Monday, November 18, 2013

Feel the Teal is for Real Customer Service

I am often asked for an example of a school that is really working at customer service and getting it right. Well I just returned from one. Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina has a
campus-wide initiative that is starting to show some strong results.

Their campaign is called Feel the Teal. Teal being the school color. The president, Dr. David DeCenzo is leading the program and getting people to realize that customer service is significant to the school’s future. He recognizes the direct correlation between good customer service to retention and what that can mean to the University. Certainly it will mean a better budget since the University is almost fully dependent on tuition revenues since the state only supplies three percent of its budget.  But he knows that retention through increased customer service means much more.

It means that more students will graduate getting a CCU education. It also means that the University will have more students staying in school so admissions will not have to recruit such a large number of new students to fill the spots made open through attrition. For every thousand students that are retained, that is one thousand fewer new students admissions has to find and enroll. That will increase the competition pool for the remaining slots and allow the University to be a bit more particular about who it lets in. Right now it cannot be as fussy as it might want to be because it must meet its new students quota to balance the books but with better customer service leading to a smaller number to make the budget each year, the school can look for even better fits among the students it lets in.  that will also increase its retention since the fit between the school and a student must be a good one to increase the ability to retain.

Dr. DeCenzo knows that he cannot do the job alone so he created a new position Director of Service Excellence. We selected the phrase service excellence to cut down on some of the resistance she would talking about customer service. He selected an excellent champion to focus exclusively on developing service excellence on campus. He chose an enthusiastic and extremely comportment leader in Eileen Soisson whose enthusiasm for the program just seems to affect most everyone. Her background was not academia which was helpful since she was not as aware how tough it would be to convince some on campus to embrace customer service. That can be a daunting task as we all know.  She also brought skills from the business world that could be applied to getting people on board and train them as wel

The Feel the Teal campaign has some basic components that are worth emulating as shown in the banner that hangs on the wall of the student recreation facility below.

The five keys to providing great service have been defined at CCU as
1.       Acknowledge the customer
2.       Clarify the situation
3.       Manage the customer and the situation
4.       Meet or exceed the needs of the customer
5.       Confirm satisfaction.

These are five steps key to success in most any service encounter. If other schools trained their people to take all five steps into account as Eileen does at CCU, they would be providing better customer service and seeing increased morale as well as retention.

In addition to the five steps, there is a HEAT approach to service encounters as well.

Hear them out


Apologize and

Take action.

The last item is a very important one because taking action, doing something is so important to completing the service loop. Too many times, people provide good service but lose that last point. They do not take the final step to take action. So again kudos to CCU

Here is an example of the take action in action too as well as an example of attention to service detail. 

This is a section of a men’s room on campus. A men’s room with pictures, potpourri and a reed diffuser to keep the room smelling nice! This was done by the maintenance man in the building who just didn’t feel the room was good enough for his customers so he took the initiative to make it better.  What more proof does one need to see that Feeling the Teal can lead to success.

CCU also has a program that helps students all over campus and through the web called Chant 411. It is a program designed to always provide students with a place and people they can go to for information, help and service. it is sort of like having a concierge service but better because Chant 411 is all over the place. In fact, in warm weather, members of the Chant 411 team circle the campus continually on adult sized tricycles to make sure they can greet and help students. Students can go to the Chant 411 webpage or call for help but the service comes to them too.

That is not to say that CCU still does not have challenges and a need for some more training. It is on the path to success but there are still some strong pockets of resistance especially among some faculty as I saw when I was doing a question and answer period on campus recently.  But as I said there and elsewhere when the question comes up about getting everyone on board, there will always be some people who will either take their long time to get on board or never get on. That is a simple reality but one thing is sure at Coastal Carolina University, their train has not just left the station it is sweeping across campus toward making CCU a leader is customer service based success.

It is our pleasure and honor to be working with Coastal Carolina University as they build a greater future based on academic customer service. If you would like to build a better college and future too, please contact us at
 or call at 413.219.6939.

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