Saturday, June 23, 2007

Required Attendance is Good Customer Service and Smart Retention Policy

Customer service is in no way equal to pandering to students. Though I often hear academics, mainly faculty say that they believe customer service will just mean giving students easy grades, that is very far from what real service is. In fact, giving easy grades would clearly be a disservice to students, to the school and to the integrity of everyone. And it would be a major offense to clients and customer service.

Clients/students come to us to be prepared for a future job and career. That requires us to give them the best service we can to fulfill our obligation. Not to lie or mislead our students. Just as we would never knowingly provide students incorrect information, knowledge or skills, neither should we provide them education, training or grades they do not require nor deserve.

I’ll say it again, customer service is not pandering or simply smiling or pretending the customer is always right. As we have already discussed – they aren’t. And here is another example of when they are wrong and we can be too depending on ho we do things.

Considering that students go to school to “become something” and get a job, part of the service we need to provide them is not just knowledge and skill training but also” job prep”. Yes, preparing them to not just get a job but keep it. That is an important service. A very important service. And humanities folk, no job prep does not go against the mission and values of the liberal arts. Simply realize your goals are to interest and prepare students to enter liberal arts areas and activities like teaching and the same rules will apply for them in their work as it will Oh by the way, most of your liberal arts majors will go into jobs like sales and entry-level management that will have the same or similar requirements for those that majored in business, engineering, medicine or any other endeavor. And if they go on for a master’s or even a PhD, they will have requirements that come with their “job” such as assignments, due dates, appointments they have to be at and the such.

So what is involved with job prep? Teaching students to be responsible employees so they can keep the jobs they get. To begin with we review the important quote of that major corporate guru W. Allan. “97% of life is showing up”. And that is a keen summary of a major issue for employers but they also add “on time.”

The first lesson on job prep, which will also have very strong positive impact on retention is having students learn to show up for class. That’s right! Attendance.

If your school does not have an attendance policy, it is making a big mistake. First, it is failing in providing a specifically important job skill. Employers do not leave it up tp employees to decide if they want to come to work or not. It is not a personal choice. It is a work requirement. If an employee misses a day or two of work without valid reason, he or she doesn’t simply lose half a grade. He or she loses a job!

So to really serve our clients we should require attendance to help prepare them for life. And as a wonderful by-rpoudct of providing this customer service is an increase in retention.

When a school or a faculty member tells students it is not necessary to attend classes that is also a statement that what goes on in class has no value. If a student can pass a course without being in class to hear the lectures, see how the problems are solved, learn from the faculty member, that is a strong pronouncement the classes and faculty member have nothing to offer. Nothing. Besides what does it say to students when a faculty member says you can pass y course without coming to class? It says I have nothing to offer you. I can be replaced by the text books. And if you can pass the course without my help, you certainly do not need me. I have no education value to you. Wow, what self-respecting faculty member, what professional would want to stand before a room of clients and offer up that? Yet, professors do that regularly. How self-insulting.

Students need to value their education, learning, skill attainment and job prep. But when we do not value classroom learning and indicate they are without value and a waste of time. By extension, the whole college can be without value. If that is so then why stay?

Granted, a lack of an attendance policy is not the only factor for a person to drop out or transfer from a school. But it is one of the most significant contributors for many. How do I know? Every school that we have worked with to implement an attendance policy has increased retention the semester the policy was put in place.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Class Distinctions on Campus Hurt Morale and Customer Service

After a teleconference on customer service I gave today, an email question came in from one of the participants. It dealt with an important issue of class distinctions in universities, colleges and schools that hurts morale and retention. The issue is an extension of George Orwell’s description of colleges as an animal farm. As stated by Dean Snowball.

All members of an academic community are created equal, only some are more equal than others, and I’m not just talking about faculty here

Here is the question:

One of my co-workers would like to know what you think of a school policy that requires some staff personnel to log in their hours each day, while other co-workers (considered professional staff, mainly because they have earned a college degree) are not required to keep weekly time sheets. It is a matter that many consider unfair and somewhat demeaning.

And here is my response:

I believe that is a mistake on a number of counts. First, it hurts any possible sense of a team throughout the institution. Having two or three classes of people in a college makes a statement that the institution has a sense of a class system. Sort of like Orwell – All animals are created equal but some are more equal than others” A tiered structure like this has to have harmful effects on at least some of the people at the college. And that will in turn harm the levels of service to students and the internal community as well. I am willing to bet that this procedure also has a negative effect on employee and student retention.

The system also says that some people are more trustworthy than others. Those who do not have to punch in are by inference more honest than those we make punch in. We believe the non-punchers will not cheat on their time sheets. There is no evidence that this is true at all by the way.

It also separates “professionals” from “non-professionals”. Nothing is more destructive than demeaning the contributions of the staff who fall into the non-professional designation. Everyone is a professional and has value and a purpose within their work area and concentration and should be so recognized. Those who do not act in a professional manner, no matter what the title, role or salary, need to be replaced.

The systems are usually put into place because of management problems. Usually supervisors cannot manage and be responsible for their staff and their time reporting. Some are afraid to direct people to show up on time and work their hours. They are concerned that if they have to reprimand or direct someone to remedy their behavior, they will either not be liked or a bad worker will rebel, maybe even quit. They simply do not know or want to do the hard part of the job which is to direct and manage the staff. Breaks the “family” feeling after all. Need to train them to realize that they will be a family either way – just a dysfunctional family at some level, as are all families. And dysfunctional is not so bad after all. Just the norm.

Bottom line. Install a team and instill a drive to do good work by appropriate leadership and customer service to employees. Again recall that customer service does not mean pandering. It means treating people with dignity, honesty and when needed, clear, firm yet humane correction. If people are cheating on their time, correct them. If they cannot be corrected, that is an issue of integrity and honesty so start progressive discipline and have them move on rather than harm the entire internal community which in turn has a negative effect on retention and population. That would serve the community better than a caste system.

Hope that is not too blunt but it is what I know and feel. If I can help out again, just let me know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

FBI Uses AcademicMAPS Campus Safety Article

Wow. I am rather excited and honored. I have just found out that the FBI Office of Law Enforcement Coordination is using my recent article and posting 10 Steps to Creating a More Secure Campus in their work with colleges and universities to make campuses more secure. I had always thought I’d hear from the FBI about some stuff I was involved in during the late sixties … But to have them use one of my articles to help schools!!

That piece has become one of the most requested ones we’ve put out in a long while. It has also been republished and circulated at at least 28 schools, colleges and universities that I am aware of. We get requests to use most every posting and article but is apparent CAMPUS SAFETY IS A BIG RETENTION ISSUE. If you haven’t made clearly overt moves to increase at least the perception of safety on campus, you may be want to get on it now.

To read the piece used by the FBI, just click here

Making Your Campus Safer Starting Today

Friday, June 08, 2007

Customer Service Workshop and Poetry

I had the honor of presenting a workshop on improving customer service to increase retention at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada the other day. Great group of people doing so many great things to educate students and change the futures of the students and Province of New Brunswick for the better. Some of the same issues universities and colleges face in the States to retain students so they can achieve their goals and dreams.

When I returned to my hotel room I found an email from one of the people who attended. Some things I said touched a resonant chord in John Young, a faculty member and poet. He said it would be okay to share his thoughts and a poem he had written some years before with you.


I have just come back to my office from your public presentation on "Students as Customers? Embrace the Oxymoron". I am the chap who lingered at the end (while you were chatting with Glen Cleland and Brian Kaye) and said I would email you.

Your emphasis on treating people as though you care, engaging them, and building bridges was a welcome message. When you commented that telling a parent with a sick child that they could go home early might actually result in them staying longer, it reminded me strongly of something that I prepared for a management course many years ago (1992, I think).

I believe in the power of relationships and the value of people. I fail often, too often, but I really do want to treat people with compassion.

I have attached the poem I wrote for that management course. It is from my heart and I have it posted in my office to remind me of its message. I hope it resonates with you too.

Thank you, and blessings,

John Young

Assistant Director,
Centre for Enhanced Teaching and Learning University of New Brunswick Eaton Multimedia Centre 10 Mackay Drive P.O. Box 4400 Fredericton, N.B.


The Heart of the Matter

He bought three hours of my time.

I gladly gave him four.

Though he paid wages for my work,

He gave me something more.

He cared how well I did the job,

And that's as it should be.

But something better far than that,

He also cared for me.

Another asked to buy my time

And promised me some gain,

But he left me a poorer man

And added to my pain.

He stripped me of my self esteem

And greatly wounded me.

And though he thinks he got four hours,

I only gave him three.

It matters not how much you pay,

You'll only get a part,

If you insist on treating folks

As though they had no heart.

But give to them a sense of worth,

And let them know you care,

And they will give back to your hand

Much more than just their share.

John G. Young

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Customer Service and Fund Raising

I just had the pleasure of attending a conference put on the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education where I was invited to present a talk on customer service and retention. It was a great conference by the way. Well organized, well run, great fun and solid learning! Great conference and one heck of a lot less stuffy than many. Thanks CCAE.

The folks are advancement professionals so as I thought about what to say in my presentation, I realized something very important. Yet so darn obvious. Here it is.


Thus schools lose on all three ends of the potential continuum when students drop out. Students lose their chance at a better life from the education they would get at your school. Tuition revenue is lost. Potential donations are lost. That makes the advancement peoples’ job that much harder. Fewer alumni; fewer donation sources. And considering that a major role of presidents today is raising money and alumni are a major source of donations, attrition adds to the job.

By the way, a university or college can use alumni giving percentage as a metric to gauge their customer service. People give to organizations like colleges that they like and make them feel good. The “liking” aspect is directly linked to how the college treated the alumni when students. If the school fulfilled the three ROI’s (financial, emotional and affective), there is a higher likelihood that he or she will donate as an alum. If the school made the experience feel like a four to six year root canal, odds are extremely high alumni will not donate. So, one way you can gauge how well you serve students and make their experience a positive one looking at the percentage of alumni giving.

These alumni participation metrics can be even more precise indicators if they can be linked back to specific majors, work areas, events, etc. If a particular work area has a very low internal give, that is a spot that needs greater attention and increased customer service to increase morale and engagement with the institution. If students graduating from a particular major have a lower participation rate then other majors, that could be an indicator of a service problem in that area. Of course, if it is a major like art or philosophy, you will need to factor in the potentially lower discretionary money of these graduates. Less income; less money to give to the school.

The metric also works for employees and how they feel they are served by the university. You can evaluate the morale of and service to the internal community by the percentage of internal participation in a university’s fund raising effort. The lower the percentage, the lower the morale and feeling of positive engagement levels. And considering that most schools have a less than optimal internal give rate and an increasing employee turnover rate….. Well, let’s just say that there is room to improve.

But again, all these alumni metrics matter not if students do not graduate. And employees who quit generally do not wish to donate either.