July 30, 2010

‘Saluki411’ offers new gateway to SIUC information

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Sometimes you just don’t know how to get the information you need and that can be frustrating.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s new Saluki411 provides callers with a live person to quickly connect them to the information and resources they seek. Saluki411 also is available via e-mail, website, Facebook and Twitter.

“The Campus Call Center is a collaboration between University Communications and Telecommunications to deliver a single point of contact for external and internal callers needing campus information,” said Dave Bouhl, deputy director of Information Technology-Telecommunications. “The advantage of having the center housed along with University Communications is it insures callers will receive the latest, up-to-date information about campus events and news by telephone, web, social networking, text, chat and other developing communications applications as the center expands. It is very important to have the capability to use as many venues as possible to allow the University to communicate with students, parents and the public in the manner they are most comfortable receiving their information. We are hoping that through a trained and friendly ‘front door’ we can make a contribution toward the recruitment and retention of students and support of campus activities.”

If you already know what person or department you want to connect with at SIUC, you can contact them directly. Otherwise, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, when you dial the main campus telephone number (618/453-2121), if you don’t know the specific person or department to ask for, just press 0 or wait on the line and you’ll find yourself talking to Saluki411. Under the direction of SIUC staff, a crew of student workers answers questions from callers or refers them to the appropriate person and office.

If busy lines prevent immediate transfer of a call to the appropriate place, an e-mail will forward the caller’s contact information, allowing him or her to get a response within 24 hours. Saluki411 follows up with a courtesy call to assure customer satisfaction.

Callers can also contact Saluki411 directly by calling 618/453-7482 (453-SIUC), e-mailing asksiuc@siu.edu, looking online a www.saluki411.siu.edu or on Facebook or via Twitter.

“With Saluki411 we have trained students who can totally focus on answering calls and inquiries and helping get people the information they need. The students help callers navigate where they want to go; that is their top priority. Sometimes, the students have the general information to answer inquiries but much of the time, their work is referring people to the right person and place,” said Michael Ruiz, director of University Communications.

“This project is a good example of what departments, in this case Telecommunications and University Communications, can achieve when they work together. With declining budgets we will need more collaborative efforts like this if we are going to continue to provide the same services to the public and the campus community,” he added.

He noted that the two SIUC staff members leading the call center have technology expertise and call center experience and were already on staff. In addition, existing University equipment is in use. Saluki411 began operating in mid-April and essentially serves as a gateway to the University and information about SIUC for students, parents, faculty, staff and community members. The campus community can also access information about relevant community entities through Saluki411.

“In time, we will also have the ability to supplement call support for other call centers on campus as well as training for campus call center personnel. The Call Center will also provide call support in the event of campus emergencies,” Bouhl said.

No timetable is in place for these additional services. If the call center concept continues to prove successful, plans call for expanding the existing center or adding centers as it’s financially feasible, Ruiz said. Likewise, other potential future services include having live webchat operators to assist visitors to the www.siuc.edu website more easily find information about campus and the surrounding area. Ruiz said the timeframe is contingent upon funding.