Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Customer Service, Retention and Oxytocin?

There is increasing research that shows that contact/engagement between people is essential to feelings of comfort and happiness. We know that being left out or denied contact has a very deleterious effect on an individual. This is known from such terrible things are brainwashing techniques or solitary confinement.  
 Want proof? Just ignore someone in a group and see how fast and strong the reaction is. We need to feel we are part of a group with contact and communication.  What we don’t realize is that one can just as easily feel left out even when in a community such as a campus. People do get lost in the lonely crowd to use a relative’s book title. Even when among other students in a classroom, people can feel isolated and unhappy as a result. Multiply that to one among hundreds in a cattle roundup large lecture and the effect of loneliness becomes equal to the number of people in the herd, uh classroom
But this is to concentrate on the negative when there is some good information coming from neuroscientists that there are easy ways to increase a feeling of membership and well-being. The work of Paul J. Zak a professor in Claremont University’s Graduate University is making some of these findings. Prof. Zak is a leading expert in neuro-economic, the study that combines economic, biology, neurology and psychology to try and understand how people act and react to try and figure out why we act and react in certain ways.
One of his experiments focuses on oxytocin and its effects on people’s feelings. Many readers may be aware of the effects of oxytocin in promoting labor for childbirth and then the letdown mechanism for nursing. Well, it also seems to be a neurotransmitter that can cause other feeling  including wellbeing as well as the reduction of fear or anxiety.  In fact, oxytocin (By the way this is not to be confused with the Rush Limbaugh rush drug of oxycontin. Very different.)administered nasally has been shown to reduce fear, increase feelings of well-being and affect other social emotions to the point that some have called it “the cuddle hormone.”
In the experiment, Dr. Zak has blood drawn from a subject to use as a constant then he has the subjects twitter with friends about whatever they wish to twitter on about and others twitter to the subject. After ten minutes, a second blood draw is taken. In one case of this experiment discussed in the July/August WIRED magazine, the subject’s oxytocin levels went up 13.2%. The author of the piece states “That’s equivalent to the hormonal spike experiences by the groom at the wedding Zak attended” and used for experimental purposes. Twittering caused a major increase in this hormone which indicates increased well-being and reduction in anxiety. This is reflected in the additional fact that cortisol, a stress hormone went down by 10.8% and another stress hormone indicator ACTH went down by 14.9%. Tweeting back and forth has major positive effects on the subject’s well-being and comfort levels.
This is but one of many studies that show that oxytocin rises as people feel more and more connected with one another or even a place. It is not surprising since the connection of mother and child that facilitates nursing is also caused by the hormone. Connections are primary in the ability for a person to feel engaged in, comfortable with and part of a society that is so necessary to retaining friendships, love and yes, students in a college or university.
Now I am not going to suggest that colleges provide students oxytocin. Nah, what I am suggesting is that colleges raise student oxytocin rates by communicating, communicating and communicating with students but make sure that the subjects are ones the students want to read and respond to. It is important that schools provide topics for students to communicate back. Ask them their thoughts on various matters then school is facing. Ask them about issues that could be of interest to them. Twitter them about events and ask what they think about them. Got a football team, ask students to predict how many points the home town team will win by. (Don’t ever ask for points they’ll lose by.) Have a movie playing on campus? Ask if they plan to go? Have a task force meeting that might involve students (which one wouldn’t?) perhaps ask for student thoughts.
Set up lists by student majors and tweet out what’s going on in the department or area of study. Tweet out when a grad gets a job or promotion.  Tweet when you’ll be in the cafeteria to listen to students and buy some coffee for them. Getting the picture? Just keep communicating and make them feel as if you and they are part of a social network that can get oxytocin levels up.
If you need any help on the technical aspects, let me know and I’ll recommend a few people who can set up the systems you need.
If this article and the preceding parts of it on this zine were of value, you will want to get a copy of The Power of Retention available from The Administrator's Bookshelf

You will also want to bring Dr. Raisman to your campus for some training or an audit that is guaranteed to increase retention. There are a few more dates available in 2010 but CONTACT US NOW TO ASSURE YOUR RETENTION AND ACADEMIC CUSTOMER SERVICE SUCCESS.

BTW, the firm's name will be changing to N.Raisman & Assoc/Center on Retention as we expand services and experts to meet current and future clients' needs.

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