Friday, February 27, 2009

Ignore at Your Enrollment Peril - 5 Ways to Keep from Losing Enrollment due to Poor Telephone Communications

All the talk about money, job losses, and deficits as well as schools cutting   budgets, jobs, sections and people is definitely having an effect on student and family attitudes and anxiety levels. One cannot get away from the frightening economic news and pundit chatter. People cannot help but be affected and make money a larger issue than it normally would be on campus. This is creating new demands for service and services assistance.  And in most every case, schools are not meeting the demand in either style or substance.


The past week, we made actual person to person telephone contact with 50 bursar offices in colleges and universities posing as students or family members. We focused here as a result of the fiscal anxiety we are hearing from families. We called 78 schools. At 31 schools, we left a voice message on the phone. The message said the caller was very concerned about the family financial condition and needed to understand what to do to be able to pay bills if a job was lost. In each voice, we did also leave a clear call to action. Please. It is very important that you call me back today or tomorrow and left a number.


The voice messages led to three, that’s right THREE call backs.


We also emailed 50 colleges and universities. A week later, we are still waiting for responses from 48. FORTY-EIGHT. Oh sure, we did receive the automatic response telling us we are very important so someone would be back as soon as is possible. For forty-eight schools, it simply wasn’t possible to get back to us I guess.


The very worst thing a school can do at this time is not to respond to people. In normal times, non-responsiveness is a customer service sin that should consign the person at the school that ignored a request for help to getting all faculty to wear pins that say STUDENTS ARE MY CUSTOMERS?


In times of high anxiety such as right now, people are feeling depressed and less significant. Psychologists know that the way we establish value in others is listen to them and then respond to their issues. When we do not respond, we are telling people they are not important, not valued. Additionally we know that for students and families a major attrition tipping point is whether or not they feel they are valued. And with the economy, lay-offs, dollar value decline, give-backs to keep jobs, people come into conversations feeling less valued.


The simplest customer service value you can provide your students and their families is respect. Not returning calls or emails is disrespectful.  By not returning or responding to their calls or emails, you are telling your customers they do not matter to you and thus the entire college. In do doing, if money becomes tight for them, you will be less important to them. The result - Expect more drops and unpaid bills.


Yes, unpaid bills and more collection fees. Because willingness to pay (WTP) is based on whether or not the customer feels he or she feels value in the services being paid for as well as whether or not he or she feels valued.  If a customer i.e. student feels he is getting a full return on investment, then WTP will be high. Conversely, if a person believes that the college is not providing value, it will be hard to pry the dollars loose to pay bills. The emotional ROI is equally important. If a person feels valued, he or she will not have resistance to paying for the service - even if the price i.e. tuition goes up. But again, if the student or family feels the college does not value them as individuals… You can fill in the blanks but it will not be with payments on bills.


So, the message here. Value your customers, your students and their families.

Answer the phone. Call back all voice mails within 24 hours. Respond to emails. Do not let any opportunity to communicate with students and families get lost. Every time they reach out to you – reach back. Especially when the calls deal with anxiety points such as money.


5 Ways to Improve Customer Service Communication


  1. Make certain that people know how to use email and the telephone, listen and help. The art of professional telephone communication has been lost for most people. We no longer are good at greeting, listening and responding with the correct tones, attitudes and even use of language. People may need to be trained, or retrained on how to answer and use the phone.  The same is true of email.  At the least read Here's Looking at Me: A Simple Soultion to Phone Rudeness.


  1. Be certain that people use the correct customer first tone, attitude and language. For example, have people avoid academic-ese . That’s the language we use with one another. The argot, slang and specialized language that is part of our culture and not anyone else’s. So avoid acronyms and technical terms.


  1. If you are not sure that folks are not responding appropriately, you may want to set up an accountability system to log incoming and outgoing communications.


  1. Conduct a contact to conclusion assessment. Find out how long it takes for a call or email to be responded to. Then shorten the time.


  1. Do a follow-up study to the callers to see if their request was appropriately and positively responded to and resolved. This does not mean that they got what they wanted since it may not be possible to do so but that they were treated with respect and the person did all he or she could to help.
Ignore phone and email protocols and rest assured that you will lose enrollment and revenue.


AcademicMAPS is the leader in increasing student retention, enrollment and revenue through research training and academic customer service solutions for colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as businesses that seek to work with them 
We increase your success

“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

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Does a Campus Inventory/Audit Report Look Like?

Numerous rqeuests have come to me to see what sort of information could be in a campus service inventory I or one of my group might do. So here is a sample of an actual executive summary that went with a full inventory i.e. audit.  It has been anonymized (is that a real word?) and some parts have been excised to assure that.  The pictures have been left out too for the same reason. As a result, it could be your college or there may be some aspects that will sound familiar to you. That's okay. Just look at the recommendations and solutions. If they work for you - great.

Customer Service Mini-Audit Report of

The College

Audit Conducted on date

By Dr. Neal Raisman, AcademicMAPS

The mini-audit I performed on the three campuses of The College indicated that strides had been made in the five years since my previous customer service review. Of the 28 people I interacted, 22 provided a quality of customer service which ranged between very good and excellent as I said at the presentation.  Two of the other six either tried to provide good care but were defeated by the system and the others need more help. It was my pleasure to be able to point out not just the way the 28 handled the issues but some of the individuals by name who worked with me. These I used as exemplars of how it can be done. Leadership and the people in student services are to be commended for the change. 

There do remain some issues and situations that could be addressed to increase customer service as well as enrollment, retention and morale. These concerns range from an old one mentioned five years ago – lack of or not fully helpful signs on campuses – to more difficult issues that effect both students and employees that may go to procedure and even policy. One of these could be having a negative effect on central aspects of customer service that affect performance and morale as well.


I recognize that in bringing some of this forward, I may be stepping into some policy or even political aspects at the College.  I do however believe it is my responsibility as a consultant asked to bring forward issues that may affect enrollment, retention and/or morale. 

1. As I mentioned in the presentation and in the one five years ago, the signage on the campuses is not helpful to students.  The signage that is on the campuses does not help students find where they would have to go to complete enrollment or find their way from function to function.  For example, the exterior signs that are on campuses may list locations by the names of buildings but there is not listing by functions such as admissions, registration, records, business office, or major area of study such as nursing, business, criminal justice, etc.    

The example below shows both the anonymous building names and the value of function naming as in Physical Plant – Shipping and Receiving. If functional helps vendors, it should help potential students and the community as well.



Students do not know where they need to go to do things by the name of a building. Moreover, none of the main entrances was clearly marked to assist or facilitate.  The closest to either naming by function or the main entrance was on the M campus where I did locate a sign inside a parking lot that listed functions within a building. 

  Unfortunately, if I did not happen to park in that lot, I may not have found other helpful signs on the campus. Moreover, this information was not repeated in front of the specific buildings with the functional areas within.  Redundancy can be helpful in signage. M campus was also the only campus with a sign over a door saying Welcome with some additional helpful information.  Without at least a welcome sign, there is not indication of a building’s front door. I had to wander about trying to figure out where the front door was of each campus. 

Moreover, the placement of signs is important if they are to be used and helpful. 



Inside building signage was described by a faculty member at M campus who stated “This place is like a labyrinth.  If you don’t already know where you’re going, you may not get there.” Variations of the statement were repeated to varying degrees at the B campus as one person told me that admissions was in the L campus Building. Though M campus again made some attempt to help out with a general sign inside the main building, it was still difficult to locate offices since some signs were overhead and small while others had different locations and some did not have. This is apropos for all the buildings at M campus and B campus. 

The L campus does provide interior signage that coincides with color coding that can help people new to campus find their way around. Though some of the individual function areas could still be marked better with signs to help people find their way around, especially to admissions, financial aid, business office, etc. 


L campus also has very good interior signs that are quite helpful.


I suggest a College signage master plan be created that will create signs that provide information by the functions that take place in buildings along with the building name. The committee should also study interior signage and address the needs for signs that will help potential and new students as well as any coming onto campus with the directions they need to find where they need to go in the buildings.


If one looks at the signs used on all three campuses, (examples above) they are all different in style, color, etc. Signs are visual statements of identity as well as indicators to help people find their way to a location. It thus is suggested the signs should all have a consistent look, style, color and font to generate a coherent image and statement of The College no matter what campus an individual is on. 

2.  There is duplication and some inconsistency in forms used and provided. For example, when I was considering taking courses at two different campuses of the College, I had to complete two separate admission request forms. I was also told I would need separate and thus duplicate forms for other processes too.  This duplication of forms and efforts by the student should be eliminated and I hope that the new Datatel system will allow for singular input of materials to limit student and staff effort and work. 

On different campuses I was given different material.  For instance, there were two different FAFSA brochures provided; some different College generated information on programs; the payment plans and courses of study by major area. In this case, some people had out the older brochures (blue color) of major areas while another campus had some new ones (reddish) mixed in with the older ones. I am not sure if the information is different or the new ones have changes but information and brochures should be the same at all campuses unless there is a specific reason such as a specific program only at that campus. 

I suggest that a committee review all materials handed out to students. They should determine a common packet that will be used by all campuses to assure all forms, information and brochures be consistent throughout all three campuses of the College.  Without consistency of materials the College may be providing students at one campus lesser or better information than at another.  Moreover, it is possible that without a standardized information packet, students may be given incorrect information or direction. This would be very unhelpful but could lead to significant problems for the College not just for enrollment and retention but for inconsistency of materials provided to students to make decisions.


3.   .While on the campuses, I would act as if I were lost or confused to see the reaction of employees as they passed me in the halls. The hoped for results would be that employees would stop and ask if they might help me.  The outcomes were not as positive as one might wish. Granted there were not as many people in the halls as might have been during more populated terms at B campus and L campus.  M campus was in full session. 

At B campus, I entered six of the buildings and encountered at least one employee in every one. All but one woman in the Adams building either ignored me or looked at me and kept walking by.  Only the woman in Adams asked if I were in need of help. 

At M campus, I was passed by five employees. One faculty member whose name I recall as George stopped as I was looking around as if lost and asked if he could help me. After he directed me to the admissions office and I was walking about the halls again, he saw me and asked if he could be of additional assistance. 

At L campus, I was passed by six employees and finally assisted by a young man from the bookstore. 

There were then 17 employees who did not provide me any service and three who did; one twice. This became a subject of the presentation which I introduced with the story of Dean Schaar.  I then went on to show how to make sure that we all say hello to students and ask how they are as we pass them. There may be a need for more specific small group training for employees in extending themselves and greeting students. The structure of the large group presentation limited the specific person-to-person training though we did review the processes and manner to be employed. 

4.  There is a serious service concern that has to do with what educational services are made available to students as well as specifically to adult students at one campus.  Customer service looks not only at the processes through which one works with or assists the client.  It looks at the products that are created since it is the “products” of education, training and a degree/job that are finally a major determinant of student satisfaction. How we deliver a service can be quite secondary to what service we deliver. 

The College currently has a structure and program distribution that seriously affects its delivery of the most important service of all – the ability to gain the education and thus career a student seeks. The distribution also limits the College’s ability to expand enrollment and thus revenues by limiting the offering of programs to specific campuses separated by distances without public transportation.  Moreover, the scheduling of the classes with intermittent starts to twice a year or even to once every 18 months creates serious limitations on enrollment, retention and revenue. 

When I attempted to enroll in a graphic design course at B campus for example, the admission’s officer was very helpful and polite but told me that though I lived in B campus I would have to travel to either M campus or L campus to get one or another graphics program.  They were very different programs. The one in M campus, Graphic Design, was a  program which would require more artistic focus and ability while the one in L campus, Visual Publication, was more computer-based.  The two did not overlap and were distinct but not available at B campus.  This was more than disappointing because the College website simply states that The College offers the programs and not a specific campus.  The indication on the web and the College’s marketing was that it was available at the College and not just one, and only one campus. 

By limiting a specific program to one and only one campus denies a broader band of the community access to the program.  If I lived in L campus or in B campus, I would be denied access unless I had the mobility, time and money to drive the distances to the campuses that own the program. From B campus to M campus, for example was over 60 miles and took an hour and twenty minutes.  This is a de facto limitation on enrollment and access. Not only does it deprive potential students from the community to gain education and training in what is one of the hottest areas of study nationally, it deprives the College of revenue ands the ability to fulfill on its motto of No Limits on Learning.  


I was frankly surprised that a community college would limit its service to the community in this manner by making distance a restraint on access.  But I was even more surprised that after I made the drive from B campus to M campus to try and complete enrolling in Graphic Design that it would next to impossible to enroll and, if I were an actual student, achieve my career goal. 

As an adult with a job and family, I was informed that the program called for me to attend five days a week from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.  As an adult with a job and family, I would not be able to do so without great hardship.  I inquired about attending part-time and was told that I could speak with the program chair but it was unlikely I would be allowed to do so.  There were only 18 slots available and the odds of opening one to a part-timer were slim.  These 18 would start together and complete the program before another 18 could start.  I could not start by taking some evening classes since there were no evening classes at the campus. 

When I mentioned to various people that the campus was not very adult friendly and even seemed to discriminate against working adults, there were no disagreements. In fact, there were statements of agreement as well as sympathy and frustration.  The people I would talk with as I persisted in my attempt to gain all the information and material needed to enroll were quite sympathetic to my plight as an adult wishing to advance myself and family though education in a chosen field but their facial expressions showed they were powerless to help. 

Furthermore, even if I were admitted, I could not start in October as I had desired.  I would have to wait until the summer of 2008 before another class started.  A one year wait with no guarantee of being admitted! There are very few students who could maintain their enthusiasm that long.  They would either give up their goals and dreams or find another school that would to start the program. It is quite probable that the for-profit schools are benefiting from the inability of The College to serve the needs and desires of students placed in the situation I was. 

It is also not probable but assured that The College is losing revenue as a result of this situation of individual campuses owning programs, limiting the number of students as well as the number of cohorts to be offered. Not even considering State support, and supposing that there is some sustainable pedagogical rationale for limiting cohorts to 18, an additional cohort of 18 FTE would generate in excess of $21,000 which is more than enough to hire adjuncts to teach the courses.  Appropriate scheduling, such as a full time day and part-time evening courses at the campuses would provide enough tuition revenue to hire at least one, and perhaps two additional full-time instructors. 

The situation is not unique to graphics-focused instruction either.  There appear to be a number of the “campus, not College” owned degree programs that significantly limit the customer service to students and the community. The current program distribution also limits the College’s ability to maximize its facilities, fixed costs and revenues. Moreover, the defacto denial of access to the adult, voting population could cause a sense of disenfranchisement and increase the difficulty of community support for initiatives. 

The program distribution and ownership situation also caused employees to not be able to fulfill their objectives of assisting students and providing fuller service to potential enrollees. On all three campuses, I sensed a strong sense of frustration from employees at being forced to inform me that I would have difficulty obtaining the education promoted and advertised by the College since their campus did not offer the program. Though each was as helpful as they could be, they did indicate that they were sorry I could not achieve my goals without either disruption to my family and life or driving long distances to get to the campus which had the course of study and training I was seeking. 

I strongly suggest the campus-specific program approach be reconsidered to increase the actual range of service the College provides. Currently, there are very many potential customers who are not receiving any, or very limited service at all in specific study areas. Programs should be available at all campuses that can draw the enrollment to support the course of study.  Courses should be offered day and night, in a full-time and a part-time mode so as to not to discriminate against adults, and others whose schedules, families and lives do not readily permit a commitment to a full-time day only schedule even if it were not five days a week. If programs are determined to need to be limited due to a specific campus, there should be consideration given to having them at the L campus campus since that is the area population center as well as a more or less central location between B campus and M campus. 

If it is necessary to continue campus-specific programs, the advertising, the web site and all materials should so indicate the specific campus at the very least. The 2007-8 Catalog does indicate the program location. 

5. Staff indicated that they did not have some of the information they felt they needed to be able to better serve me as a potential student trying to make some decisions. I was told by a couple of employees that “I would like to be able to help and I should be able to but I am just not given that information.” The issues ranged from what sections might be offered, to whether or not students were being accepted into a specific program prior to January 2008.  These are bits of information a student would need to have to decide on attendance or not.  In one case, an individual in a registrar office had to say she did not know the schedule for the next term even though it was completed, had been sent to the printer, and was somewhere on line in the College’s computer system. She did not have access to the on-line information to be able to answer my question.  She was clearly both frustrated and embarrassed. 

The feeling of being left out of the information loop became starkly clear during the break after the first part of the presentation. Attendees would sidle up to me in the hall, tell me the agree with all I had said but that they were not included in the information loop or as active participants in any decisions that affected their ability to perform their jobs.  They had worked hard to help install Datatel but had not belief they would be permitted access to the date within so they could do their jobs better. The individuals who surreptitiously spoke with me also said there was little communication with them from the College.  They also said they felt they could not comment or engage in discussion with me even when I asked a question in the presentation for fear of getting reprimanded. This at least helped explain why there was so little reaction or interaction from the attendees when I tried to engage them in discussion...


It would seem important the College seek ways to communicate and provide internal customer service more effectively with some employees.  It may well be that there is communication taking place but for one reason or other, there is a significant group that is somehow either missing the information or is indeed being left out of the loop. The result is the creation of a feeling of disenfranchisement leading to a diminution of morale that affects the providing of customer service to students...


AcademicMAPS is the leader in increasing student retention, enrollment and revenue through research training and academic customer service solutions for colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as businesses that seek to work with them
We increase your success

“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

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quilt Making Increases Enrollment: The Stitch-In Process

In an earlier piece I wrote about the stitch-in process used at some career colleges. This is the process used by schools to make sure that their application yield actually turns into shows who start – students who show up for and take classes on day one. You see it matters not if a school gets hundreds of application if only 60% of the students actually start school. The pet rock thing again.

Enrollment does not end at an application!

As I talk to colleges and universities, I am always shaking my head at how many of them plan to accept low show rates. Today I was on the phone with an enrollment management official of a selective university who told me that the actual number of students who put down a deposit compared to those who showed and started this year was about 72%. That means that 28% of potential students did not complete the initial enrollment process and start school. The university was seeking an initial start number of 980 new freshmen last fall. They initially “selected” 1202 applications for admission assuming their traditional no show rate would repeat and they’d have their class. Might be off one or two but they could pull from the wait list. Didn’t work that way. Fewer students said they would actually be showing up on day one. They had been using this university as a “safety”.

Not to panic. Go to the wait list. Those who had been told they weren’t quite good enough to get admitted but if we panic, we will dip down into the losers, uhhh wait list and maybe select a few more chosen. They hit the wait list but many of those at the top of the list had already committed elsewhere and had scholarships to help out. So they dug deeper. When all was said and done they were only going to be two students short for the start. So they were only starting the year about $38,000 short on revenue from day one. OOOOPPPPS!

Granted, they had now accepted students they were not sure were quite good enough for the university. But, well, they needed the tuition revenue to pay the bills and weren’t they being nice giving the great unwashed a chance at their school? And there was a budget to be filled with revenue. Okay so some students wouldn’t make it but they would benefit by being allowed to interact with their betters and that would help them----somehow. And one or two would be diamonds in the rough, blossom and do well. We’ve all seen that movie.

The end result was that they now had a larger retention problem than they had in the past. There was more zirconium than diamond in the entering class. Even some of the possible diamonds that were selected had flaws that the diamond cutters of faculty, administration, staff and lack of advisors and tutors found and sorted out. They don’t like working on flawed jewels after all.

So I did some investigating into the university’s stitch-in process. It really did not have one. (Oh don’t gasp in false surprise. Your school likely does not have one either! So read on)

Once a student was accepted to the university, the marketing stopped and the processing began. Letters may have started with welcome to……. But that was it. Admission folk stopped contacting them. Encouragement to come to the school was traded for your tuition down payment is due by…. Dorm down payment is due by…. Full payment must be in by….. Pay for the meal plan…Complete the enclosed form which is very much like the one sent by another office yesterday but we aren’t using technology to save you duplication of effort and us money….We can’t find the form we didn’t send you so complete it again please…..

It made me recall the man who sat beside me on a flight saying he told his daughter to go to a small private college because it stayed in touch a bit after the initial acceptance letter. The others he said just didn’t show a concern that he felt would be there once his daughter started. “If they can’t care enough to complete the sale and build a relationship with the client early on, I just felt they wouldn’t be there for her if she had a problem.” Likely he was right.

Each Student a Quilt

If you look at a quilt, it is an amalgamation of tiny stitches. Each stitch has a purpose and value in either holding one piece of fabric to another or in creating the actual design. The stitches may be put into the quilt by a single person or by a number of snitchers in a quilting bee process. The bee can be when a group of snitchers come together in a room at a set time to work together. Or a bee can also occur when the quilt is left out and a person, or a couple people come to it and place their work into it when appropriate or they have time or reason to do so. A variant on the bee is a process in which a number of people agree on a theme or design and each makes her section by herself. Then everyone sends or brings the section to have it attached to everyone else’s sections to create the final quilt. That’s how the Aids Memorial Quilt was and continues to be made for instance.

So it can be one person who makes the quilt for each student or it can be a group of people. If one or even two people do all the stitching, making quilts is a lot of work. It is always easier and more productive if there is a team of quilters working on stitching. A team can get it done faster and with greater efficiency. This is also true of stitching in students to the school. The more people who work in the stitch-in process, the better odds are that students will be more firmly stitched into the school. By the way, I am talking about those who actually do the work of stitching; not a committee. And certainly not an academic committee. There is too much real work to be done and all committees usually do is meet, schedule more meetings and then ask for more time because they couldn’t agree.

Keep in mind that every quilting bee has side kibitzers who don’t sew the quilt but have one at home. They are only too happy to tell the real workers about the design, the length of stitches and how the quilt could be made better. They don’t sew anything but delay, dissent, distraction and so many design concepts that rather than an elegant finished product we all end up with swatches that at best will end up as a crazy quilt that will not help bring comfort to students. Keep in mind that kibitzers don’t do much but eat the snacks and coffee that should go to the workers.

If you want a process that will stitch in students, let those who work with the fabric every day design the quilt. Oh yes, you may will want to talk with those who will be given the quilt. Ask them what they would have wanted in the quilting they received prior to coming to the college or deciding not to come. Good research often comes from those who didn’t buy the product and shopped elsewhere.

But having a stitch-in bee does not necessarily create greater beauty and finish. To accomplish that a clear sense of design or reason for the quilt is required. There are many types of quilted textiles from placemats to baby blankets to king sized comforters. Each one has a specific reason for size, shape, thickness and design. A placemat won’t cover a bed while a king size comforter could smother a baby.

The most important aspect of making a quilt or a stitch-in process is its design to meet its purpose. Every quilt is different just as all schools are different. Yes, most all quilts do have similar elements – cloth, stitches, colors, traditional styles – and every school has similar pieces like classes, faculty, but every one is finally unique. It is important that the quilt you create to stitch-in your enrollments fits your school and your potential students.

Determine what your quilt needs to have in it to keep students coming to your school and what its structure, design and elements must be for your school.

There are some common elements that I have found in most all stitch-in processes so I give them to you as a starting point. For this we drop the metaphors, analogies and symbolic language. Here are some straight stitches.

Ten Key Elements to a Successful Stitch-in Process

  1. Design the process with a full knowledge and understanding of your school, its strengths, weaknesses and what makes students come or not show. Learn what works and does not work. Create a design that will meet the needs. Just don’t throw people or a brochure at it. Do it correctly.
  2. Call every new student accepted to the school within 24-48 hours. That’s when buyer’s remorse and second guessing can start. Stay in touch with the students. Contact them personally at least once a week. And not to bug them about what they need to do next to get their payment in on time.
  3. Keep a log of needed paperwork, forms etc that the student or family needs to complete and keep it up top date. If they need to obtain paperwork to complete the process, help them get it. That may not mean actually getting it for them though that never hurts but make sure they know where they can obtain it.
  4. Find out their interests such as career goals and keep them informed about what is happening in tat area in the school. If a graduate gets a job for instance, send that information out to all potential students who may be at all interested. A good way to do this is to use a system such as Leadwise like West Virginia State University is with its personal college planner system.
  5. Keep asking if there are any issues or concerns they, their parents or spouse might have that might get in the way of showing for classes. Then help solve them. If it is a commuting issue for instance, see if you can find another student in the area who could help out with a ride or car pooling or check the public transportation schedule and send the potential schedule to get to classes.
  6. Keep others who have a stake in the student showing up for classes involved and active, i.e. admissions, enrollment management and check in with other student processing offices such as registrar, bursar, financial aid, department chairs, etc on a regular basis to make sure students are getting done what they need to so they can start school.
  7. Keep getting good news and information about the school to the potential students (that’s what they are until they start classes.) If there is a school newspaper, email them copies. It may be worthwhile to create a digest of the paper for instance to help keep positive articles in front of the potential students. IF the school is mentioned positively in the media, get it out. If there are sports teams, debate teams, clubs doing things, let potential students know.
  8. Invite students to events on campus and create special events for them. An inexpensive Meet the ----- pizza party can go a long way for local students. Even if they can’t come, getting invited is good. Create on-line or teleconferenced events like Ask the President, Filling out FAFTA Help, open Q+A with faculty, department chairs other students in the major, meet the football team…..If you know there is an issue that many students face or have questions about, open it up and discuss it to resolve it as much as is possible.
  9. Do not forget the buying committee. You are enrolling the entire family. Parents and spouses need to be kept in the loop too. If they are going to be helicopter parents, provide them an early landing pad and they won’t fly in as often. Set up special teleconferences in the evening for parents and spouses sp they can see you realize and considered that they work but want to provide opportunities for them. Set up a parent/spouse website where they can get FAQs, ask questions, blog, get answers from the college, students and OTHER PARENTS WHO HAVE GONE THROUGH IT. Keep parents and spouses involved.
  10. And since this is very important, here’s number 1 again with a few more thoughts. Study your school, its culture and existing processes. See what works and what doesn’t in stitching potential students in to become real students as starts. Find out what attracts or repels potential applicants. Design the stitch-in process with a full knowledge and understanding of your school, its strengths, weaknesses and what makes students come or not show. Learn what works and does not work. Create a design that will meet the needs. Just don’t throw people or a brochure at it. Do it correctly.

If you need help with the design, implementation, assessment or any aspect of setting up a stitch in process, get in touch. I’ll be glad to help or recommend others who can. There are one or two external groups that can either set up a process or you or even do it for you. Outsourcing may be a good way to go to save money, time, and students. Remember Academic Customer Service Principle 14.

To every problem there is more than one solution

and they may be external rather than within academia.

Stitch-in is not only an early and important part of retention to fulfill the real enrollment process. Stitch-in can be the difference between a successful learning experience for students. It can also be an extremely important aspect of a successful and enjoyable teaching experience for your faculty and staff. Stitch-in can also be the difference between enrolling a class that meets your school’s needs for right fit, continuing revenue and enrollment success.

(If you’d like a copy of the Principles of Good Academic Customer Service, just ask and I’ll get them to you.)


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“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