As Keith Wenrich was about to leave Gym West on the first floor of the Ramsey Student Center for Physical Activities, he came across a lost first-year student who was looking for an elliptical machine to exercise on. Packed bags and car keys in tow, Wenrich decided to help the student by walking her up the stairs and across the building to ensure she got where she wanted to go.
Positive customer service interactions like that are a big focus for Wenrich, who took over in July as director of the Department of Recreational Sports, which is part of the Division of Student Affairs.
“One of our visions is that everyone matters,” Wenrich said. “If we can provide great customer service, then anyone who comes here is going to tell their friends they had a good experience.”
Providing good customer service, Wenrich says, is all about breaking down barriers and helping tone down the intimidation factor that comes from entering the 420,000-square-foot facility that contains five gymnasia, three swimming pools, three multipurpose rooms, a climbing wall,
10 racquetball courts, two international squash courts, a strength and conditioning room, a 1/8-mile jogging track, an outdoor equipment rental room, an outdoor resource center and more.
“There’s this perception of these unwritten signs on the front door of Ramsey that say: ‘Only the fit are allowed,'” Wenrich said. “What I really want to do is break those signs down and try to get people to know we are for everyone; we want everyone to participate.”
Wenrich already has put in place some initiatives to encourage participation and make the facility more welcoming. This semester, customer service representatives have been welcoming visitors with high-fives and working to make the Ramsey members feel more comfortable by doing things such as demonstrating proper technique for the biometric hand scanners in the facility’s lobby. Wenrich also has trained his staff to help anyone who looks lost or might need assistance.
A new online sales system, Fusion, also has boosted service and access to the center, Wenrich said. Ramsey members now can sign up for classes or intramural sports online any time.
“That’s what students want-they want to be able to look at their phone at 2 a.m. and sign up for intramurals or a class,” Wenrich said.
The system, combined with some tablets, also allows for a more streamlined process for intramural rosters, accident reports and work orders. Fusion also will allow departmental staff to track participation rates, information that can be used to better tailor offerings.
In an effort to better serve its members, more students have been added to the student advisory board, which hears ideas from the department and provides feedback about services and facilities. Wenrich also is working on small lunchtime meetings with some of his more than 500 student staff members.
Recreational Sports has other changes in the pipeline, too. A new challenge course with a zipline will be opening in early spring. The lobby of the Ramsey Center will be getting a makeover in early summer, and the building will be getting some aesthetic updates over time.
Wenrich also wants to work on raising money to provide scholarships to some of the student staff members in the “RamFam.”
“I’ve met with people who graduated years ago, and they’re still talking about their experiences working at the Ramsey Center,” he said. “We’re telling them now that they can help others do the same with things like book money, scholarships or even helping send them to a professional conference. I would love to be able to give back to student staff that way.”
With all the changes, Wenrich is aiming to create excitement, smiles and memories among those on campus.
“Some people think all we do is put balls out in the middle of a court, but we’re way more than that,” he said. “We take people on trips, and they’re building relationships. We provide experiences and challenges that people have never had before as well as management experience for our student staff.
“The relationships and memories that are built here are things that will last and they’ll remember for 20 years,” he also said.