Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Motivating Employees to Do a Better Job

Walmart, the place academic love to hate, is doing something that we all ought to take note of. The chain’s sales had been falling and they traced it to under-motivated employees providing poor
service. So they did something about it.

They did three things to address the problems. First, they analyzed what the problems were. They found out that they were not paying enough to get the right people who would be motivated to provide good service and who saw working at Walmart’s as a dead-end job.

Two, they decided that they needed to raise the pay of employees so they could attract the better worker who would be more enthused to work harder and with better service. Walmart’s had been one of the poorest paying companies believing that workers were just parts in the system who could be easily replaced. Corporate wisdom had been to keep wages low and see employees as a cost, not as part of their success. But after they studied the problems in customer service delivery leading to more sales they decided to raise the basic hourly pay to $10.00 an hour and department manager pay to $15 an hour. This made the jobs more attractive.

Three, they realized that their workers wanted to know how to do things correctly and most importantly, have a path to move up in the company. Employees wanted to see their jobs as possible entry-level positions from which they could move up to department manager, assistant store,manger and store manager positions. They were motivated to do more and Walmart gave them not only the opportunity to do so, it provided the way.

Walmart created training academies that would teach employees the skills and proficiencies needed to have a chance to succeed and go higher in the company to whoever who wanted to move up. The training is both formal and impromptu. For example, new department workers and managers get two weeks of training in basic customer service and business concepts, inventory management and administrative skills.  They also get training that pertains to the area in which they will be working at the store.

The increased pay got much of the intention but the training and the opportunities to move up (Walmart will do more promoting from within) will likely pay the larger dividends. The pay will give people the basic wage they need to want to keep their job and the ability to move up will provide the incentive to do the job well so they can be rewarded for their work and thus be the more meaningful in the long term for the store, as well as its customer retention, sales and revenue.

Colleges should consider doing the same. They should study their workplace environment to see where and what is keeping employees from doing the very best job they want to do. What they will find at the very least, as we have discovered from our campus workplace environment studies, is that people feel discouraged because they do not get training to do their job well,  there is no clear path to move ahead, and the college seems to keep hiring from outside.

College employees tend to believe they are involved in a movement to help people better their lives and that is a motivating factor. They of course care about how much they earn, but that is not the whole picture for a college employee. They want to be recognized for their work and have a path to grow and move up.

An example: when I was the president of a community college, we had an opening for a full-time tenure track faculty member. The department seeking the new full-time faculty member had settled on three candidates from outside. They had overlooked all adjunct faculty believing if they were adjunct they may not be good enough for a full-time position. They were prejudiced against adjuncts to be blunt. This was sending a terrible message to the 55% of the faculty who were adjuncts.
When the department’s recommendation came to me, I sent it back with a directive to reconsider some of our adjuncts. Some of them had been teaching an all but full-time load for as much as eighteen years. They had been evaluated and deemed very good to excellent by students and were qualified enough to be hired over and over and given loads just shy of full-time. I sent the recommendation back again when they overlooked the adjuncts again and told them the full-time position would go to another department if they could not understand the message.

They said they did not feel adjuncts were as good as recent graduates because they might now have current research and would not recommend any of them over their choice. I decided that I would interview their choice and an adjunct that had been highly rated by students and re-hired for eighteen years. I finally chose the adjunct because he was the best qualified to fit into our college and to send out a message that we were into upward mobility for adjuncts and others who had served us loyally and well.

It will come as no surprise that the adjuncts were overjoyed and that we had more people calling us about getting adjunct position at the college. Interesting too was the increase in student evaluation scores on adjunct. The part-timers now saw it was possible to get a full-time position and they were going to do all they could to be considered when one came open.

Colleges and universities may not be able to increase wages much because of union contracts but then again, the unions would not complain about a wage increase. But recognizing that revenues are tight in most schools, they can at least create training academies to give people a path to moving up. They should give people the training they want to do their jobs well and to have the opportunity to be recognized and move up. And hire from within to let employees know they are recognized and are good enough to move up. They will be better motivated and grateful for the training and opportunities.

If this makes some sense to you contact us today to find out how you can get a campus workplace environment study for your school by emailing us or calling 413.219.6939

To get more articles and advice on improving customer service, retention and revenue on your campus, get a copy of From Admissions to Graduation and The Power of Retention by Dr. Neal Raisman.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The State of Academic Customer Service on College Campuses - Results of a Study

A survey on the state of academic customer service for students found that academic customer service provided on the nation’s  campuses is fair or weak at best and is a cause of many students leaving a college. Basic service functions such as training , telephone skills and returning voice mails and emails for example which are rudimentary service functions are rated much lower than weak as well. This is not a good recognition considering the importance of providing good to excellent academic customer service to retaining students and revenue.

The Survey
NRaisman and Associates emailed a survey to 1000 potential respondents determine the state of academic customer service on the campuses of community colleges, and public and private universities. The survey was returned by 445 respondents.

Respondents were asked to rate customer service on their campuses according to their observations on concerns such as We provide our students with great customer service and specific customer service performance functions like Our Employees will interrupt what they are doing to help a student or Voicemails are returned within 24 hours of receipt.  There were also questions to determine if there is a real commitment to customer service such as Administrators have had training in academic customer service so they know how to provide excellent service to students and We have campus-wide agreement towards building a college focused on providing excellent customer service.

Academic customer service was defined in the heading of the survey for a consistent concept. Academic customer service is meeting the needs and expectations of students in the services, processes and physical aspects of a college as they navigate the institution. These services include all aspects of the student experience including business functions, interactions with faculty, staff and administrators, the classroom experience, and even the website and other aspects of "college". It is not coddling the students nor buying into the adage that “the customer is always right”. Nor is it about inflating grades. It is about engaging students by providing high-quality services that make it easier for them to succeed as well as feel welcomed and fully-valued. Academic customer service makes the student the absolute center of the college and how it interacts with them assures that.

It has been found that academic customer service on a campus can account for up to 78% of why students leave. This survey is to determine the levels of academic customer service we provide on our campuses across the country so we can better serve and retain students.

The Results
The survey results were mixed not by type of institute so much but by the responses of the different employee groups on campuses (i.e. presidents, administrators, faculty and staff). College presidents and senior administrators gave the highest ratings for the service provided on campus but the people who meet with students every day had quite different estimations of service to students and rated it fair to even poor.  Faculty were small in number of respondents but indicated that they thought customer service was fair and could be better though in the comments there were a couple of predictable statements that customer service is not a topic for colleges in any case. “We aren’t business after all”.

Seventy-five percent of presidents and senior administrators somewhat agreed that the We provide our students with great customer service on their campuses. It is interesting that only 14% strongly agreed that they provide great customer service while 11% either disagreed or strongly disagreed that the college provided students with great customer service.  Even the group that rated the service best on campuses did not have rate their service extremely high. These responses though higher than those from other employee groups were not a ringing endorsement of customer service to students.

Administrators had a very different view of the service provided to students. They rated it much lower than did the presidents and senior administrators.  Only 10% felt that their school provided great service 
while 55% disagreed that the schools provided great service to students. This is a rather strong difference of evaluation between the senior administrators and the people who carry out school policy and oversee the service provided every day.
It is interesting that this variance exists but it is also predictable depending on the levels of contacts with students presidents and senior administrators are on a regular basis. In our work with colleges and universities we have found that the relative isolation from students versus the direct contact provides a very different exposure to the actual customer service students receive. Those on the front-line working with students on a daily basis hear the complaints and even observe weak or poor service in their day-to-day work. They are the ones who are called upon to provide the customer service but are often frustrated in their work as we have seen while conducting academic customer service studies on campuses. The administrators and managers have to monitor the staff and others in how they provide customer service to students and they do not seem to observe great service being provided. What they are seeing is not making them feel very positive about that service.

This variance held true through the entire survey except on questions such as Providing students with great academic customer service is important. There was near unanimous agreement from staff and administrators that this was very important. Even faculty who usually recoil at the notion of customer service felt it was important.  The only disagreement came from presidents and senior administrators where 83% felt it was highly important but 9% said they either disagreed somewhat, or disagreed strongly (2%) that customer service on campus was important.  This was admittedly a surprise considering how significant academic customer service is to retention and enrollment. What was even more surprising was that the responses came from two-year colleges.

Good academic customer service can provide a college with a strong competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining students. High Point University has clearly shown this. Moreover there are other benefits from providing strong academic customer service such having the revenue to generate new programs and faculty from the increased revenue from retention numbers going up. The responses to the item of Our customer service on campus is one of our strongest competitive advantages was very mixed with a third of respondents feeling that it was not on their campus.

On this issue, 17% of senior administrators and presidents felt that it was not a competitive advantage on their campuses.  Sixty-one percent of administrators indicated that academic customer service was not a competitive advantage. This again shows the variance between senior administrators and those who carry out the day-to-day contact with students.  Staff indicated that 21% did not feel that it was a competitive advantage. Considering that 76% of students indicated that weak to poor customer service was  the reason they left a college this indicates room for colleges to increase their retention and enrollment by increasing academic customer service on campus until it is a competitive advantage.
One reason why there is a variance between groups on campus lies beyond their daily contact with students and has to do with colleges not making customer service a consistent concept on campus. In response to the issue of We have campus-wide agreement towards building a college focused on providing excellent customer service, overall there was 57% agreement with the statement but there were also 39% who disagreed. The 57% is a good indicator that there is concern for customer service on campus but in our work improving customer service on campuses, we discovered that very few of the schools had a written statement pertaining to academic customer service. Only one had a customer service mission statement to guide the delivery of service on campus.

Again there was the variance between the front-line providers of service and the senior administrators. Seventy percent of the senior administrators felt that there was agreement on the customer service mission of the school while 30% did not. But 76% of administrators felt there was no a campus-wide agreement. Staff were not as strong in their feeling that there was no agreement (56%) but they too disagreed with the senior administration.

It becomes clear that one reason why there is not the level of customer service that is needed to retain more students is that there is no agreement as to what it is and how to provide it on campuses. It is important that colleges have a clear and published academic customer service mission statement if they are to have good service for students on campus. Another aspect of the weak agreement is that there does not appear to really be an investment in good to excellent customer service. This can be seen in the responses to the questions of training for all of the groups.

Staff who are charged with most of the delivery of customer service are the most in need of training but 55% of them said that they disagreed with the statement that Staff have had training in academic customer service so they know how to provide excellent customer service in their interactions with students.  Four percent also said they did not know if they had training which means that they did not or the training was so nebulous that they do not realize they had some.

Training of staff is paramount to providing good to excellent customer service so with so many of them saying they have not had training in it, it is no wonder that there is such a low level of service delivery as observed by their managers.  The administrators indicated that they had even less training than staff.

Sixty-two percent of administrators indicated that they had received no training with another 3% saying they did not know which means that they did not or they would have known. These are the people charged with ma king sure that good customer service has been delivered yet they felt that they were not given the training and the tools to be able to do so.  Once again 67% of the senior administrators were of the belief that there had been training of administrators and staff (62%). This variance we have found in our work comes about because the senior administrators believe that the managers and administrators who supervise staff would provide training to the staff. But how can they when they themselves have not had any?

Training is of paramount importance in delivering good customer service on a campus. If people do not know what academic customer service is and what it entails, they cannot deliver it to students. If they do not know how to deliver it, they are less likely to provide it. People have to be taught, especially on college campuses which have not historically been interested in customer service, to deliver good to excellent service to keep students at the college. This is an investment colleges can and should make that will pay off in retention and enrollment dividends which then lead to increased revenue and funds to meet the mission.

When it comes to the functions of good customer service, such as Employees will interrupt what they are doing to help a student senior administrators and staff felt that they would do so (senior administrators (80%) and staff (92%) while administrators were much less optimistic with 52% assessing that employees (staff for the most part) would not interrupt their work to help a student. 

When  it comes to basic customer service delivery such as answering phones, responding to emails and vice messages, the all three sectors felt that they did not do a good job of these. These are basic aspects of delivering customer service to students and others coming into contact with the college yet they do not appear to be done well at all. Even 53% of the usually optimistic senior administrators said answering the telephone in four rings or less was not something that was accomplished. Seventy percent of administrators and 52% of staff agreed even though they are most often the ones charged with answering the phones.
Voice and email mail was not responded to by the end of the day according to all groups.  This was indicated by senior administrators (58%), administrators (87%) and staff (54%) said voice mails and emails were not returned promptly.. This again is a basic customer service indicator that colleges are failing at. This raises questions about how well colleges are really delivering customer service to students and others, including one another.

One of the services that schools should be providing is the availability of faculty for extra help in office hours and advisers who are up-to-date on the curriculum and schedule.  These are two areas that are considered fairly good by all groups but not as strongly as they should be.  Fifty-one percent of senior administrators and staff felt that advisers are up-to-date on curriculum and the schedule. This is a fair rating but not where students would expect advisers to be in knowing the curriculum and schedule. Moreover, this percentage is challenged by administrators who have to deal with the results of advisers not being up-to-date. They rated the advisors as not current by 59%. In our work in customer service on college and universities we are finding that too many advisers are not up-to date and they are misadvising students making them prolong their stay often for a another year to make up for weak or poor advisor. It is incumbent on schools to make certain that all advisers are up-to-date on curriculum and schedule.
All three groups felt that faculty were  not available for extra help for students when needed. This is a definite negative factor in the service department. They were not as strong in their assessment as they should be in this most important area but they were on the plus side with senior administrators (57%, administrators (37%) and staff at 45%. This is another basic expectation service students have and need. Faculty should be available to students when they need extra help. They appear to be somewhat available but this should be an area in which the responses are in the 90% agree with the statement Faculty are available for extra help when students need it.
When it comes to assistance and lack of wait time at three key service points for students, registrar, bursar and financial aid office, the ratings overall are fair with the registrar’s office being rated as good by 54%, the bursar by 52% and financial aid by 54%.  These numbers are propped up to a large extent by the responses of senior administrators but it needs to be recognized that changes in on-line service delivery have cut lines and provided service on demand..  According to one comment, on-line services have sped up the services lessening  wait time and delivery of service in all three offices. The only office that both administrators (58%) and staff (61%) felt was not as fast to get service at was the financial aid office. This would be in line with the observation that on-line services help reduce lines at the other offices because financial aid is the least technologically provided. Moreover, financial aid needs more time with many students thereby tying up staff and professionals who cannot wait on others while busy with a student.

The three issues on which there was unanimity were Facilities are well maintained and attractive, Our graduation rate is where it should be and Our retention rate (fall to Fall) is where it should be. Well maintained facilities affect students positively and can incline them favorably toward the school.  Not one group was pleased with the college’s graduation rate nor the Fall to Fall retention rate.
Is not at all surprising that colleges are not happy with their retention rates. With the average graduation rate hovering around 50% nationally, schools are losing many, too many students thereby negatively impacting their revenue and ability to meet their missions. And with the weak academic customer service they are providing they are driving students away in large numbers. But, these two issues on retention and graduation rates can be positively affected if colleges attend to the basics of academic customer service, provide training and make certain that people are delivering good to excellent academic customer service as indicated in the survey results.

The state of academic customer service delivered to students is weak at best having negative effects on enrollment, retention and thus revenue.  Though it has been recognized that weak or poor customer service is a major contributor to attrition rates on college campuses, most schools are not doing enough to improve the delivery of their services. Part of the problem is that there is a disconnect between the people who are charged to carry out the delivery of services (administrators, managers and staff) and the senior administration. Senior administrators appear to assume that students are getting good service but those on the front lines know otherwise.

Very few if any schools are satisfied with their retention and graduation rates yet very few appear to be working on solving one root cause, i.e. academic customer service. Though there is an assumption among senior administrators that training is taking place, for the most part it is not. Without training, staff and administrators will not know how to best provide great service or what is expected of them. For example, answering phones in three rings and returning both email and voicemail by the end of the day.

Colleges and universities also need to make customer service more of a priority considering its impact on retention. They need to invest in making customer service to students a priority on campus through developing a customer service mission statement, training and accountability..

If this article makes sense to you, you will want to get a copy of the new book From Admissions to Graduation by Dr. Neal Raisman for more information on academic customer service.

NRaisman & Associates has been providing colleges and universities in the US, Canada and Europe  assistance with increasing retention, enrollment and thus revenues since 1999 through consulting, research, training presentations and campus customer service studies. Contact us today to see what we can do to help your school increase its success. GreatServiceMatters. or 413.219.6939.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Why Students Left a College -2016 Study


Neal Raisman, PhD
President, NRaisman and Associates

Every four years, NRaisman & Associates conducts a study to find out why students left a college or university.  We conduct this with students who have left a college or university at least six months before the study. This we believe takes out the emotions contained in leaving a school. When students leave they are often quite upset and will tell the interviewer they left for personal reasons. What we have found out in our studies is that for a great many dropping students those “personal reasons” are primarily “I just can’t wait to get out of here”. So we wait and when we talk to the students, at least three months, after the emotions have cooled and we can get more considered responses and more honest ones too. 

Some of the students had enrolled at another college, university or community college but that was not a concern of this study. The ex-students had left a school and that college lost their enrollment and tuition/fees dollars.

In this study we interviewed 618 students. This is lower than we had studied in past research in 2008 and 2012 but the responses were so consistent and followed the patterns of the last two studies so closely that we believe this is a valid sampling. 

We conducted a survey first to get the students considering their reasons for leaving and then conducted telephone interviews with them to follow-up and clarify the responses. Next we reviewed the ex-student’s comments and found common themes to group them under.  The results are above in the chart.

There have been some shifts since our last study in 2012. The category with the greatest number of responses has its descriptor changed from poor customer service to Treated Poorly/Customer Service”. This is because the ex-students used the phrases “I was treated poorly” by the school or “I received bad service “most often. This is still the largest response category with 24% of respondents citing this is a major reason they left a college as it was in the last two studies. 

Students are very consumer-oriented. They see themselves as customers that should be treated well especially since the cost of college continues to rise. Students clearly relate the amount they are paying to the way they believe and feel they should be treated and serviced. They did not necessarily provide an equivalence of tuition to a sense of privilege, but instead that they expected better service for the amount of money they were paying. One student put it well when he said “I am paying a lot of money and I don’t care that she said they were understaffed. For what I am paying they should have more staff and better service”.  

Many students cited they had trouble getting help when they needed it, dour-faced clerks hassling them, and being sent from office to office in search of a solution to their problem or issue which often remained unresolved after getting "the shuffle". They said that they often were not able to have their problem solved or attended to satisfactorily.

The second most cited category was that ‘The College Didn’t Care About Me”. This is an important statement since it clearly points to a lack of engagement created by colleges with these students. Everyone has a natural need to feel he is valued and welcome if he is to engage in a college. Students seem to live in a world rather lacking person-to-person engagement except through social media. Granted this does not exclude the reality of a group of friends with whom they engage in conversation and activities when the group has shown it cares for one another and recognizes the value of each other. As a result, the members of the group engage with it. If there is not a sense that the group or college cares about me, that person will drop out and seek another person, group or college that values and welcomes him or her in.

It is clear to us from a common statement that students made “all they cared about was my money but after that they paid me no attention” indicates that colleges are not engaging students as well as is necessary to keep them. Schools need to maintain positive contact with students and engage them with some activity or aspect of the college. Liberty University has a requirement that all students be involved in some athletic team and physical activity. This rule makes students engage in their activity and team.  The interaction with the coach as well as professors makes the experience seem more personal and helps with their retention quite a bit.  The Citadel and other military-styled schools create engagement through shared experience and a pride in the school’s corps which create a feeling of engagement.  Engagement makes students feel closer to the school,  thus a part of it, and that helps to overcome the feeling that the school does not care about me.

The third most cited response category was that the school was “Not Worth the Time and Money”.  This is related to the cost and service issues of the most common response as discussed above. Students are coming on campus with a very strong return on investment proposition. College is supposed to lead to a career and a job. Students go to college to get the education and training they need to get a job. They see college as a way to gain the needed education and training to become something of value in an area of study that leads to a career in that area.  They are hearing from the media and see that many students who graduated college are not getting jobs and are working in areas not related to their school work or any school work at all such as at Starbucks. This inclines them to be wary about the amount of money and time they are putting in so they are demanding a clear return on their investment.  

This situation also makes parents who have an extremely high need for a clear expectation of a return on their investment which is often the greatest part of their discretionary funds. Moreover, the need to take out loans to pay for college increases the tension parents and students feel between what they are paying for and the possibility of getting it. This makes everyone quite attuned to the question of value for money and leads to concerns that this may not be worth it leading to dropping out of that college. It is interesting to note that 7% (n=42) of the ex-students we interviewed had gone on to enroll in a community college in a specific trade area to better assure they would be marketable and get a job.

It is of great interest to us that two categories have become the equal in responses over the years.  Money Issues and Scheduling both were reported as the reason for leaving a college by 13% of respondents. The issue of money problems has fluctuated up then down year to year but “Scheduling Problems” has increased quite a bit as shown in the slide below.

It can be seen that the issues of finances have increased slightly but is down from its high in 2008 when the economy was also in recession. But the issues related to scheduling have been in constant increase since 2002.  In fact, they have more than doubled for students leading to many more leaving school because of scheduling reasons.

As schools have faced declining support and become more tuition dependent, they have become much more cautious in the number of courses they schedule. They have been cutting back in the number of sections offered to save money. Moreover, they have been clinging to traditional but false go-no go formulas for class cancellation based on the number of students in a class. The traditional cutoff for a class to be offered seems to be 9-10 students enrolled in a class or section. This is a very fallacious number and belief of how many students should be in a section to make it affordable if not profitable. The reality is closer to two to four students in a section to make it worthwhile to offer and still not lose money. With four in a class the tuition money from those four will most always equal the cost of paying for the professor as was discussed in the article Figuring the Real Costs of a Cancelled Section.  In that article, there is a formula provided for determining  if a class should go or not that can be employed to see if the section should be offered or not based on the actual real cost per class (RPC) as discussed below from the longer article.

…what the numbers show is that most courses in colleges and universities are being taught by underpaid, non-benefit receiving part-timers. Yes, some schools do provide some benefits and some adjuncts have unions to try to gain them better pay and benefits but to this point, it’s still serfdom for most. According to the College Board's article on its website What It Costs to Go to College (2013) the average tuition costs were as follows:

Four-year private $27,293
Four-year public $7,605
Two-year public $2,713 

Now let’s assume that the average student takes 4 courses. So the four-year private student pays $6,823 per course; four-year public $1901 per course and two-year public $678 per course in tuition and fees. For public schools which do get some public financial support, tuition is not the only revenue source so the cost per course is actually lower for the student but to keep the playing field even, we’ll just figure tuition and fees.

Now, consider that the best paid adjuncts seem to get around an average $3,400 a course, no benefits. Most get less and some quite a bit less but for this discussion let’s use the high priced serf cost. That way we won’t be understating costs. So to equal pay for an adjunct at a two-year school would need just about 5 students in the section to break even; a four-year public college or university would call for 1.2 students and a four-year private would need just a torso, not even a full student. Granted there are associated costs but this should provide a general notion that the number of 10 in a section for fiscal responsibility is just wrong. Schools  can of course really figure the particular break-even at your institution as follows:

RPC = Tuition per student (revenue per student per course)
4 (credits for the class)

Cost of instructor per section    
                           RPC = number of students to break even

So most courses should be offered yet they are cancelled. What is worse is they are usually cancelled in the week before classes start throwing the student, who has planned her life and work around the schedule she thought she had into total disarray. She had already gotten her work hours set to coincide with the schedule she thought she would have. If she is a mother attending the college, she has made child care arrangements too and they are all thrown out the window. Many students cannot make the changes in their life to accommodate the cancelled schedule and are forced to stop out or quit.  Considering the value per student, this is a major financial loss for no good reason since the section likely would have at least paid for itself.

There are other scheduling problems such as courses offered only once a year and advisers not being aware of this as we found during campus retention studies we conducted for colleges and universities. Often there is not another course available that fits the schedule and the major so students are put into a pointless, non-required course to maintain their full-time status for Pell and other grants. This will often cause the student to have to take extra courses in a semester to make up for the lost course or extend the stay into another year making them use up their Pell before and not having enough money to complete their studies. Scheduling problems have thus become a more major factor in why students are leaving colleges.

Money issues are still a strong reason why students drop out or transfer to another school. This will always be an issue especially as tuition and the hidden tuition of fee increases continue to rise making it more and more difficult to afford them. This issue is down from its peak during the recession but that does not make it any less a factor. It is also a sign of some lack of engagement because if a student is engaged and thinks the college is worth it, she will usually do all she can to find a way to stay in school. If the attachment is weak then when a financial issue arises, the student can and often will use that as a motivator to drop out.

It is also incumbent on schools to help students in two ways. First, many students do not know that a change in circumstances could open the door for an appeal on their financial aid .What is worse is that colleges do not let students know about appeals. Many times, a student with a financial problem could be saved if he filed an appeal to get additional financial aid.  Every financial aid office should make it clear to students that appeals are possible. If your school  is one of the ones that do exit interviews with students leaving the college, the interviewers should all be aware of the possibility of an appeal and let the student know about them if money is given as a reason for dropping out 

Second, quite often students actually begin a semester with enough money to complete it. But, they do not spend wisely and do not budget. Every college and university should take time during orientation to teach students how to budget their money to be able to spread their resources over the semester or year. Students come to college for the most part unaware of financial skills and it is our role to develop them if we are to reduce the number of students who quit due to money issues.

The rest of the reasons we uncovered for why students left a college are fairly consistent with past studies. Personal problems still exist and do cause students to drop out of college and they always will but they are really a much smaller factor than most colleges think. Students will often cite “personal problems” as a reason for leaving when there is no real personal problem. Rather than say “this place sucks” they will just fall back to personal  problems during an exit interview as a way to avoid telling the real reason to avoid letting the interviewer talk them out of leaving..

Students will always leave schools due to poor grades or even one poor grade. We know that most students do not have either good study skills or time management skills needed to succeed in college. Yet other than bemoan the fact, we do not do much about this except for the weakest students who show some remedial needs and are placed into a college prep class that teaches study and time management skills. But what about the bulk of students who do not have known remedial needs? They too should be made to take a college prep class where they will be taught study and time management skills. Even better, mini-courses in both of these should be part of a mandatory orientation.  We know they are coming to our colleges and universities unprepared. We should do something about it.

All of this discussion has actually centered on providing the appropriate customer services to students to create greater engagement with the college, make them feel valued, and it all feel worthwhile making them want to stay at the college. It is clear from the reasons why students leave colleges that academic customer service is a major factor in retaining students. Obviously, the reason of poor service is definitely a customer service issue. But the engagement issue is also a customer service concern. Good services, valuing the customer and making him or her feel welcome on campus are all customer service issues. 

The questions around scheduling are also questions about whether or not colleges are providing the academic customer service needed to keep students in school. The solutions provided to some money problems are simply good customer service processes and techniques as discussed. Even the issues about study skills and time management skills are focused on providing the customer,/ the student, what he or she needs to gain a good return on investment which is simply a customer service concern.  In fact, it can be seen that customer service, academic, not retail customer service, is key to increasing retention, cutting attrition and maintaining a good and necessary revenue stream.

In fact, if the major reasons for leaving as discussed are added together, weak or poor academic customer service accounts for 76% of the direct reason why students leave a college.  This percentage is even higher when the smaller percentage categories that related to customer service are figured in but the major four categories of response clearly show the need for better academic customer service.

What is the level of customer service at your college? Is it sufficiently high enough not to push students out ? Someone you worked hard and spent quite a bit of money to enroll? It costs around $5000 to enroll each student when all costs and personnel salaries are figured in. Is your academic customer service at a level that will make that investment pay off?

If you are not sure please contact us so we can help you be certain that your college provides customer service equal to your students expectation so they remain enrolled. Contact us today to find out how we can help increase your admissions and retention so assure your success at nealr@GreatServiceMatters.com or call me at 413.219.6939 so we can discuss your success.