Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Reverse Alchemy Turning Gold into Leaden Enrollment Numbers

Some colleges have discovered the secret to reverse alchemy. These colleges take the golden success of recruiters, marketers, advertisers and enrollment managers and turn it into leaden failure. They turn the gold into lead with some of the worst customer service found anywhere. They are able to take enthusiastic, motivated students whose only goal is to enroll and attend the college and transform them into people who cannot wait to get away from the college.

In fact, twelve percent of enrollments are lost once a student steps onto your campus to enroll and or attend classes. That’s right. Students who have come to your college or university with every intention of being a matriculated student, a precious FTE, are turned away by experiences on your campus as they try to complete the enrollment process. Before they complete the process you lose 12% of your potential enrollment by what is done to them as they are trying to enroll.

And once they do manage to enroll, the college continues its reverse alchemy by tarnishing students with customer service that will forever stain the student’s feelings about the college. What’s worse, these students share their blemished experiences with at least six others just to make sure that the recruiting job remains stressful and demanding.

Colleges are able to work their alchemy from the moment students step onto the campus right through to their stomping out the door mumbling their own incantations, never to return.

An example from Embrace the Oxymoron: Customer Service in Higher Education.(LRP Publications 2002); the first and only book to address the issue of customer service in colleges. This actually occurred just as it appears here.

“A young woman had arrived on campus with her parents. She was all set to enroll at the college. This was obviously a moment of family solidarity and pride at the daughter going to college. She had made up her mind. She would attend this school. The young woman and her parents found their way to the admission’s office. They obtained an application form after waiting in line for over nine minutes. They sat down and the young woman completed the form. She walked up to the “Welcome Desk” and handed it to an unsmiling clerk who sat behind the counter. Then she returned to sit with her parents and wait to see a counselor to choose courses. As a new student, she was required to get an admission’s counselor’s signature before she could register for courses.

After sitting for five minutes, the parents said they would take a walk around the campus while she waited. They returned 35 minutes later, walked up to their daughter. "All set Hon? Let's go."

She informed her parents that she had not seen a counselor yet and was still waiting. The father was appalled and marched right up to the admissions desk. "My daughter has been waiting here for over half-an-hour to see somebody. What’s the deal? Why hasn't she been waited on yet?"

The woman seated behind the desk coldly stared at him, purposefully waiting about 20 seconds (a period of time that would seem like another half hour to an irate customer) before she spoke. Then she said, "There are other people here too. Your daughter is not the only one trying to see a counselor who’s busy doing things. They have other things they have to do besides seeing students. Your daughter's turn will be as soon as her turn comes. There are a few people before her."

"Not anymore," the father said as he motioned to his wife and daughter. "Let's go. You don’t want to go here. For what they charge, they should be jumping to help you."

With that, they left the college.

She did not enroll there.

She went somewhere else.

15 Principles

There are appropriate “incantations” against reverse alchemy. These are the 15 Principles of Good Customer Service. If you’d like to get a free copy, just let me know. NealR@GreatServiceMatters.com.

In this case, the following the principles were violated.




“where everybody knows your name

and they’re awfully glad you came”

2. All members of the community must be given courteous,

concerned and prompt attention to their needs and value.

3. Students come before personal or college-focused goals.

Students really are more important than you or I are.

Following the 15 principles can lead to enrollment alchemy that is golden. If the college, or in this case, the admissions desk people, had followed principles, the young woman would have enrolled. She and her parents would have been happy supporters of the college rather than angry ex-customers.

Review the principles with your college. Have workshops to discuss and implement them and you’ll see leaden frowns turn to the brilliance of golden happiness and enrollment/retention success.

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