Too many colleges and universities have substituted on-line technological, self-serve assistance, for customer service in many areas on and off-campus as well as situations. In fact, there are some schools and some offices at many, too many schools that have become dependent on technology for customer service almost to the exclusion of person-to-person contact and assistance.Of course, if an office or people in it do not want to work with people, what better way to make sure they can avoid human contact than to shove technology in the way. And wouldn’t it be great to be able to claim that technology is a better way to let students have more control and make it easier for them.
“They won’t have to walk all the way over to the ___________ office. “ (Just name the office on your campus to fill in the blank. I’m sure you can without too much trouble. If they don’t want to deal with students they generally don’t want to deal with you either!)
Emily Yellin writes in her book that I recommend Your Call is Not that Important to Me (Free Press;2009) on poor telephone
communication by companies that
companies money, gives customers information instantly, and liberates agents from answering repetitive questions. But self-service also can fuel the perception that a company is uncaring or arrogant – not wanting its customers to talk to live human representatives. (p94)
It is interesting that the most
common adjectives used to describe the functions and service in these offices by students and staff alike when we bring campus departments or offices that have become technology driven, customer indifferent service locations common descriptors of those are “arrogant”, “rude” and “uncaring”.
It has turned out that when doing campus service audits, there is a correlation between technology reliance and customer defiance in offices. (Oh, when typing “these offices earlier, I had mistyped with “these orifices….” Freudian or just my usual poor typing? You tell me.) In most every contact we made with offices that are too technology reliant to assess its customer service ended with a direction to go on-line and
complete a form there. Even when we would ask for a copy of a specific form in one of these offices, we would invariably be instructed to go on line. It seems they will do most anything to avoid person-to-person service.
It needs to be understood that when people seek help from another person, they will expect that individual to provide the assistance; not send them away to go on-line. If a person makes the effort to go to an office they will want at least an equal effort
coming back to them. If they make a phone call, they expect to have someone help them on the phone. And if they use email to contact an office, it does not mean they love technology and do not want human-to-human contact. These person-to-person contacts and responses are the basis of social equity which is at the core of much of customer service. This effort to help is not found when one is turfed, sent away to somewhere else, in this case to on-line.
Turfing is a term common to hospitals but fits in academia also. When a hospital patient may demand a great deal of time or attention, or may not live, he or she may be turfed – sent to another department or specialty area. This way, the originating department does not have to deal with the issues the patient presents or deal with failure. But the most common reason is that people on campus just simply do not know one another enough because they live in their own castles.
Students are often turfed from department to department in academia. This is not because they may not survive though it can happen when a department or person does not want to provide bad news. Turfing usually happens because someone does not want to put him or herself out to help or simply does not know how to. So the student is turfed on to somewhere else. Now, in academia we don’t call it turfing, just the shuffle. And the students hate it whether they have to go from office to office or from office to on-line technology.
There may well be an argument that states that college-aged students may want to solve problems themselves. There is certain validity to the argument. But when a student does
come into an office, calls or wrote to a person seeking help, that student is not trying to solve an issue him or herself. The student is reaching out to a human and expects that the person will reach back; not turf, not shuffle the student to the web. Over-dependence on technology for service is harming customer service on campus.