A new spin on student feedback

The Buzz.Report, an exhibitor at the 2015 NACAS Annual Conference, tracks student conversations online.


New feedback aggregation technology will allow college auxiliaries to monitor student feedback in real time through a single dashboard that harvests comments from all major digital communication platforms. Thirteen schools are launching with the Buzz.Report platform to centralize student feedback, filter out irrelevant comments, analyze trends over time, and increase responsiveness to negative comments. They are: Harvard University, University of Alabama, Auburn University, Tennessee State University, Belmont University, Northern Kentucky University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Davidson College, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Loyola Marymount, Gettysburg College, University of North Carolina—Wilmington and University of Illinois – Chicago (11 of whom are NACAS members).

College auxiliaries are experiencing an upheaval in their service delivery models over the past few years. Smartphone use and high-speed Internet connectivity have grown ubiquitous. This connected age has created a challenge for college auxiliaries serving the market. Remaining competitive as a player in the auxiliary space demands an unprecedented level of digital sophistication.

Capturing student feedback is a huge challenge for college auxiliaries. Numerous schools have created forums, message boards, and SMS-based feedback systems to collect student feedback, but this type of solution only works if students choose to use it. Students communicate through countless channels online, and are just as likely to post comments on blogs, public online forums, review sites, social media, and a multitude of mobile apps.

Why is collecting and tracking feedback so important? Student needs and expectations ultimately drive demand, and these variables are changing more rapidly than ever before. College auxiliaries can no longer afford to assume that next year’s new freshmen will continue to follow the buying patterns of their predecessors. Dietary considerations, environmental concerns, and virtualized classrooms are just a handful of the variables necessitating a continual re-evaluation of the business model. Auxiliaries also face increasing competition from a greater number of sources as students and their parents explore different places to buy food, housing, parking, transportation, textbooks, and other educational necessities.

What gets measured gets improved

The Buzz.Report dashboard is designed to allow college auxiliaries to see an objective view of how they currently measure up in the eyes of students. By watching the stream of student conversations online, each school can grade itself on performance and customer satisfaction. Quality and delivery issues surface more quickly. Opportunities for new revenue streams may also present themselves. For example, you may notice that multiple students commented about the lack of vegetarian options at lunch or lamented that retail locations were closed right after a football game.

Centralizing and filtering

Staying ahead of the curve in a complex market requires the ability to quickly sift through massive amounts of information from a multitude of sources. For example, Wikipedia reports more than 200 currently active social media platforms alone as of this writing. Automated aggregation eliminates the need to monitor different channels for feedback, while intelligent filtering algorithms weed out irrelevant or unhelpful comments. This allows auxiliary professionals to see only the most critical feedback at a glance.

Fast responsiveness is key

One of the most important reasons to monitor feedback is to prevent what is sometimes called a “crisis of one.” Unfortunately, the most negative comments about quality and service tend to be the loudest and most likely to go viral. A picture of a burned food item or a complaint about a rude staff member can quickly escalate. While some complaints are superfluous or frivolous, legitimate complaints need to be addressed immediately by the appropriate person. When students can see that someone is paying attention and taking comments seriously, the whole dynamic changes. Students begin to feel more accountable for their words online. Most significantly, responsiveness opens a channel for deeper engagement with students.

Buzz.Report is on a mission to change the way college auxiliaries gather and respond to student feedback. The leaders of the Buzz.Report team will be presenting at the NACAS conference this year. They will be sharing a number of the insights they have gathered about trends in student online feedback and how they are likely to affect the auxiliary market over the next decade.


Adam O'Donnell
Adam O’Donnell is a founder of Buzz.Report. Their technology products help college auxiliary professionals make more informed decisions.

John Roberts
John Roberts is a founder of Buzz.Report. Their technology products help college auxiliary professionals make more informed decisions.

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