Sunday, May 29, 2011

What is a Good Classroom Teacher?

One way to develop a study of the characteristics of a classroom teacher is to ask the customers, the students what qualities do they use to judge a professor in class? So students were asked “what do you really want from a professor in a class? What criteria do you use to judge if he or she is a good or not so good teacher?” 

This is an approach that falls under the category of quality dimension development. That is, using the criteria supplied by customers about professors' behavior that would lead to grouping results into quality indicators that could be tested through a survey for example.  

For instance, in determining the quality indicators of a teacher, students supplied responses such as “starts class on time”, “returns tests the next class.” ‘knows her stuff” “cares about me learning and doing well”. These criteria were grouped to form larger categories that the individual criteria fell under,. For instance criteria such as “starts class on time”, “returns tests/papers by the next class”, “responds to student questions in class quickly” and similar responses led to a category of timeliness with clustered criteria as indicators on quality that could be tested.

Using a dimension quality development approach to analyze 6218 responses received to the question of what do you use to judge a teacher led to an original grouping of seven quality indicators for a teacher in a college classroom.  These are what students want in a classroom teacher. They are

Professionalism – knows his/her stuff; acts like a professional in the field taught, displays expertise in allied areas” “maintains decorum in class” “doesn’t just lecture from the book”…

Responsiveness – ‘is available in office hours” “answers students’ questions in class quickly” “sees if the class is understanding the points being made”

Timeliness “starts class on time” “ends class on time” “returns tests/papers by the next class”…

Empathy – “cares about me” “cares about my learning” “understands what it is like to be a student”…

Availability “Holds office hours” “is approachable for help” “waits in class to help students” “will meet with me for extra help”…

Completeness of instruction “explains topics or skills well” “makes sure students understand” “tells us all of the information; not just some of it”…

Pleasantness/Approachability – “Feel I can approach her for help”, “is available outside of class” “makes me feel comfortable in class” “is friendly” “teachings style shows openness to students”…

When looking again at the parameters of the dimensions it was noticed that there was some overlap if one judged the categories and their components by the following criteria/definitions.

Professionalism – the degree to which the professor knows the subject area and comports oneself expertly while maintaining classroom decorum

Responsiveness -  degree to which the professor responds to student learning needs in and out of class

Timeliness – degree to which the professor turns back paper and starts and stops class on time

Empathy – degree to which the professor reaches out to students and connect to them in a friendly manner

Availability – degree to which the professor makes him/herself available to students in and out of class

Completeness of instruction- degree to which the professor completes the teaching in class

Pleasantness/approachability – degree to which the professor is open and welcoming to students and their learning needs.

There are some obvious areas that beg to be combined because of overlap.  These were joined with the following resulting three dimensions of quality.

Professionalism (includes completeness) –the degree to which the professor shows expertise of knowledge and professional teaching ability/style
            “knows the material”
            “controls the classroom”
            ‘doesn’t just lecture from a book”
            “can answer student questions about the material”
            “show confidence in teaching”

Responsiveness (includes timeliness and availability) the degree to which the professor responds to student learning needs and their personal needs
            “responds to my learning needs and helps me understand material”
            “answers questions in class in less than a minute”
            “starts class on time”
“ends class when the bell rings”
“is available in office hours”
“waits for class to leave to make sure no one has questions”
“returns tests the next class”
“will meet outside of class for extra instruction”

Empathy (includes pleasantness/approachability) – the degree to which the professor connects with students and displays a friendliness toward students
            “cares about me”
“understands what it is like to be a student”…
            “Feel I can approach for help”,
“is available outside of class”
“makes me feel comfortable in class”
“is friendly”
“teaching style shows an openness to students”…

Though this exercise is not complete and could use more responses from students to increase its validity, it looks as if the qualities students really want in a classroom professor is that he or she be professional, being responsive to their needs and empathize with their situation. So it appears they want to learn in class, be sure they can get help and tests back quickly so they are aware of how they are doing and they want the teacher to be aware of them as individuals.  That is, they want academic customer service in the classroom.

If this article has value for you, you'll want to get a copy of the best-selling book The Power of Retention by clicking here.

N.Raisman & Associates has been providing customer service, retention, enrollment and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits, workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. N.Raisman & Associates prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services.

Friday, May 27, 2011

SDSU Raises Graduation Rates but at What Cost?

San Diego State University has raised its graduation rates significantly but at what cost? Is this a case of making sure the college and student fit or just limiting admissions to "better" students? Has SDSU generated a better graduation rate by losing its mission in search of higher status and higher status students? Or has the University just gotten real about matching its student body to its aspirations and reality as an emerging research university? Are those aspirations basically discriminatory? Read the full article at Inside Higher Education by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New Report Urges Schools to More Productivity - i.e. Student Success and Graduation

The full report can be obtained at Money is tight on campuses so a new report recommends that colleges get more productive to prove to public that they are doing the job and deserve support. Productivity? That equals increasing graduation rates. The report supported by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia and AGB has as its first recommendation Promote—and reward—institutional changes that increase the number of persons who successfully complete higher education degree and certificate programs.
The full report can be obtained at

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quality Indicators of Faculty

It is the time for class evaluations at many schools. This is the time when the students evaluate the performance of the faculty member in a class. This is most normally accomplished through a computer form with items for evaluation that have been determined by the faculty with the administration. So essentially, students get to rate faculty based on what the service supplier thinks is important. That is not necessarily the way to do an evaluation of the students’, the customers’ experience. The forms may develop a picture of how well or not the faculty member is performing some teaching duties but the forms are not at all customer service indicators.

Those who work in customer service know that the evaluations need to come from the customers’ point of view. What is important to them. The evaluations thus need to be formed by using the issues and assessment items important to the customer.

By filling out forms with evaluation issues supplied by the people being evaluated, the results cannot be accurate. They cannot really test the qualities that affect the customers. The concerns that the students have may well be different than those the faculty or administration believe they should or will have. Moreover the evaluation forms have to go through the committee process in most every school so one can be assured the result will be political or at least altered and watered down to please the bizarre workings of most every academic committee. Especially when the committees almost always see the evaluation forms as an enemy out to cause them harm so they must make the form and its items as benign as is possible to please the members of the committee and the greater academic community.

As a result these forms cannot be used to develop a sense of classroom customer service since it is not the customers who have been asked to tell the school the parameters of what they judge good service as. Classroom customer service is one of the most important points of customer school contact and should be evaluated. So how to do that?

Indicators of Quality

One begins by finding out from the customers what is actually important to them; not to us. We need to know what they judge as components of good classroom customer service. What they use to judge if a class and a faculty member are good and worth it or not worth it. What are the services a professor provides customers (students) or should provide them according to the customers?

While working on a project for a university hospital to determine levels of customer service, I listened to hundreds of patients as they left a doctor to ask them what they expected in terms of services from the physician. These ranged from such things as “not keep me waiting;. “listen to me when I talk”, “show some compassion” know his stuff” and so on. 

When I grouped all the responses so far they led to five areas of quality indicators for physician customer services. They are as follows;
Responsiveness to the patient – listening skills
Completeness in explanations
Professionalism – does she know her stuff

I have a request. Could you after reading this ask your students what they expect from professors in reference to customer service in and out of class? Could you ask them to just jot these down. Five minutes in a class perhaps. Then send me the responses so I can analyze them and start to build some clear quality indicators for faculty in a class that might actually reflect what the customers feel should be evaluated.

Just send them to me at Nealr@GreatServiceMatters.come. I will share the results in a later posting.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Get a Speaker on Customer Service in Colleges and Universiites

Academic customer service is a primary factor for student success, retention and graduation. In fact, up to 84% of all students drop out due to academic customer service issues.  But it is not the customer service touted by the business gurus.  Yes, your college is indeed a business with payrolls, unions, contracts, budgets, fund balance and profit and loss. But it is also a unique academic enterprise with a community, culture, folkways, traditions and ethos that make it unlike any other school or business. For example our customer is not always right - as we know from tests and quizzes we give! Actually, our customer is essentially not a customer at all but more of a professional client whose care and growth are in our hands How we apply that care and manage the students’ experience will determine if  they attend, stay to graduate, dropout or transfer, become an advocate or critic, supporter or detractor. Academic customer service matters.

As you think about convocation, an October customer service month or a workshop speaker consider inviting the expert on academic customer service to your event. Dr. Neal Raisman is the expert speaker, trainer, and solution provider to over 450 colleges and universities in the US, Canada and Europe seeking to improve their student experiences, enrollment, retention, and morale.  Dr. Raisman’s book The Power of Retention is the #1 book on academic customer service EVER.  Here’s what one school’s associate dean of students said about an academic customer service workshop.

Dear Dr. Raisman,
      I don't even know where to begin! Your presentation at Temple University was positively wonderful!!! Please excuse the excessive use of exclamation points, but I want to be sure that you hear the emphasis.
      The time that you devoted in advance of your presentation, getting to know us and learning about our performance through the students, made all the difference. Your humor, including the chance to laugh at ourselves, certainly added energy and entertainment to what could have been just-another-workshop.
      Many thanks for such a quality presentation and for bringing such good information to our community! Hope to see you again in Philadelphia.

Katie D'Angelo                                                                                                                                           Associate Dean of Students   Temple University
Contact us today at or call at 413-219-6939 to find out how you 
can grow a student friendly culture through academic customer service on campus. Please do not 
delay – dates are filling fast for the Fall. 
Get a free copy of Dr. Raisman’s new book Customer Service Factors and the Cost of Attrition.
Please share with colleagues 

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Embedding Customer Service in the Campus Culture through Rewards

Rewards are very important to developing a culture of good customer service. Simply put, people need to know there is a value in changing and adapting to a real student first culture. So any cultural change needs to be reinforced with rewards. They tell people they are doing the right thing and make people feel good when they do them.

Rewards can be as simple as “great job” as profound as a “Thank you” or as materialistic as you wish to be. But they should almost always be contemporaneous with the event. Timing is important.

There is little as powerful as someone saying “well done” when someone does something that delivered good customer service. If for example, you observe an employee walking a student from one office to another to get her the service and help she needs at the correct office, That’s when you should tell the walker “well done. That was just great.” That is a reward that comes right at the event and is strong and positive. The walker gets the satisfaction of someone having observed and giving a reward. And that’ll come with a smile so it is a double reward. An “attagirl”is always a good thing to give. It recognizes the person, the event and good customer service. When someone provides good customer service, recognize and reward.

One of the strongest rewards a manager can give is a simple, powerful “thank you.”  People in general seek both attention and recognition. Little provides both as well as a thank you from the boss. If a supervisor sees someone doing anything to help another, student or colleague, the supervisor should go up to the provider and say something like “I just want to say thank you Elizabeth for the great way you helped that student. That was just wonderful. Thank you.” That is recognition and reinforcement of the value of good service to the culture of the school that will be remembered for quite a while. It also reinforced the value of the service provided and odds are very good, it will be given to numerous others in the future. Thank you is just such a powerful communication and reward.

Another very strong reinforcement that good service is valued is through communicating a bit more formally with the person. Supervisors and administrators should have small engraved single fold cards like those used to write thank you’s for gifts. The cards should be engraved on a good stock too since the card will then state a value to the recipient if it seems “expensive” even though these cards really are not. A person should take one out and write a note to someone who has provided some good customer service to another at the school, especially students. A short note stating the service provided along with an appreciation for the person plus a written thank you is mailed to the person’s home. Getting it at home makes the thank you even more effective. This is because few things from the school, especially the administrators are mailed home. Moreover it says you have taken the time and effort to write it by hand and mail it rather than the usual email which just does not have the impact of a note mailed home.  Furthermore, it can be, and will be shown to everyone in the house and even beyond.

There can also be formal programs set up to recognize and reward customer service all year long with a big payoff at the end.  At one school I was Chancellor of, I created a system called the bucks. We printed up college dollars in various point denominations. One of them is above. We customized them to have photos of people and places at the school on the point bills. Senior administrators (who could not get bucks) had the bucks to give out on the spot. When someone provided good customer service they were given a buck with as point domination that seemed appropriate. The bucks were an immediate reward.

We also had a form that could be used by colleagues to nominate another colleague for bucks for good service. They could also indicate the level of the service and what demonization they felt could be appropriate. The nominations went to the presidents’ office for review. Then at the monthly all-college update meetings where we not only told the campus what was going on and what would be going on, we gave out the bucks from colleagues. The minor ceremony was greatly anticipated as we read the name of the recipient, the nominee and the rational and gave out the appropriate bucks. The winners were also noted in an email that went out to the entire college following the monthly all-college meeting. People put great stock in the bucks and even had a competition going to compare total point totals. Others taped them across the wall or tacked them up in their offices or work area. And since the bucks were for good customer service to students (an automatic ten bucks) and to colleagues (one to five bucks) we were constantly rewarding good service and making that part of the culture.

The bucks would be used in an auction of things like cameras, palm pilots, and a lap top as the bigger prizes and lots of smaller goods as well as services like hotel weekends and dinners. Some would be donated others we bought for the auction which took place the afternoon of graduation.  We set aside a fund of two thousand dollars or a dollar a student for the event whichever number would be greater. If there were more than 2000 student retained into the week just before graduation, we would put more money into the fund. This also put the focus on retention as a value for the school and the people who worked there. The only money that could be used to bid on the auction items were the bucks. So the more bucks a person earned, the more he or she would have to bid for items for services at the auction. This of course encouraged people to provide good customer service so they could get more bucks to buy more things through bidding. 

The good service bucks provided immediate rewards when they would be given to a person immediately upon providing good service. They also became part of the culture as they were given out every week and the winners of the bucks were recognized. The bucks also grew a culture that saw that providing good customer service as a goal of the school had and would support all year culminating in some really good rewards. It imbedded good customer service as part of the culture of the college and even got more people to attend graduation to be there for the auction that immediately followed.

N. Raisman & Associates is the leader in increasing student retention, enrollment and revenue through workshops, presentations, research, training and academic customer service solutions for colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as businesses that work with them 
We increase your success



Monday, May 02, 2011

Rules Can Get in the Way of Good Customer Service

The research shows that 90% of all customer service issues are managerially-related. The system or company creates rules and procedures that interfere with the ability of the employees to provide great customer service. Note I did not say manager-related though there are certainly cases in which a manager creates the problems. I have had such managers including Boards of Trustees that caused the problems in being able to really make student number on in the school. One reason I don’t president any more. But the research does indicate the rules and policies are often the real problem.

Here’s an example. A student had been in a car accident and was laid up for over two weeks. She simply was not able to get to school or even pout of the hospital bed to get to a computer. The hospital did not allow wireless computers to be used either. Neither  she nor her family were really concerned about the classes she was missing at the time. During the first few days, the concern was would she come out of the coma b not English 112 nor calculus etc. She did come out of the coma after three days and progressed quite nicely everyone is pleased to say but she would not return to school for three weeks. She did finally get in touch with most of her faculty though one did not return her call. They all agreed to help her make up the work if she chose to do so. She decided to drop calculus. Then one the faculty member was not calling back from. She had an F on her first and only test in the class and decided she could not catch up. She was having trouble while she was in class.

When she returned to school she went to the registrar’s office and tried to drop the course. The woman who was behind the counter told here the add/drop date had passed so she could not drop the course. The student explained about the car accident, the come and the recuperation period but the woman would not budge. (A side not. Does anyone know why the people in registrar’s office are almost invariably some of the worst customer service deliverers? I can go to most any campus and find complaints from students and even collages about the registrar’s office. I have some theories on the issue but would love to hear yours.)

“Rules are rules. They are there for good reasons and If I do this for you I’d have to do it for everyone.”

Though the student was thinking in two short common words, she did not say them. She instead asked to see the person’s supervisor.  She next met with the assistant registrar who said she understood her situation but could do nothing about it. The rule said “Students may withdraw from a course while failing through the last day of classes for the term with the written permission of the instructor, the student's faculty advisor, and the dean of the departnment in which the course resides.  A grade of WF is recorded on the student's record and appears in the grade-point averages as an F grade.”

"But I was in the hospital”

“Should have called the faculty member and made arrangements or gone on-line to drop the course.”

“I was in a coma for three days and the hospital did not have wireless. I had no access to a computer. My parents and I thought the university would understand and help me out.”

“I’d like to help but I can’t. My hands are tied. I have to follow the university rules in these cases.”

When the issue was brought to the president’s office by the parents, she said she would look into it. After a week went by the student’s mother called the president’s office again and was referred to the Provost’s office. The provost had referred the issue to the dean’s office who went to the department head who in turn went to the faculty member who wanted a note from the doctor before he would consider any changes to the record. The letter was obtained and brought to the faculty member who agreed to allow he to just be dropped from the course. She then went to her faculty advisor but she could not find him so she bypassed the advisor to go to the dean’s office. She said she could and would do nothing until she obtained the signature of the advisor. That was school policy and the process that had to be followed.

When she went home that day she told her parents of the university’s policies and the horrible service she was getting. They were appalled that she was being shuffled around the campus after what should have been an open and shut case. Her father called the president’s office again and left a message on the answering phone. He waited for an answer. The one he got was the one about the how the president could not talk to him about this because his daughter did not have a FERPA waiver on file. The school’s policy did not allow her to talk with him. “Have the daughter come in to the office and the Provost would help her.”

When the lawyer called she had filed a FERPA waiver and had given the lawyer permission to speak for her.  Then they would not talk with the family because the university’s policy was to not discuss any issue that could move to litigation.  The lawyer filed suit to have the course dropped and the university counsel agreed to have that done to avoid a law suit. The daughter transferred to another university over the summer.

Managerial not management but in this case some poor people management as well. And some quite poor managers.
If this article has value for you, you'll want to get a copy of the best-selling book The Power of Retention by clicking here.

N.Raisman & Associates has been providing customer service, retention, enrollment and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits, workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. N.Raisman & Associates prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services. 
413.219.6939 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              413.219.6939      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              413.219.6939