Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Immediacy of Service Demand Equals Perceived Cost of Attendance

There is a direct correlation between cost and expectations of service. This can be seen in the purchase of a new luxury car versus a used car for example. Simply put it is expected that the new car will perform better than the used car. When one spends a lot of money on something it is not just expected that the product will work well, it is also anticipated that the services associated with the purchase will be prompt, productive and done well. The higher the perceived cost of the product the higher the demand for services and performance on demand.

As college costs have been rising, the expectations of service have risen with the costs. Now that students are paying much more for an education, training and preparation for the future, they expect that the “product” will be good and they believe it is. Only 1% said they left a college due to poor or weak educational quality.

They also expect increased service with increased cost. To them they are buying that new luxury automobile and expect that when there is a service issue it will be taken care of immediately. They are innately impatient and that has increased with tuition and fees as well. They have little patience now and will not accept the slow processes that we still cling to. Moreover they live in the golden age of rudeness. They expect what they want when they want it and can get quite outspoken if the service is not provided when asked for.

For example, they do not (nor do I for that matter) understand how an expedited transcript request can still take days to complete. As one student said to me recently, “why can’t they just print the damn thing out right there and then and give it to me? I’m paying a lot of money and need that transcript now.”

And you know the student is right. He is paying a lot of money especially to him because he has had to take out loans to go to school which just increases the demand for service by the way and we should be able to print out a transcript right then and there. I mean how much work is it to look up a transcript by student number and print it out for the student. It would only take an extra few seconds to stamp it too. Or better yet, why not just let the students print out a PDF of a transcript which is watermarked “unofficial transcript” from his or her dorm room or home.

They are paying for the service and should get it. This is just one example of how we could match their demands and there are more but what we need to realize is that the correlation between cost and demand for immediacy is not one that we seem to understand. The cost may not seem that high to us but we are talking about discretionary funds of students who are using them to pay for school. The cost is a proportion of their available funds as perceived by the individual student. Cost is in proportion to the individual student and his or her personal fiscal condition.

That is why we still find that there are high levels of service demand in lower cost community colleges as well as private schools with large tuition bills.

The students who attend community colleges are coming from demographic groups with less money to spend.  The lower tuition at a community college is still a stretch for many of the students and thus is seen as a high cost. Yes, they know it is cheaper than a four year school but it is all a matter of proportion of income and available discretionary funds. It should also be known that as we talk to community college students even those who are on a free ride from Pell grants and scholarships feel the cost is high because the expense is not just money but time, effort and hopes.

Time is an expense especially when that time means having to find someone to take care of the family while the students attends classes. These lead to an expense of effort which can be high and can actually lead to added costs not covered by tuition or fees in the school. If a p[aren’t has to afford the cost of a child cares situation, that is considered by the student to be a cost of going to school and can lead to their feeling that the school is expensive so they want what they want when they want it. The costs develop a customer mindset as one should expect.

We need to find more ways to service students when they want. They see themselves as customers and they are right about that. We need to do all we can to make our services equal to the felt cost of attending college. If we do not they are going to continue to demands more service and get even more frustrated when we do not provide them in what they see as a timely manner.

Start by changing your transcript policy and procedure as discussed above. That will be one giant step forward and will begin to please student demands that the immediacy of service equal their perceived and actual investment. 

If this article made sense to you, you may want to contact N.Raisman & Associates to see how you can improve academic customer service and hospitality to increase student satisfaction and retention.
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
If you want more information on NRaisman& Associates or to learn more about what you can do to improve academic customer service excellence on campus, get in touch with us or get a copy of our best selling book The Power of Retention. 

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