Saturday, August 19, 2017

Make Every Day Like Day One on Campus to Retain Students


It was move-in day at OSU around here and the campus was humming with activity. Students are starting to arrive on your campus too to get ready for the school year, or semester, or few weeks for some. But that first day is a magical one for most all students and parents as colleges roll out their best for move-in day.

And most every college will be doing all it
can to make the arrival day welcome big and hearty. Presidents will walk around greeting students and parents. A few may even help carry something in. Administrators are on hand doing the same. At some schools, faculty are around to help out too. And of course, student ambassadors are everywhere helping, pointing, guiding and smiling to try and make the move in easier and friendly. Great start. Sort of like drop-off day at summer camp feeling. 


Too bad it is like Tom Lehrer’s line in his song National Brotherhood Week. It’s only for a week so have no fear. Be grateful it doesn’t last all year. If he were singing about move-in, it would be Thank god it only lasts a day and not all year as it should! 


Yup, as the last parents drive away, their tears drying, it all ends. The president goes back to his or her office. Administrators too. Now faculty will be available for classes and help when needed, we hope. The student ambassadors wash their polo or tee shirts and put them in a bureau to be pulled out at the next organized move in or orientation day. But the excitement and happy welcome end.

Dumb move.
 

The days after move-in day are some of the most important there are to build retention. They are the days the real anxiety builds. When the real work of college starts for students. When they need the most help. Where is building….? Where do I go to….? Who is the one to see for…..? How do I…..? My laptop needs and where ….? Do I need to….? And so and on.
 

But this is when we have decided to let the news students sink or swim; if they can figure out where the pool is on campus and how to get a locker. And what do I need to bring to use it and what are the hours and….and…. The jolly helpful crew is only out there on the day we have labeled move-in. That is the easiest day of all. It is just schlepping in stuff, material stuff. Now when the new students need to set up the psychological stuff, we are not there to help enough. And it is the emotional concerns that will be coming into play when the reality of I am here and where is that and will I fit in and like this place and did I choose the right place. I feel so all alone and I’m sharing a room with some people I don’t know and one is really strange and I’ll have to dress and undress in front of strangers and ….starts to disrupt the new students. 


This is when a little irritation such showing up late for the first class at 8:00 am can become the first step on dropping out because I didn’t know how to get to the humanities lecture hall building and the signs don’t help because they just give me names of the buildings so the professor used me as an object lesson about never coming late to his class. And I so felt like a jerk and wanted to just get out of there. And then I wasn’t on his class list so he sent me to the registrars and where that is was a real mystery and there was no one who I could ask to help me out so I waited until later and missed the whole class. I am not sure I made the right choice. I feel so screwed up here.
 

And all was needed were some of those same administrators and ambassadors, and yes the president, out and about with tee shirts that say “ASK ME AND I’LL HELP” to assist new students. The administrators and the president really do not have any work more important than helping students. Yes, that is right. Students are their business. Their core business. They need to be seen and recognized as a positive friendly force. The ambassadors will be upper-class students, so they will not be dumb enough to schedule anything too early in the morning. Besides, all one needs to do is make a schedule so the campus is covered.
 

There should be someone at the entrance/exit of every dorm; at every parking lot walkway and at every intersection on campus with some in front of various administration buildings to let new students know if they are at the right place.
 On the first two days of classes, there should be a full effort with everyone out there to help students. This way you’ll be sure to get both the Monday-Wednesday and the Tuesday-Thursday class schedules.

After the first two days, the ambassadors should still be at intersections and paths from the parking lots just to handle any issues or questions that might come up during the first two weeks. After that, set up a Q+A area in the main student building or a main lobby to continue helping any students and any visitors.
 And, SMILE, SMILE, SMILE.

And to help you smile and learn some more chemistry, here is a link to Tom Lehrer’s Elements Song. It is certainly worth it and will make you smile.
 

Kissing the Year Off Right
 
And here’s an idea for the first days of classes that will make that first day a sweeter and memorable occasion. It is taken from an ancient Jewish tradition for students on their first day of studying. The day the youngster is to go off to school for the first time, the parents take a prayer book and drop honey on it. It is given to the student who then licks the honey off symbolizing the sweetness of learning.
 

If possible, have faculty do the following in class, but if not have student ambassadors or others greet students at the doors to classes. They greet the new students with a welcome and give each a Hershey’s Kiss or other small candy to start the year right. It sounds corny and it is. But it is also very effective in creating that set of feelings that this school is a (excuse me) sweet place. I have never heard from any school that did this that students were anything than very happy for that early morning kiss.

  
 

If this article made sense to you, contact N.Raisman & Associates to see how you can improve academic customer service and hospitality to increase student satisfaction, retention, and your bottom line.
UMass Dartmouth invited Dr. Neal Raisman to campus to present on "Service Excellence in Higher Ed"  as a catalyst event used to kick off a service excellence program.  Dr. Neal Raisman presents a very powerful but simple message about the impact that customer service can have on retention and the overall success of the university.  Participants embraced his philosophy as was noted with heads nods and hallway conversations after the session.  Not only did he have data to back up what he was saying, but Dr. Raisman spoke of specific examples based on his own personal experience working at a college as  Dean and President.  Our Leadership Team welcomed the "8 Rules of Customer Service", showing their eagerness to go to the next step in rolling Raisman's message out.  We could not have been more pleased with his eye-opening presentation.    Sheila Whitaker UMass-Dartmouth

Get Dr. Neal Raisman's best-selling books by clicking here.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

How to Figure How Much Attrition is Costing You Each Year and What to DO About It

The New York Times (6/7/17) had an article about the enrollment and revenue problems colleges and universities are facing. In it, the author Jon Marcus wrote:

Because of a dip in the number of 18 to 24-year-olds…
enrollment has been dropping for five years, meaning that there are about 300,000 fewer undergraduates to divvy up among America’s campuses than there used to be.

That makes each and every potential and current student vitally important to a college’s bottom line especially since public support of higher education has also dropped significantly over the past decade. Each student’s tuition and fees go to the bottom line of a school and thus is needed to help make the budgets, slashed as they are, work.

Yet, at least 52% of college students will drop out of colleges, universities, community colleges and career colleges before the year ends.  They will take over $250 billion out of higher education at a time when academic budgets are already feeling the hard slap of the economy. This also means that the tax payers have lost most of their investment in future college graduates and a stronger economy since most of the first money in is from federal and state funding. 

Your school may only lose a few 100,000, maybe a million or two, or three dollars…. What will that translate to? Cuts, jobs lost, equipment canceled, salary freezes, benefit reductions, release time gone, larger classes, fewer sections, more deferred maintenance, (deferred maintenance in America’s schools equals around $30 billion right now)general morale shot to pieces. That is bad but not be as bad as for some schools which will have to either merge or go out of business. The Department of Education has over 500 colleges and universities on its list of schools that are performing so financially poorly that they are under heightened review for fear they could go under.  But it does not have to be. The exact amount that your school will lose can be easily calculated. Just use Customer Service Factor 1 which calculates dollars lost due to attrition. (The following is excerpted from my book The Power of Retention: More Customer Service in Higher Education)

CSF1 = [(P X A= SL) X T]

In the formula, P represents the total school population; not just the starting fall freshman number. Most schools use the fall incoming freshmen number and that is an error. The assumption is that attrition occurs most in the first six weeks of the freshman year. That may have some validity for the freshman year but the reality is that students are leaving colleges and universities in any one of the average six-plus years of a four-year degree and in the four-plus average years of a two-year degree. Students leave a school throughout their experience at the college. In fact, some schools are beginning to realize this and worry about the sophomore bubble. But they really need to worry about the super soph sluff, the rising junior jilt, the junior jump, super junior split, the fourth year flee and so on. Every year, every semester, in fact every day is a chance for a student to drop out. Colleges need to be concerned with every student every day of their attendance, for it could be his or her last. So we look at the total population. 

Annualized tuition is the number a school should use to figure its real attrition. Not the retention between the first and second semester or the freshman and sophomore years which are very popular ones. That leaves out all the students who already dropped out before the end of the second term or semester. That number fudges failure. For instance, if a college began a year with 100 new freshman and 99 left in week one but the remaining student stayed the whole year and returned for a sophomore year, the freshman to sophomore percentage would be 100%.

In CSF1, A equals attrition. Again not just from freshman but an annualized attrition rate. And this rate is to include ALL students who leave for any reason. It does not matter if the student says he or she will be back. They are not in the population bringing in revenue until they actually do return. If they pay a place holding fee, that does not count them as a student until they are actually back in classes.

Fudge with the numbers if you have a need for delusion or are insecure, unethical or want to keep the Board feeling better, but when you use the formulas, be fully honest. It will help you understand why the budget is not working or may suddenly implode. No one likes surprises, especially ones that have parentheses around them in the budget and lead to freezes, cuts and the like. Using the formulas honestly can help forecast a reality to avoid surprises and initiate work on retaining students to maintain fiscal and operating health. 

SL stands for students lost annually from total population and revenue production. And T equals annual tuition at the school. So here is what showed up when we analyzed CSF1 for Mammon University. You may know it. Its motto is Omnes Por Pecunia. Anything for a Buck.
Its total population was 500 students 
Annualized attrition was at 39.6%
 
So SL (students lost annually) was 198.
 
Times an annual tuition of $13,000.
So, the formula becomes: 
[(500 x 39.6% = 198) x $13,000] =
a revenue loss of ($2,574,000)

To carry this forward, we can plug in other numbers and see how an increase in retention could add to the bottom line and thus the ability to pay for full time faculty, staff, their benefits, increases for adjuncts, instructional equipment, tutors, research release, new curricula and programs, maintenance, and so on. All those pesky costs that make a college or university better. 

If attrition dropped by 5% for this school, and we substitute 5% increased retention for attrition percentage in the formula. CSF1 = [(500 x 5% = 25) x 13,000] = $325,000 more revenue.

Plug your school’s numbers in, and see how increasing retention affects your budget and instructional strength while attrition will sap the ability to meet budget and mission.  Most of the billions of dollars, lost futures, economic growth and tax revenues can be avoided. All your college needs to do is engage is some real academic customer service. Yes, that’s right. ACADEMIC CUSTOMER SERVICE. Yup! Treating students as if they really do matter. Like they're your clients. That’s Academic customer service starting with as strong a focus and effort on retaining students as enrolling them in the first place. It costs your school at least $5,640 to recruit a student. Why lose them by not expending some inexpensive time and about $25-50 a student to keep them.

Hmmmm. A $25 investment against the loss of thousands, maybe millions. If only the Congress could have gotten that good a deal for the economy we’d be in much better shape. 76% of all students leave aschool due to weak attention to their real needs as educational clients and customers. It’s not good grades they are really after. That’s an academic misapprehension as wrong-headed as the old “look to your left, look to your right” or “this’d be a great place to work if it weren’t for the students…” 

Another delusion is that academic customer service is like the forced smile of an underpaid clerk in a store. College is not a retail store. Here the client can be wrong. Just look at test scores. But students want to feel as if they are valued and important. Students and their families want what the schools have promised but do not always deliver – fair return on significant investments of money, time, emotion and association.

Colleges sell themselves as Cheers U and the students really expect to feel as if they do know their name and really do care about them. They may be Cliff or Norm in real life but want to feel as if they have meaning and value. And it can start with some of the easy how-to’s of academic customer service from signs on campus, facilities through Capt. Kangaroo’s, Smiling like Dean Bill Schaar, telephone protocols, give a name-get a name and other academic service techniques. But it needs to start now if your school wants to save its budget.

If this is helpful to you, please consider having NRaisman & Associates help you reverse the student and revenue loss. We are the leaders in increasing retention through graduation through our workshops,training, presentations and full campus audit of academic customer service.and other retention strategies. We guarantee results.
           Contact us today at nealr@GreatServiceMatters.com    or  call 413.219.6939

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

How to Tear Down Silo/Castle Walls

academic customer service, customer service, The Power of Retention, graduation, student success
Many of the causes for poor customer service at an institution can be resolved in part through better communication. This is an issue for all
academic institutions. As colleges and universities have grown and become more complex, we tend to know less of what others do, are doing and plan to do. We also have fewer chances to interact and learn since our jobs become busier and more demanding just as the need to integrate and share information becomes greater.


Moreover, technology, especially email, makes us all believe we are communicating when we send a message through technology. We generally are not communicating since we end up with a flood of emails and discriminating which we should read becomes difficult. Most people do not read most emails and eliminate or ignore many they should read. But since we believe that by sending an email we have completed a communication, we do not get up from our desks and actually interact. No need to. I just mailed it.

Additionally, as the work becomes more demanding, we focus on what we need to get done and may lose sight of the flow of functions across offices, Our focus is on my area and its work. So we end up making decisions to assure they affect our area best without regard, or at least enough regard, for other areas.

Liege Lords of Higher Education
It is often the case that as long as things appear to be going okay and there are no obvious problems or calamities, those in the chain of command are busy enough themselves to not rock the boat. They leave things and people to do their work in isolation since that is easier. This leads to what are called “silos” in the business literature. In higher education, offices and people in some schools have been left alone to follow their own initiative enough that they don’t live in silos but in castles. Many even have metaphorical or institutionalized moats made out of procedures, paperwork and technology they chose without regard for integrating it with the rest of the college. The directors or managers of the area becomes like a liege lords with a show of loyalty to the school or president but will rule their land as they wish. 

Presidents often have to manage and accommodate their lords and ladies so they don’t rebel and lead a revolt. Presidents hate rebellions. Weakness on the part of the president makes the office and division lords stronger yet. And worse for customer service considerations, to keep the castle free from disturbances, some offices take the meanest dog in the office and make him or her the receptionist to scare of intruders, i.e. students and colleagues.

At many colleges and universities there are some very strong liege lords. They take care of their operation in a way that suits them best. They may make decisions that will meet their own objectives without regard for the colleagues and offices that their work is “handed off to”. They may also make decisions that please their office more than the customers since castles are essentially focused within the walls in which they exist. Customers, students in particular, become seen as an interruption or a nuisance. Colleagues might have to be tended to differently because one lord might need an alliance to defend against a proclamation that might force changes or some loss of control.

The Castles and Their Keep(aways)
This an administrator’s castle is MY home attitude can often be seen in the physical layout of offices. The offices are set up to accommodate the workers while the customer is provided very little, and often inconvenient space for a proper reception or interaction with staff. 

One of the most noticeable examples of the physical castle with moat can be found in most bursar offices. There is a physical wall between the staff and customer. This wall is made to look strong and heavy. The wall is interrupted by thick, very thick solid sheets of glass that may be broken only by small round holes or perhaps a slot at the bottom. Customers are forced to speak through the holes or slots sort of like prisoners in a lock-up. But this is really more of a lock-in and lock you out.

Bursars will tell you that they need the protection in case someone tried to rob them. There is money back there after all. The thick bulletproof glass would keep the people in the office safe. Okay. But what about the customers in the hall? All the situation does is place them in greater danger. What would stop a robber from grabbing students or colleagues, holding the gun on them and demanding money for their safety? Well, but we inside are safe!

Perhaps I am wrong here but it seems that placing a student into a position in which he or she can be held hostage or even harmed on campus may not be viewed as good customer service.

The fortified walls and all are really just to show the importance of the people in- side and protect them from the customers who might want to actually get better service. Even banks have done away with the thick glass and all because it was getting in the way of being able to provide better customer service. They were keeping them, the tellers, from being able to try to form a mini-momentary community of two with the customer. From being able to engage the customer better. But offices that are set up for the staff do not want to engage. They wish to disengage.

In many, too many offices, students/customers are often made to wait for a break in the staff’s activity to even be recognized. Receptionists or people who may be positioned in a reception location seldom look up to greet and welcome a customer or visitor to the office. Greetings are peremptory, even curt at times as if purposely conveying that the person is inconveniencing them. This makes students feel unwanted, unappreciated and even angry. As one student stated, “they don’t seem to care or give a @#$% that I am paying their salary.” A sure statement of someone who has experienced staff indifference and poor service-two major factors in attrition.

Furthermore, some offices do not provide colleagues in other offices with what they need to do their jobs well. Schedules for accomplishing tasks may not jive. Information requested from students as part of the process may not be what is needed later in another office so students are often asked for more or even the same information if it is not shared. One office may not be able to complete required paperwork if the previous functional area has not completed its work so a student can enroll or pay a bill

Finally, with people living in their own fiefdoms, not knowing what another office does or who does it, students are forced to engage in a continuous shuffle from one office to another as they try to accomplish a required or wanted task. The shuffle or the run around seems to be a constant of student life at every college and university. Students report at every school that they are almost always sent to at least two to three offices when trying to get a simple task done. The offices may also be in the academic areas it should be noted since there is an apparent divide between the academic and non-academic silos.

Starting the Siege to Tear Castles Down
Begin by setting consistent institutional customer service standards on simple things such as proper telephone and personal greeting (no more than three rings) , time in which all emails and voice mails should be responded to (by the end of the day), time to recognizing a visitor to an office (immediately), physical structures, reception areas, etc. Then create a functional workflow process and diagram that integrates all offices around the needs of students and one another to assure also that the offices are doing their work at a time when it benefits both students and colleagues who depend on their finishing the work so they can then do theirs.

For example, an integrated team for all offices involved can develop one diagram that would follow a student from application through to showing up on first day of classes. Every step in the process should be charted and a responsibility center indicated. Dates by which the work needs to be accomplished for smooth integration with the next office should be noted. Any paperwork needed should be indicated and by whom it needs to be received as well as if information on it needs to go to another office. Review all forms to make sure they integrate material and assist not only the originating office but the next one. And be certain they are really needed or are we just making students and families do extra work so we can have our personal form? 

Doing this diagram could also help identify points of contact that are causing students to turn away from showing up on the first day of classes and save the new students who might drop out of the process when faced by that point of contact and its problem

Finally, students, the customers must always come first. Make sure that every step is streamlined to require the least amount of time and effort for the student and the family first. Second, make certain that every step is actually needed and in compliance. We recently helped a school that was losing students trying to change or drop a class because it demanded eight steps and they did not want to bother completing the eight steps.  Third, be sure that every step is understood and integrated by all other offices and people involved. Fourth, whenever possible all material, forms, information and data should be entered into a single, integrated CRM and MIS systems. This could also allow for increased customer service by letting the system pre-fill all and any areas on forms such as name, address, etc that a student might have to complete. Any time we can remove additional repetitive work for a customer, the happier they will be. This can also be accomplished for colleagues if the information is in an integrative data base.

Workflow diagrams can be made for any and all processes that need to be accomplished in the administration of the school and by students. Creating them will bring people together into teams. Force them to work together. Help them learn what others do. And perhaps, start taking chunks out of the walls of the silos so people can start to gain a larger integrated vision of the college.

FAQ User Sheets and School User Manuals
Schools may also wish to consider putting together FAQ sheets of the most frequent student issues or questions in each office. Ask the people who work in each office to compile a list of the ten most common student concerns or questions as well as the common ones that are asked but do not apply to their office. Next, supply a brief answer to the question. Once compiled, these can be turned into an indexed School User Manual (Our University for Non-Dummies?) that students and employees could access to find answers to their questions. Even better, the FAQs can be put on a searchable intra-net so employees can look up a question when faced by it and answer it for students. These could be used also to find answers to issues or needs students have but may not be specific to the office. In turn, the manual would provide people in each office with information to know the answers to many common student questions so they could direct students to the correct location for an answer. A user manual could also be the basis for giving people the information needed to end the shuffle.

To really make this work well, devote a day to bringing all offices that interact together. Let each office stand up, say what it does on a daily basis and then go over its ten FAQ items for everyone to hear. Allow for questions too so if there is any confusion it can be cleared up.

All these efforts can start to tear down walls caused by lack of communication. Interaction is the best way to get people to learn about and know who one another is and what they do. As a result, this can and will improve performance, satisfaction and service to one another and students.

Any questions from this article or desire for more information on any of the discussion, just get in touch with me and I will clear it up so you can start knocking down the castle/silo walls.  Nealr@GreatServiceMatters.com  413.219.6939

IF THIS ARTICLE MAKES SENSE TO YOU, YOU WILL WANT TO OBTAIN A COPY OF THE BEST-SELLING BOOK ON RETENTION AND ACADEMIC CUSTOMER SERVICE THE POWER OF RETENTION: MORE CUSTOMER SERVICE IN HIGHER EDUCATION by clicking here
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“We had hoped we’d improve our retention by 3% but with the help of Dr. Raisman, we increased it by 6%.” Rachel Albert, Provost, University of Maine-Farmington

“Neal led a retreat that initiated customer service and retention as a real focus for us and gave us a clear plan. Then he followed up with presentations and workshops that kicked us all into high gear. We recommend with no reservations; just success.” Susan Mesheau, Executive Director U First: Integrated Recruitment & Retention University of New Brunswick

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How Much Does a Course Section Actually Cost and Should You Cancel it?

The Real Cost of Class Sections
Imagine for a moment that you were in charge of an affair for hundreds of people. You made arrangements with the caterers months ago. They had given you a list of food you could choose
from. You chose it. Put down a deposit. Sent out invitations so people could attend. Chose all the necessary accouterments and all the arrangements. Took off a few days from work to be able to attend. Bought the guest books. Prepared fully.Then a few days before the affair, the caterer called and said that it was canceled because there were not enough guests to make it worthwhile. Sorry! Would you be upset? Likely so. Mad enough to spit and quit! Never use that caterer again.

Your school is that caterer most every semester, quarter and/or term when we cancel classes after registering students into them.

One of the greatest dis-services we provide students is during the scheduling of classes. Well, actually the non or re-scheduling of classes. Even more accurately, the canceling of classes during the last week or two prior to the start of classes.

We in higher education show absolutely no real concern for our students and the serfs we employ as adjuncts (more on this another time and how it effects service) when we decide to cancel a section late in the game. And we do this so very often. We have a very bad habit of waiting until the last week or two then determining that there aren’t enough students in section 8 so “off with its head! Cancel it. Screw up the lives and schedules of the students’ who registered for section 8. So what if they registered months ago and planned their lives and schedules (academic and personal) around the promised section. So what if they planned their work around the sections they chose and we let them believe they would have right up until now. If they have to choose between work and non-intellectual stuff like food and paying for tuition, they should realize what comes first! Our convenience and poor planning!! And if they don’t like it they should just quit their job and……. What’s that? They did quit. Not the job. School. Well, we were right to cancel their section. They really aren’t dedicated to learning enough to change their entire schedule, their life, job, arrangements with others, and all the things we were equally ticked about when we were students.”

Right! Just because we made an offer to them which they accepted and put down money for, that doesn’t mean we have a real contract because this is not the real world. Oh no. Don’t start with me on that. It isn’t. In the real world when you make an offer that is accepted and money passes hands, paperwork is filed that is an actionable contract. And in the real world, the one who breaks the contract is liable often for real money, or at least for some penalty. But in our world, it is the client who feels the pain and we wonder why they are angry and dropping out to go to another restaurant…uhhh school.

Most of the time, colleges and universities decide to cut a section for “fiscal reasons.” They believe there aren’t enough students in the section to make it fiscally reasonable. Colleges and universities just cut back on the number of course sections offered and then cull out sections with small numbers to save on the budget. They think that if they do not teach a low enrollment section, they will save money. Not really so as we’ll discuss below. Not simply because the calculations are wrong but because losing a student because of a cut section is just poor money management.

How many Students Does it Take to
Keep the Lights On?
 

For some reason, perhaps academic tradition, colleges and universities often use the number 10 as the required number of students enrolled in a section by a certain date to let a class go forward. That in itself befuddles fiscal and staffing realities.

Consider that the average number of adjuncts (i.e. part time indentured servants who get very low pay and no benefits. At least Wal-Mart gives its serfs a staff discount and $4 generic drugs and you don’t need advanced degrees to work there…) teaching course sections in the average college or university has risen to somewhere between 50% to 64% and could be more if figured by individual departments. That’s the number of adjuncts by the way, not the percentage of courses taught by them. That number is not available but could run as high as 75% considering some will teach as many sections as one section below full-time teaching loads, reductions in loads and such. And though I do not have but anecdotal information, it seems most of the introductory courses and required courses not taught by the newly hired junior, non-tenured, full-time faculty are taught either by adjuncts or T.A’s, i.e. part-time grad students who get tuition reduction and sometimes some pay too. So the odds are quite good that a course section especially required or introductory courses will be taught by a low-paid adjunct or T.A. How low paid? As low as possible. When $3,400 a section is like a princely sum. At $3,400 a section, an adjunct teaching 3 sections can make as much as $10,200 a semester!! Times two semesters that’s as much as $20,400 a year. There are hotel maids that don’t make that much though they do get tips which adjuncts don’t.

Now, I don’t mention the high pay of adjuncts alongside of the employment demands of advanced degrees for which many adjuncts are still paying off loans strictly for political reasons. No, that would be wrong! (Well, maybe not.) I bring this forward as part of a larger customer service point about the fiscal truths about canceling sections and pushing students to think very negatively about your college or actually quit. By the way, there have been many students who believe last minute class cancellations and bad advising are two methods used by schools to make them go additional semesters so they can make more tuition money. That’s absurd. We aren’t quite bright enough to do that as part of a business model. And I actually believe we do have more ethics and morals than to do that. We just do not have the right business thinking.

The Real Cost of Sections
All the above is to also question whether or not students are receiving the most important customer service of good teachers who are dedicated to their learning and available to assist them when they need help. Maybe not. But what the numbers show is that most courses in colleges and universities are being taught by underpaid, non-benefit receiving part-timers. Yes, some schools do provide some benefits and some adjuncts have unions to try to gain them better pay and benefits but to this point, it’s still serfdom for most. 

According to the College Board's article "Trends in College Pricing 2016" the average tuition costs were as follows:
Four-year private $33,480
Four-year public $9.650
Two-year public $3,520.

Now let’s assume that the average student takes 4 courses for twelve credits each semester or 24 credits a year. So the four-year private student pays $4,185 per course; (annual tuition and fees/24), four-year public $2,412.50 per course, and two-year public $440 per course in tuition for a three credit course; more for a four credit course. For public schools which do get some public financial support, tuition is not the only revenue source so the cost per course is actually lower for the student but to keep the paying field even, we’ll just figure tuition and fees.

Now, consider that the better paid adjuncts seem to get around an average $3,400 a course, no benefits. Most get less and some quite a bit less but for this discussion let’s use the high priced serf cost. That way we won’t be understating costs. So to equal pay for an adjunct at a two-year school would need just about 7.7 students in the section to break even; a four-year public college or university would call for 1.4 students and a four-year private would need just a torso, not even a full student. Granted there are associated costs but this should provide a general notion that the number of 10 in a section for fiscal responsibility is just wrong. You can of course really figure the particular break-even at your institution as follows with RPC equaling revenue per student per course; the annual tuition and fees divided by 24:

RPC = Tuition per student (revenue per student per course) x 3 (credits)
Cost of instructor per section = NUMBER OF STUDENTSRPC TO BREAK EVEN

If a school can break even in the teaching of a course, it should always offer the section as a customer service to students and as a retention service to itself. A canceled section loses students due their accurate perception of customer non-service and indifference to their needs by the school. The student realizes he or she is not really important to the school. The college loses because students will drop out when courses are not available. Though universities may think they save money when they cancel an under subscribed section, when one looks at the formulas above that belief is often proven untrue. The institution may very well either break even or make some money. Yes, we all know that most colleges are not into it to make money but a fund balance never hurts. And those that are for-profit, why lose revenue and EBITA?
Why cancel sections students need to progress to graduation and lose students we all need to make revenue to run the college? Especially when there is lost? Except when you cancel sections for no good reason

NRaisman & Associates has been providing customer service, retention and research solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits; workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. NRaisman & Associates prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services. 
www.GreatServiceMatters.com 413.219.6939 nealr@greatservicematters.com

Thursday, May 18, 2017

If You Say You Will Do It - DO IT!

There is actually something worse than delivering poor or weak service. And that is promising great service and then not delivering. Or mollifying the
customer by telling him or her you’ll look into the situation, will get it resolved and either do not get it resolved or not get back to the customer.

Say a student or customer comes to you and asks for help. Perhaps a student leaves a phone message or an email account of the problem asking for you to assist in a problem he or she has. You get back to him or her by telephone but miss the person. So you leave a message.

I am sorry to hear that you feel you may have a problem……..

(Yes we do use the conditional all the way through to protect ourselves as the HR and lawyers taught us to do. May, perhaps, could, maybe, might, possibly, or combinations might possibly may perhaps have an issue…..But never simply say, holy sh%t, he did that? Never commit or accede. That’s the way to please the lawyers but perhaps, maybe, possibly upset the customer more.) But then we go and commit to look into it and make what the student takes as a promise.
…I will look into the issue, see if anything can be done and get back to you as soon as I can.

Granted soon is… well to us it is a sensible period of time as we see it. Soon as I can get the information, or contact the person, or find if there is a problem or even if there is a solution. To a customer or student with a problem, soon is now or by the end of the day, if not …well if not sooner.

Or the person tells the student, I’ll look into it and get back to you by Friday. If you make that commitment you’d better get back by Friday. That is a promise of delivery of service that the student customer will expect to be fulfilled. And rightly so.

Or the person has been to the legal seminar on commitment so he says I’ll get back to you by Friday if I have anything to tell you. There’s the conditional again. If I have anything to tell you. Covers you. Right? Nah it doesn’t because what the student hears is I’ll get back to you by Friday period. The expectation is that you will have something to tell him or her even if it is I have nothing to tell you yet.

This is the psychological background the student brings to any conversation in which service is offered/promised. Offered by you. Promised in the mind of the student. And soon is now. Oh yes, let’s not forget, the student expects a solution especially if you or your school tries to claim it cares about it students. And well you should because we are there for student success which is our success.

What is above is essentially the same we expect from service providers we pay. For instance right now I am getting quite frustrated by a guy who put in some tiling in a bathroom so I could work on my new book. There were a couple tiles that were not quite right. They need to be taken out and replaced. He said he’d be here at 9 a.m. It is now 11:25. He has failed. I will let him know so by the rating I will give him on Angies’s List. I will also tell anyone needing a tile person not to hire him. For him and a college that disappoints on promised service the Malthusian Custopmer Service Progression definitely comes into play here. Students may not go to Angie’s List to comp-lain. They will show their dissatisfaction by ending up on the drop list. Then they will tell everyone who even hints at asking about college or why he dropped out.
So here it is.
The Six Point Solution to Proper Call Backs
When you tell a student you will look into IT:
  1. If you are not sure when you will have an answer - say you are not sure when you will be able to get back but I will get back to you.
  1. If you know you can get back on a certain date – say you will get back by XXXXday but I cannot promise I will have an answer/solution. Then, MAKE DAMN SURE YOU CALL ON THAT DAY even if all you have to say is I don’t have answer but I am working on it. Then provide an update on what you and/or others have been doing.
  1. If you get a resolution or answerer sooner than when you told him or her to expect an answer it is okay to give good news early.
  1. If you are not able to call back on time, it is imperative that someone calls for you and givers an apology and an update for you. Though do realize the      customer will surely believe you just don’t want to talk with him. Not a god thing but better than no call at all on the anointed date.
  1. You can let someone else call back with good news. No one complains if you let someone else tell them good news.
  1. You cannot let someone else call with bad news. If you do, you will create a      doubly angry person who will eventually come to see you anyhow as if to check if what he heard was really true.
Finally, DO NOT SAY YOU’LL CALL AND DON’T DO IT AT ALL. That will make the  student feel like a jilted lover. And you’ve seen the movies about the rejected lover and the rabbit or the guy in the hockey mask.
That’s right. Michael Myers was expecting that call from the Dean that never came. Look what happened!!!

BTW, I am waiting to hear from a major communication (internet, cable, telephone) company that has promised to call back and said it will try to help on two issues. If the company which I won’t name just yet but WOW, they were named as the best by Consumer Reports for service. But at this time, it seems local service is good but WOW, some of the corporate…. They may be trying but need to read this piece and not let passive aggressive types work with customers. Nor should you for that matter. I mean WOW, use the right WAY to do things.
IF THIS ARTICLE MAKES SENSE TO YOU, YOU WILL WANT TO OBTAIN A COPY OF THE BEST-SELLING NEW BOOK ON RETENTION AND ACADEMIC CUSTOMER SERVICE THE POWER OF RETENTION: MORE CUSTOMER SERVICE IN HIGHER EDUCATION by clicking here
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Neal is a pleasure to work with – his depth of knowledge and engaging, approachable style creates a strong connection with attendees. He goes beyond the typical, “show up, talk, and leave” experience that some professional speakers use. He “walks the talk” with his passion for customer service. We exchanged multiple emails prior to the event, with his focus being on meeting our needs, understanding our organization and creating a customized presentation. Neal also attended and actively participated in our evening-before team-building event, forging positive relationships with attendees – truly getting to know them. Personable, knowledgeable, down-to-earth and inspiring…. " Jean Wolfe, Training Manager, Davenport University

“We had hoped we’d improve our retention by 3% but with the help of Dr. Raisman, we increased it by 5%.” Rachel Albert, Provost, University of Maine-Farmington

“Neal led a retreat that initiated customer service and retention as a real focus for us and gave us a clear plan. Then he followed up with presentations and workshops that kicked us all into high gear. We recommend with no reservations; just success.” Susan Mesheau, Executive Director U First: Integrated Recruitment & Retention University of New Brunswick, CA

“Thank you so much for the wonderful workshop at Lincoln Technical Institute. It served to re-center ideas in a great way. I perceived it to be a morale booster, breath of fresh air, and a burst of passion.” 
Shelly S, Faculty Member, Lincoln Technical Institute