Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What Can Be Learned from the Hearings Part 3 Avoiding Future Problems

What To Do To Avoid Problems Going Forward
It is important to re-emphasize that the examples given and the problems cited may not apply to every school and company but they do for too many.  And these examples are the sort that are easily found on the internet, websites, the media and hearing evidence so the must become important even to the schools that do not do them. It is important that the sector stop patting itself on the back all the time and be real about some of the players within it. It is necessary to take the whispering at meetings like CCA and do something to stop the offenders from harming and maybe even destroying the whole industry. We all know there are issues yet little is done about them by the Career College Association, its members or the accrediting agencies who could bring pressure since if they don’t, the federal hearings and rules will.

The sector needs to hire more leaders who have had experience in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. A college is an educational institution first that makes money through its successful recruitment, teaching, retention. customer service, graduation and placing of students. Students must be treated as what they are – our customers. That does not mean giving the what we think they want such as high grades for little work but real academic customer service. This includes good classroom experiences, training that does apply to the real world by professors who can teach, class sections that are offered without sudden cancellation, equipment that is up-to-date and appropriate to the learning, good tutoring when needed, an environment that is both academic and attractive and most important, people who care and value them as students.  

This means that people all the way through the student experience must provide good academic customer service that is also within the rules and regulations that govern colleges. That means being honest and upfront on all issues and trying to help resolve them to the student’s and schools benefit. Remember a dropout will not register for more classes. For example, it includes when a student is behind in tuition payment we do not just send dunning letter and pull the student from class. What we do is sit down with the student and try to help him or her find ways to make the payments. If we do that, even if the student finally has to leave, she will feel the school did all it could to help out and be complimentary rather than a potential hearing complainant. It means listening a lot more and demanding a lot less. It also means that people need to be trained in academic customer service so they can treat students correctly.

The campus president or director should have the care and feeding of students as her primary job. She should think of herself at the DoCS, the Director of Customer Service.  It should be her obligation to deal with and resolve any and all student issues before they become complaints. If she is in her office too much, she is not working with and in the student body enough. She must also be the DoCS for the staff of the college and become an advocate for them with corporate or whomever she reports to.  She should make sure everyone knows the 15 Principles of Good Academic Customer Service and lives by them.

Academic customer service training is also needed for the employees especially those who have any sort of HR function which is really everyone. Too many school rely on an HR person to take care of the hard stuff like firing even after that original manager made the situation not just hard but destructive. Managers, directors and senior staff need to realize there is a reason G-d gave us two ears and one mouth. She was trying to tell us to listen twice s much as we talk. And everyone must realize that everyone in the school is their customer and needs to be treated with dignity and value. 

The bonus system needs to be made more egalitarian. Everyone contributes to a successful or failing school so bonuses should not just focus on the senior leadership but everyone. Everyone should get a bonus id the college succeeds. But the entire bonus system should probably be ended and replaced with a better base salary plus a salary scale increase system so successful people get promoted and/or salary increases regularly. Bonuses just push people to possibly do things that cause the college problems later.

The whole industry needs to just settle down and realize that it is not possible to keep growing at rates that are outpacing the market every quarter. There was a time when that was possible when the sector was still newish in the 1990’s with a huge market and not all that many players. Now the sector is crammed with  what may be too many schools for all to be successful. There are so many career colleges out there that even the small markets are over-crowded.  But the investors want a good return so even weak schools need to perform somehow. That how is what gets too many school in trouble and the entire sector the target of federal hearings.
Someone needs to regulate the industry from within or it will be done from hearings, new federal rules and on the State and Federal level. Someone needs to be the watchdog and sniff out issues before they become obvious to everyone.  Someone needs to have the authority somewhat like an accrediting agency using something like a Sorbanes/Oxley desk audit of all activities and functions and for the sector and be able to tell a school or company that it may not do certain things, over market, promise what they cannot deliver, etc. It may be that schools should be under a regulating/accrediting agency not for academic programs but sort of as a Good Collegekeeping seal of approval that can be given for meeting and performing or taken away until the school is back in line. Perhaps this should be one of the roles of the CCA though I do not see it doing this. But it needs to come from within if at all possible or it will come from outside.

Everyone just realize that everyone in the school is my customer and needs to be treated with dignity and value.

Finally, since there is no such regulating body, individual colleges and schools need to police their own activities. They cannot permit anyone, admissions, financial aid, bursar, anyone from the President on up to engage in any deceptive practices, claims, or actions that will harm students even if it means that some number is not hit. Better to miss a start for example than to start a federal hearing.

Get a copy of the newest version, the 2010 update of the Principles of Good Academic Customer Service by clicking here and asking NOW.

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