Monday, July 25, 2011

Creating a Culture of Service 3 Presidents

It is a too often occasion that when I or another of my associates does a workshop for a college key players are not in attendance. Somehow or for no reason that can be certified in fact or research, people like the president don’t show up. Either they believe they already are great customer service providers (which they often are not) or believe they are too “busy” (which they often are not) or somehow believe that customer services does not apply to them (which is also wrong).

If customer service is going to become part of a college’s culture it must start at the bottom and move up to permeate the entire community. It must start with the president that is and move up. Yes, the president is really on the bottom of the pile. They are the ones at the bottom of the hill where all the effluent flows down. That is the main job of the president after all. To be the manure catcher and turn that manure into compost to grow new projects. The only way that presidents cannot get completely immersed in all the manure that comes to his or her office is to get ahead of it.

This is true for customer service too. If the president cares, truly cares about the college’s revenue, she will get out in front of a huge fiscal lump that is going out the door as a result of poor customer service. We know that up to 84% of all attrition is due to poor or weak customer service. In most schools this can lead to the loss of millions of revenue dollars a year. And that is revenue lost even if the tuition money does not go directly into the budget since the states will support on headcount (and yes we all know they don’t provide enough support).That is they will provide x number of dollars per enrolled student.

It is for the president to lead the way but not only telling everyone else to get some customer service training but by getting some training himself. He will also model the behavior by showing and providing good customer service throughout the university. That service may be as simple as actually getting out on campus and being seen to saying hello to people as he passes them. Maybe even stopping for a quick chat to introduce himself and see who the other person is as does Gordon Gee at Ohio State. And by the way, there is definite WIFM value as can be seen in Gee since he will be a president that has had top push out a winning football coach and will keep his own job with high ratings. Even though he should have acted more forcefully with Coach Tressel and the football coaching scandal, he will stay strongly supported because he built strong bridges with good customer service to students, employees, the town and the alumni.

He has also modeled good customer service in many parts of the campus which has made implemented new behaviors and actions that much easier. This is particularly notable in the University hospital. Over the past two years the Ohio State University Hospital system which serves a very mixed and somewhat poor population it being a public hospital had reinvented itself as a paragon of customer service. It may not be perfect but it is working at it.  It does so much right that is it wonderful. From greeters to follow up surveys and cards it really works at providing great customer care both physically and emotionally. Most of its success is from hard work and constantly focusing on how to make the patient experience better but some of it is also from having a leaders on campus who exudes customer service.  The fact the exuding alone does not work can be seen in other areas of the University in which customer service training is still needed but that training when it comes will be more accepted because it is likely that President Gee will be there.

It is just human nature for people to believe something is important if “important” people take time to be there. That was also the case at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska where President Bill path has been doing some great things. When he and his team decided that they wanted to increase completion rates, they turned to focus on their customer service. And when the training session was help, Dr. Path introduced it and stayed through the entire session. He has since backed up the training with some reinforcement.  He has pushed some offices to see how they can change their office hours to provide better customer service. Put money in the budget for upgrading the signage on campus among other visible things.

Now in both the cases of Drs. Gee and Path, it is just part of their makeup that pushes them to be involved with things and activities on campus. They are leaders; not followers. They are two very good presidents after all. But there involvement in customer service and their modeling it in their activities makes it that much easier for others on campus to embrace customer service as part of the campus culture. Yes they have that built into them but they also know that when training does take place it is important for the president to be there to, if nothing else, send a message from the bottom of the hill that this is good and desirable.

If this article makes sense to you
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The Power of Retention
: More Customer Service for Higher Education
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N.Raisman & Associates is the leader in increasing student retention, enrollment and revenue through workshops,research training and customer service solutions such as campus service audits to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them
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1 comment:

Mary Foltz said...

I am so pleased that I have come across your blog. Your writing style is engaging and enjoyable. You cited in this article that '84% of all attrition is due to poor or weak customer service'. Could you share your resource and/or how I could learn more about that statistic. I greatly appreciate it.