Monday, September 10, 2012

Saying I'm Sorry is Good Customer Service

Businesses have recently rediscovered something very important in providing good customer service. Being polite and saying things like please, thank you and the key to success “I’m sorry…”

For some reason we in higher ed have lost being polite as a basic part of working with our customers.  We still seem to work on the idea of the caste system with the students in the lowest bracket so we do not have to be polite to them or accept responsibility for them getting upset by colleagues. In fact it seems that we have a greater loyalty to our colleagues than our customers. That is wrong.

Our first loyalty needs to be to our students. They pay the bills and are the reason we exist. We should be sorry and helpful when they are given the run a round and always be polite using phrases like “thank you for letting me help you” and most importantly when working with students who have been given the run around also known as the shuffle are two simple words “I’m sorry”.

We need to accept Principle 10. Just because someone else did a dis-service or harm does not relieve you of correcting the injury. This is an important concept because it puts the onus of service on each individual and puts the student as the primary concern; not colleagues. (If you’d like a copy of the 15 Principles of Good Academic Customer Service just click here and request one)

This also makes it not just okay but imperative to use the phrase “I’m sorry” when students have not been helped. For example, when a student comes to your office or location and has been given wrong information the appropriate way to begin the discussion is “I am sorry you were not helped. Let me see what I can do to help you.” The of course you need to do all you can to provide good customer service and help the student which includes finding out what the problem is and finding what the solution is. If it is not within your area to solve the issue it is okay to say “I’m sorry but we don’t take care of that here. Let me find out for you who does. When would be a good time and phone number for someone to call you and get your situation resolved?” Then call around or consult your internal FAQs to find out who the right person is and get them to call the student and solve the problem.

Using phrases such as this also cuts down on the frustration that students feel when they have not been helped and makes them feel valued. Consider that the feeling of not being valued is one of the main reasons why students leave a college, the use of a simple phrase could help boost retention. Seems to me to be worth it.

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, retention and your bottom line
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: More Customer Service for Higher Education. 

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