Case Study: Alverno College

Alverno College signed up for an online bookstore in 2015, but it wasn’t until the school switched to MBS Direct in fall 2017 that it was able to realize its goal of providing students with more affordable course material options while reducing institutional overhead and generating foot-traffic for the campus brickand-mortar logo store. MBS Direct’s 24/7 customer service, unmatched order accuracy and cost-saving course material options allowed Alverno to stabilize revenue and demonstrate its dedication to students.

Alverno College Finds the Perfect Partner in MBS Direct

Searching for a simple solution

When Alverno College transitioned to an online bookstore in 2015, administrators hoped the move would reduce institutional overhead and offer its students more convenience and savings. Only 16% of undergraduates live on campus and many graduate students are enrolled in weekend programs that allow them to work full-time. An online bookstore, which can reach students anytime, anywhere, was a natural choice.

Yet Alverno’s first partner didn’t work out as planned. Instead of eliminating the school’s course material issues, the move brought chaos.

The school had opted for a hybrid solution, taking textbooks online while maintaining a centrally located logo store. It pared down its employees, leaving assistant bookstore director Alicia Ellison to manage the brick-and-mortar effort. That should have been enough full-time workers, but, because the online bookstore vendor lacked consistent student customer service and failed to fulfill orders accurately, Ellison found herself overwhelmed with queries and complaints about the online bookstore from students.

She worked morning to evening at the logo store. After close, she locked the door and turned to her computer, where she often stayed as late as midnight answering emails from frustrated students and faculty, sorting out orders with the vendor and helping confused users navigate the vendor’s interface.

“That was the only time I could respond to all the questions,” Ellison said. “There were nonstop issues with collecting text orders. We had to review everything.”

When she discussed the situation with the administration, her account of the additional labor required to maintain the online bookstore shocked them.

“I thought we got out of the book business,” one administrator said.

When the vendor’s three-year contract expired in fall 2017, Alverno knew it would not renew.

A new beginning

Alverno University partnered with MBS Direct in November 2017. Even though the launch took place mid-year — as adoptions poured in — the change was smooth and swift. The new online bookstore was ready to go at the start of spring semester 2018.

“They were fantastic,” Ellison said of the MBS Direct transition team.

Students and faculty immediately reported that the interface was much easier to navigate. The course material questions and complaints that had flooded Ellison’s inbox for the past three years disappeared.

“Students say the [MBS Direct] bookstore is so clear,” said Ellison. “Faculty say it is so clear.”

The improved interface was just the beginning. Adoptions were placed easily without the need for constant reviews. The right orders arrived in the right places at the right times. Students now had 24/7 access to a knowledgeable, patient customer service team, ready to handle questions about everything from payments and shipping to rentals and returns.

“The MBS Direct student customer service is key. The difference has been like night and day,” Ellison said.

By the end of spring 2018, Alverno was ready to delegate course material orders to faculty. MBS Direct’s adoption tool, Course Director, delighted the educators.

“We were really concerned about faculty buy-in,” Ellison said. “But we’ve found that people love using Course Director. They really want to be part of the process.”

When it came time for buyback at the end of spring 2018, Ellison again found that MBS Direct’s process was clear and simple for students.

“I have not had one person have to come and ask me how to do buyback,” she said.

With MBS Direct, Alverno had finally achieved its goal of offering students more affordable, convenient course material options while reducing institutional overhead.

Invested in students

Students can have their course materials delivered to the Alverno logo store for pickup, a popular option that Ellison said has increased foot traffic and boosted sales. She has heard much from students about their experience with MBS Direct and the course material options they like best.

Before going online, the Alverno bookstore had only offered new and used textbooks. It had no access to rentals, digital course materials or marketplace offerings. Now, students have many affordable options — used, digital and rental — along with Marketplace, which Ellison said increases their loyalty to the official Online Bookstore.

“The Marketplace option matters,” said Ellison. “It keeps students who are worried about price shopping with the official bookstore.”

Alverno has found that MBS Direct’s superb service, affordable options and easy-to-navigate interface demonstrate the school’s commitment to student success. Ellison recommends the official school bookstore without hesitation.

When students ask whether they’re required to buy from the official bookstore, Ellison said she tells them the Online Bookstore is their best choice. She points out that Alverno’s store has customer service dedicated specifically to their needs.

“Our Online Bookstore is invested in your education,” Ellison said she tells students. “No one else can say that.”

About Alverno College:

  • Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • FTE undergraduates: 1,413
  • 84% commuter students
  • Maintains a brick-and-mortar logo store
  • Ranked amoung the U.S. News & World Report Best Regional Colleges 2018

MBS Direct:

  • Invested in student success
  • 24/7 student customer service
  • 99.9% order accuracy
  • Online Bookstore interface tailored to student's needs
  • Offers new, used, rental, Marketplace and Guaranteed Buyback
  • Adoption tool simplifies ordering