Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Two Ears and One Mouth

For the past five, AcademicMAPS has done a study into student desires and expectations and ours are never broken. Of course, we may be cheating since we have a better attitude and opinion of students from all the work we do with them for colleges and universities trying to improve their customer service and retention. We do something that too many at the schools themselves do not do – LISTEN.

In most of my training seminars and workshops I tell the audiences that people were given two ears and one mouth for a definite reason. To tell us to listen twice as much as we speak. Now, I realize that is not what we in academia do well. We are speakers; not listeners. After all, it would get very quiet in a classroom if faculty did not speak and lecture. But the same is not true for administrators. We forget that the job is no longer to lecture to others but to minister to their needs.

I would be remiss if I didn’t state that I learned that by acting like I had two mouths and one ear. I like many other administrators thought was an administrator because I knew things and was capable of getting them done. So my assumption was that what I had to say was important. More important than listening to others and learning from them. Took me a while but I finally learned the lesson. That was not just important to me as an administrator but now in life as a student and consultant of academic customer service.

If I hadn’t learn to use my ears I would have done what so many schools do and assume I know what students want and need. There would be no need to find out what students think or really want. I would already know. Even if I felt it was important to hear from students, I would create surveys that would be self-fulfilling prophecies for example. I’d already know the answers after all. But I did learn and so I and my entire group really ask and listen to students. And here is what we learned this year.

The study compares what 400 faculty and administrators think the 600 students we interviewed want and need versus what students said they actually want. The differences are illuminating.

What Faculty ad Administrators Think Students Want

5. More Parking

4. No reading assignments

3. Short classes

2. A minimum of homework

1. Good grades with little effort

And What the Students Said They Want

5. More parking

4 Safety in the parking lots and buildings

3. Instructors who know their names and staff/administrators who care

2. The correct course on time

1. An environment that encouraged and supported their learning.

The only area that there is correspondence of opinions is in the area of parking.
It seems that legs are becoming vestigial. No one wants to walk. In fact, behind the correspondence is a wish to be able to park right inside the classroom or office. Maybe we should all be building drive-ins so no one would have to even get out of their cars.

The differences belie some very interesting points. The faculty and administrators’ views of what students want indicates a rather negative attitude toward the students they are supposed to educate. It seems they bought the stereotypical belief that today’s students are under-prepared, lazy, coddled children who demand high grades. That should not surprise mist people since that is a rather prevalent belief on most campuses. It is usually expressed by the statement that admissions needs to recruit better students.”

With a belief that the students are sub-par, it is no wonder that schools fail to meet their real needs. They don’t care to do so. If a person feels that another is below them or not up to their expectations, they will necessarily treat them in an inferior manner. This degraded attitude is a definite cause of weak customer service that leads to retention problems.

Review the thoughts the students presented. Taking them seriously and learning from them will help any school.

AcademicMAPS has been providing customer service, retention and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits; workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. AcademicMAPS prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services.www.GreatServiceMatters.com413.219.6939 info@GreatServiceMatters.com

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