Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some Tips for Employee Customer Service - Becoming a Service

Too often we forget about the people who provide customer service to our students. Yes, we do provide them training programs here and there (and by the way, they and everyone from the president on up can use more training), But we need to also tend to their simple, basic human needs so they will want to help others with theirs. It is difficult to care about others if as person believes no one cares about him or her.

So here are a few ways to not just show you care about the first line providers of academic customer service but to actually do something to provide you do.

Coffee Breaks
Treat people as people, not just employees. Get to know the people you work with and who work for you. We are all one another’s’ customer after all. We could not do out job if others did not do theirs. Find out what they like, dislike; their home life (within limits of course) families, interests, etc. I like to tell the story of Dr. William Schaar who used to spend the first 30 minutes of the day sitting down with his people in the cafeteria just talking as people, as equals. He was the Dean of students at Lansing Community College but in the cafeteria he was often just Bill. He and his folks would talk about so-called mundane things like fishing, kids, woodworking, food, jokes, and whatever came up. Then after thirty minutes or so of sharing and being just folk together, everyone went back to work and performed above and beyond just to help one another and Dean Schaar out. They worked as a team because they cared about one another and yes there was some talk about work and problems were often solved over coffee.

Quality of Life Committees
When I started as Dean of Raymond Walters College, a campus of the University of Cincinnati,  I put in place a quality of life committee. It was made up of two representatives of all the major work groups in the College. Each work group, staff, clerical, managers, administrators and faculty met with me as chair of the committee once a month to discuss work life issues in an attempt to make it better to work at “Ray’s Place”.

In the first meeting, I was a given the opportunity to become a hero. It seems that the door to the women’s staff lounge (bathroom) did not close all the way. It was only left open a fraction of an inch but that was enough to make the users inside uncomfortable. I simply had maintenance adjust the door. It closed. Voila! Increased morale. And to make it even more of a win for morale and service, I had a couch, a small end table, a lamp and farmed pictures put up. The room became a destination for women employees who would often use it as a place to get away and relax for a few minutes. Instant hero-dom for the maintenance folk and the committee leading to increased morale. A happy and cared for group of employees will always care about others and provide better service to our student customers and one another.

Random Acts of Ice Cream
I used to walk around campus with cards in my pocket that simple said, “Thank you for doing a great job and helping students. I am proud to have you as a colleague”. I used to hand these to people who did a good job and at times to people who were not doing a good job but I needed to perform better with students. I was always amazed how much a simple card meant to a person. I would go to offices or workstations weeks later and find the cards pinned to a wall or board. And, some folks who were not doing a good job performed better. Amazing how a little praise can do to an attitude.

During peak work times like the first days of registration, I would go around to offices that were slammed and take orders for coffee, doughnuts, ice cream. Then I would go out myself and fill the order and bring the food back to the individual who ordered it along with a thank you for doing a great job. Amazing how food and thanks say “you are important”. The people worked even harder to get the job done and now with a smile along with an ice cream sundae.

There are many other ways to boost morale that will pop up later on here but try a few of these for a start and see academic customer service improve.

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