UF Secret Shoppers Evaluate On-Campus Businesses

GAINESVILLE, Fla – For four years, students have been secretly evaluating operations on campus to help Business Services at the University of Florida maintain the best employees and customer service.

Business Services has hosted this program of students being “secret shoppers” to ensure that operations on campus are giving customers positive experiences, according to Marketing and Communications Specialist Jenn Moyer.

Moyer said the program consists of four parts: Gator Dining, UF Bookstores, Vending and Gator 1 Central. Shoppers evaluate each operation based on customer service, speed of service, cleanliness and overall satisfaction, Moyer said.

The program, which lasts until the end of the semester, has a different commitment for each operation. Gator Dining is the longest, and it includes four phases. The UF Bookstores survey has two phases. Vending and Gator 1 Central surveys are much shorter than the others.

Maryanne Long, a Ph.D. student at UF, was a secret shopper for Gator Dining for three semesters and the UF Bookstores for one semester. She said she enjoyed being a secret shopper because she felt as if her feedback was taken seriously and that staff such as Moyer truly cared for her and other secret shoppers.

“My favorite part about the dining program was the post-dining meetings that were held by the UF Dining/Business Services staff,” Long said. “The reason for this is because I sincerely felt that I was heard about my concerns as a diner. It was also an opportunity to share what went well and hear from other secret diners.”

A weird experience that Long had while in the program was having to check the cleanliness of the restroom for one survey. She said the situation was not difficult, but it was awkward.

With her time as a secret shopper, Long said that she believes she was able to impact changes of food delivery in Gator Dining, and she was grateful for the rewards she received in return for completing the surveys.

Gator Dining Marketing Manager Jill Rodriguez said that Gator Dining has been a part of the secret shoppers program ever since it started in 2016. She said that the program is very helpful for all operations to continue to improve for customers.

“The program has been and continues to be very helpful,” Rodriguez said. “Secret shoppers provide insightful feedback that enables us to make changes where needed or acknowledge where we are meeting, and exceeding, our guests experiences.”

Wilcley Lima, the associate director for auxiliary services, said that this program is helping operations in Business Services work in the best way possible.

“This is one of the best ways that we get very specific feedback on how the office is doing,” Lima said. “With this program, we can get specific feedback on very detailed questions that we ask people to look at for us.”

Any serious issues that secret shoppers have are addressed quickly, and Lima reaches out to the shoppers to understand more about the complaint.

The secret shoppers program is comprised of student volunteers who have seen advertisements on social media or gotten the information by word of mouth. Students get rewarded for participating in the program.

According to Moyer, the reward for being a shopper for Gator Dining includes 12 meals. Four of these meals can be obtained at the Fresh Food Company, another four at the Gator Corner Dining and the last four may be used at retail locations across campus.

If students choose to be a secret shopper at the UF Bookstores, they receive a $20 gift card to be used there. Students participating in the Gator 1 Central survey receive a new Gator 1 Card for free and a free meal at their choice of the Fresh Food Company or Gator Corner Dining. For the Vending survey, shoppers receive $40 to use in the campus vending machines.

To get involved in the program, students simply need to email Moyer, and she will work out whatever is the best fit for their schedule. Moyer said that she wants to give an equal opportunity to students interested in participating in the program.


A version of this article by Charlene Medders was also featured in The Alligator on February 10, 2020.


Published: February 4th, 2020

Category: News