Monday, April 08, 2013

Benchmarks for Customer Service in an Office

A common question that I hear from many clients is what are the standards for
serving students who may come into an office. They want to know what are the benchmarks by which they can gauge whether or not they are providing good customer service to their clients.

All of these benchmarks derive from a basic concept that the student is more important than any work I am doing at the time he or she enters an office. So the first benchmark is whether or not people interrupt what they are doing as soon as a student enters the office. If a person cannot interrupt what he or she is doing right at the time the student enters, he should mention that I will be right with you soon as I finish this. And the person should take no more than one minute conclude what he or she is working on. But that is not as good as interrupting what he or she is doing to serve the student.

At the very most a student should not have to wait more than 30 seconds to be greeted after he or she enters an office if there is no line. If there is a line a student should not have to wait in it any more than 10 minutes to meet with someone at a desk or a workstation. If there is a line longer than what it would take to clear within 10 minutes it is important to bring other people forward to the front work area to meet with students. No one likes to wait in line and students are particularly lacking in patients when they are in line.

If the line cannot be resolved in less than 10 minutes wait an additional workers cannot be brought forward to help resolve the length of the line, it is at least important to let the students know approximately how long they may be having to wait to get served. It is been found in studies that if a person knows he is going to have to wait 15 minutes for example than here she at least has a benchmark of time in line that will make him or her decide whether or not to come back or stay. It is also important to let the student know when the line might be shorter. For example what time of the day tends to have shorter wait times to get help.

As soon as the student comes up to the work area, the person working there should make eye contact and greet the student with a smile. We are not necessarily talking about a big large grin but at least a small smile that indicates that I am pleased to see you. It may take practice for some people to learn how to smile believe it or not if have been allowed to be unhappy in their work for so long that they can show it to anybody who comes to the office. So if necessary, teach people to smile. One way to do this is to put a mirror close to the area that the person would be greeting the student and have the person look into the mirror prior to greeting the student to make sure that he or she is smiling. This is similar to the advice that we have given about answering telephones using mirrors.

In any case the student should be greeted with a smile to be followed immediately with the given name get a name technique. This is the process that begins with the worker introducing him or herself to the student with a greeting. For example, “Hello I’m Neal and you are…”. Then wait for an answer. Give the student time to say his or her name in response to offering up your own name.

Once the student gives up his name, the worker should repeat the name and indicate that he or she is there to try to help the student. A phrase such as “Hello John how may I help you today” is appropriate.

Next the worker must engage in active listening as described in past articles. It is very important that the person actually hears what the student issue really is prior to formulating any response. People who work in offices and elsewhere on campus tend to see themselves as problem solvers which means that they will often try to solve the first problem that is brought forward whether or not that is the actual issue the student is bringing into the office. So it is very important to let the student talk and listen to what the she has to say to find out what the real issue may be.

Active listening calls upon the listener to then sum up what he or she thinks the issue really is and checking with the student to see if that is correct. “Let me make sure. What I think I’ve heard is that you need to…” Then wait to see if that is what the student is there to try to accomplish or if that’s the issue that he or she is dealing with.

The next benchmark is whether or not the worker explains what he or she is going to do to solve the issue. “Okay what I’m going to do is…” Or “okay what you need to do is…” Or “here is where on line the form is that you need.”

This all should be able to be taken care of within three minutes of the person coming into the office.

The final and most important benchmark is whether or not the student’s need or issue is resolved within that visit. If the student is leaving without having his issue resolved all of the above has not gone for anything of value.

There are two mots important benchmarks in all of this then. All the rest of it are points by which you can gauge whether or not the person is fulfilling process correctly. The first is whether or not the student is greeted within one minute and stands in a line no longer than 10 minutes.

And most important, has the student’s need been met.

It is possible to meet all the other benchmarks, using the appropriate give-a-name get-a- name technique and active listening for example and still fail to meet the most important benchmark of solving the student’s issue and/or processing whatever it is he or she needs to have done.

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
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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

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“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

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