Friday, November 30, 2012

Backroom Professionals are Customer Service Providers Too

Woman taking notesAn area of academic customer service that is too little commented upon has to be backroom operations. Customer service almost always focuses on the front line people. These are the ones who are most obvious since they have direct interaction with customers and clients, or so it would appear. They're the ones who welcome the customers, who are directly serving the customers face-to-face and thus get the most attention. It is wrong however to not recognize and think about the amount of customer service that is done behind the scenes.

It is clear that without the assistance and support of the people in the backroom operations, a great deal of front line customer service would not necessarily take place. Just think about all the work that is done by financial aid packagers who are never seen by students. They do most all of the work that provides financial aid services to the customers. They are the ones really doing the customer service. If they did not process all of the information that was collected there would be no real financially customer service,.

Or consider the people who run transcripts for students in a registrar's office. Granted the front-line people receive the request if it's not done online but the service would not take place if the back room service providers did not process the request and print and stamp the transcripts. It certainly can be argued perhaps that this service should be completely automated and is at some institutions. But at most schools it is the people in the back room who generate the actual transcripts to meet the needs and expectations of the students.

The people who work in the back room operations deserve a great deal of credit, recognition and praise. When they do the job properly and accurately they deserve our thanks for doing so. Unfortunately as we do customer service campus audits we hear too often from students that many of the people who work in the back room not accomplish tasks as rapidly as is necessary and often without the accuracy that is required.

Why is that? One of the reasons may be that expectations are higher than can be provided. Students are used to things being provided to them immediately online and thus assume when they send in a request online, it will be processed within an hour. This simply is not the way things actually work in a university. Perhaps it should be the way things work but it just simply isn't. We may use computers but cling to time intensive ways of producing materials too often. That slows down processing in the backroom operations and can make them appear less than responsive.

Perhaps a lot of the routine tasks that are done by individuals should be automated and therefore become able to be accomplished quickly enough to meet student expectations such as printing transcripts by computer. It should be an easy enough task to program a computer to be able to take a student record, turn it into a transcript and have it printed with the school watermark over it. But again this is not the way things are usually done in most institutions. Usually a request is received.  It is given to an individual to check the record and then create a transcript. That transcript is then printed out and hand stamped or embossed. It is done this way because people do not recognize that those who are doing the work could be doing more important work that is done in backroom operations.

I believe one of the reasons backroom operations may not work as well as they could is that they are not given the attention or importance they deserve as customer service providers. The people who work in the back rooms are not fully enough recognized for what they do get done and the important work they do. In fact quite often people are working in backroom operations because supervisors don't know where else to put them after they have not achieved well in other positions. I often hear the comment that we put so-and-so into the backroom operations because she just couldn't get along well with others or could not get her work done well. This is not a good reason for putting someone into the backroom operations. Nor does it recognize the important work that is done by the people who are working in processing. In fact it tends to denigrate the good and hard work that they do by assuming it can be done by anyone even if that person is a weak employee.

The fact is that backroom operations are often very technical and demanding and the people who work in them are professionals who if they are appropriately placed and hired can do their job extremely well. Yet we simply do not recognize the value of these people and the service that they provide students enough. That is a major reason why people in the backroom operations may not succeed as well as they could. They simply are not given the importance and value they deserve and can be made to feel under-valued.

Just think about the last few times your institution handed out an employee of the year award. Who did it go to? More than likely someone who worked in the frontline and was recognized by others who work on the frontline. Seldom does anyone get a reward or recognition of great processing of financial aid packages yet these are so essential not only to the students but to the success of the institution. Yet the people who do the hard work of financial aid packaging are seldom recognized. They are most often the lowest paid individuals within as well.

It is time for us to realize that backroom operations are an essential part of customer service, of meeting the expectations and needs of our students. It is also time for us to recognize the people who day after day complete their functions without the recognition they deserve. They perform extremely valuable service to our primary customers as well as all of the other front line customers who depend on them to provide the paperwork and information they need to be able to serve students on a face-to-face basis.

Managers and supervisors should make sure that they go and thank each and every one of the back room people for the service they provide. Colleges and universities should also do something more formal to recognize those who work to complete all the forms and reports required to keep the institution going but do not get the recognition they deserve because they're not frontline service providers. We need to recognize that these are very important customer service providers and we should start doing that now.

 The author of the above article is Dr. Neal A. Raisman the leading researcher, consultant and presenter on academic customer service. His firm NRaisman & Associates provides colleges, universities and schools as well as the business that wish to work with them. The audits, training, workshops and presentation they provide have assisted over 400 colleges, universities and career schools in the US, Canada and Europe improve and increase student success and retention to graduate more alumni.

His latest book The Power of Retention: More Customer Service for Higher Education is the
best-selling book on collegiate customer service and retention and is available from The Administrator's Bookshelf. Get your copy NOW

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Preparing Students for Work is Good Customer Service

Though it may be disappointing to some to read the following, the truth is that students don't go to college to learn. They go to gain the credentials they need to get a job and earn money. Learning is something that just takes place during the process of gaining the credentials. Proof of this can be seen in the fact that we have required courses. They are required because if we did not require them students wouldn't take them. These are courses that we feel are so important to the base competencies of our graduates that we make students enroll in them. Further evidence can be seen in the fact that we set up curriculum require students to take specific courses in order to be able to complete a major or a minor. We do this to make certain that students get the courses that they need to be able to succeed in a job that relates to the major. We may say that we are not going to be cognizant of the fact that students are going to be seeking jobs, but we really know better.

Further evidence can be seen in the 2012 National Survey of Student Engagement which states the following.

Job opportunities were among the top factors that influenced students’ choice of major. For example, a majority of seniors (55%–59%) said “ability to find a job” or “career mobility or advancement” had a substantial influence on choosing their major”. 

The National Survey of Student Engagement cites this as a major finding though I am surprised that this was a revelation to them at all. Consider that the annual CIRP survey of student attitudes has consistently found that getting a job to be able to live a better life has always been a major reason students attending college. Are all you need to do just ask the student why you she is going to college. They will tell you. To get a job, started a career.

Once we realize that student attend college to get a job, one of the customer services that we need to provide them is teaching them how to become an employee. Now this may strike many as heresy. The idea that part of our role is to teach students how to become good employees would be a antithetical to what many of us see as the role of higher education. And perhaps it is if we look past student needs and expectations and just focus on our own concepts of the world. But then again we went to college to get a job. That job is to be a faculty member in a college or a university. We did the exact same thing that students do now. So it should not surprise us role and take classes in order to get a job. 
Realizing that makes it clear that one of the things we need to do is to recognize what drive students to attend a university and build on that as part of the service that we provide to our student. They are coming to us to get a job, we need to teach them how to do that as we do in the classes but we also need to teach them how to become successful on the job.

Simply put we need to teach them how to become successful in their lives after the University or college and that means teaching them how to be successful in the world of work. Their expectation is that if they take the courses that they need to be able to complete a major that will lead to a job. They further believe that these courses will prepare them to be successful in their work. Implicit in that expectation is yet a further one that we will do what we need to do to prepare them to be successful and that includes beyond the specific study they do for tests quizzes and papers to prove they have learned the material. When they end we do not think about is that being successful will work means more than just being capable and competent in the specific area that you have prepared in. It means learning to be a good important. It means learning how to act in the workplace.

Whether we want to accept it and not one of the things that we must do is teach them how to become good employees. This by the way is also going to be a very helpful service to us because it is also going to transform many of our classrooms into ones that we find more acceptable and easier to teach in. Just as the rules and traditions of the workplace make it more conducive to success for all, appropriate rules, regulations, behaviors in the classroom will make work in the classroom more effective and even more pleasant. What we need to do is to put forward how we want them to behave in the classroom and that means controlling classroom decorum. Not only will this make the classroom a better place to teach it will prepare them better for the world outside of the classroom as well. Simply put we must demand that they act as if this work in the classroom in the university is the job that they have now to get them ready for the career that they will have in the future. We must maintain the to: that we want to see in our classrooms order to serve the students appropriately for their future.

For example, one of the complaints our students’ future employees have for new hires is that they don't know how to show up to work on time and sometimes not at all. We are certainly partially to blame for that attitude because too many of us do not require that students show up on time and attend all of our classes. Too many faculty allow students to come into the class late with no penalty for doing so. Believe it or not this begins teach students it's okay not to show up on time. Not only does a student coming into class late interrupt the class and disrupt what has been going on in it, it has consequences for the individual student as well. He or she has missed the material that had already been taught prior to his arrival.

If a student were to show up to work late that could very well have consequences. If a student were to be habitually late he or she will not lose a letter grade on the job, he or she will lose the job. It is simply good customer service to make students show up to class on time in order to learn how to become a good employee in the future. It is bad customer service to allow a student to engage in precarious behavior that could lead that student into problems on the job. Just as we will not pass a student who does not know the material well enough to be able to do it on the job we should not allow a student behaviors that are inappropriate to the workplace.

For some bizarre reason, faculty also allow students to not show up to class at all with no penalty. Attendance seems to be a hit or miss situation depending upon whether or not faculty believes that what he or she has to teach us is of value. If a faculty member believes that he or she really doesn't have that much to offer a student in the classroom then he can allow students to miss class. The student will not be missing much under that situation. When a faculty member believes that he or she actually has something to tribute to the student that faculty member should require students to attend all classes unless there is a valid reason to count that as an excused absence.

I have written about attendance before but let me focus on how this is teaching students bad workplace behavior. If an employee doesn't show up to work he or she will lose that job. Consider that showing up to your class is the job the student has at this moment. If he doesn't show up he should be penalized. Not do so is to teach them and acceptance of a negative behavior that can limit their success in the work place.

Another example is allowing the student to take a phone call in class. Faculty members can plain to me that students take on make phone calls during class. My question is who's fault is that? If a faculty member does one students to take personal phone calls or make calls in class that faculty member is the one who should set the do not allow do so in fact students simply should not be allowed to make any phone calls or take any phone calls once a class has begun. Not only is this teaching them bad behavior in the classroom, this is teaching them bad behavior that could cause them repercussions later at work. Personal calls are generally not allowed in most work situations. They certainly are not allowed if employees are at a meeting which is what a class is anyhow. A class is a meeting of faculty member and students to do the work of the day. To break away from work or a meeting to answer personal phone call would get an employee in trouble yet spme do not do anything to teach them that taking phone calls during their work, their work in the classroom in this case, is not allowed.

Most every workplace has rules that the employees are to follow. Some of those rules we would not enforce in most colleges and universities such as dress codes. We would not and probably could not require students to dress in a particular way such as jackets and ties for men in business attire for women as would be required either by written rules or by the folkways of the workplace. But as I have argued elsewhere we should be the ones to set the standards by the way that we dress. We should be dressed as if we are at work in the standard business workplace. I realize that would cause some real discomfort for some faculty who believe that a T-shirt and jeans are appropriate for teaching students. They can be appropriate for teaching students material of the course but they are not going to be teaching them what they need to know about the workplace they are going to enter.

We need to get students to understand that attending class is their job at this time. Yes they are paying to do so but this is the work that they are engaged in and they must follow rules that we set for them. They should be set out carefully, completely, and clearly in the syllabus. The syllabus is a contract between the institution, the particular class and the student. If in the syllabus you set down your specific rules of decorum in the classroom then the student has to follow them as long as you are really willing to enforce them. For example student should be required to attend every class that you teach. This should be spelled out in the syllabus. Attendance rules should not be necessary of course if the institution were intelligent enough to have an across-the-board attendance policy which requires students to attend their classes. Not only would this teach students how to become successful and in their future work, it would also increase retention at the institution. If you don't want students to search the web in the classroom put that in the syllabus and also put the penalty in the syllabus. The syllabus should have all of the aspects of decorum that you expect in the current workplace, the classroom.

We need to accept that one of our roles is to prepare students to succeed in work. Good customer service is not just making the client feel good but doing what is necessary to prepare that client to succeed in the future. To do otherwise is to short change the customer. To not do so would be as a doctor who finds that a patient has a very serious illness but decides not to tell her that because it would upset her. Our students have an illness in their lack of preparation to do well in the world outside of college, the world of work. It is our obligation to serve our students fully by making them to conform to rules, regulations and decorum. This will prepare them to succeed once they leave college. Keep in mind that good customer service does not mean always making the customer happy, but making certain that we need all of their needs and expectations. To do less is to cheat students of good customer service.

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. 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)

If this piece had value for you, you will want to get a copy of The Power of Retention by clicking here NOW 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Getting Higher Education to Change Itself

Higher education is not a sector well known for change. It is in fact a sector that is laughably slow to embrace any change at all while telling everyone else how they should alter their work habits, strategies, businesses, countries, culture and so on. Academia is also comfortable telling its clients what change they need to make to be successful in my class while using old notes from many classes ago. We have no compunction about telling students what they should do to change even if we are not going to do so. And it is done in interesting and competing ways. Each faculty member, every class sends out a different message to students. In humanities classes, students are told to open their minds and embrace new ideas but don’t try and shake mine even if I believe that Shakespeare was gay and all his plays send out a pro-gay agenda what with all the cross dressing and all. In math we are told to close down our minds and just accept that this is the right way to do this and all other ways to solve the problem and get to the answer are wrong. In social science or psychology students are exposed to whatever pet theory the particular faculty member embraces even if it is at odds with every other person teaching in the college. Well, you get the picture. Students are bombarded with calls to change even though they may conflict, be correct or even produce little change as the book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Arum and Roska posits.

One thing about change is sure. It does not take place or if it does it is very very slow in higher education. I recall a student done by some professors at the University of Pennsylvania in the 80’s which showed that higher education changes seven times slower than business and that was on issues such as technology that all agreed with. (Sorry, I lost the study but if anyone knows of it I would love to hear so I can get it again.) Imagine how slow change can be on issues that are even slightly controversial? Such as changing the culture of a school to embrace student success above research and personal success? To place student learning and teaching at least on a par with research? To actually get colleges and universities to embrace the idea that it is not enough to simply admit a student, that student has to really be taught and retained to graduation? To embrace Principle 15 of the Principles of Good Academic Customer Service – Actually give as big a damn about graduating students as recruiting them. (If you’d like a copy of the 15 Principles of Good Academic Customer Service, just ask for them at

Somehow we have this attitude that it is okay and even good to have students failing and leaving a school. The old “look to your right, look to your left…” Somehow losing students by the left and right establishes a university or college as a tough school and academically valid. That is not so and needs to change.  If that were so then schools such as Dalton State, Golden Gate University, Baker College, the University of Phoenix and over 1,000 others would have to be really great schools since they graduate far less than 30% of their students in six years. While universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Davidson would be weak schools because they graduate over 90% of their students in six years. Talk about an upside down idea!

Lose Students: Lose Money
What losing students does establish is that the school is losing money; leaving millions of tuition dollars on the table as students walk out, drop out, stop out and get out. Every student that leaves takes tuition and fee dollars with him. That is not just pocket change, but dollars. It is highly likely that your college or university is losing millions of dollars a year due to attrition as a study of 1668 colleges and universities I recently completed shows. If you want to find out how much your school is losing from attrition just ask me (

So it is important for any college or university which is to focus a bit on its revenue and budget to also realize that it would have to change its attitudes and culture. That is not easy to do. Not easy but necessary. Sorry to be so blatant on this point but to increase revenue and not have to keep cutting into the muscles and sinews that hold the college together, it will be necessary to focus on retention.  It will thus be necessary to focus on student success above all else. Not just retaining at any cost but retaining by helping students succeed. That also means that the culture will have to change from a “research first” culture to a students first. It will be necessary to move from “this would be a great place to work if it weren’t for the students” to this is a great place to work because of the students.” Colleges and universities will have to move from churn and burn to learn and earn.

These will all be major cultural shifts that will demand changing beliefs, practices, habits, traditions, folkways and attitudes of all the members of the school from the lowest adjunct pariah through the administrator Brahmin caste. This would not be easy. It will demand strength of vision, tenacity, sensitivity, patience, and at times the strength of purpose to take a chance moving forward. These unfortunately are not always qualities we ascribe to out leaders in some schools. Nor are they qualities that we attribute to some key members groups for success such as faculty who have an interest in a vested academic power structure built ion research and recognition. Turning around the Goodship Academia is not easy but it has to be done.

The Heat of Budget Cuts Could Melt the Culture
Change as we learn from organizational development requires something to happen. Some event or situation that causes enough “heat” to unfreeze the organization. When the organization is unfrozen it might be able to start to make some changes required to reshape it into a new organization with perhaps different mission or purpose. Granted it is very difficult to “unfreeze” higher education as a result of tenure.  Tenure isolates a key group i.e. tenured faculty who hold the power among the faculty in general and much of the college at large. Tenured faculty are largely personally immune to the heat of budget and personnel cuts that have made others in academia feel the heat. They cannot be dismissed due to revenue reductions as students continue to stream out the exit with their tuition money. Tenure keeps them as almost untouchable. Sort of ironic in that Brahmins have become the untouchables because they are Brahmins!

Years ago, my wife and I were driving across the US heading to Boston to bring our new daughter to meet her grandparents. As we drove, there was a news story about some homeless people who froze to death in the cold. I quickly questioned why no one did anything to help them? Aileen hauled off and punched me in the arm. “Ow” I yelled to which Aileen said “I didn’t feel a thing.” This is the situation in many colleges and universities which keeps them from unfreezing even in the face of revenue reductions that are causing cuts that are hurting students more and more every day. But because of tenure, many faculty who can control change are not directly feeling the heat. Yes, they do feel when people are let go. They feel the cuts in equipment, release hours travel funds, staff, etc. They are not heartless or impervious to the cuts but they are protected. This makes change even more difficult since the mind of the faculty is usually the consciousness of the institution unless the leadership is really committed to an idea or goal that can pull tenured faculty along.

Change might take place now since there is the ever-hotter potentially unfreezing effect of revenue reductions and cuts in almost every college and university in the country.  This is a time when leadership can make a clear and clarion case for focusing more on students and a bit less on research; focusing more on revenue and budget growth than expenditures and cuts. But it will demand that leadership show the college what’s in it for them and maintain a clear and consistent message. Presidents should be willing to do this since they should be rather fatigued at cutting budgets and trying to explain the cuts while having to place reductions in the best light possible when the first thing to go was the light bulb.

The campus should also be fatigued from hearing and absorbing the cuts. The members of the campus community should be ready to embrace some change even though they will simultaneously resist that same change hoping all will go back to the good old days of the nineties which may not have realty been all that good anyway.

This is a time for presidents, boards and college communities to draft customer-centric, thus student success centric plans to focus on students as a primary and actual activity. Yes, missions all say something about student being our most important business but that has not been true on most campuses for many, many years now.

The budget crises hitting higher education demand change and the best way to affect change that will also increase revenue is becoming student graduation-centric. The more students that stay in school and graduate, the greater the rewards –monetarily and mission-wise. And it is not a time for the usually glacially slow change of college. The reductions in budgets are so severe that to wait too long to embrace change will only expose the college to greater damage.

The time to change is now. The change needed is to focus on retention and student success.

If this article makes sense to you
you will want to get my new book
The Power of Retention
: More Customer Service for Higher Education
by clicking here

N.Raisman & Associates is the leader in increasing student retention, enrollment and revenue through research training and customer service solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them
We increase your success

Neal is a pleasure to work with – his depth of knowledge and engaging, approachable style creates a strong connection with attendees. He goes beyond the typical, “show up, talk, and leave” experience that some professional speakers use. He “walks the talk” with his passion for customer service. We exchanged multiple emails prior to the event, with his focus being on meeting our needs, understanding our organization and creating a customized presentation. Neal also attended and actively participated in our evening-before team-building event, forging positive relationships with attendees – truly getting to know them. Personable, knowledgeable, down-to-earth and inspiring…. " Jean Wolfe, Training Manager, Davenport University

“We had hoped we’d improve our retention and with the help of Dr. Raisman, we increased it by 5%. Rachel Albert, Provost, University of Maine-Farmington

“Thank you so much for the wonderful workshop at Lincoln Technical Institute. It served to re-center ideas in a great way. I perceived it to be a morale booster, breath of fresh air, and a burst of passion.” Shelly S, Faculty Member, Lincoln Technical Institute

“Neal led a retreat that initiated customer service and retention as a real focus for us and gave us a clear plan. Then he followed up with presentations and workshops that kicked us all into high gear. We recommend with no reservations; just success.” Susan Mesheau, Executive Director U First: Integrated Recruitment & Retention University of New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, November 05, 2012

Getting Service from Recalcitrant Colleagues

Good customer service does need to be given to students since they are the primary customer. But we also must provide great customer service to one another and certainly to those who work with or for us.  That surely includes helping one another, being interested in one another as people and not just as workers, and Principle of Good Academic Customer Service # 11.  
The customer is not always right. 
(to get a copy of the latest Principles of Good Academic Customer Service, just click here and ask.)

That’s right. People can be wrong. And when they do they deserve knowing so but done in a correct polite way. For example, a common problem we hear about all the time while doing work on a campus is that someone in the office will not answer the phone. That forces other people to do the phone answering. Sometimes they have to interrupt what they are doing just to answer when the other person ignored the phone even though not busy. In most every case, the person forced to answer the phone does so, grumbling all the way which by the way can make your voice sound angry and deprive the caller of a good experience. Thus creating some poor customer service for the caller. And for the person forced to answer the phone.

Keep in mind that we, ourselves are also customers. We are all customers of one another and there is a need to make sure that we are treated as customers too which means that others have to be concerned about us as we are about them.

Usually, the forced answerer will not say anything to do the lazy coworker for fear of starting an argument or hurt working relationships. But the relationship has been hurt already. Keep in mind that one of the core principles of good customer service is special equity. Service equity calls for a balance in the relationships between people in a society. And work creates little communities such as an society of those who work together. If I give I expect to get back from a relationship. If a customer is going to give time and money for example he or she expects and deserves something back for that investment, What the expect back is not just the item or service being purchased but being treated as well as they treat others; sometimes even better than they treat others as in the case of a rude customer.

Service equity demands that a society have a balance in the amount of service that all parties put into it or the community within cannot last. We know this is true from how relationships fall apart. A group of friends goes out to eat all the time but one member of the group seems to never have his hand out for the check. Or there is one person who seldom or never drives to an event but relies on others to do the driving or never takes a turn as the designated driver when drinking is part of the evening.  Or in an office, one person will never answer the phone…

The relationships fall apart finally or at least become too tense for good inner workings within the group. But again, we are usually too timid to provide good customer service to the group or even the individual by telling the cheap person it is his turn to pay the bill or to drive. Good academic customer service does include telling someone when they are not acting in an appropriate manner.  If you don’t do that you are limiting service to self which is also destructive of the relationship so it is better to try to maintain and build on the relationship than just letting it drop over an issue you could have worked through.

There is a fortune cookie I was found that covers the next step. 
“Diplomacy is telling someone to go to hell……………………………………..
and having them ask the directions. 
In other words, use diplomacy and frame the issue in a way that might be acceptable to another.

Rather than “hey answer the damn phone sometime” which will get the point across granted but might not help solve the issue while creating another, try a different tact. One more like “You know Enid, I am ending up answering the phone all the time and that is not a fair way to share the work. It would be really nice and helpful to me if you’d answer the phone more. I really appreciate it. Thanks.”

The when the phone rings next, let it go and look at Enid until she picks up the phone. If she doesn’t pick up the phone, let it go to voice mail this time. You can then say to Enid “I hope that was not an important call or one from boss’s name because I’d hate to have to explain why no one answered the phone. It would make both of us look bad. Please do your share of answering.”

When she does finally answer the phone, extend some praise. We are all in search of recognition and praise and the more you can give in the form of “Thanks for getting that. I was really tied up. I appreciate your grabbing it. Thanks.” You may even want to ask her if you can get her a cup of coffee since I am going there. Yes it is sucking up but that too is part of customer service at times to make your customer feel important and try to influence the customer’s behavior. And if you can alter the customer’s behavior to one that is more service equitable, you win too.

The author of the above article is Dr. Neal A. Raisman the leading researcher, consultant and presenter on academic customer service. His firm NRaisman & Associates provides colleges, universities and schools as well as the business that wish to work with them. The audits, training, workshops and presentation they provide have assisted over 400 colleges, universities and career schools in the US, Canada and Europe improve and increase student success and retention to graduate more alumni.

His latest book The Power of Retention: More Customer Service for Higher Education is the
best-selling book on collegiate customer service and retention and is available from The Administrator's Bookshelf. Get your copy NOW