Monday, March 14, 2016

Survey on How Well Colleges Treat Students

Text Box:

National Survey to Study How Well Colleges Treat Students

Just how well colleges and universities actually treat students is the question a new national survey study by The Educational Policy Institute and Dr. Neal Raisman proposes to answer. We all say for example that we treat our students with individual attention and great service but no one has ever tried to determine just how well we actually fulfill our promises. This survey/study will do that if enough people participate.

The service to students survey can be accessed by clicking on the link It efficiently gauges the level of academic customer service provided by identifying behaviors and situations on our campuses as experienced by students. The survey has been field tested on both four and two-year college and university campuses and has shown a positive reliability.

Raisman is the recognized expert on academic customer service after developing the field of study through five books and over 100 articles on the subject. He also has applied his measurement and corrective techniques to improve service to students and staff at over 400 colleges and universities in the US, Canada and Europe. His last national study The Cost of College Attrition at Four-Year Colleges & Universities published by the Educational Policy Institute calculated the amount of revenue lost due to attrition in over 6,000 schools. It also provided schools a set of formulas they could use for ongoing calculations of how much money is lost due to attrition.

Now we need you to complete the survey and ask you to send it on to others on your campus. It will only take five to ten minutes of your time and the results will be extremely helpful. The results of the study will be published and made available through the Education Policy institute which is co-sponsoring the study..
Please click, complete the survey and pass it on to others in higher education for them to complete.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Anger Comes to College

It’s been a very busy two weeks of giving presentations all over the country. And there has been a common question coming up in as diverse places as Los
Angeles, Texas and NYC . “Are students more upset today than they were in the past?”
My answer surprised a few folks. “Yes. They are.”
Students are more easily upset and even prone to outbursts of anger more this year than they have been in the past. People are even hearing more gerunds coming up in discussions with them. Gerunds? Words ending in “–ing” used in phrases such as “this #%&ing school”.

Students are reflections of our society and the result of the culture’s culture or lack of it. And today’s national culture is one of free floating antagonism, anger and attack. And this is not just in the political debates but is pervasive in our society. Students and the campus are not separate or isolated from what is going on in our society.  In fact they bring the societal mood and the messages that are floating in our society onto campus, into the halls and classrooms each and every day.

And right now our national mood is rather dour if not out and out nasty. The nature  of politics and everyday life are combative and aggressive. Everywhere one turns the message is attack what you don’t agree with. Even to the point of physical as well as verbal abuse. Just this morning there were reports of pastors polluting the funerals or soldiers with messages thanking G-d for killing them, people beating and torturing men simply because they were born gay, politicians making outrageous claims and attack ads. TV and radio pundits smearing and assaulting anyone and everyone with whom they might disagree with attack words and statements using a very heated level of discourse. I and you can feel the anger and you can be sure our students do too.

I am not a language prude in any way and have been known to use some strong words myself but I am surprised how crass and low our use of language has become. Words we would have only used when deeply provoked or not at all are now common (and yes I chose that word purposefully) in everyday discussion. The gerunds fly.

All of this accompanied with the ever increasing costs of attending college have made our students into angrier and less tolerant consumers.  There is a clear and consistent relationship between the cost of a product or service and the demands that a consumer/customer places on it. The higher the cost or the stress to pay for something, the greater the demand that it perform at a level equal to expectations for the product or service. So as tuition and the hidden tuition we call fees keep climbing, the increases push expectations to higher levels  This in turn generates more  anxiety leading to greater levels of anger.

This increases even more when we do not meet the expectations of students or treat them as they feel they are due for all the money and personal investments they are making in our schools. And unfortunate, I have not been on a campus where the bulk of students feel the school is meeting the expectations it created to recruit them.

The expansion of college throughout the society making college a rite of passage to a job rather than to the upper and middle class has also made higher education familiar and taken away the mystique of academia. Familiarity does breed contempt in some cases and college is one of them. As more and more people have gone to college and been in contact with the denizens of academia, they have seen how some do have what appears to be an easy life or are not responsive to their needs.

Couple higher expectations with lowered behavior levels and that is a formula for bad customer behavior that often comes out in the common statement “I pay your salary.” So, yes, students are more demanding/difficult.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Creating a Service Mission/Vision for Your School to Increase Success

It is difficult to get somewhere when you don’t know where you are going. You
may know where you want to head but you need vision to see how to get there. And in that same manner, to get to service excellence and gold standard customer service, an organization needs to have the vision of what it seeks to accomplish, to define itself and to guide the journey.

Colleges need mission and vision statements to get to who they want to be; to lead the way. A mission statement talks about how you will get to where you want to be. A mission statement defines the purpose and primary objectives of the school as well as some values the institution holds as important; the who we are. It talks about the present as a precursor to the future.

The vision statement tells people what we want to eventually become; what our vision of the future is. 

The mission and vision statement together set the tone and the cultural values for a school. They can change the school. We are aware of some schools that want their mission and vision statements to mean something more than platitudes to please an accrediting body so they actually print them up on posters or the backs of business cards and such to keep them before the college community. Some actually have aspects of their mission and/or vision built into their evaluation systems to assure that people try to live up to them. These steps are to be lauded.

But these are generalized statements quite often that do not speak to service excellence or often students and their success. Most schools know that they need a college mission and vision statement. But they have yet to define and devise what they see as their service mission or vision statement. These are the values and definitions that will guide the organization to deliver excellent customer service to its students and members of the internal community to reach its service goals.

It is all well and very good when a college or university says it wants to achieve customer service excellence or reach the gold standard of customer service but until the school defines that standard and sets out a vision for everyone to follow and understand, how does it know what it is shooting for and if it achieves it? People do not see what it is that the school expects or wants for everyone.

We may know what our mission statement says and even believe it is more than the seven steps to salvation – something to be stated and put in a brochure but not really acted upon.  We know it is not meant to be acted upon in many cases because it does not associate any actions with it. No “To achieve this we will….” They are not made functional.

There may even be a vision statement which is how we want to see ourselves and be seen but these are also not focused enough by being made functional, by being created with how we will do this. And these vision statements though they may be lofty enough are almost never focused on service to be delivered. So it is no wonder that even if a mission or vision statement might have some nice language neither usually sets out a clear defined path of how to do what is necessary to achieve the objectives, to reach the goals.

It is interesting that colleges and universities all have mission statements and most have vision statements  but though they say they want excellent customer students for students and the community, they either do not mention this at all in either nor have a service vision statement for people to follow. This makes one wonder if they really do care about customer service and treating students and employees well if they have not articulated their vision and goals; never mind making the statement functional or accountable. Moreover, in searching colleges and universities for service statements, there were none that could be found. The closest to a vision was something akin to we will meet the needs of students and the community” but this is far short of a collegiate service vision.

A service vision statement should state what the goal is, what is important to get to that goal and how we will get there in functional statements that are actionable. So for example, Providence Hospitals, Columbia, SC has a mission and visio0 statement for customer service as stated below.

Customer service, good or bad, doesn't just happen. Maintaining an effective customer service program is one of the biggest challenges facing organizations today. Developing an effective customer service plan and instilling a commitment to it within the organization is key to meeting our mission. Therefore, Providence Hospital absolutely commits to provide exceptional customer service, understands its significance, and promotes a plan to accomplish our goals and objectives. Identifying areas of concern and initiating timely recovery actions become the responsibility of every person involved at Providence Hospitals.

We want our employees to understand and deploy what makes for an excellent customer service experience, how to deliver excellent customer service in person, on the phone and how to recover when the experience has not met our customer’s expectations.

These are a good start but they do not define or make functional these objectives enough to say how they will get there. The hospital does make a start by mentioning in person, on the phone and how to recover when the experience has not met our customer’s expectations so they have defined service a little bit. But not enough to help anyone reading the statement to know what they ought to do or what needs to be done.

A better job was done by the Osceola (Osceola) Public School District when it put forward a service mission and vision statement 2007-2008 Model Customer Service Plan. It set as its mission

The Osceola School District is committed to providing the highest level of quality customer service – one stakeholder at a time.

And its vision statement was

Osceola School District employees are empowered to offer customer service with the following C.R.E.E.D. (Confidentiality, Results, Equity, Empathy and Dignity
It then went on to define each area of its CREED. For example,
I can acknowledge each customer and his/her individual differences while taking ownership in promptly assisting with questions or concerns.
And then these was further defined in functional and accountable definitions and actions to be taken.
The Osceola School District believes that a major component of ensuring high student achievement is providing excellent customer service to each and every stakeholder. When you - as a parent, school partner, or visitor - interact with an Osceola School District employee, you can expect our very best in:
Courtesy and Respect
All customers will be treated with respect and dignity.
Each staff member will be courteous and helpful during all customer interactions.
Each staff member will maintain the customer's confidentiality and privacy.
Each staff member will communicate in a friendly and professional manner.

Then these were further augmented with steps to be taken by the school district to make all this happen such as:

Customer Service Action Plans:
Customer Service Satisfaction/Comment Card boxes will be placed at all school/work locations to provide continual feedback on what kind of service we are providing. The locked boxes will be checked daily by the school secretary or designee, and the cards will be given to the school/department administrator for follow-up. An on-line customer service survey will also be posted and remain on the district’s website.
An Employee A+ Customer Service recognition program will be developed in order to recognize employees who provide excellent customer service based on feedback from co-workers or customers through comment cards/surveys…

The Osceola School District plan has all the parts of a full and workable service mission and vision; who we are; who we want to be and how we will do this. It may not have been perfect as a mission and vision statement but it certainly outpaced what colleges and universities have.

Creating your schools service mission/vision statement

A college or university can change its culture and its student success rate if it engages in and then generates a college customer service mission that it puts into functional and accountable terms. And if it actually follows them of course. If it spends time and effort to create a service mission and vision it can use that to alter the way that people think about the school and students. A service mission/vision can then be a powerful tool for even greater success. 

To create a service mission statement a school needs to consider the following questions to determine how it sees itself really. This would best be done in a day-long workshop or retreat in which as many constituencies and people as possible can attend and contribute. This would be to get the broadest view of the school possible and generate greatest buy-in for the results. The more people who create the vision the more who can articulate and support it.

These are not the only questions and issues to explore but they are certainly central to formation of a valid service vision and a great departure point.
What business are we in?
No what do we sell, actually do?
Why do people come here?
What is it they want?
What is important to them; not us?
What is their goal?
Why?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              What is it they expect?
What do we need to provide our customers?
What is our goal of services?
What is excellent customer service?
How will we do that?
How do we know if we succeed?
What is our service excellence mission/vision finally?

These questions are designed to elicit conversation and debate. They are meant to be slightly provocative and push people to reach beyond the simple answer. That is why for example the question What business are we in? is followed by No what do we sell, actually do? The easy response is that we are in no business at all. That we are an educational institution that educates students and that is not a business. The second question is meant to push people out of their comfort zone and explore what the real business of a college or university is. By discussing what we sell once getting people by the we don’t sell anything, the discussion starts to move to how students and parents view what the college does. To move people beyond the we do not sell anything, just put some marketing materials into a power point and make the suggestion that the university does advertise, market and thus sells. This will start to push people to look at the school and its customers.

If the retreat or workshop is worked well by the facilitator, the college should end up the process with a college service vision that can lead it forward. The discussion along the way should be used to inform the vision and make it functional and accountable. The discussion should define ways in which the vision can be enacted. Answering questions like What is it they (students) expect? How will we do that? and What do we need to provide our customers? will lead to specific indicators and actions that can be incorporated into the retreat report that will lay out specific actionable items to help answer the question of How will we know if we succeed?

For example, if it comes up that they expect people to answer phone calls when the phone rings, that will set forward an actionable item such as the phone needs to be answered promptly (three rings). Students expect that people will stop doing whatever it is they are doing to wait on them when they come into an office leads to an inevitable actionable item. And so on. 

If done and facilitated well, the retreat report should lay out a vision and the plan to reach it that can guide the school to greater success.

If this article has value for you, you'll want to get a copy of the best-selling book The Power of Retention by clicking here now!
N.Raisman & Associates has been providing customer service, retention, enrollment and research training and 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. N.Raisman Associates prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Six Point Solution to Call Backs

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 YOUI’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.
AcademicMAPS is the leader in increasing student retention, enrollment and revenue through research training and academic customer service solutions for colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as businesses that seek to work with them
We increase your success

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

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What Does a Campus Mini-Audit Look Like?

What Does a Campus Mini Inventory/Audit Report Look Like?

Numerous requests have come to me to see what sort of information could be in a one to two day campus service mini-inventory I or one of my group might do. So here is a sample of an actual executive summary that went with a full inventory i.e. audit.  It has been anonymized (is that a real word?) and some parts have been excised to assure that.  The pictures have been left out too for the same reason. As a result, it could be your college or there may be some aspects that will sound familiar to you. That's okay. Just look at the recommendations and solutions. If they work for you - great.

Customer Service Mini-Audit Report of
The College
Audit Conducted on date
By Dr. Neal Raisman
The mini-audit I performed on the three campuses of The College indicated that strides had been made in the five years since my previous customer service review. Of the 28 people I interacted with, 22 provided a quality of customer service which ranged between very good and excellent as I said at the presentation.  Two of the other six either tried to provide good care but were defeated by the system and the others need more help. It was my pleasure to be able to point out not just the way the 28 handled the issues but some of the individuals by name who worked with me. These I used as exemplars of how it can be done. Leadership and the people in student services are to be commended for the change. 

There do remain some issues and situations that could be addressed to increase customer service as well as enrollment, retention and morale. These concerns range from an old one mentioned five years ago – lack of or not fully helpful signs on campuses – to more difficult issues that effect both students and employees that may go to procedure and even policy. One of these could be having a negative effect on central aspects of customer service that affect performance and morale as well.

I recognize that in bringing some of this forward, I may be stepping into some policy or even political aspects at the College.  I do however believe it is my responsibility as a consultant asked to bring forward issues that may affect enrollment, retention and/or morale. 

1. As I mentioned in the presentation and in the one five years ago, the signage on the campuses is not helpful to students.  The signage that is on the campuses does not help students find where they would have to go to complete enrollment or find their way from function to function.  For example, the exterior signs that are on campuses may list locations by the names of buildings but there is not listing by functions such as admissions, registration, records, business office, or major area of study such as nursing, business, criminal justice, etc.    

The example below shows both the anonymous building names and the value of function naming as in Physical Plant – Shipping and Receiving. If functional helps vendors, it should help potential students and the community as well.

Students do not know where they need to go to do things by the name of a building. Moreover, none of the main entrances was clearly marked to assist or facilitate.  The closest to either naming by function or the main entrance was on the M campus where I did locate a sign inside a parking lot that listed functions within a building. 
  Unfortunately, if I did not happen to park in that lot, I may not have found other helpful signs on the campus. Moreover, this information was not repeated in front of the specific buildings with the functional areas within.  Redundancy can be helpful in signage. M campus was also the only campus with a sign over a door saying Welcome with some additional helpful information.  Without at least a welcome sign, there is not indication of a building’s front door. I had to wander about trying to figure out where the front door was of each campus. 

Moreover, the placement of signs is important if they are to be used and helpful. 

Inside building signage was described by a faculty member at M campus who stated “This place is like a labyrinth.  If you don’t already know where you’re going, you may not get there.” Variations of the statement were repeated to varying degrees at the B campus as one person told me that admissions was in the L campus Building. Though M campus again made some attempt to help out with a general sign inside the main building, it was still difficult to locate offices since some signs were overhead and small while others had different locations and some did not have. This is apropos for all the buildings at M campus and B campus. 

The L campus does provide interior signage that coincides with color coding that can help people new to campus find their way around. Though some of the individual function areas could still be marked better with signs to help people find their way around, especially to admissions, financial aid, business office, etc. 
L campus also has very good interior signs that are quite helpful.
I suggest a College signage master plan be created that will create signs that provide information by the functions that take place in buildings along with the building name. The committee should also study interior signage and address the needs for signs that will help potential and new students as well as any coming onto campus with the directions they need to find where they need to go in the buildings.

If one looks at the signs used on all three campuses, (examples above) they are all different in style, color, etc. Signs are visual statements of identity as well as indicators to help people find their way to a location. It thus is suggested the signs should all have a consistent look, style, color and font to generate a coherent image and statement of The College no matter what campus an individual is on. 

2.  There is duplication and some inconsistency in forms used and provided. For example, when I was considering taking courses at two different campuses of the College, I had to complete two separate admission request forms. I was also told I would need separate and thus duplicate forms for other processes too.  This duplication of forms and efforts by the student should be eliminated and I hope that the new Datatel system will allow for singular input of materials to limit student and staff effort and work. 

On different campuses I was given different material.  For instance, there were two different FAFSA brochures provided; some different College generated information on programs; the payment plans and courses of study by major area. In this case, some people had out the older brochures (blue color) of major areas while another campus had some new ones (reddish) mixed in with the older ones. I am not sure if the information is different or the new ones have changes but information and brochures should be the same at all campuses unless there is a specific reason such as a specific program only at that campus. 

I suggest that a committee review all materials handed out to students. They should determine a common packet that will be used by all campuses to assure all forms, information and brochures be consistent throughout all three campuses of the College.  Without consistency of materials the College may be providing students at one campus lesser or better information than at another.  Moreover, it is possible that without a standardized information packet, students may be given incorrect information or direction. This would be very unhelpful but could lead to significant problems for the College not just for enrollment and retention but for inconsistency of materials provided to students to make decisions.

3.   .While on the campuses, I would act as if I were lost or confused to see the reaction of employees as they passed me in the halls. The hoped for results would be that employees would stop and ask if they might help me.  The outcomes were not as positive as one might wish. Granted there were not as many people in the halls as might have been during more populated terms at B campus and L campus.  M campus was in full session. 

At B campus, I entered six of the buildings and encountered at least one employee in every one. All but one woman in the Adams building either ignored me or looked at me and kept walking by.  Only the woman in Adams asked if I were in need of help. 

At M campus, I was passed by five employees. One faculty member whose name I recall as George stopped as I was looking around as if lost and asked if he could help me. After he directed me to the admissions office and I was walking about the halls again, he saw me and asked if he could be of additional assistance. 

At L campus, I was passed by six employees and finally assisted by a young man from the bookstore. 

There were then 17 employees who did not provide me any service and three who did; one twice. This became a subject of the presentation which I introduced with the story of Dean Schaar.  I then went on to show how to make sure that we all say hello to students and ask how they are as we pass them. There may be a need for more specific small group training for employees in extending themselves and greeting students. The structure of the large group presentation limited the specific person-to-person training though we did review the processes and manner to be employed. 

4.  There is a serious service concern that has to do with what educational services are made available to students as well as specifically to adult students at one campus.  Customer service looks not only at the processes through which one works with or assists the client.  It looks at the products that are created since it is the “products” of education, training and a degree/job that are finally a major determinant of student satisfaction. How we deliver a service can be quite secondary to what service we deliver. 

The College currently has a structure and program distribution that seriously affects its delivery of the most important service of all – the ability to gain the education and thus career a student seeks. The distribution also limits the College’s ability to expand enrollment and thus revenues by limiting the offering of programs to specific campuses separated by distances without public transportation.  Moreover, the scheduling of the classes with intermittent starts to twice a year or even to once every 18 months creates serious limitations on enrollment, retention and revenue. 

When I attempted to enroll in a graphic design course at B campus for example, the admission’s officer was very helpful and polite but told me that though I lived in B campus I would have to travel to either M campus or L campus to get one or another graphics program.  They were very different programs. The one in M campus, Graphic Design, was a  program which would require more artistic focus and ability while the one in L campus, Visual Publication, was more computer-based.  The two did not overlap and were distinct but not available at B campus.  This was more than disappointing because the College website simply states that The College offers the programs and not a specific campus.  The indication on the web and the College’s marketing was that it was available at the College and not just one, and only one campus. 

By limiting a specific program to one and only one campus denies a broader band of the community access to the program.  If I lived in L campus or in B campus, I would be denied access unless I had the mobility, time and money to drive the distances to the campuses that own the program. From B campus to M campus, for example was over 60 miles and took an hour and twenty minutes.  This is a de facto limitation on enrollment and access. Not only does it deprive potential students from the community to gain education and training in what is one of the hottest areas of study nationally, it deprives the College of revenue ands the ability to fulfill on its motto of No Limits on Learning.  
I was frankly surprised that a community college would limit its service to the community in this manner by making distance a restraint on access.  But I was even more surprised that after I made the drive from B campus to M campus to try and complete enrolling in Graphic Design that it would next to impossible to enroll and, if I were an actual student, achieve my career goal. 

As an adult with a job and family, I was informed that the program called for me to attend five days a week from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.  As an adult with a job and family, I would not be able to do so without great hardship.  I inquired about attending part-time and was told that I could speak with the program chair but it was unlikely I would be allowed to do so.  There were only 18 slots available and the odds of opening one to a part-timer were slim.  These 18 would start together and complete the program before another 18 could start.  I could not start by taking some evening classes since there were no evening classes at the campus. 

When I mentioned to various people that the campus was not very adult friendly and even seemed to discriminate against working adults, there were no disagreements. In fact, there were statements of agreement as well as sympathy and frustration.  The people I would talk with as I persisted in my attempt to gain all the information and material needed to enroll were quite sympathetic to my plight as an adult wishing to advance myself and family though education in a chosen field but their facial expressions showed they were powerless to help. 

Furthermore, even if I were admitted, I could not start in October as I had desired.  I would have to wait until the summer of 2008 before another class started.  A one year wait with no guarantee of being admitted! There are very few students who could maintain their enthusiasm that long.  They would either give up their goals and dreams or find another school that would to start the program. It is quite probable that the for-profit schools are benefiting from the inability of The College to serve the needs and desires of students placed in the situation I was. 

It is also not probable but assured that The College is losing revenue as a result of this situation of individual campuses owning programs, limiting the number of students as well as the number of cohorts to be offered. Not even considering State support, and supposing that there is some sustainable pedagogical rationale for limiting cohorts to 18, an additional cohort of 18 FTE would generate in excess of $21,000 which is more than enough to hire adjuncts to teach the courses.  Appropriate scheduling, such as a full time day and part-time evening courses at the campuses would provide enough tuition revenue to hire at least one, and perhaps two additional full-time instructors. 

The situation is not unique to graphics-focused instruction either.  There appear to be a number of the “campus, not College” owned degree programs that significantly limit the customer service to students and the community. The current program distribution also limits the College’s ability to maximize its facilities, fixed costs and revenues. Moreover, the defacto denial of access to the adult, voting population could cause a sense of disenfranchisement and increase the difficulty of community support for initiatives. 

The program distribution and ownership situation also caused employees to not be able to fulfill their objectives of assisting students and providing fuller service to potential enrollees. On all three campuses, I sensed a strong sense of frustration from employees at being forced to inform me that I would have difficulty obtaining the education promoted and advertised by the College since their campus did not offer the program. Though each was as helpful as they could be, they did indicate that they were sorry I could not achieve my goals without either disruption to my family and life or driving long distances to get to the campus which had the course of study and training I was seeking. 

I strongly suggest the campus-specific program approach be reconsidered to increase the actual range of service the College provides. Currently, there are very many potential customers who are not receiving any, or very limited service at all in specific study areas. Programs should be available at all campuses that can draw the enrollment to support the course of study.  Courses should be offered day and night, in a full-time and a part-time mode so as to not to discriminate against adults, and others whose schedules, families and lives do not readily permit a commitment to a full-time day only schedule even if it were not five days a week. If programs are determined to need to be limited due to a specific campus, there should be consideration given to having them at the L campus campus since that is the area population center as well as a more or less central location between B campus and M campus. 

If it is necessary to continue campus-specific programs, the advertising, the web site and all materials should so indicate the specific campus at the very least. The 2007-8 Catalog does indicate the program location. 

5. Staff indicated that they did not have some of the information they felt they needed to be able to better serve me as a potential student trying to make some decisions. I was told by a couple of employees that “I would like to be able to help and I should be able to but I am just not given that information.” The issues ranged from what sections might be offered, to whether or not students were being accepted into a specific program prior to January 2008.  These are bits of information a student would need to have to decide on attendance or not.  In one case, an individual in a registrar office had to say she did not know the schedule for the next term even though it was completed, had been sent to the printer, and was somewhere on line in the College’s computer system. She did not have access to the on-line information to be able to answer my question.  She was clearly both frustrated and embarrassed. 

The feeling of being left out of the information loop became starkly clear during the break after the first part of the presentation. Attendees would sidle up to me in the hall, tell me the agree with all I had said but that they were not included in the information loop or as active participants in any decisions that affected their ability to perform their jobs.  They had worked hard to help install Datatel but had not belief they would be permitted access to the date within so they could do their jobs better. The individuals who surreptitiously spoke with me also said there was little communication with them from the College.  They also said they felt they could not comment or engage in discussion with me even when I asked a question in the presentation for fear of getting reprimanded. This at least helped explain why there was so little reaction or interaction from the attendees when I tried to engage them in discussion...

It would seem important the College seek ways to communicate and provide internal customer service more effectively with some employees.  It may well be that there is communication taking place but for one reason or other, there is a significant group that is somehow either missing the information or is indeed being left out of the loop. The result is the creation of a feeling of disenfranchisement leading to a diminution of morale that affects the providing of customer service to students...

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