Monday, December 29, 2014

What Students Really Want

For the past five years, NRaisman & Associates has done a study into student desires and expectations and ours are never broken. Of course, we may be
cheating since we have a better attitude and opinion of students from all the work we do with them for colleges and universities trying to improve their customer service and retention. We do something that too many at the schools themselves do not do – LISTEN.
In most of my training seminars and workshops I tell the audiences that people were given two ears and one mouth for a definite reason. To tell us to listen twice as much as we speak. Now, I realize that is not what we in academia do well. We are speakers; not listeners. After all, it would get very quiet in a classroom if faculty did not speak and lecture. But the same is not true for administrators. We forget that the job is no longer to lecture to others but to minister to their needs. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t state that I learned that by acting like I had two mouths and one ear. I like many other administrators thought was an administrator because I knew things and was capable of getting them done. So my assumption was that what I had to say was important. More important than listening to others and learning from them. Took me a while but I finally learned the lesson. That was not just important to me as an administrator but now in life as a student and consultant of academic customer service.

If I hadn’t learn to use my ears I would have done what so many schools do and assume I know what students want and need. There would be no need to find out what students think or really want. I would already know. Even if I felt it was important to hear from students, I would create surveys that would be self-fulfilling prophecies for example. I’d already know the answers after all. But I did learn and so I and my entire group really ask and listen to students. And here is what we learned this year.

The study compares what 400 faculty and administrators think the 600 students we interviewed want and need versus what students said they actually want. The differences are illuminating
What Faculty ad Administrators Think Students Want
5. More Parking
4. No reading assignments
3. Short classes
2. A minimum of homework
1. Good grades with little effort

And What the Students Said They Want
5. More parking
4 Safety in the parking lots and buildings
3. Instructors who know their names and staff/administrators who care
2. The correct course when they need to take it
1. An environment that encourages and supports their learning.
The only area that there is correspondence of opinions is in the area of parking.
  It seems that legs are becoming vestigial. No one wants to walk. In fact, behind the correspondence is a wish to be able to park right inside the classroom or office. Maybe we should all be building drive-ins so no one would have to even get out of their cars.

The differences belie some very interesting points. The faculty and administrators’ views of what students want indicates a rather negative attitude toward the students they are supposed to educate. It seems they bought the stereotypical belief that today’s students are under-prepared, lazy, coddled children who demand high grades. That should not surprise mist people since that is a rather prevalent belief on most campuses. It is usually expressed by the statement that admissions needs to recruit better students.”

With a belief that the students are sub-par, it is no wonder that schools fail to meet their real needs. They don’t care to do so. If a person feels that another is below them or not up to their expectations, they will necessarily treat them in an inferior manner. This degraded attitude is a definite cause of weak customer service that leads to retention problems.
Review the thoughts the students presented. Taking them seriously and learning from them will help any school.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Customer Service Mini-Audits Example Results

What Does a Campus Mini Inventory/Audit Report Look Like?

Numerous requests have come to me to see what sort of information could be in a one to two day campus service mini-inventory I or one of my group might do. So here is a sample of an actual executive summary that went with a full inventory i.e. audit.  It has been anonymized (is that a real word?) and some parts have been excised to assure that.  The pictures have been left out too for the same reason. As a result, it could be your college or there may be some aspects that will sound familiar to you. That's okay. Just look at the recommendations and solutions. If they work for you - great.

Customer Service Mini-Audit Report of
The College
Audit Conducted on date
By Dr. Neal Raisman
The mini-audit I performed on the three campuses of The College indicated that strides had been made in the five years since my previous customer service review. Of the 28 people I interacted with, 22 provided a quality of customer service which ranged between very good and excellent as I said at the presentation.  Two of the other six either tried to provide good care but were defeated by the system and the others need more help. It was my pleasure to be able to point out not just the way the 28 handled the issues but some of the individuals by name who worked with me. These I used as exemplars of how it can be done. Leadership and the people in student services are to be commended for the change. 

There do remain some issues and situations that could be addressed to increase customer service as well as enrollment, retention and morale. These concerns range from an old one mentioned five years ago – lack of or not fully helpful signs on campuses – to more difficult issues that effect both students and employees that may go to procedure and even policy. One of these could be having a negative effect on central aspects of customer service that affect performance and morale as well.

I recognize that in bringing some of this forward, I may be stepping into some policy or even political aspects at the College.  I do however believe it is my responsibility as a consultant asked to bring forward issues that may affect enrollment, retention and/or morale. 

1. As I mentioned in the presentation and in the one five years ago, the signage on the campuses is not helpful to students.  The signage that is on the campuses does not help students find where they would have to go to complete enrollment or find their way from function to function.  For example, the exterior signs that are on campuses may list locations by the names of buildings but there is not listing by functions such as admissions, registration, records, business office, or major area of study such as nursing, business, criminal justice, etc.    

The example below shows both the anonymous building names and the value of function naming as in Physical Plant – Shipping and Receiving. If functional helps vendors, it should help potential students and the community as well.

Students do not know where they need to go to do things by the name of a building. Moreover, none of the main entrances was clearly marked to assist or facilitate.  The closest to either naming by function or the main entrance was on the M campus where I did locate a sign inside a parking lot that listed functions within a building. 
  Unfortunately, if I did not happen to park in that lot, I may not have found other helpful signs on the campus. Moreover, this information was not repeated in front of the specific buildings with the functional areas within.  Redundancy can be helpful in signage. M campus was also the only campus with a sign over a door saying Welcome with some additional helpful information.  Without at least a welcome sign, there is not indication of a building’s front door. I had to wander about trying to figure out where the front door was of each campus. 

Moreover, the placement of signs is important if they are to be used and helpful. 

Inside building signage was described by a faculty member at M campus who stated “This place is like a labyrinth.  If you don’t already know where you’re going, you may not get there.” Variations of the statement were repeated to varying degrees at the B campus as one person told me that admissions was in the L campus Building. Though M campus again made some attempt to help out with a general sign inside the main building, it was still difficult to locate offices since some signs were overhead and small while others had different locations and some did not have. This is apropos for all the buildings at M campus and B campus. 

The L campus does provide interior signage that coincides with color coding that can help people new to campus find their way around. Though some of the individual function areas could still be marked better with signs to help people find their way around, especially to admissions, financial aid, business office, etc. 
L campus also has very good interior signs that are quite helpful.
I suggest a College signage master plan be created that will create signs that provide information by the functions that take place in buildings along with the building name. The committee should also study interior signage and address the needs for signs that will help potential and new students as well as any coming onto campus with the directions they need to find where they need to go in the buildings.

If one looks at the signs used on all three campuses, (examples above) they are all different in style, color, etc. Signs are visual statements of identity as well as indicators to help people find their way to a location. It thus is suggested the signs should all have a consistent look, style, color and font to generate a coherent image and statement of The College no matter what campus an individual is on. 

2.  There is duplication and some inconsistency in forms used and provided. For example, when I was considering taking courses at two different campuses of the College, I had to complete two separate admission request forms. I was also told I would need separate and thus duplicate forms for other processes too.  This duplication of forms and efforts by the student should be eliminated and I hope that the new Datatel system will allow for singular input of materials to limit student and staff effort and work. 

On different campuses I was given different material.  For instance, there were two different FAFSA brochures provided; some different College generated information on programs; the payment plans and courses of study by major area. In this case, some people had out the older brochures (blue color) of major areas while another campus had some new ones (reddish) mixed in with the older ones. I am not sure if the information is different or the new ones have changes but information and brochures should be the same at all campuses unless there is a specific reason such as a specific program only at that campus. 

I suggest that a committee review all materials handed out to students. They should determine a common packet that will be used by all campuses to assure all forms, information and brochures be consistent throughout all three campuses of the College.  Without consistency of materials the College may be providing students at one campus lesser or better information than at another.  Moreover, it is possible that without a standardized information packet, students may be given incorrect information or direction. This would be very unhelpful but could lead to significant problems for the College not just for enrollment and retention but for inconsistency of materials provided to students to make decisions.

3.   .While on the campuses, I would act as if I were lost or confused to see the reaction of employees as they passed me in the halls. The hoped for results would be that employees would stop and ask if they might help me.  The outcomes were not as positive as one might wish. Granted there were not as many people in the halls as might have been during more populated terms at B campus and L campus.  M campus was in full session. 

At B campus, I entered six of the buildings and encountered at least one employee in every one. All but one woman in the Adams building either ignored me or looked at me and kept walking by.  Only the woman in Adams asked if I were in need of help. 

At M campus, I was passed by five employees. One faculty member whose name I recall as George stopped as I was looking around as if lost and asked if he could help me. After he directed me to the admissions office and I was walking about the halls again, he saw me and asked if he could be of additional assistance. 

At L campus, I was passed by six employees and finally assisted by a young man from the bookstore. 

There were then 17 employees who did not provide me any service and three who did; one twice. This became a subject of the presentation which I introduced with the story of Dean Schaar.  I then went on to show how to make sure that we all say hello to students and ask how they are as we pass them. There may be a need for more specific small group training for employees in extending themselves and greeting students. The structure of the large group presentation limited the specific person-to-person training though we did review the processes and manner to be employed. 

4.  There is a serious service concern that has to do with what educational services are made available to students as well as specifically to adult students at one campus.  Customer service looks not only at the processes through which one works with or assists the client.  It looks at the products that are created since it is the “products” of education, training and a degree/job that are finally a major determinant of student satisfaction. How we deliver a service can be quite secondary to what service we deliver. 

The College currently has a structure and program distribution that seriously affects its delivery of the most important service of all – the ability to gain the education and thus career a student seeks. The distribution also limits the College’s ability to expand enrollment and thus revenues by limiting the offering of programs to specific campuses separated by distances without public transportation.  Moreover, the scheduling of the classes with intermittent starts to twice a year or even to once every 18 months creates serious limitations on enrollment, retention and revenue. 

When I attempted to enroll in a graphic design course at B campus for example, the admission’s officer was very helpful and polite but told me that though I lived in B campus I would have to travel to either M campus or L campus to get one or another graphics program.  They were very different programs. The one in M campus, Graphic Design, was a  program which would require more artistic focus and ability while the one in L campus, Visual Publication, was more computer-based.  The two did not overlap and were distinct but not available at B campus.  This was more than disappointing because the College website simply states that The College offers the programs and not a specific campus.  The indication on the web and the College’s marketing was that it was available at the College and not just one, and only one campus. 

By limiting a specific program to one and only one campus denies a broader band of the community access to the program.  If I lived in L campus or in B campus, I would be denied access unless I had the mobility, time and money to drive the distances to the campuses that own the program. From B campus to M campus, for example was over 60 miles and took an hour and twenty minutes.  This is a de facto limitation on enrollment and access. Not only does it deprive potential students from the community to gain education and training in what is one of the hottest areas of study nationally, it deprives the College of revenue ands the ability to fulfill on its motto of No Limits on Learning.  
I was frankly surprised that a community college would limit its service to the community in this manner by making distance a restraint on access.  But I was even more surprised that after I made the drive from B campus to M campus to try and complete enrolling in Graphic Design that it would next to impossible to enroll and, if I were an actual student, achieve my career goal. 

As an adult with a job and family, I was informed that the program called for me to attend five days a week from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.  As an adult with a job and family, I would not be able to do so without great hardship.  I inquired about attending part-time and was told that I could speak with the program chair but it was unlikely I would be allowed to do so.  There were only 18 slots available and the odds of opening one to a part-timer were slim.  These 18 would start together and complete the program before another 18 could start.  I could not start by taking some evening classes since there were no evening classes at the campus. 

When I mentioned to various people that the campus was not very adult friendly and even seemed to discriminate against working adults, there were no disagreements. In fact, there were statements of agreement as well as sympathy and frustration.  The people I would talk with as I persisted in my attempt to gain all the information and material needed to enroll were quite sympathetic to my plight as an adult wishing to advance myself and family though education in a chosen field but their facial expressions showed they were powerless to help. 

Furthermore, even if I were admitted, I could not start in October as I had desired.  I would have to wait until the summer of 2008 before another class started.  A one year wait with no guarantee of being admitted! There are very few students who could maintain their enthusiasm that long.  They would either give up their goals and dreams or find another school that would to start the program. It is quite probable that the for-profit schools are benefiting from the inability of The College to serve the needs and desires of students placed in the situation I was. 

It is also not probable but assured that The College is losing revenue as a result of this situation of individual campuses owning programs, limiting the number of students as well as the number of cohorts to be offered. Not even considering State support, and supposing that there is some sustainable pedagogical rationale for limiting cohorts to 18, an additional cohort of 18 FTE would generate in excess of $21,000 which is more than enough to hire adjuncts to teach the courses.  Appropriate scheduling, such as a full time day and part-time evening courses at the campuses would provide enough tuition revenue to hire at least one, and perhaps two additional full-time instructors. 

The situation is not unique to graphics-focused instruction either.  There appear to be a number of the “campus, not College” owned degree programs that significantly limit the customer service to students and the community. The current program distribution also limits the College’s ability to maximize its facilities, fixed costs and revenues. Moreover, the defacto denial of access to the adult, voting population could cause a sense of disenfranchisement and increase the difficulty of community support for initiatives. 

The program distribution and ownership situation also caused employees to not be able to fulfill their objectives of assisting students and providing fuller service to potential enrollees. On all three campuses, I sensed a strong sense of frustration from employees at being forced to inform me that I would have difficulty obtaining the education promoted and advertised by the College since their campus did not offer the program. Though each was as helpful as they could be, they did indicate that they were sorry I could not achieve my goals without either disruption to my family and life or driving long distances to get to the campus which had the course of study and training I was seeking. 

I strongly suggest the campus-specific program approach be reconsidered to increase the actual range of service the College provides. Currently, there are very many potential customers who are not receiving any, or very limited service at all in specific study areas. Programs should be available at all campuses that can draw the enrollment to support the course of study.  Courses should be offered day and night, in a full-time and a part-time mode so as to not to discriminate against adults, and others whose schedules, families and lives do not readily permit a commitment to a full-time day only schedule even if it were not five days a week. If programs are determined to need to be limited due to a specific campus, there should be consideration given to having them at the L campus campus since that is the area population center as well as a more or less central location between B campus and M campus. 

If it is necessary to continue campus-specific programs, the advertising, the web site and all materials should so indicate the specific campus at the very least. The 2007-8 Catalog does indicate the program location. 

5. Staff indicated that they did not have some of the information they felt they needed to be able to better serve me as a potential student trying to make some decisions. I was told by a couple of employees that “I would like to be able to help and I should be able to but I am just not given that information.” The issues ranged from what sections might be offered, to whether or not students were being accepted into a specific program prior to January 2008.  These are bits of information a student would need to have to decide on attendance or not.  In one case, an individual in a registrar office had to say she did not know the schedule for the next term even though it was completed, had been sent to the printer, and was somewhere on line in the College’s computer system. She did not have access to the on-line information to be able to answer my question.  She was clearly both frustrated and embarrassed. 

The feeling of being left out of the information loop became starkly clear during the break after the first part of the presentation. Attendees would sidle up to me in the hall, tell me the agree with all I had said but that they were not included in the information loop or as active participants in any decisions that affected their ability to perform their jobs.  They had worked hard to help install Datatel but had not belief they would be permitted access to the date within so they could do their jobs better. The individuals who surreptitiously spoke with me also said there was little communication with them from the College.  They also said they felt they could not comment or engage in discussion with me even when I asked a question in the presentation for fear of getting reprimanded. This at least helped explain why there was so little reaction or interaction from the attendees when I tried to engage them in discussion...

It would seem important the College seek ways to communicate and provide internal customer service more effectively with some employees.  It may well be that there is communication taking place but for one reason or other, there is a significant group that is somehow either missing the information or is indeed being left out of the loop. The result is the creation of a feeling of disenfranchisement leading to a diminution of morale that affects the providing of customer service to students...

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Four Seasons Hotel Secrets and Quiz

This is a quick one with a simple but very powerful message and a quiz. One you’ve heard from me before but is worth hearing again from Isadore Sharp, the founder and CEO of one of the top 100 companies to work for - the Four Seasons hotel and resort chain. Also one of the top hotel chains in the world.

The Four Seasons hotels are famous for thinking about how to make a customer’s stay more pleasant and worthy of return stays. For example, Sharp was the first to have free shampoo placed in his hotel rooms. He wanted to make it easier for people to feel like home at the hotel and that the four Seasons had thought of everything for their convenience and pleasure. He and all his people make certain that guests receive consistently excellent service so they are pleased to be able to spend more for a Four Seasons stay than most anywhere else and want to come back whenever they can.

Shampoo, you and I can get most places. Even breakfast at Hampton Inn but alas even my first choice Hampton Inns do not match the service of a Four Seasons. Or so I have learned from others not yet having had the opportunity to stay at one. Hilton, Hampton and Marriott more my level I have to admit.
Sharp‘s secret? Here is what he said to Fortune Magazine.
Personal service is not something you can dictate as a policy. It comes from the culture…How you treat your employees is how you expect them to treat the customer.

Second Four Season’s secret – hiring people with the right service attitude followed by training and more training and then some more. Then they are treated as someone with value who contributes to the quality of the hotel and guest experience. Employees are paid fairly, promotions are heavily from within, and all employees get to stay in Four Season hotels anywhere in the world for free.

But what really makes employees feel valued is they are empowered to fix a situation when it arises. They do not have to get permission to help someone or check with a supervisor. The assumption is they will know the rules and culture so use your best judgment and help the guest. And if they have an idea, they are encouraged to bring it forward themselves.

Compare yourself to the Four Seasons and other Top Companies to work for. If you are an administrator or manage, you are the you. If you are not an administrator or manager, grade your senior administration.

These are yes or no questions.
  1. Would staff and students agree you have a CULTURE of service to students and others? yes___ no____
  2. Do you know peoples’ names? yes___ no____
  3. Do you now names of five staff outside of your office area? yes___ no____
  4. Do you know the names of at least two maintenance or service staff? yes___ no____
  5. Do you come back at night to talk with evening staff? yes___ no____
  6. Do you walk the halls and talk with employees and students daily? yes___ no____
  7. Do you treat all employees as you do faculty and oh yuh students assuming you treat them well to retain their support? yes___ no____
  8. When you hire, do you go from the resume or dig down to get the people with a service attitude to hire people who like students? yes___ no____
  9. Has there been customer service training held on campus yet this year? yes___ no____
  10. Has there been customer training for management this year? yes___ no____
  11. Was there customer service training on campus last year? yes___ no____
  12. Were your last five hires promotions from within or external hires? yes___ no____
  13. Do your folks get raises at least equal to yours? yes___ no____
  14. Do employees who have been at the school at least six months get free coursework? yes___ no____
  15. Are employees encouraged to use imitative in solving student issues? yes___ no____
  16. Do all employees have an opportunity to bring ideas to the president? yes___ no____
  17. Do students know your name or who you are? yes___ no____
  18. Do you say hello to every student or employee you pass in the halls, parking lot or anywhere on campus? yes___ no____
  19. Have at least five employees come up to you and started a conversation with you outside of your office in the past two weeks? yes___ no____
  20. Is your 5 year average annual employee turnover rate 12% or less? yes___ no____
How many yes responses here? Go back and check some of your yeses. Be as honest as you can with yourself. Sure the quiz is going to help determine your final grade but let’s use this as a practice exam so you know where to improve. Multiply each yes by 5 and determine your grade.

Increase your success with a copy of the newest bestselling book From Admissions to Graduation by Dr. Neal Raisman and get another of his books free.