Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Academic Customer Service Mini-Audit Excerpt - Parking

I have been receiving requests from readers for information on what a mini-audit covers and what are the more common issues that are disclosed in a mini-audit. A mini-audit is when we come onto a campus for a day and audit the customer service levels at the school as a snapshot of what is happening in service excellence and when needs to be done to improve it. It leads to an executive report that has some of the most significant issues facing the campus when it comes to customer service as well as some solutions.

It is a basic recognition that a school cannot fix issues until it knows of them. The mini-audits are not as detailed as the full audits in which we do some mystery shopping and really dig into the customer service levels at the school but it does disclose some clear issues to be solved.

So to try and respond to the requests and help other schools look at themselves, we are going to provide some excerpts from some mini-audits that may also be helpful to other schools. This will be done in sections so as not to just throw out a ten page report all at once. This way you can look at your school too and see if it needs to work in the area just discussed.

We begin with one of the most common issues that faces most every campus – parking. For some more on parking by the way, we recommend that you read another of our articles on this blog Losing Enrollment in Lot C. This segment is from a mini-audit at a primarily commuter college that also has some dorms on campus.


Parking on a college campus is invariably a major concern for commuters and staff.  Thirty students and staff said that finding a parking spot was difficult especially in the early morning hours, lunch time and during special events at the Cox Center or elsewhere on campus. Specifically, students mentioned that for classes at 8 in the morning there are no spots and again at 9:15. Evening students also said they had some trouble finding spots just prior to their classes beginning.

I observed the parking lots during the evening and in the early morning and must conclude that there are some issues with parking that could be difficult to resolve. This is because I had no trouble finding parking spots in the lot near the Welcome Center and the M…. Building for example. This is a problem since it may well be that there is adequate parking but this is not believed. Or more significantly, there is adequate parking but not where the students would like to park and thus the perception exists that there is a parking spot shortage. 

It is more likely that spots do not exist where I want to park. Students and staff do not want to have to walk much these days and convenience is the key. Sometime I fear that the legs will become a vestigial organ since people want to use them so infrequently preferring to park as close to their destination as is possible.

The College uses a very appropriate first come-first served system for allotting parking spots. This removes any “class” bias in spots for parking but is allowing a perception of a parking shortage which may exist but during the audit this was not seen.  It may be appropriate to request, ask employees to park in the lots near the Welcome Center allowing those spots on the hill and behind the student center to be more readily available for students who are the primary customers after all.

It may also be appropriate to regularly repeat the first come first served and availability of spots in the lots near the Welcome Center even with a short walk to classes to the students. This may dispel the notion that there is not enough parking and replace it with recognition that there are spots but to get there earlier.

The only actual solution might be to put in more spaces between Victory Road and the Maintenance Building behind the existing hill lot. That is not a good solution since it is costly and will further surround the campus with asphalt as well as still allow for the feeling of a longer than desired walk. But it is the only way the perceptions may be ended that there is not enough parking available.

It is also important that resident students be as completely dissuaded as is possible from “driving to classes.” There may be instances in which a resident student does drive a car from the resident lot to get closer to his or her classroom and avoid the walk.

If you have any particular issues on your campus that may have been covered in other mini-audits already, let me know and I will post an example of what we found elsewhere and some possible solutions as well.

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 
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