Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Touchy Feely Customer Service Costs Schools Millions

Just before a recent presentation at a college, a member of the institution’s business office told me he thought it was nice I was talking about customer service, but he didn’t see how it applied to him. His concerns were more basic. Like the budget, revenues, you know – the real stuff – money. He didn’t deal with the “touchy feely” stuff that excited others.

“Ahhhh” I replied. I always try to be nice, polite and provide customer service since to do otherwise would be…Well, it wouldn’t be keeping with my subject.

So I asked him if he would give me five minutes tops to help me with a financial issue that hits some schools. “It would be helpful” I said. He agreed to help me.

I asked him what the population at the school was the beginning of the fall semester.

“About 920” he said.

“And tuition is how much?”

“14,838 with fees”

“The college’s attrition average tuition rate is what?” That he didn’t know but grabbed a colleague in enrolment management. She told him it was averaging about 14% a year.

“Okay so 920 minus 14% attrition is 129 students X $14,838 tuition lost in a year per student which is about $1,914,102. Now let’s multiply that times 72% which is the percentage of attrition that is rather directly related to customer service issues. So the school lost an annualized $1,3781,533 from customer service-related issues. And that doesn’t include the lost costs of acquiring each student, enrolling them, orienting them and so on. Nor does it figure in bad debt written off from attrition or the costs of collecting the debt and other business-related activities from attrition. That’s a chunk of change too. And, if you are like other schools, you lose at least 12% of potential enrollees when they make contact with the customer service at the school. So I would peg the customer service value at the school at well over $2.5 million. That’s a lot of “touchy feely” I would say.”

He listened very closely to the presentation.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Random Acts of Customer Service

The other day I was banking at a Chase Bank branch in Bexley, OH. While I was standing in line, a young man with management potential carried a tray of various coffee drinks from Starbucks to the counter. He efficiently distributed the coffees, lattes and achiato something or others to the tellers behind the counter and behind glass in their office areas. I asked him if he were the manager. “No I’m not but if I were I’d be doing this a lot more often.”

Now here is a person who the value of random customer service for colleagues. He knew that doing something nice for those he worked with would pay significant benefits to Chase and its customers. A simple act like bringing coffee to staff or faculty can be an amazingly simple and effective morale and good service booster. It says “you are valuable. I appreciate you and what you do.” And that act of random customer service pays off in better service to students. Happier students = better retention.

A person who feels valued and rewarded for what he or she just does as his or her job is a much happier worker. Sure money and raises are always welcome and bring smiles but they disappear when costs go up and the raise is absorbed by living. So let’s discuss some easier and even less costly methods that I guarantee will improve service, productivity and retention.

Happier employees will always treat students with greater care, kindness and attention. People who feel good about themselves and their contribution to the company will try to pass that feeling of pleasure and pride of recognition on to every client they work with for at least the rest of the day..

So the message here is simple. Anyone who supervises others, commit yourself to performing random acts of colleague customer service.

An example. The first week of any semester is a hectic and difficult time for staff at a school. The rush of work, the flood of students lined up before them and they student issues they have to solve simply wear them down. This is especially so of offices like registrar or bursar/ Bursar in particular has to face hundreds, thousands of students and parents who suddenly realize they have a bill to pay, or still owe money and can’t come back to school. Bursar personnel are especially hit. They have to tell people they must pay to go to school and hear how tuition is too high and all you care about is my money. Granted, some bursar folk were selected from people deemed to cold and ruse to work at a DMV, but even they feel the heat.

When I was a college president, I used to make sure I got to all the offices to thank everyone for doing a great job. Bursar’s and registrars twice a day at least. Then, in the middle of all the crush and rush of business, I would take orders for coffee and pastry. Then I would go, get it and deliver it personally to each worker. This simple gesture of random customer service really paid off.

PERFORM RANDOM ACTS OF CUSTOMER SERVICE FOR STAFF AND WATCH THE GREAT RESULTS. It can be unannounced buying of coffee for everyone, or some doughnuts/bagels or whatever will please people. A few pizzas for lunch in the break room. Take workers to lunch as a thank you for great service and work. Try telling a worker that he or she has done a great job today and should take a few more minutes for break, or even let the person leave early for the day to say thanks. Most of the time, the person will be so thankful for the attention and offer that he or she will not leave early – might even stay a little later because he or she feels the work done is appreciated. And if he should leave early, I can assure you that his productivity will certainly improve more than high enough to make up for the time off.

And the simplest and least expensive way, just remember “please and thank you”. A very simple “thank you for the way you handled that. It is appreciated” will boost spirits each and every time. And by the way, thanks for reading this posting. I and the readers of this blog would like to hear your valuable thoughts and your random acts of customer service. . They are always worthwhile.Nealr@GreatServiceMatters.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Customer Service, Retention and Thomas Malthus

Good customer service increases enrollment and retention arithmetically while bad customer relations decreases both enrollment and retention geometrically. This inevitably leads to catastrophic events as Thomas Malthus, a population economist (1766-1834) predicted in his Essay on Population. Malthus explained that strife between countries and people occurs because agriculture increases arithmetically, one plan by one plant ionm one season while population increases geometrically over time. Though he was discussing why wars and strife occur and could easily have included college attrition rates.

Colleges gain enrollment one student and then one more and then one more We retain them the same way, one by one. Students stay if they are individually pleased with the treatment they receive and their learning. The decision is an individual one made by each student.

But, colleges lose students in a geometric progression. An angry or upset student tells another student, and another, and another tells a friend, family member, and they repeat it to others whenever the college is mentioned. It is the Rule of Six. When a person is upset, he or she will tell at least six other people. They tell at least four others and so on until we have one heck of a lovely pyramid that looks like a Ponzi scheme gone bad. What was one upset student quickly multiplies geomterically and the image of the college is hurt and enrollment is affacted negatively.

And what do students complain about? Why Students Leave and What You Can Do Today to Retain Them The way they are treated. Insensitive staff, uncaring administrators, long lines, getting the run around, poor communication, bad information, lack of assistance, inadequate student space, parking, uncaring faculty.

Malthus recognized the destructive force of weather as a major negative effect on population. In colleges, he would have investigated bad customer service. And he would have found that bad service is not just a wind the blows no good, it is a hurricane force disaster.

We know weather can create major disasters if we are not prepared for them. We all want to know what the storm will be like so we can be ready. We work hard to be aware of bad weather knowing full well that we have no control over it. We want to know even though there is nothing we can do to stop a hurricane, tornado, high winds, flooding, snow.

Yet, when it comes to customer service, a major cause of enrollment and retention disaster, most colleges really don't know where the ill winds are coming from. Or for that matter, they are not aware if their customer service will lead to sunshine and warm feelings toward the college.

Do you know whether the customer service provided your student and potential students is helping or hurting you?

You should. Maybe you should find out.

Your students will thank you for it with increased enrollment and retention.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hunter Nursing Selects Leadwise Personalized Website Platform

Hunter College’s Bellevue School of Nursing (CUNY) selected AcademicMAPS to create a new Leadwise™ powered web site to increase awareness of the academic and professional strengths of the program and increase its enrollment.

AcademicMAPS was selected as a result of its understanding of customer service and how students “shop” for colleges as well as for its innovative Leadwise™ web technology. Leadwise™ is an enrollment and award-winning on-line program that takes a college’s catalog and marketing materials and integrates them into on-line individually personalized college catalogues/plans based on individual each potential student’s interests. In so doing, Leadwise™ helps colleges create a personal bond between the school and student increasing the probability the student will want to apply and attend.

Potential students complete a customized questionnaire that keys into the digitized catalog and materials. The system then generates a personalized on-line document that responds specifically to the self-identified students’ interests from academic issues, to personal goals, to entertainment interests. The personal catalog appears on the student’s computer along with enrollment and financial aid information and forms to complete application.

The system also sends all the responses entered by the potential student to a college’s admissions office at the same time. This allows the admissions representatives to have all the information needed to “close the sale” while the student is still looking at his or her personal college catalog/plan. Admission reps have reported that the detailed Leadwise™ information and the “script” it creates has sales cycle time cut up to 34% while increasing lead to applicastion conversion up to 14%.

Leadwise™ also generates a continuously updating Student Response Management Database that aggregates all responses into a single database the college can use to target marketing, plan events, as well as potential classroom and retention needs based upon student interest indicators. The real-time aspects of the database provide schools the information they need to better target their marketing dollars to where their potential students really are.

Leadwise™ is a flexible system that is customized and personalized for each school to integrate it into the college’s visual identity. It has been shown to increase applications and interest in enrolling by 14% and has cut admission’s representative time by as much as 34%. This allows admission representatives more time to follow up to increase show rate or enroll more students.

The system was developed by AcademicMAPS and COREdataCenter in New York. Jerry Alloca is the award winning president of CORE and wrote the technical software for Leadwise™ in partnership with Neal Raisman, president of AcademicMAPS.

The Bellevue-Hunter College of Nursing (CUNY) is an internationally renowned urban nursing school with an excellent faculty and program in NYC. It is one of the mots highly regarded, oldest and most diverse programs in the country.

For more information on Leadwise™, academic web design or customer service, contact Jerry Alloca at http://www.coredatacenter.com/ or Neal Raisman at nealr@greatserevicematters.com 413.219.6939.

Monday, October 02, 2006

5 Kindness Selling Approaches for Admission Reps

Ethical Selling, Campaigns of Kindness

Unabashed, unencumbered kindness can make for a very profitable sales strategy.

We estimate that around 3% of the sales population is psychologically immune to rejection. The rest of us have to build personal strategies to deal with this gruesome little gremlin. It's not a coincidence that selling is one of the most avoided activities within any organization (and probably the cause of the greatest amount of missed opportunity to build enrollment). But as the cliché goes, everything in business begins with a sale.
While it is crucial that those tasked with selling must perform, one must also protect their emotional health so reps don't burn out and get waylaid due to fear of rejection (call reluctance). To make life easier for the people responsible for generating sales at your school, here are five ways to make selling painless.(Be forewarned, you most likely would not learn this in B School)

1. If you as an Admissions rep go out into the world every day to be kind and compassionate to others, it is pretty close to impossible to get rejected. This practice makes for a pleasurable experience for everyone, and by extension makes call reluctance a smaller issue.

2. We know that 80% of an effective selling program is simply getting in front of prospects. An inexperienced sales person will be successful simply by "showing up." If the process is pleasurable for both the sales person and the prospective student, sales activity increases and referrals follow. That's because we humans naturally resist that which is uncomfortable, and in turn seek out that which is easy.

On the other side of the ledger, prospects give opportunities to people they like, respect and trust. (vs. those wanting to lift money from their wallet.) This process is communicated at an unconscious level through tone of voice body language which is in turn driven by intention. Intention to help someone get ahead in their lives.

3. When an Admissions rep genuinely demonstrates they have the prospects interests at heart, high quality, positive relationships develop very quickly. This overcomes the biggest hurdle to converting a prospect, which is trust.

4. When treated in a respectful manner where long-term mutual interests have equal weight, a tremendous referral machine quickly develops. Even if the rep can not "convert" a prospect, she becomes a source of referral because of the reps intention to help the prospect clarify her career path.

5. Once a rep has practiced perpetually kind for a while, leaving small gifts and insights for prospects, the Law of Reciprocity starts to kick in automatically. The Law of Reciprocity states that people will naturally seek to reciprocate when provided a gift, consideration, or an unexpected kind turn.

But there is a bigger piece to the Law of Reciprocity and it is to do with the psychology of the person doing the selling. (Get ready for a bit of pop psychology). When in your heart of hearts, as a rep you know you have helped people day in and day out with ideas and insights in terms of their career path, you have in turn created for yourself at a certain level, an expectation of reward. You are deserving of abundance because in part you are generous and help people.
Self sabotage can kill many deals. Prospects can sense when they are dealing with high integrity people and that sense combined with allowing yourself to succeed make for many sales successes that would otherwise never come about.

So, using kindness and giving insight and helpful advice to prospects can trigger all kinds of favourable activities for you. A sales strategy where you are creating value form the first point of contact creates for the rep an environment where others feel compelled to give back. Either as customers, or as prospect/referral sources or for yourself. Within the ethical selling philosophy, you get to aggressively increase sales but in a pleasurable way. You can make your community a better place, do your best to help individuals, and build market share. A by product you have enjoyable days at work and make lots of friends along the way.

Guest Posting by Gregg Meiklejohn
Enrollment Resources Inc Gregg and his business partner Shane Sparks work with schools and associations teaching them how they can increase sales and revenues often just by adjusting their budgets and approaches. Good people doing good work.
ph: 250-391-9494