Friday, February 17, 2012

Collegiate Hospitality and Service Excellence

In his book Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business,  Danny Meyer makes an important distinction between services and hospitality that should be considered and employed. On page 65 he wrote “Understanding the difference between service and hospitality has been at the foundation of our success. Service is the technical delivery of the product. Hospitality is how the delivery of the product makes the recipient feel. …Hospitality which most distinguishes our restaurants – and ultimately any business – is the sum of the thoughtful, caring, gracious things of staff does to make you feel we are on your side when you are dining with us.”

Granted he is talking about running a restaurant but the same distinction applies to running a successful school. Danny Meyers is looking to have his clients come back to his restaurant again and again and tell others about what great service and hospitality they received to get others to come. And we are working to keep our students coming back to our classes and school until the graduate and become active donors.
Some schools do a good job of delivering services in the classroom and in the offices but they do not always do so with hospitality. Meyers refers to service as a monologue in which the restaurant decides what and how it will deliver the technical services such as the menu, preparing the meals and even serving them to the table. But he says that hospitality is a dialogue that includes the customer. “Hospitality on the other hand, is a dialogue. To be on the guest’s side requires listening to that person with every sense and following up with a gracious, appropriate response.”

Schools focus so very much on the service side that they often forget about their need to be hospitable as well. They forget to listen to their clients and hear what they need to be able to provide hospitality. This is in part because schools do not focus on the difference between being service providers and being hospitable to their students. They perceive what they think is a problem but do not check with the students to see how to solve it if they even see the problem in service delivery at all. They go about readjusting the service without regard to whether or not the solution is one that the clients feel will work or even with the input of the client students. They leave out the hospitality part.

An example. We recently completed a campus service excellence audit for a large university in which we checked every aspect of service and hospitality on campus which included talking with hundreds of students. We discovered that the school felt it had a problem with its billing process. Students had to wait in long lines to make payments and they were none too happy about it. So the school decided to change its service in a way that really backfired. They closed the office and made all students do their bill paying on line.

Theoretically this could have improved the service but the school did not talk to the students to see how closing the office would change the feeling of hospitality that the students would feel with the closure bed not being able to see a person on such an important matter as making sure their bills were processed correctly. The students hated the closing of the office. Even if the service could have been made better and with no lines by payments ion line, they did not like losing the person to person contact in such an important activity. They felt they were closed out of the office rather than being helped with an improved service. They felt as if their needs were not being met and the new service was anything but hospitable especially since the door was blocked with a large wooden drop of box where they were to leave paper checks if they did not want to do on line bill pay.

When the school made the decision to improve the service they did not talk with the students at all and the result was not good.  Here is an excerpt from our executive summary from our customer excellence audit and report that further explains the misjudgment in service that led to a real feeling of a loss of hospitality too.

The Treasurer’s Office (which is the current name for the Bursar’s Office) elicited many negative comments from students. They uniformly do not like the fact that the entrance to the office has been shut off to them by a unit in which they are asked to just drop off payments by check. They do not like having to just drop off a payment with no way of verifying that the check has been received and no receipt provided. They want to be able to get a receipt for their payments since there have also been problems with the posting of payments in time to avoid late fees. They also want to be able to interact with someone when they have to discuss payments and late fees which they feel are excessive and set up in a manner to cause extra payments to the University as a result of late fees which they believe are caused by the University’s approaches to billing and some bill paying issues online.

“They want to interact with someone.” That is the essence of hospitality. The ability to have that dialogue even when doing a mundane activity as paying a bill is a simple act of hospitality and not just a delivery of a service. Hospitality is a two way street and the students need to have that two way if they are to feel as if the college cares about them and their needs. Simple delivery of service is not enough.

Another example is in the classroom. The teacher may deliver the information and get through the material and thus provide a service to the students. In fact this is one of the most important services as school provides. But if the students do not feel as if they have an opportunity to have a dialogue about the material and to be recognized as people and not just numbers in a classroom hospitality is not exercised. In fact, when we provide customer excellence and hospitality seminars for faculty we go over the issue and provide the following scenario to start a class to improve in-class hospitality.

·         The professor greets the students
·         Asks how they are and listens for response
·         Reviews past class highlights and asks if there is any need to clarify any
·         Asks for questions or issues from the last class
·         Introduces the topics for the day and
·         After the class ends is the last one out the door to make sure that if any students have
·         questions or look confused she can help them right then and now.
·         We also teach the faculty how to get the students’ names since hospitality does call on developing a name to name rapport with the students. They are not just “whatshisname:” after all.
·         Finally we assure that office hours are actually being met. That is where the dialogues from the classroom really take place and if the office hours are not met, hospitality between faculty and student is lost.

But key to all of developing hospitality is actually entering into a dialogue with students and listening to their issues and concerns. Very few schools so this. They just go ahead and focus on services and forget that hospitality is the key to developing a long range engagement and relationship with their students. It is important to listen to students; to encourage them to enter into that dialogue on what makes them feel wanted on campus and what does not.  This is what we do as part of the campus service audits we perform for schools but it is something you can do also. To not just provide services but real hospitality.


The author of the article is Dr. Neal Raisman the president of NRaisman & Associates, the leader in training, workshops and research on increasing student retention, enrollment and revenue through 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.
We increase your success


Monday, February 13, 2012

Commuters and Customer Service - A Good Brochure

While giving a workshop on academic customer service at Liberty University I came across a vibrant institution that had already instituted some good customer service activities’ based on some workshop that some of their retention people  had attended. One of the things I found that I found quite notable was a Liberty University Commuters Handbook which provided this important segment of its population information it would find valuable and useful.

Too many schools focus on their on campus population and forget that that a significant part of their student body does not love on campus but commutes to it every day. This is an error since they are leaving out a large position of their student body from some of the benefits and services they deserve. Granted the students living off campus often consume fewer customer services except for the perennial problem of parking but that is not a reason to forget them.

The Liberty University brochure does not overlook them but extends some very helpful information to them for us on and off campus.

The brochures paid for by selling ads in it seems focused a great deal on the information needed to move into an apartment and the rights and regulations they must know to protect themselves. It begins by introducing them to the office of commuter affairs and lets them know they have a contact and liaison if they need one in their living situation.

It also has maps of the campus and all parking lots to help the commuters find places to park. Parking is a perennial problem at all campuses by the way. It runs as the number on complaint at most all campuses but by at least facing the issue and providing information on where to park and how to get there the Liberty brochure does help out. The brochure also provides all of the campus rules on parking to make sure that commuters know what they are rather than just having them search and hunt for the information as it is one on most campuses.

The brochure then goes on to discuss the town that they are living in and provides some very helpful and useful tips on finding things to do as well as the history of Lynchburg. I found out some very interested in facts about the city that surprised me and made want to see more of it. Did you know for example that a Dr. Malcolm Loomis actually sent radio signals through the air in Lynchburg six years before Marconi?

The brochure also makes certain that commuter students have a opportunity to participate in the activities on the campus by including  all the clubs and student organizations and such activities as intramural sports schedules so commuting students are aware of what is happening on campus.

This is a very good service piece for commuting students and should be replicated at many other schools.  It helps make Liberty a good service provider as well as a vibrant University with a specialized faith based mission. I would be wrong if I did not also say that I found Liberty to have a very good balance of that faith-based mission and its role as a university. It balances the two extremely well which shows how a good mission and good service can go hand and hand to build for success.

To get more information on the brochure feel free to contact Michael Shankle at Liberty

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 
N. Raisman and Associates is also the leading provider of workshops, training and campus audits to increase your retention and customer excellence success. Check us out at
We increase your success


Monday, February 06, 2012

The Customer Service Focus of Learn and Earn

Learn and Earn
Learn and Earn is a client/customer service focus that is a variation created by N.Raisman & Associates based on successful models of many thriving businesses. The basics of it are: When you attain a customer, do all you can to retain him so you do not have to replace him. Furthermore, the objective is to lower the required number of new customers to balance the budget while increasing loyalty and investment in the school. The goal is to upsell students, i.e., two-year degree students stay to go for a four-year degree; bachelor students continue on for a graduate degree; graduates come back for additional courses such as license prep and professional/personal growth courses and greater alumni involvement and support.
Not retaining and upselling the students is costly for a college. Every new recruit brings significant start-up costs that must be recouped and/or amortized over the whole business. A college has to bring in at least six new students for every student lost before the end of the freshman year in a four-year program to gain full revenue from each attrition student. That's assuming an average acquisition cost of the schools I have studied at about $3,516, plus lost potential tuition and fee revenue. Yes, it really is that high when one factors in all aspects, from marketing, leads, collateral media, salaries--not just of admissions people but all the people who work to bring that student into the school--specialized activities, publications, and so on. Most schools do not recoup their initial investment in a new student until into the second semester. So, if a student quits before then that creates a negative revenue situation as well as probable bad debt, collection costs, and write-offs.

Implementing Learn and Earn
Implementation of learn and earn is not all that difficult, but it does take a shift of focus to emphasize learning from a school's customers and then creating customer service around that knowledge as a primary operational tool and strategic advantage, rather than focusing on churning and burning admissions. Students become the teachers to the school on issues of what services they desire, need, and find lacking. And this is not the customer service that many schools think of, because education is a different business arena and culture than retail, which is where most customer service books focus. For example, in almost every book out there the old platitude “the customer is always right” is there front and center. Not only is that a false statement in business--“I wore the dress three times and now I want to return it.”--but it is absolutely unrealistic in higher education. If the customer is always right, why have tests for example? Indeed, a school that simply gives the student/customer what he or she wants--like high grades with no work--will soon find accreditors and the feds breathing down its neck.
The easiest way to explain how a school can implement Learn and Earn is first, learn about and listen to the student. Understand who they really are--not what you would wish them to be. Study the social and communal demographics of the students. Forget about assuming they are Generation Y, or Millennial, or whatever term is in vogue. These are PR grand labeling generalizations and may not at all encompass the reality of the particular community of students at the school. For example, over 50 percent of all college students are adults, yet the labels do not even address them. Your students may come from a social niche, region, or mindset that has nothing to do with the labels. Learn who they really are.
Colleges that learn about their clients/students will succeed by providing the clients relevant education, good customer service, and the ultimate student goal of having companies and professions that will hire and accept their graduates. These schools use what they have learned to assure student satisfaction leading to increased retention, which is how they earn present revenue and future donations.
Provide quality learning, in an appropriate environment that speaks to actual students and offers them opportunities to enjoy themselves and their learning. Get them to want to learn more and wish to be at the school. Help the students keep focus on their goals in life and career and how the school will help them get there. How to do it? Simple. Improve your customer service focus. The result is earning-- for the school and the student.
Sounds easy and it can be with some simple customer service training that focuses on the business we are in—education and learning within schools and colleges. One quick lesson: Students are not exactly customers, they are more like clients. A client hires someone to study the situation, indicate what is wrong, and then offer the tools to fix what is needed to succeed. Like clients, students come to the experts (school) to find out what they must do to improve and grow so their futures will be successful. Schools need to understand their student clients, understand what they really need and want, then provide them the academic and social services to strengthen and grow. And though some skeptics might believe it is easy grades students want, it really is not. What I have found in my studies of and for schools is that most students want three things. And it all has to do with the three ROI's. They want to feel an f-roi , a solid e-roi, a full sense of an a-roi
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