Monday, January 23, 2012

Poor Advising is Bad Customer Service

Another common problem we find when we do a mini-audit or a full audit is advising. In fact, we cannot recall a school where the students were positive about their advising services and experiences. Here is an excerpt from a university audit that addresses common problem at most schools.

Student advising appears to be done within each college within the University which appears to produce a wide range of student experiences. We were told by staff that there were approximately 24 advisers for the entire University, resulting in a student to adviser ratio of well over 800:1. Many students reported it was difficult to learn who their adviser is as there is no available list of advisors either in hard-copy or online. Once students did identify where and by whom they could be advised, they reported long waits for appointments, or long lines when drop-in service was provided. Students also noted some advisers provided wrong information which resulted in missteps in the student's course selection and setbacks to their academic progress.

Some students reported that advising appointments were hard to get and then once they were meeting with an adviser, they seemed rushed. The students did not feel well served. Students also reported that academic program changes were not being kept current in the information available on the website and that advisers in many departments did not have the most current information making it difficult for them to provide appropriate guidance to students in selecting substitute courses.

The advisers were criticized for not being available, taking too long to get an appointment and too often not knowing what they were talking about. For example, one student reported that it took her weeks to get an appointment because the University also reduced the number of advisers in the newly formed college though it increased the numbers of students threefold. The student reported that her adviser had “over a thousand students to advise, and it was just too impossible to get in to see her. When I did get in to meet with her, she was not really familiar with my program and told me to take wrong courses. I needed to take some freshman courses that were pre-reqs but she did not seem to know that until it was too late. Now I will have to try to get the courses and it will make me stay another year at least at the University and I don’t know that I’ll have the money to do that.”

This experience was reported twenty-three times by the students who were in the programs in the merged college. This is a situation that could easily lead to students having problems in choosing courses, having to stay longer and then having to either go deeper into debt or dropping/stopping out due to lack of funding. This is also reported as a problem in other colleges as well where a student reported as did others that they have trouble seeing an adviser. The ones they do get to see are not knowledgeable enough about all the programs. As a Spanish education major stated “First off it is just too much of a hassle to get to see anyone. If you do get to see someone he doesn’t know what he’s doing because he covers too many programs and doesn’t know mine at all. But the biggest issue I guess is that I can’t even get in to see him to plan my next semester and I have to because I am a double major…but considering that he doesn’t know his staff maybe that is better.”

It appears that the University has tried to reduce the number of advisers and move more of the advising to self-advising via the website. This is not a good customer service decision. Students are told to see an adviser but when there are not enough of them they cannot do so. Students reported for example that in the respiratory therapy programs advisers were moved out of the building and to get an appointment with one now takes months. “They will answer emails but that is not what I want or need. When I want to see an adviser I should be able to get one fast. I’m paying a lot of money and advising is one of the things that I am paying for.” The same comments were common for most every other program including nursing which students reported “took months to get an appointment.”

This is not a good situation especially considering the student population at the University. Many of the students are first time in family attendees so they do not know the ways of the University and their parents cannot help them either. These students need to be able to sit down with a knowledgeable advisor to determine their programs and what courses they need to take. This is especially so for freshman who have to see an adviser in some programs but cannot get an appointment to do so. Self-advising may work well for more seasoned students but not for those early in their careers which is why a very common problem was that the students could not get to see an adviser, self-advised and chose the wrong courses.

One student reported that he went to see his math adviser because he was taking an exam and the system froze blocking him from completing the test. He went to see the adviser during office hours but there was no one there. He next made an appointment to see his adviser, but when he went to the appointment, the adviser was not there. He made another appointment, but when he went to the office there was a sign on the door that said “Gone fishing. Email me.” This is not good service at all and needs to be addressed.
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