Friday, March 09, 2012

Key to Customer Service Succees - Hiring the Right People

One simple error that many schools make when it comes to service excellence is they hire the wrong people. They hire people who don’t care or are even antithetical to the idea of customer service. Yet then they want these same service agnostics to be able to provide good customer service.  This is a sure way to assure that there will be service issues at the school.

It is important that when hiring people a college realizes that the ability to perform a set of tasks is relatively easy to get in a person. People can learn the technical aspects of a job readily. People can be taught how to answer the phone though we must say that the audits and training we have been doing lately make me wonder if anyone cares about phone service lately. But still a person can be taught how to pick up a phone and provide a positive answer. A person can be taught how paperwork goes from one stack to another. People can be taught most any task even teaching if that is the goal of the school. And faculty who know the subject matter are readily available but faculty who care about customer service, not as readily there.

But having a pleasant personality and a caring concern for the students and the college’s other customers requires more than technical skills. It requires people who have a service-oriented makeup at the very least. It calls for hiring people who care about other people first and foremost. The sort of person who would even perhaps take an extra step or three to make sure that someone is served and treated well. The sort of person who puts others’ needs before one’s own. The sort of person who cares about customers and service to and for them.

So how does one find that sort of person for say an office position? During the interviews. Normally interviews are spent on the technical aspects of a person’s background or ability. But more time should be spent on non-tangible issues and questions of customer service and retention are important to a school. A simple question that one can actually ask is how they view students – as customers or as something different than customers. And then follow that up with a question about what does that mean the student as customer? Can you provide me an example when you went out of your way to help a student or colleague?

You can propose a situation and ask for responses. “Let’s say a student comes to you and he or she is upset at being sent from office to office trying to find something out or accomplish some action he has just come into your office and displays some anger toward you as a result of being shuffled from office to office? How do you handle that? Then you can add to it and even say that he has used some inappropriate language perhaps. What do you do?

Then listen closely to the response. The person should put the student above self in these situations and even show some understanding for the inappropriate language if the student has been given the old campus shuffle. He should be able to discuss how he would make certain that the student would get the service he or she needs to accomplish his goal. One thing to listen for is if the person takes steps to make certain that the student will get a finally satisfying outcome.

For example, the interviewee could start with an example of give and name get a name as a beginning point for creating a personalized relationship with the student. If he or she is not willing to at least share names, then service is not going to be a real concern for the employee. Next he should make sure he really understands the problem and get it clearly written down. Then he would find out who to give the issue to do making phone calls or by getting the student’s name and telephone number so he can have someone get back to the student rather than send him of  on another set of shuffles around campus.  The employee might say he would get the problem to the correct person and have someone call the student back at a time convenient to the student. These would be good indicators of a person who sees service as valuable and students as the central customers. It is not the only correct response but it is one of the things to listen for to hire the correct people.

UMass Dartmouth invited Dr. Neal Raisman to campus to present on "Service Excellence in Higher Ed"  as a catalyst event used to kick off a service excellence program.  Dr. Neal Raisman presents a very powerful but simple message about the impact that customer service can have on retention and the overall success of the university.  Participants embraced his philosophy as was noted with heads nods and hallway conversations after the session.  Not only did he have data to back up what he was saying, but Dr. Raisman spoke of specific examples based on his own personal experience working at a college as  Dean and President.  Our Leadership Team welcomed the "8 Rules of Customer Service", showing their eagerness to go to the next step in rolling Raisman's message out.  We could not have been more pleased with his eye-opening presentation. Sheila Whitaker UMass-Dartmouth

The University of Toledo was able to really get its customer excellence focused after Dr. Raisman and his team performed a full campus service excellence audit of the University. Dr. Raisman’s team came on campus for a week and identified every area we could improve and where we are doing well. The extensive and detailed report will form a blueprint for greater customer service excellence at the University that will make us an even better place for students to attend, study and succeed. Thank you, Dr. Raisman, for doing a great job. We unreservedly recommend his customer service audits to any school looking to improve customer service, retention and graduation rates.    Iaon Duca, University of Toledo

The report generated from the full campus customer service audit that N.Raisman & Associates did for our college provided information from an external reviewer that raised awareness toward customer service and front end processes.  From this audit and report, Broward College has included in its strategic plan strategies that include process mapping.  Since financial aid was designed as the department with the most customer service challenges that department has undergone process mapping related to how these process serve or do not serve students optimally.  It has been transformational and has prompted a process remap of how aid is processed for new and continuing students.                            Angelia Millender, Broward College (FL)
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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