Monday, August 29, 2016

Make Day 1 Last All Year to Retain Students

Students are starting to arrive on campus. 
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 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, you may want to 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

If you want more information on NRaisman Associates or  learn more about what you can do to improve customer service

excellence on campus to increase student satisfaction, get in touch with us / 413.219.6939 and get a copy of our new book From Admissions to Graduation: Achieving Growth Through Academic Customer Service

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Enrollment Does Not End on the First Day of School

I just spoke to the VP for Enrollment Management at a large university. She informed me that enrollment looked slightly down from projections done in the Spring “now that the enrollment period is over”.

OVER? Enrollment is over? Is she nuts? Are the other seven out of ten administrators I spoke to who had similar thoughts also crazed? Is there some academic Alzheimer’s out there that affects the brains of college and university administrators when it comes to enrollment?

Enrollment is not over. It is barely underway as the second unique event of a multi-year process. Enrollment is not a singular event. It doesn’t end when a student signs an application, sends in a deposit and shows up on the start of classes day. It is a process as shown in the chart below. It is a continuum that starts with marketing and pauses at graduation. The real work of enrollment we call retention is just really beginning.

It’s the pet rock thing again. If admissions sells 100 pet rocks on Monday and 98 are returned on Wednesday, how many pet rocks were sold? Just 2!

So here is the process in its 8 steps as shown in the chart above. BTW, click on it and it will open larger in another window. Or so I was told.

  1. Marketing on-going
  2. Application - unique event
  3. Decision on-going
  4. Stitch In on-going
  5. Show unique event
  6. Retention on-going
  7. Graduation unique event
  8. Alumnus on-going leading to another retention process called fundraising.

The process starts and continues with marketing throughout the entire enrollment process. Marketing does not have to be the expensive activity of external advertising purchase but it does need to be as vigorous after the sale as before. Students need to be sold on their choice of your school every day. And if possible, every minute of the day. Students can make a buying decision “should I stay or leave?”- every day, every class, every encounter with people, the campus or even a mention of the school. 

Internal marketing can be as obvious as events, athletics, newspapers, newsletters slipped under doors or hung in bathrooms. The campus or building objective correlatives are also potential marketing statements that will influence buying decisions. Clean, safe campuses , walkways, good signs and even bathrooms are important.

POCmarks are also decision and buying points. If students encounter good customer service at the POCmarks, they are reinforced in their decision to stay – to self-retain. If they encounter weak, indifferent or poor academic customer service, well, that can end the enrollment process.

Repeat this mantra for success and greater happiness. Enrollment ends at graduation. Enrollment ends at graduation. Enrollment ends at graduation.
My work is just underway; not over. My work is just underway; not over.
I will retain students. I will retain students.

NRaisman& Associates has been helping over 450 colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada and Europe improve retention and enrollment through academic customer service since 1999. 

If you would like to increase retention  on your campus, contact us today at or 413.219.6939.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

If The College Don't Fit, Don't Admit: Dresses and Admissions

Retention can be understood in part by buying a dress. When a woman buys a dress she wants
something that will be a good fit. She also wants to be attractive, for her to look good in it and for it to be worth the cost of the dress in her mind. Like buying that dress, the final decision to buy or not is not an intellectual conclusion It is an emotional one. It is a decision that is supposed to make you happy. (Unless you’re a bridesmaid and have to spend a lot of money on what is almost always a bad looking, ill-fitting and costly ugly choice. But in the analogy that is the same as having to choose a school which is a runner up and not the top choice.) If the choice does not make you feel as if it is a good fit which means it is does not provide an emotional, affective and financial (time, money and effort) return of investment, then the dress is one that is discarded or returned. For a school, that means a student leaves it hanging in his or her historical closet and walks away from it.

This is an emotional not intellectual decision. The initial shopping can and will often be an rational one. I need a dress. I want it to be a certain color, size, hem length, style, price range and even brand. So I begin by looking for dresses that fit that initial logical set of considerations. Dresses that do not fit into the intelligent framework are not considered, at least at first.  For a school these considerations are often level of selectivity. location, size, majors, and name value. Those that do not fit into the schema are not looked at.

Then the purchaser goes to the store to look at dresses that could work and to try them on. The schools visit, tour and even stay over. This will eliminate some contenders but the decision to continue to consider is now an emotional one. What dress fits well? What dress looks right on me? What shade of the color I want is really the right shade? Does the length look right for me? Does wearing it make me feel good? Attractive?  More appealing? Does it make my butt look big?

The same is true of schools now under consideration? Did visiting or applying to it make me feel good about myself. Will it make me look smarter? More fit for the job I want? Does it make my brain look big? These are not intellectual issues but purely emotional ones that go to the core issue of “is the dress/school a good fit for me?”

The salesperson in the store will of course try to make the buyer believe the dress is a great fit, makes the buyer look wonderful and by the way, you look just right in that dress. Cash of charge?” In a similar way, the admissions office of some schools try to make the school a good fit by tailoring the image to the students’ desires. In fact, some intelligent schools even use CRM to totally tailor the school to the specific shape of the student’s interest. These schools will even have current students who are similar to the prospective student email or call to reinforce the feeling of a good fit just like a salesperson in a store may call over another salesperson to give her “opinion” on how the dress looks. If there are any issues, the buyer is assured that the situation can be altered to fit better. They are after the sale so they do all they can to convince the student that this is the right school and fit so apply here now.

The decision is made.  The dress or school is bought and brought home. But if that initial sale and fit become questioned there is a problem. If the dress is worn and in the actual wearing it feels too big, or tight or the color is wrong or the neckline off, hem too short or long or the color is not complimenting the original feelings about it.  In other words it is not a good fit finally.. The purchase either gets discarded (dropout) or returned (transfer).  The buyer feels she was oversold quite often and loses faith in the store. She decides not to go back so the store loses future sales as well as the school loses revenue it would have gained from the student who leaves.

So what determines a good fit? Will I get an emotional, financial and affective return on my purchase? These three roi’s will determine if it is finally a good fit. Now it has to be granted that there are times when the label of the dress, the name of the school will override the balancing of the three returns on investments. Sometimes  a person buys a dress primarily because the label is a designer brand and that name alone will make the person fit into the dress even if it is not a really good fit in and of itself. And because the name and the cost are high, the person will likely continue to wear the dress even if it is tight for example. It is so effectively satisfying to say “the dress? Oh, well it is a NAME BRAND”. Or “I go to XXXX”

But there is an additional factor in the decision to buy. The way the store treats the customer. If the employee of the store or the college is not courteous, does not provide good customer service, makes you feel unworthy or sells too hard and gets caught at it there is an automatic decision that this is not a good fit. The potential dress buyer or student leaves quickly. Equally negative is indifference to the customer. That is also a form of bad service.

And don’t be fooled by the cost of the dress or school and the student’s ability to by either. If someone feels the fit is there, wants the dress of school enough he or she will do what is necessary to get that dress if they feel they need it. For example, that ugly bridesmaid dress discussed earlier, the buyer will get it even if it is much more expensive than it should be because the need for it is there. The dress may be ugly but it is a definite fit for the need. The school may not be all the student wanted but if it where he or she can get a major leading to a life goal, the student will by it even if it is expensive. There are credit cards and student loans for that purpose.

But if the fit is not there, believe it or not it is better to do what you can to dissuade the person from buying the school unless it is a choice or a necessity. Because if you sell the school and the fit is wrong, you have wasted your energy, will lose money and a customer who will tell at least twelve others that the buying experience was very disappointing. Don’t go there.

To paraphrase Johnny Cochran “If the dress don’t fit; don’t admit.” 

If this makes sense and increasing admissions and retention are important to you, contact us to learn how we can help you increase both at or call 413.219.6939.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Zeno's Paradox, I Love Lucy and Admissions

By some definitions, higher education is truly crazed. Places of self-defeating
insanity. For example, an educational leader I know loved to tell others that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing that has failed over and
over again and expecting different results.” He, like most every other higher education administrator really may have believed that so he, and they, repeated it every time it seemed to fit. But, when things demanded a solution such as increasing revenue, he actually did the same things that failed over and over again. For example, he believed that increased admission numbers would solve all the problems when they did not every year. Every year he would set higher and higher admission numbers even if the recruitment team could not reach the goals. He did not see that as insanity but as using tried and true administrative and academic approaches to solve problems – even if the solutions were ones that had failed or resulted in long-term disaster.  

He is not alone at all. Most schools believe that by bringing in more and more students they can solve their revenue problems. And possibly that would be correct except for the fact that most of those new students are coming in the front door and leaving through the back door. Bringing in more students will not help in the long run if there is not a strong retention plan being implemented to keep students in the school through graduation.

Considering that oft quoted definition, the situation universities and colleges and  find themselves in now and how they are going about trying to work their way to solutions through increasing enrollment goals, not population it can be concluded that higher education is insane.

The problems are really not all new. Costs are exceeding revenue. Demands are outpacing the ability to fund them Tuition, fees and expenses have surpassed available resources for many families. Internal costs continue to rise faster than revenue can be raised to meet them. Capital deferments and outstanding debt grows. Budgets are being tightened. Competition for traditional, non- and neo-traditional students has never been greater. Technology needed to stay current increases in cost and amount. 
The solutions are also not new. They haven’t worked in the past really but well let’s use them again. The major way that universities, colleges and career schools seek to solve the problems is tried and untrue – increase enrollment by increasing new student numbers and build new buildings, climbing walls, and the suchto attract new students. Yet, more students yield and increase in the demands for services, sections and often tutorial assistance. All require additional expenditures which are usually not provided so the new enrollees turn into attrition numbers. Or even if the services, additional sections and people are provided, students leave anyhow so even more students must be recruited to take their place and add more to the overall population.
But, this Lucy at the conveyor belt approach to a solution simply shows how insane academia is as the solution itself sooner or later breaks down and takes quite a lot with it including people and success. Lucy is given the job to box candies as they come down on the conveyor belt. She does this fairly well but then the owners want to increase the number of boxed candies. The belt speeds up to push her to speed up but that causes more and more candy to fall off the belt. The owners do not see the insanity behind their decision and just keep demanding more and more boxed candies until all the candy is falling off the belt and Lucy just gives up. Every piece of candy that falls of the track is not just a lost sale but lost investment in the creating of the candy. The lost candy not only mean that the day’s production has been hurt. It also means the long term ability to meet projections and the buyers’ needs are not met which can cause a longer term negative effect on sales and client retention.

This is similar to what happens with college admissions when given a higher enrollment goal almost always with the same staff and time.

When admission offices are pushed to speed up the conveyor belt of enrollment goals, the people in them respond with a combination of enthusiasm and dread just like sales people in any business. And make no mistake, recruitment and admissions are sales. The enthusiasm is from the belief that “we can now show them what we can do. Hit our numbers and be rewarded for doing so.” The dread comes from the reality that the competition is strong, the market saturated, the product not that different from any competitor and “I am going to have to work even harder and longer if I am to succeed most often with not much more resources.” As well as a recognition that population for most schools is really an embodiment of one of Zeno’s paradoxes that will just yield them even more work and increased demand.

The Greek philosopher Zeno devised a paradox that illuminates the paradox of achieving population goals through admissions for most schools. Achilles and a tortoise are running a race. Achilles assumes he will win so he gives the tortoise a head start. But Achilles finds he can never catch up. Before Achilles can surpass the tortoise, he must get to point A, where the tortoise started the race. But when he gets there, the tortoise has moved to point B. When Achilles gets to point B, the tortoise has gone to point C, and so on. As a result, Achilles can never catch the tortoise even though he may get closer and closer because the Tortoise will always stay at least one point ahead. The only way Achilles can catch up is if the tortoise stays still at one of the points achieved.

For colleges and universities, the tortoise is student population which is controlled not just by admissions but equally, no more so, by retention. Retention is a constant, steady and eventually winning strategy that is the only real way for admissions to ever catch up to demand. And to carry the analogy one fabled step forward, it is the tortoise, not the hare that finally will win the race. That is the race for population, graduation and mission success.

Moreover, when the school has the admissions people speed up the line, they can only do so at most schools by digging deeper into the available pool of recruits. They take students that should not be admitted to make their numbers. But like Lucy at the conveyor belt, many of the candies will simply fall off the belt and crash to the floor.  Too many of these students will do the same. They will come along the college’s conveyor belt and get pushed off or drop off on their own.

The school may hit its admission objectives but it will not make its enrollment goal if a retention plan is not in motion and working. the colloege finally will lose more students and revenue from the students it should not have taken to begin with. Students who do not fit the school, who should not have been admitted in the first place drop out. Sure maybe a few can actually succeed and we point to them to say we are doing the right thing. Providing access to students who may not have been normally admitted but were and succeeded. But what about the large percentage that simply do not make it?

By letting them in and then having them flunk out or drop out we have done them a grave disservice. We have made them believe they could do it and then proved they could not. We have crushed their sense of value. And we took their money! We took their savings and financial aid to attend the college so we could make our numbers objective even if we dashed the students’ objective of succeeding in college. We have been unethical and immoral and knew we were doing this. We knew many would drop out or get pushed it and we did it just to reach into their pockets so we could get in more money. What does this say about the state of higher education?

If we realize that we also lost money because it costs us to recruit and process every one of the students we accept and then leave, we may not be making all that much money off them after all. And what we made is just pushing off some decisions that will have to be made because they are not staying. All we have done actually is create a funnel that leaks out students rather than a square of retention that holds in all the students and their revenue too.

It would be far better to understand that admissions only really succeeds if we can break the churn and burn approach and focus on recruiting students who will stay. Speeding up admissions has failed over and over. yet we call on admissions to get more students who drop out leaving the school, in a precarious position. that is the definition of insanity.

If this article made sense to you, you may want to contact N.Raisman & Associates to 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

If you want more information on NRaisman & Associates or to learn more about what you can do to improve academic customer service excellence on campus, get in touch with us or get a copy of our best selling book The Power of Retention: More Customer Service for Higher Ed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Reinventing the College Tour for Greater Success

One of the most important parts of the enrollment sequence – the campus tour - is also one of the worst for many potential students and their parents. We
have cited before that at least 12% of potential probable enrollees are lost as soon as the interested potential enrollees encounter the campus. The poor customer service of the tour is a major contributor. It is not the only one by any means, but it can be a major one.

Most colleges relegate the tours to a group of students who likely start out enthusiastic and interesting but soon devolve into the bored rote voices of students who have more important things than this #$%ing tour on their mind. This is especially so for students doing the tours to make minimum wage.
And the tour itself…. “Here is a typical classroom (yawn). A computer lab (Woopie! Computers in rows) This is a sample dorm room (which is almost always staged much better than any other room). This is our cafeteria (where the food sucks but I have to pretend it is fine), And on and on. How exciting and motivating.

The tour is one of the most important aspects of the decision-making process. It can make a decision to enroll or drive a potential student away. The tour can also be the start of the engagement process during which a potential student decided if he or she wishes to be wed to the school.
It is also the point at which parents decide if they wish to support their child’s college choice. This is especially is for mothers who seem to be most affected by what they see and hear according to Jim Black of SEM. He Sid that the mother is the most influential person on whether or not to attend a college other than the child making that decision. Fathers pretty much decide on cost and if their child will be happy at the school we find. And yet, tours get simply boring, not directed to the decision-makers and well, pretty much ineffective. One tour is quite similar to another school’s.
The tone of an article in (2/13/07) New York Times summarizes it all rather well.

College tours are pretty standard. A student walking backward will show you the library, the athletic center and a typical dorm room. Then there will be the requisite safety talk. The tour guide will point out blue boxes -- emergency call buttons for the campus police -- and extol the security systems in the residence halls. The spiel usually includes a bit about how, if a student feels uncomfortable walking alone at night on campus, he or she can simply call security for an escort.

Wouldn’t that tour just light up your “gotta go there juices”? Not really since most any tour of one school could also be the tour of another. Sort of interchangeable like school catalogs and websites. No wonder the student tour guides lose their enthusiasm too even though taking students to the library might be their only visit too.

The idea is that a student will provide a more authentic voice and customer service that will seem genuine. This can’t be done when the tour is trying to please two audiences at once – parents and students. These are two very different audiences and one rule of customer service is that it must be focused and geared correctly to the correct audience. And well, let’s face it. Students have different interests than their parents.

Students want to know they will get a good education but also have a good time. Parents walk through the tour focused on the ROI for their tuition dollars, yes the library because they believe students will use books rather than the web, safety issues and how much this all is going to cost me.

Okay, the solutions. First, have two tours and two tour guides. The potential students should go off with a student without the parents. That way they can see the aspects of the school they really want to see and ask real questions like “where do people really eat? Is one dining hall better than another or should I skip them entirely?” “What dorms are the ones you don’t want to get stuck in?” “What’s with web access for downloading on campus?” “If I rush a frat/sorority how does that work?” And so on. Take them to where students really hang out. Buy them a cup of coffee or a soda and talk there, in their habitat; not the schools official one. They will feel more comfortable and will feel as if they have joined the school community already. 

And community is one thing this generation craves. They feel isolated by the society so they have a need to feel as if they can belong in some community. Sitting and talking in an environment they are familiar with sets them into a sense of community with the group around the table.

Parents should go with an adult tour guide, preferably a faculty member, and be shown a classroom, the library, safety including a brief meeting with the head of security, an introduction to the financial aid office and director to set appointments to go into financial aid packages, a quick introduction to an academic officer, a dean or a chair if you schedule by academic interests. They should meet the Dean/VP/Dir/ Head Honcho of student services too. They want a feeling that there are real people there to help them and their potential tuition provider.

If it is not possible to have two tours, then hire professional tour givers or train the admissions officers to give the tour. And I do mean train. Do not assume that because a person is an admissions representative, he or she can give a good tour. Simply walking with people and pointing out the classrooms like a flight attendant pointing out the emergency doors “two doors aft and two doors in the back…” is not pointing out the safety aspects of our Boeing College 387. Teach them how to fake enthusiasm if it is not there and then wonder why you keep a less than enthusiastic admissions rep. Train them how to get the tourists to talk more than the reps. Teach them questioning and listening as a touring technique.

Combine aspects of the student tour with the parents’ tor away from it.our on a checklist and ask the tourists what they want to see. Let them decide or at least provide them the illusion they are deciding. Ever been on a guided tour and felt like you were really missing the good stuff on the “okay everyone, over here now!” Find out what interests them and not what you assume they want to see. Then show it to them. And feel very free to ask them what they like and do not; what is making them lean toward the school

Keep in mind that this is the ME generation. The I will Manage my Experience generation which by the way is more a state of mind than an age. From what music they load on their IPod or phone, to designing their own home and Facebook pages, to Tivo-ing to watch TV when they wish to rather than the time the network set, to most everything, they want to make the decisions on how their experiences will be set up and managed. They want control and community. They want to manage their experiences. So let them make some decisions and don’t assume you know what they want to see and experience.

Also when setting up the basic concept of the tour, you may want to get external guidance that knows what students really want on a tour. There are consultants who can help. Or get some focus groups pulled together from high school students and learn from them. Let them guide you so you can guide them on their tours of their future school - if the tour doesn't lose them somewhere out by Classroom Building B.

If this makes sense to you, you will want to get a copy of one or both of my books –The Power of Retention or From Admissions to Graduation. You should also contact us about what else we can do to help you increase admissions, retention and graduation rates s we have done for over 40 colleges and universities in the States, Canada and Europe. Call today at 413.219.6939 or email me at

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Conference You Should Attend

I am attending and presenting at my first conference in a year-and-a-half since dialysis and getting a kidney transplant three months ago. I was tied down and weak for that time and did little work I fear but I am feeling fine and roaring to get back to work.

The conference is one I recommenced to anyone interested in admissions, enrollment and retention.  It is the best on all the three topics I have been to in years. It is the Small Colleges National Conference on Enrollment but it really is not just for small colleges. The presentations would be helpful for any sized college. What the presenters brought forward were practical ways to increase admission's, enrollment and retention success and can be applied to any size college no matter what the scale. These people knew what they were talking about too.

I attended sessions on Using Institutional Analytics to Improve the Effectiveness of Small College Admissions; Fundamentals for Student Success, Retention, and Completion, Incorporating the Latest Enrollment Tools and Initiatives to Meet Enrollment Objectives; Creating a Campus Environment that Supports Student Success and a session Critical Insights that Help Drive Students Success. I am very pleased to say that I picked up new insights from everyone of them; something that can be rare at some conferences. These were  to "here's what we do" brags, but real, down to earth here's how's to increase success. And of course a great session on Academic Customer Service is coming up tomorrow morning.

Moreover, it was run exceedingly well by Jim Black, President of Strategic Enrollment Management and Neal Clarke who is the Dean of College Counseling and Guidance at The Walker School in Marietta, GA.  They have been leading it for many years and have the running of it while keeping the enjoyment of it very high. People had time to mingle and meet new colleagues too as well as enjoy an entertaining raffle supported by all the vendors.   (I did not win anything BTW but had fun.)

They were also able to attract some of the top vendors of tools to increase admissions, enrollment and retention from all over the country. And they did not overcrowd the vendor room so you could actually have some great conversation and learning from them  More on some of what I learned about some great products in another writing.

I highly recommend this conference to schools of all sizes. It and the Institute for Educational Policy's retention conference are two that should be on your schedule.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Administrators' Role in Retention and Academic Customer Service

Somehow, administrators think that customer service is like taxes – something for others but not me. “Sure we need more of it but I don’t think I should have to be the one to have give up any of my time
or concern. Customer service, that’s for those who earn less than than I do".) And the more the administrator makes, the less he or she thinks customer service training is something needed. “Customer service is something needed by those who work directly with students and…..” Uh, anyone see a flaw in that reasoning?

Yet that sort of logic (illogic) is at play in almost every college or university we work with to improve retention through academic customer service. Training is needed by so-called front line people not those who manage or supervise them and everyone else.  Too many administrators do not see themselves, and probably aren’t, working with and making direct contact with students on a daily basis. They hide out in their offices and go to meetings to talk about what needs to be done for and to the students without really identifying with their primary customers.

Oh sure, part of the reason is that the administrators do not see students as their primary customers. For example, presidents see the faculty and trustees as the most important customers in the old academic caste system. Faculty and trustees were classes to please and keep holy.  That is a system that was also thought to guarantee the president’s position and job but often backfired when the budget started into the red zone. Faculty empowered by their attention started to fight change.  And in today’s university and college are not merely go into the red zone, they are bleeding red everywhere.

Presidents, boards and administrators need to embrace two things: 1) the new caste approach and 2) their role in customer service. To survive in the new world in which students go to the head of the caste, administrators need to realize that the old college order is ending a new one is being born – one in which students and their success are number one in maintaining stability and revenue. Certainly grants will bring in some large revenue sources as one time money that will come and then disappear leaving more costs behind in their wake to maintain what the grant originally set up. Moreover, grants do not normally go to the general fund to run the school.

What does go to general fund? Tuition and fees. And where do tuition and fees come from – students. I have left out public support since that is not a reliable revenue source and with the pledges to cut state and national costs, it looks like most every college or university will sooner than later be running as if it were a private institution – living or drying up on tuition, fees and endowments.

That means that students will start to return to their position as important people on campus as they are on many private schools and some privates. This also means that the administration will need to make direct contact with students on a regular basis to make sure that their decisions will have positive impacts on the most important customer base – students. This is not to say that some of the more successful college administrators do not already do that. Gordon Gee for instance, when he was  president of Ohio State University,  got out among the students every day and even some nights. They know him and his presence says they count. Enrollment and retention went up at OSU.

So administrators who see academic customer service as something for others but not for them are wrong and actually have always been wrong. Customer service is not something for one group of people to do, it is a philosophy, an approach to success and a core aspect of institutional culture if it is to work – really work.

Consider that the president’s primary job is to represent, to embody a sense of the institution.  He or she is the symbol of the school that everyone looks to as if he or she were the school. When the public wants to hear from the school, they go to the president for example. The day-to-day work is really not done by the president. It is done by everyone else from the provost, vice presidents and on up to the clerical staff.  That is why the president can go off campus so often and the place still keeps running just as well (and sometimes better) than when he or she were holed up in and office or meeting. As an ex-president I can say now (but not when I was presidenting)  that the least important position to getting the work of the university done is the president  except in setting the tone and character of the campus culture and direction.

That setting the tone is a big job though. It is in fact, the most important one when it comes to focusing the institution. And since student success is what the campus is all about in the eyes of the public as well as most importantly in the mind and heart of the bill payers – students – it should be the primary role of the president to set a tone that focuses on students and their success. That be in keeping with any mission statement that exists, (I mean whose mission statement does not have some self-serving clause about students are our business, our only business except for….)

Moreover, since the president will be blamed for fiscal problems, it should be the role of the president to do inculcate a focus on what can increase revenue.  And what is the primary source of consistent, reliable  revenue – tuition and fees.  And these come from what? Students.

So administrators should be all about students and student success at the school. Why success? Because the churn and burn approach of front loading tuition does not work. Front loading? Looking at new or starting enrollment and planning on a large attrition loss rather than focusing on retention. Most schools plan to lose thousand, hundreds of thousand even millions of revenue dollars in attrition and think that’s okay because they planned for it. They build student and institutional failure into the budget. That is simply dumb and even worse, unnecessary.

If the school focused on student success which has academic customer service at its core, it could and would succeed in keeping as much as 84% of the lost attrition revenue. If the president and administrators saw academic customer service as their job too and obtained some training and understanding of it, they could and would do their jobs much better. And the school would benefit as well.

As a starting point for administrators, here are ten rules for university and college administrators to follow as they hopefully begin to embrace and become a champion for academic customer service. (If you are not an administrator, pass this on to one who is.)

Customer Service Rules for Managers

Rule 1
Students are our primary customers
Rule 2
Our colleagues are our customers too
Rule 3
Take care of our customers
Our customers’ needs must come before our own or we will lose customers. Always have time for customers!
Rule 4
If an employee deserves praise, praise her
If an employee does not deserve praise, retrain him
Rule 5
Annual reviews are too late and have limited value
Conduct informal reviews at least once a month and
Listen twice as much as you talk
Rule 6
Say thank you to each employee at least once a day
Rule 7
Celebrate small victories
Celebrate big victories big
Rule 8
Remember that your colleagues have lives outside of work
You do too
Rule 9
If the phone is ringing and everyone is busy, answer it.
No work is below you
Rule 10

N. Raisman & Associates is the leader in increasing student retention, enrollment and revenue through workshops, presentations, research, training and academic customer service solutions for colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as businesses that work with them 
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