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.

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