Monday, September 22, 2008

Creating Successful Interactions- Give a Name Get a Name in Action

Every so often, something happens to make me feel like schools are getting the message. That customer service is growing and students really are being provided the service they deserve and expect. That faculty are using academic customer service techniques that make teaching and work easier and more enjoyable for them. And that will lead to improved retention with corresponding student success alongside greatly increased revenue (i.e. more money to fund budgets and programs.)

I recently had not one but two of those rewarding occasions recently while visiting my mother-in-law in the Beverly Hospital north of Boston. No! My mother-in-law in the hospital was not the cause of any happiness. I don’t do Henny Youngman or mother-in-law jokes. But at the hospital and in an article by Boston Globe writer Peter Schworm (an education writer well worth reading) , I found examples of some of the techniques and approaches I teach. In particular, I found examples of get a name-give a name implementation in colleges and in the Beverly Hospital.

In his piece, In College, It’s Who You Know, Peter Schworm wrote about how faculty at UMass-Amherst, Bentley, and Northeastern spent some time learning their students’ names and faces. The professors all reported classroom and instructional benefits by learning the students’ names.

Bernard J. Morzuch, a UMass Amherst professor of resource economics is quoted as stating …the occasional cold call transforms the classroom dynamic, professors say. Students sit up straighter and may even forgo their habitual Web browsing in class if there's a chance they'll suddenly be called on by name and thrust into the spotlight.

And, Gregory Hall, a psychology professor at Bentley College explained if you feel a personal connection, you feel obligation… It creates a sense of community in the classroom.

Umass-Amherst and Bentley both have on-line systems with names and pictures of students that can assist professors learn their students’ names.

Beverly Hospital has been rated as one of the top medical care facilities in the US. It shows in all they do and especially in how they serve patients and staff alike. Other hospitals and we could learn a lot from Beverly. Right now it has an effort underway to get every employee to always begin every interaction with a patient with a variation of Give a Name- Get a Name since they already have the patient’s name. Start all interactions by providing your own name. This was an action being taken to decrease the number of patient complaints and potential law suits. The HR people know that establishing a connection with a patient is key to avoiding lawsuits from the work of Alice Braunstein (formerly Alice Burkin) one of the premier medical malpractice researchers and litigator.. In an article titled 10 Ways To Guarantee A Lawsuit, what Braunstein says about medical doctors could easily be said about academic doctors.

"The most important factor in many cases, besides the injury itself, is the quality of the patient's relationship with the doctor. I've never had a client come in and say, 'I really like this doctor, and I feel terrible about doing it, but I want to sue him.' People just don't sue doctors they really like."

"The best way to avoid getting sued,” says Burkin, "is to establish good relationships with your patients, and to treat them with respect. That requires taking time to talk with them, and more important, to listen." Doctors who don't are asking for trouble.

The best way to quickly begin establishing that relationship is to exchange names. This process is explained in the Give a Name- Get a Name technique. The following is an excerpt from The Power of Retention: More Customer Service in Higher Education that discusses the technique.

Give a Name-Get a Name – A Core Issue for Success

One of the techniques worth knowing and practicing is called “Give a name; Get a name.” This is a technique that should be used in all customer service situations. It is especially useful when confronting an angry student or client. Give a name-Get a name is just what is says. The service provider creates a “community of two” by entering the interaction by giving his or her first name to the student. The surname name can be given but only as a reinforcement of the first name. And after a pause so the first name takes precedence and primacy in the listener’s mind.

Last names are for business interactions or to place yourself in a power relationship to the student. Like what we do in classrooms. “Refer to me as Mr. or Dr. Somebody while I demean you by using only your diminutive first name.”

“Hi. I’m Neal.............. Neal Raisman. I’m the Vice President of Somethingorother.”

Then the person asks for the student’s name.

“And you are….?”
If the student is angry he or she will often respond with “Pissed off.”

”Okay, Pissed. Or do you prefer Mr. Off? What can I try to help you solve?” The response here is not to say you will help or promise more than can be done. That would be a sure way to simply postpone even greater frustration and anger for later. The goal is to indicate a genuine interest in trying to help.

Once first names have been exchanged, a small, maybe tentative, yet real community of two is formed. If nothing else, it is much more difficult for an angry student to retain a full level of anger when you have exchanged first names. You are no longer just a nameless representative of the anonymous school. The YOU or U, if you will. You are a person with a name a first name. You could even be a friend when I have your first name. The exchange of first names is the initial step in creating a friendly relationship. Just picture a bar or social gathering where you wish to get to know someone. What do you do after checking your breath as you walk over to the person? “Hi, my name is ......”

It is much harder to be angry with a real person with a name than an entity, a thing that has no feelings to hurt and no heart to break. So, giving and getting a name can defuse anger and allow you to provide better customer service, actually solve a problem and not get yelled at and insulted as the nameless representative of the school.

I knew that this worked with people but I found out from a faculty member at one of the ECPI branches that it also works with machines!.”

After a customer service and retention workshop for faculty and administrators in Virginia, Prof. Bob Loomis of EPCI College of Technology in Roanoke, VA provided a powerful example of the value of names.Prof. Loomis was responding to a discussion of the Give a Name – Get a Name technique we had just worked through.

It seems that he supplements his teaching income by doing some computer repair and consulting for businesses on the side. He will go to a business and do all he can to repair a computer or software issue right then and there. From what I can figure, he is rather successful at doing so.

There are however times when he has to take the computer back with him to make the repairs. In those situations, he provides solid service by leaving a computer behind so the customer has something to use. This loaner, he has named Freddie since it travels with him on all calls just in case and he is with it a lot. Though Bob checks it each time to maker sure it is fine, there have been a few times when the loaner may develop a problem since it is used by many different people with different preferences and networks. He can be sure he will hear about it rather quickly.

One time Bob had mentioned to a client that he was going to leave “Freddie” behind as a loaner. The client was a bit confused until he realized that Freddie was a computer. Well, the next day Bob received a call from the client. “Freddy is having a bad day” he said. Not “the damn machine isn’t working right.” A kind, understanding “Freddie is having a bad day” instead.

The client was not dealing with a soulless machine after all but with Freddie (a soulless machine but with a name.) Ever since that experience, Bob does not leave a loaner computer behind but lends the customer “Freddy”. Complaints with Freddy have dropped and Bob attributes it to giving people a machine with a human name.

It has been pointed out to me at times that it is true that Give a Name – Get a Name may not work with spineless, ineffectual soulless machines and tools with personality deficits who have names and work at schools. There are some folks that have less personality than a computer. For working with people who have less personality and customer ability than Freddie, Principle 15 may be worth considering even if you know their name.

15. Not everyone is capable of providing good customer service. That does not mean they do not have value somewhere.

That does not mean they do have value either but that is a decision you make. Just get them away from interacting with your students and other campus clients. Or your students and colleagues will develop names for them that are not very flattering, though possibly very indicative. When a person has a name like Quasimoto, The Thing or The %$#&#! take that as a powerful statement too of the person's ability to negatively affect customer service. Move them away from people.

By the way, check your job descriptions and position requirements. It may be that you are creating some of your own problems by the way you hire. Being too mean to work at the DMV is not a job qualification one should seek for those who provide customer service to students.

This is a technique that you can implement with very quick and positive results. If you have any questions, just contact me. If you’d like a copy of the 15 Principles of Good Academic Customer Service, they are in the new book, The Power of Retention or you can email me here and just ask for a copy.

“We had hoped we’d improve our retention by 3% but with the help of Dr. Raisman, we increased it by 5%.” Rachel Albert, Provost, University of Maine-Farmington

“Neal led a retreat that initiated customer service and retention as a real focus for us and gave us a clear plan. Then he followed up with presentations and workshops that kicked us all into high gear. We recommend with no reservations; just success.” Susan Mesheau, Executive Director U First: Integrated Recruitment & Retention University of New Brunswick

“Thank you so much for the wonderful workshop at Lincoln Technical Institute. It served to re-center ideas in a great way. I perceived it to be a morale booster, breath of fresh air, and a burst of passion.” Shelly S, Lincoln Technical Institute

AcademicMAPS has been providing customer service, retention, enrollment 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.

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