Monday, July 30, 2007

15 Principles of Good Academic Customer Service Updated

There has been a change in the 15 Principles of Good Academic Customer Service. (If you'd like a copy, click here) It became obvious to us that the old Principle 7 Websites must be well-designed, easy to navigate, written for and focused on students and actually informative was actually starting to be heeded. More and more colleges and universities were calling to ask for help in redesigning their websites to meet Principle 7. The recognition of the importance of the web is a reality for most schools.

I also realized that there has not been a school, college or university that I have worked for or studied that the faculty at least did not feel their students were not quite good enough for them. Most every institution wanted to know how to recruit better students.

Every school seems to be after better students (than what they have I suppose though few can actually annunciate a clear definition of better). Even colleges and universities that are considered selective to highly selective want better. No one seems to be satisfied with the level of their students’ abilities, intellectual curiosity or aptitude. They all believe admissions needs to recruit better students. It is admissions job and fault after all. They seem to want students who can already write, do calculus, think and know subjects at the college level. Students who will love learning in all subjects just as they who want the better students did not.

But the reality is that most students will not fall into that already smart group. In fact, they are coming to college to get smart because they are not there yet. It is our job not to recognize their brilliance but to amplify and add to what they bring with them so they can become more intelligent in general and even competent in other areas so they can leave college and get a career/job.

Keep in mind that even the best universities have to offer developmental courses to some of their top students. Yes, I know. Your school does not offer remedial courses. Your students are above the norm. Right. Check out some of the introductory course curricula. Giving a course other than a developmental name does not make it non-developmental. Some of these courses are even watered down enough so their geniuses can pass. Poetry for Physics Majors anyone?

There is not a school in the country that does not have to at least supply tutors for some of their students so they can pass a course or two. And this has always been true. Not every student, brilliant or not, is good in all subjects. Maybe not even the “PhD in Molecular Biology at 15!” whiz kids. Come to think of it, I will wager that even some of you reading this struggled and asked for help in some area of study. Maybe even, heaven forbid, did not get an A or B in every course as we expect of our students.

The admission folks have not failed you when they recruit a class for you to teach. The students they bring in are what they could sign up for the school. They come from high schools which may or may not have really prepared them well for future study. They may be nerds, artists, math whizzes, writers, jocks, generally intelligent, over achievers, under-performers, unmotivated, awkward, smooth, tall, short, fat, thin, excited or bored. The one thing they have in common is they have decided to trust you and your school to get them to their goals. They are putting their future in your classroom. They may not yet be bright but then your job is to help them get closer to intelligence and ability.

They may not write well. You are to help them learn to communicate better.

Algebra could be just a total blank. Fill in the spaces.

Science a foggy notion. Clarify.

Bored by your class. Excite them!

And just as someone helped make you into the brilliant member of the collegiate community you are, you have the same job for each and every student in your care. To elevate them so they can join whatever career and community they seek in life.

If they already knew and could do, they wouldn’t need you or your university. If they were already their best, what would there be for you to do? But don’t worry; our high school grads do need you and college to become their best.

So, Principle 7 has changed to become

The goal is not necessarily to recruit the best students.

It is to make the students you do recruit their best.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Campus Safety 2 - Unwanted People on Campus

This emailed question on campus safety came in today. Thought I'd share it with everyone as well as my response.

Thanks a million for getting in touch. I thoroughly enjoyed (and learned from) your talks – they should give you the whole day next time!

I have one question regarding safety. I arrived late to your breakout session because my clock was still on Central time!

Our campus is in an urban environment, and the buildings are generally open 24/7. As a result, we have itinerant / homeless people who seek shelter and sometimes food. Luckily, our police department is right across the street, and we instruct our students to phone them immediately if there is a suspicious or threatening person around.

My question is – are you aware of any other strategy we may pursue to keep people out of our buildings who have no reason to be there? I feel terrible creating an effort to push out the poor folk who have nowhere else to go, but we have to make sure this is a safe environment for our students.

Here is my response:

You may want to start with my earlier article on campus safety that the FBI is also using.
It may have some good ideas for you too.

Keeping people who shouldn't be there off campus including the homeless. That is a tough one because of the good nature and strong sense of justice or injustice of academics. It goes against our sense to evict the homeless or most anyone from a campus even if we know that we possibly should. This is especially increased if the school cannot or will not help itself by having students self-identify even in a passive way by wearing id cards. This situation is usually most common on a university with a large campus with many points of entry and view thus increasing the problem of uncontrolled entry.

So what to do? Well, on the homeless question, and not to seem hard hearted but… Here’s an idea. They need to be either moved off campus completely or the college can create an area that is actually designated for use by the homeless. The area should be one in which the security people can create an entry and exit that they can gain some control over. The homeless or others who wish to use the area must sign-in in some manner, be provided some identity badge or tag similar to what many museums use to identify those who have paid and must stay in this area. If they leave the area without notifying someone where they are going to and obtain an okay, they must be escorted off the campus and told they lose privileges to return and use the area for a period of time.

Just one thought and a couple more that may or may not be practical for your school.

The college may want to make an arrangement with some local shelters to bring the homeless from the college to the shelter. Work with the shelter people and others in the city. Set up a scheduled bus or van that will take the homeless to the shelter and let them know about it. They may start to use the transportation and thus leave the campus. This approach will keep many on the campus feeling as if you are helping them and so you are.

Otherwise the campus has to be made unfortunately inhospitable to non-college related people who might come on to it, at least at certain times during the day, like at night perhaps. This can be done by removing homeless or others when they are noticed. Having them move on rather than staying in one location as they do tend to cluster together. Be made to move all the time will make them seek a place where they can just stay put longer. Not friendly yes, but it can increase safety if they are an issue.

I also want to add another thought. College campuses attract non-students who may not have learning but illegal earning on their minds too. Thieves know that universities and colleges are easy pickings for them. Students and the college community are notoriously lax and even sloppy about being concerned for their goods and belongings. Students will often drop their backpacks, computers, books etc on a table in the cafeteria or outside the library, athletic facilities, etc. and trust that no one will touch them. Unfortunately, they do not always have a good basis for their trust.

Since it is so easy for thieves and others to gain entry to buildings, they can also “blend in” and assume even if they stand out, no one will bother them at most campuses. They have easy access to all the facilities such as those above. A quick tour of the cafeteria or other student areas will present numerous opportunities to steal stuff and walk off.

Even dorms are wide open to thieves or worse. At most any dorm, all a person needs to do is case out the doors students use to avoid the front entrance. Then they just some up behind a student going in and walk in behind them. They can even just yell out “hey hold the door!” and most students will do so. Since so many students leave their doors unlocked or even open, their belongings become easy pickings. Jewelry, laptops, money, ipods are easily picked up and stolen. And with one success, comes the recognition of many more.

The secret is to make these easily stolen items less accessible. If it is difficult to steal things, the dorm be comes a less desirable target for larcenies. If thieves come to the dorm less often, that will also cut down on other possible problems simply by their not being there.

Okay. How to do this?

I recommend that schools look at providing students with devices such as lockable safes such as some hotels provide in the rooms. These safes could also be placed in areas that students leave stuff lying around like cafeterias, libraries, bookstores…

There is a company I am aware of that provides a good product that can be leased or bought and even has plans that let schools make money on their safes to cover the costs. The company is SafePlace.USA. They have both individual and stacked safes that lock securely and even have electrical power inside to charge laptops and other electrical devices. Schools that have used them have cut down on thefts and crime. I have met with the principal

I hope I have provided some thoughts. This is a tough one since I do not know the campus and its culture etc. It is also a tough one until something happens and then I fear there will be an over reaction.

You may also want to take a look at the website of Security on Campus. This is the web of the good people who took a tragedy and turned it into a tragedy that helps thousands of others. They are the Jeanne Clery organization that pushed the federal crime on campus reporting act The Clery Act through. This is the act that requires schools to report crime on campus and it has been helpful. Though as we have seen recently many colleges ...well, they do not report fully. Uhhh.... they are frugal with the truth... They... well, they lie! And when they get caught. Well, just ask the ex-president of EMU!

Monday, July 16, 2007

The ROI of Retention 2 - CSFactor 2

CSFactor 2

CSF2 = [(SL x CA = -E) + CSL1]

There is a universal law that it should take less energy to sit on a flagpole than to climb it. Seems logical. Climbing it numerous times to gain four different views would require burning more calories than shinnying up once and sitting up there to look around for the views.

Yet there are certainly those who seem to have not learned the lesson. Colleges that have not yet focused on the value of retention which can be increased through some simple customer service training rely on the old churn and burn approach. Keep bringing in ever increasing numbers of new students and don’t worry if they just drop out never to return. Just get some more.

These schools make admission folks in particular climb the pole over and over, burn calories, the late night compact fluorescents, and just plain burn out trying to meet ever-increasing admission goals. You’d think some universities had never heard of flag pole sitting on a pillow called retention. Or the stabilizing element of customer service that creates the toochas-saving cushioning in the pillow. Or ever concerned themselves with little issues like revenue, budgets and paying for things. Or the energy-saving and budget building value and cost-savings of retention. Because flagpole climbing not only burns calories and people, but piles of revenue.

Admissions Costs – Retention Saves CSF2

Another simple reality here. Every student a college enrolls costs it money to do so – big money too! Every student retained costs from nothing to quite little.

In fact a study we did two years ago found that the average cost of enrolling a student is $5,460. This study of 40 randomly chosen colleges, universities and career schools included ALL cost of enrolling a student. Most colleges just look at direct marketing costs per student and forget about all the associated costs. They divide marketing and advertising, maybe lead costs too, by the number of students and voila – a miscalculation.

The real costs of enrolling a student include the marketing costs yes, but also the marketing staff, advertising, publications, admission staff, clerical people, travel, orientation, printing, allocated time and effort from bursar, registrar, academics, counseling, advising, student services, financial aid, orientation, registration, and so on; mailings, emails, phone calls, website and so on and on and on. Fixed capital costs associated with most all of this add another 7-9% on the average. There are in fact very few parts of a college that are not involved at some point and time in admissions. We also found that schools were not including all students who had made inquiries to the college. Every time a student is responded to, there are costs. These all add to the time and costs. Considerable costs. $5,460 worth of costs. (For those who wish the full description, methodology and breakouts of research data, I am sorry to say we do not supply it. It is proprietary and not available.)

For some schools, the cost of recruiting a student actually outweighs the tuition received from them. The ones that survive are generally assisted by some public assistance based on an unduplicated headcount formula. But even with public assistance many schools still lose money on student acquisition when he or she who drops out. (I suppose they intend to make it up on volume?) This is especially so if the student leaves before providing tuition and fees at least equal to the acquisition costs. And every student who leaves must be replaced with at least another at another additional expenditure of $5,460. But it usually required more than one re[placement student and associated acquisition costs.

In fact, to obtain one FGE (full time graduate equivalent) at the average annualized attrition of 32%, it will take 3-4 students acquired to get one FGE at a two-year school. 6-8 will be needed at a four-year school, with an average graduation at 5 years. If average graduation is more than 5 years, add another admission needed to get the FGE.

By the way, annualized tuition is the number a school should use to figure its real attrition. Not the retention between the freshman and sophomore years which is a very popular one. That leaves out all the students who already dropped out before the end of the second term or semester. That number fudges failure. For instance, if a college began a year with 100 new freshman and 99 left in week one but the remaining student stayed the whole year and returned, the freshman to sophomore percentage would be 100%.

Annualized attrition includes all students who left. It does not look at a starting class such as the freshman class as an isolated entity. It recognizes the Sophomore Bubble, the junior jump, senior slide, super senior slump and the “I’m not sure what I am except outta here” slump. Students leave at all times and should all be counted in the attrition number to be able to not just be real but to really understands how a college and its budget are actually performing.

The cost of retention at one school was reported by a participant during a workshop I was presenting at the Snowmass Institute (a very good enrollment management conference by the way). She said her university spent an average of $35 per retained student.

The Growing Importance of Retention to Graduation

The public, employers and legislatures (local, state and federal) are starting to catch onto the fact that the number of students who start or attend a college or university at headcount day is a meaningless statistic. Granted it may improve a person to get some education and even a drop out may have added value before leaving a university. But it is the diploma that is the real indicator of the success of a student and a school. That is the certification that everyone uses to determine someone has been educated and trained enough to contribute to the economy, the culture and society. It is the diploma, indifferent to whether it really indicates the holder is truly educated or really capable, that is the sign this person can be considered for a job and add to the economy.

This is our own fault to some extent. We keep telling society and legislatures that higher education is the fuel for the engine of the economy. And they have started to believe us to the point that they want to put the emphasis on the number of graduates that schools put into the economy. This is where political accountability is starting to move. The number of grads, not just attendees. Support formulas are going to start moving to the number of graduates and work backwards to entering students.

Starting with the number of graduates will make retention and even more important issue than it is now. This is due to retention rule 4 – students who drop out from the school tend not to graduate.

CSFactor 2 Using the formula.

CSF2 = [SL x CA = -E) + CSL1]

SL - # of students lost
CA – Cost of acquisition
-E – Enrollment $ lost
CSF2 – Total revenue lost

So using the numbers from the prior CSF1 example:

[198 x $5,460 = $1,081,080 + $2,574,000) = -$3,655,080.

This school has lost $3,655,080 along with almost 200 students. If it had retained the 198 students, it would have saved the $3.6 million. Even if it did cost $35 a student to retain them, that would have cost them $6,930. Even if we wish to extend that out of four years, the $27,720 is still just a bit less than $3.6 million.

Seems again that retention saves while attrition costs. And one hell of a lot of money.

But let’s not forget the human costs of people working very hard to bring students into the school just to see them leave. We have not even worked in the costs of replacing admissions and enrollment people who simply burn out from the ever-increasing new student goals and the psychological pain of climbing the ever-growing flagpole every start when they should be able to just sit there every so often and enjoy the retention view.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Figuring the ROI of Retention and Customer Service - CSF1

Following a presentation on customer service and retention at a major conference, I was asked by one of the attendees if I would supply the way I figure ROI from retention and customer service. In my presentations I always review the students’ seeking of their personal “ROIs” as well as the fiscal ROI the school should be looking at. His interest was to use the information in his marketing to show his company would provide a good return on investment.

I was inclined to help this person since his company is one I feel most schools could benefit by using. They supply counseling to students that helps keep them enrolled. But since I receive no remuneration from companies I recommend (income-wise it would be wise to take it but ethics-wise, it would not be wise except from Leadwise™ (personalized on-line view books, catalogs and web sites which I helped create….wise) I thought it best to share the formulas with everyone who can use them.

They help schools figure out how much revenue they are losing, or could and would gain if they focused on improving service to students. Keep in mind that 72% of all attrition is due to poor, weak, even average customer service at a college or university. The formulas come from years of research I and very smart assistants conducted during college service audits, workshops, presentations, retreats and other services we provide as well as just pure research. . We have been studying aspects of retention it seems before retention was an issue. Just think back just eight years ago when I started AcademicMAPS. Who talked about retention as an important aspect of a college.? It was, , admissions, admissions and again admissions and still is at too many places. I recall quite well the statement of the CEO of a large career college group who said “there isn’t a problem that exists that can’t be fixed by enrolling more students.”

Keeping them? Not so much.

How many did we admit and did commit to the next freshman class? When we lose students, “okay. It’s planned for in the budget as long as we don’t lose too many more than we budgeted…..” Dumb business model. Planning to lose all those customers and all the costs associated with acquiring them is a confident way of making sure the institution is always running a tight budget.

Over the years, when I asked some administrators how much admitting a student cost, the general answer was to add together the marketing budget with the admission director’s and recruiters’ salaries divided by the number of new freshman and that was the cost. Not even close. Even for-profit schools use the same basic approach. That explains why some run deficits.

(Can a school that loses money claim to be for-profit? Don’t you have to make a profit? By the way, what is the difference between a good for-profit and a good not-for-profit? Accounting terms. In a for-profit, it is called profit. In a not-for-profit, it is called “fund balance” or “surplus” and most every college president is called upon to develop one – profit or surplus that is.)

So here is the first part of what will be a three or four part series on figuring retention and customer service ROI, the CSFactors™, at your school or business. By the way, if you use the formulas and publish results for any reason from marketing to self-flagellation, please be kind enough to provide attribution to us. It will be appreciated.

CSFactor 1 The Value of Retention (or the Losses from Attrition)

CSF1 helps a college figure out how much revenue/money it is losing from its actual attrition.

CSF1 = [(P X A= SL) X T]

In the formula, P represents the total school population; not just the starting fall freshman number. Most schools use the fall incoming freshmen numbers and that is an error. The assumption is that attrition occurs most in the first six weeks of the freshman year. That may be close to correct but the reality is that students are leaving colleges and universities in any one of their six plus years of a four year degree and in the four plus years of a two-year degree. Students leave your school throughout their experience at the school. In fact, some schools are beginning to realize this and worry about the Sophomore Bubble. But the really need to worry about the super soph sluff, the rising junior jilt, the junior jump, super junior split, the fourth year flee and so on. Colleges need to be concerned with every student every day of their attendance for it could be his last.

So we look at the total population.

A equals attrition. Again not just from freshman but an annualized attrition rate. And this rate is to include ALL students who leave for any reason. It does not matter if the student says he or she will be back. They are not back in the population and bringing in revenue until they actually do return. If they pay a “place holding fee”, that does not count them as an student until they are actually back in classes.

Fudge with the numbers if you are overly deluded or insecure, or unethical enough to keep the PR machine going or the Board feeling better but when you use our formulas, be fully honest. It will help you understand why the budget is not working or may suddenly implode. Remember, no one likes surprises, especially ones that have parentheses around them in the budget and lead to freezes, cuts and the like.

By the way, if your school is like most everyone I work with or call for help, you likely do not have a clear fix on an annualized attrition rate. Many schools have never figured it. Go figure and use an annualized attrition rate.

SL stands for students lost annually from total population and revenue production. And T equals tuition at the school.

So here is what showed up when we analyzed CSF1 for a particular college which for our purposes we will call Mammon University. You may know it. Its motto is Omnes Por Pecunia. Anything for a Buck. More on Mammon U later.

Its total population was 500 students.

Annualized attrition was at 39.6%

So SL (students lost annually) was 198.

Times an average tuition of $13,000.

The school uses a differentiated tuition scale per program.

So, the formula becomes:

[(500 x 39.6% = 198) x $13,000] =

a revenue loss of (sound of a trumpet flourish but on a kazoo since Mammon U cannot afford a real trumpet since it has lost) ($2,574,000)!!!!

To carry this forward a bit, we can plug in other numbers and see how an increase in retention could add to the bottom line and thus the ability to pay for full time faculty, staff, their benefits, increases for adjuncts, instructional equipment, tutors, research release, new curricula and programs, maintenance, …. All those pesky costs that make a college or university better.

If attrition dropped by 5% for this school and we substitute 5% increased retention for attrition percentage in the formula.

CSF1 = [(500 x 5% = 25) x 13,000] =

$325,000 more revenue.

Any school, college or university that doesn't want at least another $325,000 in the budget?

Plug your school’s numbers in and see how increasing retention affects your budget and instructional strength.