Thursday, June 30, 2011

E-book of CSF

Best-selling academic customer service book Customer Service Factors and the Cost of Attrition by Dr. Neal A Raisman is now available as an e-book on Amazon for only $9.99.

To get a copy just click here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Value of Degree Makes Customer Service Even More Valuable

In a new article in today’s New York Times (6/26/11 Sunday Review Section page 3) David Leonhardt makes a strong case of the economic value of a college degree.  Leonhardt makes a compelling case foe the value of a degree citing statistics and studies that indicate that even low paying jobs like a dishwasher pays off with a degree. In fact, a dishwasher with a degree can make a median salary of $34,000 (Wonder why anyone wants to be a teacher just for the money if washing dishes pays more?)

“The evidence is overwhelming that college is a better investment for most graduates than in the past. A new study even shows that a bachelor’s degree pays off for jobs that don’t require one: secretaries, plumbers and cashiers. And, beyond money, education seems to make people happier and healthier.” And then he goes on to cite the studies and the numbers. Makes a good case for the value of a degree.

So with the issue somewhat settled by studies and real numbers that a college degree can be a good investment in terms of paying off in the long run, why do we let to many students drop out. Yes, LET and in many cases cause them to drop out. Let and cause because we know that 84% of students leaves colleges and universities due to academic customer services issues. Customer service issues come about when the customer – the student – interacts with the institution and the people within it. Or as Pogo said “We have met the enemy and they are us”.

We are the major reason why students leave and do not get the benefit of completion and a degree. And we do not get the benefit of their completion and degree. After all, if students do not complete and graduate, they never become alumni and the probability of them donating is…well close to zero.

But let’s not focus on our benefit and focus on theirs.

If we realize that we have a great deal to do with a student’s decision to stay engaged in college and graduate, we can have a great effect on completion rates. Right now they are dismal at some schools and generally poor for all schools.  We have the greatest ability to make a student stay in school and graduate just by providing some good customer service.

Knowing that, isn’t it worth it to spend a little extra time helping a student succeed no matter what the task? Isn’t it worth it to return a phone call promptly? To stay around after a class to see if there are any lagging students who are hanging back to ask a question? To stop doing what we are doing when a student comes in and immediately wait on the student? To smile and listen to students? To just say hello to each one we pass in the hall off on campus? To have an attendance policy that says we really do care about their success? To always have time for a student? And all that other academic customer service stuff that ends up in doing what we need to do to show students we really do care from just offering a hand to mentoring a student.

Never mind that keeping more students in school will make you much more money to fund the institution. It will make each student more money when they graduate and get a job as Leonhardt makes clear.  And that means a better life for all of us. And it means we actually make the mission more than a jumble of high minded words on a page. It also gives us all more meaning and value.

Please feel free to share this piece with colleagues. Thanks


AcademicMAPS is the leader in increasing student retention, enrollment and revenue through research training and academic customer service solutions for colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as businesses that seek to work with them
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“We had hoped we’d improve our retention by 3% after liseting to Dr. Raisman but with the help of Dr. Raisman, we increased it by 5%.”Rachel Albert, Provost, University of Maine-Farmington

“Neal led a retreat that initiated customer service and retention as a real focus for us and gave us a clear plan. Then he followed up with presentations and workshops that kicked us all into high gear. We recommend with no reservations; just success.”
Susan Mesheau, Executive Director U First: Integrated Recruitment & Retention University of New Brunswick
“Thank you so much for the wonderful workshop at Lincoln Technical Institute. It served to re-center ideas in a great way. I perceived it to be a morale booster, breath of fresh air, and a burst of passion.”Shelly S, Lincoln Technical Institute

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

help needed to develop customer service survey tool

We are starting a major project around quality dimensions and critical incidents as perceived by student to put together a survey instrument to measure academic customer service at colleges and universities. Quality dimensions are the judgments they make about particular services as in two pieces I posted recently.  (Quality Indicators of Faculty and Quality Indicators of Everyone) Critical incidents are the actual experiences with various parts of the school such as in different service offices, faculty, the campus etc.

We are planning to build a tool that could tell a school its academic customer service quotients and pinpoint spots needing attention all in the one tool. That is a survey tool that will help schools understand there strong and less strong service providers as well as  a total customer service score for major offices and services as well as the institution.

To do this we need to talk to a thousand students to ask them about their perceptions and evaluation concepts of customer service in every area of the college or university.

We need your assistance in steering students to us for us to interview by phone. The interview would take about thirty minutes. To help entice students into doing the interviews with us, we will be raffling away a $100 Amazon gift card through a random drawing of those who participate.  

If you can let students know we are doing this, it would be very helpful. Just have students contact us at with name, school, a telephone number for us to call and an email address so we can set up the time and date for the interview. We will contact them and they will be entered in the drawing after the interview.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quality Indicators of Everyone

While rewriting and expanding the report on the quality indicators of facultymembers, I had a light bulb moment which for me with my brain right now is about a twenty watt affair.

As I looked at the three primary quality indicators we developed for faculty from our interviews with students, it became obvious that the indicators applied not only to faculty in the classroom but with a little twist, everyone in a college.  

Here are the three primary quality indicators by which students  the customers) judge service providers (us) and the service provider itself (the college). Twists on original included
Professionalism (includes completeness) –the degree to which the professor shows expertise of knowledge and professional teaching ability/style
            “knows the his area and the college”
            “controls the situation”
            ‘doesn’t just send me on to somewhere else”
            “can answer student questions about the issue I am dealing with”
            “show confidence in her work and service”
Responsiveness (includes timeliness and availability) the degree to which the professor responds to student learning needs and their personal needs
            “responds to my needs and helps me understand what I have to do”
            “answers my questions in less than a minute”
            “recognizes and welcomes me when I enter his area”
            “is available in the office”
“makes sure I understand what I need to do and have no questions”
“returns my emails and phone calls
“responds to my issue and makes sure it is resolved”
Empathy (includes pleasantness/approachability) – the degree to which the professor connects with students and displays a friendliness toward students
            “cares about me and shows it”
“understands what it is like to be a student”…
             “feel I can approach for help”,
“is available”
             “makes me feel comfortable in her area or office”
             “welcomes me and is friendly”
             “helping style shows an openness to students”…

Every student wants professionalism, responsiveness and empathy from service providers – us.  Every student wants professional service that is quickly and done with a concern for the student as a person.

So three qualities we all must strive for is to be professional which means we know what we3 do and what other offices do to help students. We must also be responsive to students so when they enter our area we stop what we are doing, help them and make sure we have responded to the correct question or issue the student has. And we must empathize with students. We need to look at the student and use the basic modified Hillel rule do unto the student as you would have done for your son, daughter, father or mother.

What do you think? Did I more or less hit it? Or not?

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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Contract with Colleges

Call them students or whatever euphemism one wants, the fact is that students are consumers of what the college or university has sold to them and provides. Students and their families have been sold on a set of promises ranging from a vague mission to better their lives and the world to the usual marketing of “personal attention from a caring faculty and staff with small classes and all the services needed for you to be successful in your studies and future career...”  As a result, students and families pay out thousands, tens of thousands, a hundred thousand dollars to attend the school to receive what they were sold. This offer of services, acceptance of the offer and exchange of money for the services proffered is the very essence of a contract between two parties. The contract creates a set of obligations upon the service provider (hereinto called the college) to furnish the customer (hereinto called the student) said promised services (attention, small classes, personal attention, caring, problem resolution, instruction, training, tutoring, access to faculty/administrators, assistance, support…). The customer is obligated to fulfill the obligations of payment and follow college policies as might be in a student handbook or course syllabi which are addenda to the contract and create sub-contracts in themselves. And the college is obligated to provide what it promised and sold the student.

If the college does not provide the student all that was promised/sold by the marketing and admissions process to entice the student to attend and pay, the contract as well as the student’s expectations.  To date, the result is that the customer becomes angered that the contract has been broken and will normally try to get the services promised or just decide it isn’t worth it and leave.

Dropping out is the traditional response. Though in our increasingly heated and litigious society, this will likely change.  There will be a student who has paid tens of thousands of dollars to purchase a set of promised and contracted for services but has not received them. He or she will bring a suit against the school to recover costs, time spent as well as future earnings lost. All the student will have to do for example is show the marketing that promised small classes and then the section of X he had to attend in a lecture hall with 250 others. Or promised tutoring by professionals but was unable to get the tutoring or was given a non-professional peer tutor; or went to the faculty member’s office hours and the professor was not there on a number of occasions or simply said he or she did not have time to help and the student subsequently failed the required class.  Considering the increasingly skeptical and even negative attitude of the public toward higher education as discussed in Squeeze Play 2010, a jury of college student parents would likely find the student’s case that an expansive contract was breached to be compelling.
Moreover, what colleges need to understand is that when the contract is extended through an offer of admissions and the student accepts and pays for that proffer, the question of whether or not the student should be in the college, or is capable of doing well ends. The proffered acceptance is a statement that we have determined that you are capable of doing the work to succeed or we would not have made the offer. To accept a student a school or members of the school’s community believes is not capable of doing the work, “not college material”, not up to our standards” is to make a false offer and is inherently unethical as well as grossly horrible customer service. That would be as unethical as selling me, an older, 5’6”, 172 pound, out of shape, academic-type a course that would make me a center for an NBA team. If a college or university accepts a student the contract says the school has certified through its admissions process that this is a student who should be capable of graduating from the school. And we will provide all the services we promised to make that happen. Or as Academic Customer Service Principle 1 says “The goal is not to recruit the very best students, but to make the students you recruit their very best.”