Monday, October 07, 2013

PREACHing Customer Service in Colleges

We need to PREACH customer service in our schools. That’s right PREACH. 

PREACH is an acronym for the six major elements of any good customer service vision statement and program to rally people around. 
If we can get people to PREACH customer service, all will be well.

Professionalism providing expertise with the ability to know what to do and to doing it
Responsiveness responding to student needs and providing assistance right then and there
Empathy seeing things from a student’s perspective, connecting with students and displaying friendliness
Accessibility being open to students and reaching out to them
Confidentiality treating students and their issues with respect, trust and discretion
Hospitality welcoming students and showing them that they are valuable and important.

Professionalism - To be a full professional means you know what you are doing and can provide expert assistance to a student or a client of your office or functional area such as registration or financial aid, admissions, teaching and the like areas of activity in which we are involved. People need to know their jobs and those of offices and areas that intersect with them. For example, people in admissions should know about the financial aid area as should people in registration. Faculty should know aspects of registrar’s function like add drops to be able to help students. Advisors should know all the areas to be able to do their job professionally.

To make sure this happens people need to have regular training and updating to keep them informed and at their peak of service. We all know that faculty teaching a subject need to stay up-to-date on any changes and shifts in their areas and need time to keep up. Well, other professionals throughout the school also need time for training to keep up their skills and be assured their ability to be fully professional is kept current.

This also calls on people to serve the internal community well by making certain that there are good and transparent communications. There are too many colleges and universities that we work with in which less than professional communications harms the entire customer service effort. Supervisors in particular need to realize that part of their professional activity is making certain that all the people under his or her purview are kept informed about procedures or any changes to policies so they in turn can serve students well.

Responsiveness This calls on people in the college community to respond to student needs when they arise and not make them wait. This does not mean always doing things to meet needs that should not be met such as students who complain that they are smokers and have nowhere to smoke on campus if yours is a non-smoking school. It does not mean they are always right or you need to meet their every wish. What responsiveness refers to is reacting to student when he or she comes into the office.  Stop what you are doing and wait on him or her. If you cannot be interrupted, explain why and set up a time to help the student before he or she leaves the office without being helped at all

It can also mean for faculty to respond to students in the classroom who have questions or who look as if they are not getting it. Stop and make sure that students are indeed following the lecture or discussion. Check in with them and see if there are any confused looks and then respond to them. If the need cannot be met for a student who for example is having trouble with an aspect of a calculus class right in class, then set up a time to tutor that student.

Make sure that students are tended to when they need help. Do not make them wait or be ignored. That is being responsive.

Empathy Look at issues and things from a student’s point of view. Get into their shoes and try to feel what they feel and need. Reach out to them.  Do the Hillel thing. Do unto students as you would want done for your so, or daughter, mother or father. Following this rule will make you identify more with students and meet their personal and emotional needs which helps with their feeling of an emotional ROI as well.

Accessibility Be available to help students at all times. Remember they really do come before other things at the school. Nothing is more important than servicing a student so when one comes to the office stop what you are doing and wait on him or her. Do not make them wait. If you must finish something, at least let the student know what you are doing and will be with them as soon as possible.  
Accessibility also means that you can be accessed by telephone and email. When the phone rings, answer it. In fact, the phone should be answered witho9in three rings. Do not make the person leave a voice mail which you will likely not ever get back to you as our experience at most schools shows.

Emails needed to be responded to within 24 hours at the very most and really should be cleared by the end of the workday. If you cannot answer emails right away, set up an automated resposne on the computer to at least let the sender know you have received the email and will be back to him within 24 hours. Then make sure you do so.

Confidentiality. Provide the student with the confidence that the information she is sharing will stay between the two of you. If you need to involve someone else, make sure the student knows that another person will be brought into the communication. Treat the student with respect and discretion just as you would want to be treated.

Hospitality  Realize that you are the official welcome for the college or university and need to treat all students and others withy cordiality. Everyone should receive a warm smile and welcome in your words, tone of voice and actions. You are the greeter for the school after all in every single situation, Keep in mind that the students  want to feel as if they are important and valued. Little shows that than a welcoming attitude that says I am happy to see you. How may I help you?

There is little that is more important to good customer service than the welcoming and hospitable attitude that lets students know they are the most important people on campus. If anyone ever feels that students are an imposition, unwelcome or an interruption, that person is in the wrong job and ought to be replaced.

If a vision statement and a customer service program PREACHes these elements, it will succeed.

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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