Thursday, July 10, 2008

A High Point in Customer Service

It always does my heart good (along with Lipitor) when I read about a school that gets the message. It makes me feel like there are people who do listen, get the point about customer service and retention and implement suggestions and solutions.

There is an article in the recent Chronicle of Higher Education about High Point University in North Carolina. This university not only gets the message; it goes well beyond it to shoot for what it calls WOW! High Point even has a VP of WOW! The article discusses how High Point has jumped into the deep end of the service pool in providing its students services beyond what anyone would normally imagine.

Free ice cream from a truck that circles the campus looking for hungry students. Valet parking. Live music in the cafeteria. Birthday cards from the president. A campus beautification program. Wake up calls. Concierge service. Starbucks gift cards. Even a campus hot tub. The University also has a web site that focuses on the user (could be a bit better with a personalization program such as Leadwise but it is one of the better ones even without it).All in all, the article makes High Point sound like a real life version of the movie Accepted – except the university has not forgotten the all important academics that students really come to a university for.

President Nido R Quebin is a leader who knows his business and how to serve students it seems. Yes, he was able to put in place some low hanging primary-level services such as the ones above. But, he has also spent the last three years and millions of dollars working to build the academic and national standing of High Point.

In an on-going email discussion with President Quebin, he points out that he is rather disappointed with the reporting on his University thus far. He has reason to be. Most of the reporting has focused on the whiz bang primary-level service treats like free ice cream. It has been a primary frustration I have also as encountered over the years as I have worked to get people beyond the belief that customer service is superficial pandering. And pampering that really cheats students of what they come to college for – learning, graduating and getting on to their careers and life. As Principle 13 of the 15 Principles of Good Academic Customer Service puts it:

Do not cheapen the product and call it customer service.

No cheap grades. No pandering

If you would like a copy of the Principles, just click here:

President Quebin reported to me that:

  • most of our investment went into academic improvements: building of 4 academic buildings ($50mm), adding an Early Alert program to monitor student success in the
  • classroom, establishing a Learning Excellence program (academic services for those who need it),
  • technology to the hilt in each classroom and a fulltime IT trainer for faculty,
  • Experiential learning program that involves every freshman in the community,
  • enhanced Study Abroad (14 countries) and Internships, etc.

According to Pres. Quebin

The best ROI (financially & behaviorally) comes from the Early Alert program in the classroom where every professor watches and reports each student’s success patterns (and we follow up to ensure each student attends class, does work, gets tutoring, etc) and the Excellence In Learning program which provides significant personalized attention to students who need it (ADD, etc).

Pres. Quebin and High Point's success again establishes my on-going contention that attendance and concern are two major customer service issues if a college is to increase retention and student success.

When I asked about the effect of the additional services on retention, he wrote that

…retention has grown measurably. Fall to Spring it was at 96.2%. Overall Spring to Fall in mid 80’s. Graduation rates have increased too and our US News standing among comprehensive colleges in the south advanced from #15 to #6.

These are very impressive results. President Quebin and his team have been working very hard to boost the most important customer services of an institution of higher education – the ones that contribute to learning. Sure everyone loves free ice cream, hot tubs and live entertainment but the academic customer services are the ones that really count. He and High Point should be recognized for that.

We are quickly filling up our dates for school opening convocations and workshops in August and September as well as customer service week (Oct6-10). We would like to be able to help you too so please contact us ASAP for a date.

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 413.219.6939

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