and it is important for us to listen, engage and appreciate them,” he said. “The quality customer service provided by our team and relationships that are established are special.”