Monday, May 27, 2013

A Tale of Bad and Good Academic Customer Service

A student was having a bad day. Nothing seemed to be going right. He had not done well on a quiz even though he had read the material. He had not understood the work in algebra and the teacher said she was too busy to help him right now.  His roommate had kept him up all night by playing cds too loud as he pulled an all nighter. His girlfriend back home had not written in a few days. He found out that a course he thought he had dropped by not attending the class was still on his bill because he had not really dropped it. So he had to finds out what to do now about the course because he was still being billed for it and today was the last day to pay before he would get hit with a late payment fee.

He went to the billing office to drop the course but was told that this was the wrong spot to start the process. He needed to go to the registrar’s office to drop a course he was told.

So off he went across campus to the registrar’s office in a different building. There they told him they could not help him. He had to get a sheet signed by his advisor before he could do anything else. So he went to see his advisor.

When he got there he was told he needed to make an appointment to see his advisor. The advisor would not see anyone without an appointment. He could see into the advisor’s office and noticed that the advisor was there and no one was with him. When he pointed this out to the receptionist he was told that the advisor had someone coming in in ten minutes and could not see him now. Make an appointment. And go online or back to the registrar’s office to get the form he would need to get signed. And by the way, before the advisor could sign off he needed to get the signature of the professor in the class first.
So he went back to the library where he could print off the form after paying ten cents for printing the page. He found the form after searching the school’s web for five frustrating minutes and printed it off after swiping his student card to pay the ten cents for the copy.

Then he went to the building where he thought the professor for the course might be found. He kept searching the halls for a list of people and the office numbers of their offices but could not find any. He did find the departmental office and went in. The receptionist was doing something at her desk so he stood in front of the counter for about two minutes before she finally said “yes. What can I do for you?”

He asked where professor’s office was and he was told the office number. He climbed the stairs to the office two floors up because the elevator was reserved for staff and faculty. When he finally came to the professor’s office. The door was locked. Apparently no one was there even though the time was listed as being an office hour.

He was devastated.  And he skunk down the stairs and out the door. He was shaking his head in total frustration and feeling like he would want to cry if he weren’t a guy when a woman was walking up the stairs to the building he had just left.

“Hi. How are you?” she said. (She had learned to say hello to all students and inquire as to how they are at a customer service workshop we gave...)

“Miserable” he replied. And she stopped and asked him why. He told her of the run around he got as he was shuffled from office to office and how people just weren’t welcoming to him and his problem. H told her also how he was having trouble in algebra and maybe he should just drop out of the school.

“That’s not good” she said. “Come with me and let me see if I can help.” And she took him to the departmental office where she walked into the assistant dean’s office and offered him a chair.

“Okay, so what are you trying to accomplish?” she asked. When he told her he was trying to drop a course she nodded.

“I’m sorry you have had so much trouble. Let me see what I can do to help you. Do you have the add/drop form?”
He handed it to her. “And the name of the professor who has to sign it?” He told her. She picked up the phone and dialed a number. “Hi Fred. This is Marylin. I am sitting her with a young man who said he came to your office but the door was locked. Are you available? Uhuh. The paper has to be emailed in to them by four o’clock today. I see. Well, he needs your signature on an add drop form… Yes I know that is ridiculous but that is the system…Tell you what. Do I have your permission to sign the form for you? Great. Thanks. Good luck with the article.”

She then signed the form. “Now who is your advisor?”  He told her and she picked up the phone again.  “Hi this is the assistant dean calling with a student who needs to see his advisor today since he needs to drop a course today so he won’t get hit with a late payment fee. Uhuh. Yes I am sure he is busy but I would think that he would have thirty seconds to sign a form. Right. Great. I’ll send him right over.”

“Go back to your advisor and he will sign the form right now. When you get that done, come back here and we will take care of the rest of the situation.”

He went to the advisor who “squeezed him in” and signed the form in about five seconds flat.  Then he went back to the assistant dean’s office.

“While you were gone I took the liberty of looking up your records. I see that when you drop this course you will still have enough credits to stay a full time student. That is important because if you dropped below a certain credit level you would not be a full time student and that would have some financial aid implications. As it is you will be at the same level so don’t have to see financial aid about adjusting your grant. You might have had to give some money back if you ended up a part-time student.

I also called over to the registrar’s office spoke to a lovely woman named Julie. She is waiting for you to come back to the office and will take care of you. So just go to the registrar’s office, introduce yourself and ask for Julie. I hope that helps out. She will take it from there.”

So he left the office and went to the registrar’s office where he introduced himself to the person behind the counter who went and got Julie for him. Julie came and took the form and entered the information into the computer

“Okay, now that is done. I’m going to take you to the billing office now so you can have your bill adjusted and made right for you.” And with that she came out from behind the counter and lead him out of the building to the next one over and up to the cashier’s window where she introduced herself. ”Hi I’m Julie from the registrar’s office. I just called a little while ago about a student who needed to get his bill adjusted after dropping a class.”

“Oh yes. I spoke to you. Is this the young man?”

“Yes it is.” And he stepped up to the window where he gave his student number. The cashier’ typed some information into the computer and told him his bill was adjusted. He could not now pay it on line right there in the office art the row of computers for student billing use.

He finally walked away happy.

Now this is a fable. It did not happen this way though it could have. The assistant dean did the right thing as did Julie. Yes they spent some time helping the student which is the right thing to do. And Julie actually left her office to help him. That was the right thing to do also.

But the student never should have had to go through this at all.  The process of dropping a course should be a student initiated and completed one. In all the campus audits and reviews of advising that we have done, we have found that at best advisors just sign the document where it is required and really do not advise the students at all.  What the teacher has to sign is anyone’s guess but I am sure it once had a good reason.

The student does need some counseling on the effect the change might have on his or her financial aid if it causes a drop to part-time status but that can be accomplished in part by a warning that comes up on the computer when the student goes to drop a course. A pop-up could warn the student that he should see financial aid to assess the effect the drop has on the full time status. If the student decides not to bother to get financial aid counseling then that is his choice and consequence.

But the most important part of this tale is the help that is finally given. That is the way things should be done

If this article has value for you, you'll want to get a copy of the best-selling book The Power of Retention by clicking here.

N.Raisman & Associates has been providing customer service, retention, enrollment and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits, workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. N.Raisman & Associates prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services. 

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